Volume and Value in Software

Jonathan Schwartz writes:

The trend is away from the upgrade cycle that benefits this traditional notion of distribution. For example, when’s the last time you upgraded your set top box? The answer’s probably never, and suggests that at a certain level, convenience has more value to consumers than the hassle of upgrading. Or ask a teenager which they’d rather have, a new iPod Nano, or a new PC, I’ll bet you money it’s the former (underlying the global trend that suggests more of the world will experience the internet through handsets than PC’s).

Or finally, as I did last week at a keynote, ask the audience which they’d rather give up – their browser, or all the rest of their desktop apps. (Unanimously, they’d all give up the latter without a blink.) All these trends show a slowing upgrade appetite calling into question the power of traditional distribution. In stark contrast to the value of volume, community and participation.

Now, I have been nothing if not tediously repetitive in stating my belief that volume begets value – best demonstrated by the rise of the free software movement (whose volume is derived from its price, its value from innovation, in all forms). The cost of reaching customers, traditionally the most expensive part of building a business, has largely been eliminated – resulting in massive, global participation. Value’s literally everywhere the network travels, on every device it touches (and it’s subsidizing some very interesting ideas.)

But value is returning to the desktop applications, and not simply through Windows Vista. But in the form of applications that are network service platforms. From the obvious, to music sharing clients and development tools, there’s a resurgence of interest in resident software that executes on your desktop, yet connects to network services. Without a browser. Like Skype. Or QNext. Or Google Earth. And Java? OpenOffice and StarOffice?

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.