February 18, 2019

From the Desktop: It's a Users' World - page 2

Who Cares?

  • August 25, 2000
  • By Brian Proffitt

Now, I can anticipate an argument from the developers right about now. "Listen," they might say, "the better written and better supported the environment is, the more users it will attract and keep." In an ideal world, I would agree 100 percent--actually, more like 95 percent since I'm a contentious SOB in any situation. But, as I'm sure we all know, this is not an ideal world.

Users want something that works and is cheap. This axiom has been proven time and again in the consumer world--a world developers seem to forget about from time to time. "Our environment," they say, "is superbly written in the best language with the coolest apps." And that may be true. But that was also true of the Betamax video tape format, and look what happened to it. Beta tapes were (and still are) far superior to VHS, but today VHS is the dominant consumer format despite this fact. Because VHS benefited by the fact the machines to play these tapes were more readily available and cheaper, Betamax got stomped.

Developers mistakenly and vindictively view this phenomenon as a result of users being stupid. Wrong again. Users are smart. They may not be technically savvy, but they usually know exactly what they need: a desktop environment that works without a lot of rigmarole.

So, developers, you can make the best product you can and I would be the first to applaud you for your efforts. But even in a free software world, the free market mentality is going to prevail. It's won't be the best product that wins, necessarily, but rather the fastest or strongest to market.

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