Steven Frank: More on Tech Complexity

Nice essay from Steven Frank on burdgeoning tech complexity, and why it might be the leading factor weighing Windows Vista down:

Clearly, market forces are demanding the production of increasingly complex computers and devices that do 80 million things, none of them well. But then, said market forces get pissed off when they can’t get into Outlook or whatever because of some DLL error. You can’t have it both ways, though.

And that’s the weird thing. If you made a little box, and all it did was read email, and it did it exactly perfectly, but it didn’t do anything else — well, nobody would buy that. Or close enough to nobody that you would only survive as an extremely niche product.

I don’t agree with that last paragraph, though. Substitute “play MP3s” for “read email” and you’d have a description of the iPod, which has been a raging success even though it’s up against a bunch of multi-purpose gadgets that can read email (poorly, usually), surf the web (poorly, usually), place phone calls, take photographs (poorly), and so forth. I’m not saying an iPod-esque device that just did email would sell well for sure, but it might. And one might argue that BlackBerries are such devices — they do more than just email, but everyone I know who uses one bought it just because they do handheld email so well.

Friday, 21 April 2006