WHEN FREE COLLIDES WITH POWERFUL

Really why write when Seth does it so much better. Easier just to copy and share. A must read below.

In case you didn’t know, Seth was our guest speaker at Aspen Live in 2004.  Over the last 17-years, we have also welcomed the likes of Malcolm Gladwell (Journalist Researcher), Michael Moore (Film maker), Al Ries (Marketer and first to use the word Branding), Sergio Zyman (first ever CMO, came up with the title while at Coke where one of his claims to fame was “New Coke”), Jon Spoelstra (one of the leading sports marketers and author of Marketing Outrageously), The Innocence Project (CEO + a man who served 17-years for a crime he didn’t commit), Tim Bronsan (VP, Business for Major League Baseball), Steve Martin (President, The Agency Group, NA), Marc Gobe (Leading Packaging expert and author of Emotional Branding), Michael Rapino (CEO, Live Nation), Ian Rogers (now CEO, Beats Music), Chris Sacca (Google, now tech investor), Nic Adler (Owner, The Roxy and CEO, Adler Integrated), Dede Gordon (Leading Trend Researcher), Irving Azoff (CEO, Azoff Music Management), Bob Lefsetz (The Lefsetz Letter), and the list goes on.

Don’t be left in the dark.  Aspen Live 2013 dates are December 12-15 at the St. Regis, Aspen.  Register today at http://www.aspenlive.com.  See you then…again, please read below.

When free collides with powerful

One of the lessons that Microsoft taught Apple and Google is that ubiquity can be incredibly profitable.

By changing file formats, Microsoft forces every person in an organization to upgrade Word to the current state, because one of the reasons to use Word is that everyone else uses it. This isn’t often true for products in the real world–cars and whiskey and apartment buildings inevitably gain variation, whereas software tools are pushed toward a common standard–a new form of monopoly.

The strategy at Microsoft was always to put in power user enhancements, though, so that the power user (the weird one, the one on the edge, the one choosing to care) would hear about the upgrade and insist that everyone else on her team would upgrade as well.

Free, though, turbocharges the movement toward ubiquity at the same time it sabotages the power user. When the ‘upgrade’ is free, when the new version requires everyone to upgrade and is free as well, that’s sort of irresistible. The problem is that free destroys markets even faster than monopoly does, because it’s incredibly difficult for competitors without the other income streams to find a reason to compete.

And so, the new version of Pages from Apple is widely reviled by those that want a powerful tool. And the new version of Keynote, a program I use eight hours a day, is on the same path. It has the same one-way path for data structure (the new version forces all old users to upgrade if they want to collaborate) but it abandons a focus on professionals. Features and the goal of building for a craftsman are exchanged for the cross-platform ease and gimcracks that will please a crowd happy enough with free.

There are few deadends in the software business. When a platform gets dumb, the power users push for someone else to come along and make a better one. And when the monopolist gets greedy (as every dominant word processor vendor has) then the people who care take a leap and move to another tool.

In the meantime, the users who made the platform work in the first place spend a lot of time cursing the darkness that used to be light. Too often, power tools in software turn into entertainment platforms instead. There’s more money in it.

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