My Photo
Blog powered by Typepad

« Job opening, SF start-up | Main | Positioning for extinction? »

June 06, 2006



Organic+Coal grills+Emilee=
acquistion invincibility.


I enjoyed this blog. Specifically the advice offered after the question posed "How do these principles apply in your business?". I work for a large company in a mature industry & one of our bigger customers has recently asked us to just deliver pricing & cut out all the candy-floss. They don't need to see an 'account manager' calling on a weekly basis to discuss issues with service. Just fix the service.

Joe Wilson

Nice article, thanks.

Matt Peschong

I just wanted to introduce myself from one marketing blogger to another.

I really enjoy how you step away from the norm when posting your blog. Unlike conventional ad bloggers, you do not simply post a funny advertisement and comment on it.

Instead you help others learn from your understanding of the world and business.

I do something similar with my blog. Unfortunately, I think I need to add more personality and less lecturing to my posts.



I like both programs

David St Lawrence

Jennifer, you are right on, as usual.

Some industry analysts share the dinosaur mindset of large and successful companies that view improvement as a matter of adding more chrome. The paradigm shift is always invisible to them until it is too late.

I am in the group that used 10-15 percent of Photoshop, MS Word, Excel, Access, etc., to get a lot of production in a hurry.

When a product like Elements, Open Office, gmail, Google Calendar, has the SPECIFIC capabilities I need, then I can cut to the chase and get my work done without the bloat and complexity of the analyst-approved products.

It seems that Jake and others missed the boat on the Open Office suite of products which were the open source version of StarOffice. They are faster and more efficient than their MS equivalents.

A web-based set of products is the natural evolution for those of us who work in several locations every day.


I love those principles. I have an ancient (five-year-old) cell phone that's battered and scratched and on its third battery. Why? Because it doesn't do anything. Except make phone calls and save phone numbers. My landline phone doesn't have caller ID or call history, but it also doesn't talk to me or have three buttons to push to retreive messages. I hate to think that it doesn't have too many years of life left.

I use Microsoft products every day, but I'm familiar with only one out of three of their menu choices, if that many. But I'm very familiar with tools/autocorrect options, so I can turn off all the "help features." And I'm definitely in the group who would not miss pivot tables (whatever they are).

I love Adobe's PhotoShop Elements. It's a fraction of the price of the whole program, and it does everything amateur photographers need to do with their photos.

I hope providers of all types of products notice your blog entry, Jennifer, and that they take it to heart. I'd love to see more products where the choices are "loaded with features for professionals" and "feature-free for the rest of us."


I expect that Google Spreadsheets will appeal to people within a certain niche group, for example, people who want to share tabular information interactively on-line. I do not think it will replace Excel on the desktop in the way that Excel replaced earlier spreadsheets.

Will WOM help. Absolutely. But its not just about the head-line grabbing "buzz" that drives instant hits. Let us not forget that WOM plays a very significant role in the diffusion of new products once one has been introduced to the market through traditional marketing channels. With the ubiquity of the Internet (and Google as a search tool), the Internet becomes both the traditional and the WOM marketing channel.

Assuming it works well, positive WOM pretty much assures Google Spreadsheets a wide take-up by those who are likely to use it anyway. If it doesn't work well, well, negative WOM will consign it to the list of permanently stuck in beta losers.


Sun had the same idea regarding packaged software. I've been using Sun's StarOffice product for three years. It cost me $69.00 vs. the $400+ for the full MS Office Suite. I'd guess the Sun software handles about 80% of what Office does. Unfortunately Sun never really tried to do much with the software, else more people would've heard about it and/or used it.

Even with the Sun product, there is a niche for a economy priced "Office" product and perhaps even a pretty large one. But I'd be concerned that people may be too "proud" to buy something that doesn't have all the bells and whistles that Office has, even if they'll never use 20%-50% of the features. And the folks capable of creating the buzz on a Google Office product are probably the types who can and would use a pivot table - so not sure if WOM among the usual suspects is going to work in Google's favor.

Drew Hendricks

I just took Google's spreadsheet for a test spin.

With the exception of charting functionality, which I would be surprised to not see in the final version, Google’s spreadsheet handled all of my current spreadsheet needs. I had to go back to an old excel file from my MBA days to find a spreadsheet it could not handle. Even then it still allowed me to edit the data in a collaborative environment then open it back up in Excel where I was able to access the more powerful solver functions.

Jennifer, you are right on the mark to bring up these 5 principles. I would like to expand on point 3, "Many would be willing to pay less for a niche product with less functionality." The opposite is also true. Many people are willing to pay more for a niche product with less functionality. Take the investment industry for example. Outside of Academia no one really uses Excel for security analysis or portfolio management. Even those who were trained to use Excel's solver function and regression analysis opt for niche programs such as Frontier Analytics.

My point is that Microsoft has already lost many niche users due to expensive black box programs with limited functionality and is neglecting its current core user base which should find Google's spreadsheet more than acceptable.


Jennifer & David

I am 100% with you both on this one.

Most users of complex products (and lordy, is Excel complicated) fit somewhere on a power-law or scale-free distribution. As you say, the vast majority of users just use a small proportion of the features on Excel. And the tiny number of real power users quickly run up against Excel's limitations (65,000 records limit, no database support, no query language, etc).

In addition to Christensen's work, I would point you in the direction of Kim & Mauborgne's work on Value Innovation at Insead. They researched the rise of a number of companies who looked at what what customers really valued and used that as the basis of changing how they went to market. You can read more in their excellent book "Blue Ocean Strategy".

I have signed-up for the beta of Google's new spreadsheet. I only hope they release it soon. Waiting is no longer acceptable in these times of instant gratification.

Maybe they will even ask users to co-create future versions using a Von Hippel lead-user or an open innovation approach. Now that would be interesting.

david foster

Also: I do think Google is likely to run into problems, but of a different type. As they expand into areas beyond search, it becomes essential that they develop the ability to manage multiple lines of business. This is usually a huge transition for companies that have succeeded in a single area, especially founder-driven companies. Their chances of success will not be helped by their endless harping on how "smart" they are.

david foster

You're entirely right to bring Christensen's analysis to this situation. The specific Christensen example that perhaps fits best is the transistor radio--as he tells it, the mainline radio manufacturers kind of sneered at transistor technology because it couldn't match the vacuum tube on fidelity and volume. What Sony saw, though, was that the transistor had other strengths (portability and low power consumption) that fitted it for a particular niche (teenagers.)

The two passages you quote, particularly the second, sound like the kind of thing that would be found in the strategy files of those legacy radio manufacturers.

What's particularly odd here, though, is that these commments were written not by competitors but by industry analysts.

The comments to this entry are closed.