When you are a large software company and want to create successful products, you have two basic options:
Build products, test them, market them, sell them, and hope for success because most products fail.
Buy successful products, and try not to turn them into failures because the creators who made it successful are now rich and disinterested.
(1) is hard and risky. (2) is perhaps less difficult and less risky, but more expensive, and also (in the end) pretty risky.
But sometimes there is the magical shortcut option:
3 Integrate new products into an existing successful product. Call them “features” or “essential new versions.” User adoption will surely be quicker and success is all but guaranteed!
The problem with magical shortcuts is they are neither magical, nor shortcuts.
When you take the magical shortcut, now, in addition to trying to make a new successful product, you have the following problems:
- Both the existing and new product now multiply in complexity, managerial and bureaucratic overhead, and development time.
- New product adoption is dependent on the old product, limiting the audience
- You risk exposing your existing users to potentially harmful, unsuccessful, unrelated things that are not proven in the marketplace
- If one of the products is a monopoly, you may face antitrust lawsuits from various governments
- You probably look like a dick
When you use a product from a large software company, understand the context (1, 2, or 3).
When you realize it’s (3) and bad, you may just want to run away while you still can.
(This has been a part of the Product Management Super Friends documentary series. I made this for public television, but they told me it was stupid and grossly inaccurate and obviously these statements do not reflect the views of any of my current or former employers or clients.)
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