Speed, Action and Strategic Questions In The Software Business

At the recent Apple developer conference Steve Jobs demo’ed a feature called “dashboard” to be in the next incarnation of OS X. The controversy? An independent software developer has a highly-popular piece of shareware that does the same thing. The reaction is summed up here:

“It doesn’t make any sense to me,” Arlo Rose, the developer of Konfabulator, told MacCentral. “Why would a company piss off a developer whose whole purpose is to try to get more people to come to this company’s platform by doing cool things? If this is what they do with the products they think are the best, then why would anyone have any reason to develop more cool stuff? I certainly don’t.”

This guy isn’t doing things for business reasons, but for the sake of doing cool stuff. More power to him. But for those of you who want to build, develop, and grow a software business; this kind of attitude will kill you.

You always have to be asking yourself, “will doing X further my business objectives?” If the answer is yes, you have to prioritize it against all the other things that will help as well. What helps most?

Once you’ve done one “cool” and, I’ll assume, successful thing; you can’t get lazy. You have to leverage it into the next success, plan whatever is going to obselete the first iteration, and uncover different opportunities to monotize the technology. In short, you have to know the answer to that all-important business and marketing question, “what’s next?”

If you don’t, you’ll end up booted in the rear by someone who is more aggressive that you are. And your customers who love you now, will defect and thank the next guy/gal for doing it one better. Don’t end up like the guy in the article moaning “why me!” It doesn’t have to be that way.

You can read the rest of the article here here.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Anonymous July 6, 2004 at 5:07 pm

Companies like Apple, Microsoft, and many others that purport to be platform plays and to leverage their third party developers and partners…but as many ISVs find: “If you manage to write something that takes off, you may find that you were merely doing market research for Microsoft.” (quote from Paul Graham – who created wants now Yahoo! Stores). I like what IBM did in terms of getting out of application development so they don’t compete with their ISVs and partners.

I’ve worked internally on ISV programs and most of the time the company is partnering with a start-up solely as a short-term strategy to shore up a hole that in the meantime they are actively working on adding to their product. Once in a while there is an acquisition, but most of the time they end up competing.

“Innovator’s Solution” has some good strategies on how to stay under the radar of the big boys if your solution is truly disruptive. One of my business ‘mentors’ is Robert Kiyosaki – he emphasizes that a business is an entire system and not merely a product. It may sound harsh, but I think Konfabulator was more of a product feature than a full-fledged enterprise.

Still, I think that many companies – especially Apple – cannot afford to do-it-alone and their developer relations will suffer if they cannot balance 3rd party and their own innovation.

Reply

2 Anonymous July 6, 2004 at 10:07 pm

Companies like Apple, Microsoft, and many others that purport to be platform plays and to leverage their third party developers and partners…but as many ISVs find: “If you manage to write something that takes off, you may find that you were merely doing market research for Microsoft.” (quote from Paul Graham – who created wants now Yahoo! Stores). I like what IBM did in terms of getting out of application development so they don’t compete with their ISVs and partners.
I’ve worked internally on ISV programs and most of the time the company is partnering with a start-up solely as a short-term strategy to shore up a hole that in the meantime they are actively working on adding to their product. Once in a while there is an acquisition, but most of the time they end up competing.
“Innovator’s Solution” has some good strategies on how to stay under the radar of the big boys if your solution is truly disruptive. One of my business ‘mentors’ is Robert Kiyosaki – he emphasizes that a business is an entire system and not merely a product. It may sound harsh, but I think Konfabulator was more of a product feature than a full-fledged enterprise.
Still, I think that many companies – especially Apple – cannot afford to do-it-alone and their developer relations will suffer if they cannot balance 3rd party and their own innovation.

Reply

3 Anonymous July 5, 2004 at 12:07 am

I completely agree with this article – one of the few that have pointed out a critical flaw in Konfabulator’s business – planning for the future! They had a 2 year lead and relaxed; besides announcing a port to Windows sometime last year, there has been very little in new development. This, despite having a not so defensible technology.
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4 Anonymous July 5, 2004 at 5:07 am

I completely agree with this article – one of the few that have pointed out a critical flaw in Konfabulator’s business – planning for the future! They had a 2 year lead and relaxed; besides announcing a port to Windows sometime last year, there has been very little in new development. This, despite having a not so defensible technology.——-

Reply

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