Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Apple versus the whiners

Nat from O'Reilly discusses the complaints from Mac users that Apple has added software to OS X that duplicates the functionality of third party applications.

Interestingly, it doesn't seem to be the third party developers who are ragging on Apple for doing this -- even if they stand to lose money. It's just business, and software development never stays still. Your application can be the greatest Must Have one day, and a pointless waste of time the next.

It should be obvious that features don't ensure survival for very long. Business isn't a single hand of poker, it's an endless deck. If you make something clever, I can copy it. If I can copy it, what's your advantage? It's in being first in to build name, it's in customer service, it's in marketing, it's in customer allegiance or lock-in, it's in the overall strength of your product. And, most critically, it's in the lead that you have built. While I'm copying your feature, you should be building the next one. A brilliant Perl friend of mine, Jarkko Hietaniemi, has as his .sig a quote from Jack Cohen: "There is this special biologist word we use for 'stable'. It is 'dead'." This could just as equally apply to the software business.

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