Customer Polarizing – Why Microsoft Will Always Be A Mediocre GiantFiled Under Human Factors, Thought Stuff
I have come to grow very tired of Microsoft’s approach to building and marketing software to the masses, and here is the simple reason why:
When you build software for everybody, you build software for nobody.
I don’t remember where I picked up the term “customer polarizing” (I believe it was 37 signals), but it really resonated with me in terms of software. If you attempt to satisfy everyone, you will in the end satisfy no one due to feature bloat. And as we all know, feature bloat leads to UI bloat, which yields code bloat, which yields performance bloat….well you get the idea…it becomes an unusable, unmaintainable, piece of crap.
Now the reason why I say “mediocre giant” is because it is my belief that you can become very large and successful attempting to please everyone all the time as this is very alluring to potential customers.
However, you will always be mediocre (as apposed to great) because you will have never polarized anybody into either loving or hating your products.
Apple is a great example of this theory. They have products which drive people fanatical or left out in the cold. They will never put a SCSI port back on a laptop. They will never put a floppy drive back into a desktop. They are polarizing people, and as a result their “true customers” love them for it.
To take this a step further (just for a quick tangent), the majority of customers who demand these bastardizations of your products probably will not become a customer let alone a repeat customer and fan – so why attempt to please them in the first place and drive away your fans?
With the recent ASP.NET MVC seeming to be the first exception to this rule [in a long, long time] – Microsoft only will deliver software that is feature bloated to the point where it will work OK in 90% of business, instead of concentrating on software that works GREAT in 40% of businesses.
Just like the RoR team, concentrate on making GREAT products, even if at first they seem to be targeted at a small niche of people. Your raving fans will promote your name much farther than you can with any marketing effort, and you won’t feel as if you had to make a lot concessions with your product.