Kitchen Sink Software

Many years ago, before the start of mobile devices, there was a movement away from desktop computers to network computers. At the time I worked for a large corporation, which committed to develop software for these new devices. As part of this movement they shifted large development teams to build software, and many years of investment. The teams were very knowledgeable, working diligently to build software. Unfortunately the overall vision was myopic, they simply took their existing software designs, and created the same thing for the network computers. It eventually became apparent that this created bloated software that was slow and cumbersome, and didn’t work in these new environments. Ultimately the products (and arguably the entire market) collapsed and was abandoned.

That company, as well as others, weren’t approaching this environment as something new, they were simply applying the same solution to a new location, which just didn’t work.

One of the real benefits of products like tablets and smart phones has been to create a market where new and existing organizations could produce simpler, more focused products.

If you look at computer software, whether it be productivity, utility or even games, these products have always been hungry to consume resources provided. They attempt to cover as many use cases as possible, with seemingly no end to what you can do in any product. 

This is partly because older revenue models (single one time purchase) require attracting customers frequently to continue the revenue stream. Even when you have reoccurring revenue, whether it is ads, subscribers or maintenance, it can also be a crutch. Organizations require providing “more” and “bigger” instead of understanding value and user satisfaction.

I say crutch because a product may be competing with similar products, so they end up in a feature war to offer the same capabilities, no matter how useless. Or they may simply lack vision and dedication to their product, either through lack of skill or understanding. It may also be that the product has matured, and an organization is looking at ways to extend the life of the product.

Within this environment came smartphones and tablets, and new markets for products, with storage and network constraints. These constraints forced organizations (and created markets for new organizations) to take different approaches. What value could you provide a consumer within the space and use constraints, as the consumer is no longer just focused on your product. 

Products that work well involve developers who realize they have to stop thinking in old ways, and build things from the ground up that users find valuable.

Organizations that understood and embraced a more focused model are able to create smaller, more refined software products. Users get more (through less). If done well, these products are not a mish mash of functionality that really should be different products. They are simpler, allowing users to work with products more naturally.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: