Microsoft recently sent me a survey with all the usual questions about their products and services. What an eye-opener. I used to spend most of my working life on their programs: Ran Windows programs, Outlook handled my calendar, contacts and to do’s, and Word and Powerpoint handled my writing and presentations.
The survey made me look at all these areas against Apple and Google. It made me realize how much I rely an Apple and Google for innovation, and how I’ve gradually drifted away from Microsoft’s technology. I miss Microsoft. I really do. They’re still innovative, but nothing like Apple and Google.
Judging from the emphasis in their ads, they understand that their customers want ease and simplicity. They are Easification Wannabees, which is better than being oblivious. Imagine what would happen if they were able to reach their aspirations?
- The marketplace is a powerful self-correcting mechanism.
- Even a company that totally dominated a field can be eroded.
- Never take your customers for granted.
- You cannot overestimate the power of Ease and Simplicity in driving sales.
- The Complexity Trap is almost inescapable (see below).
I’ve just tried Office 2011 for the Mac. I had high hopes that maybe Microsoft has evolved. They have, somewhat. The new Office illustrates the Complexity Trap. Once you’re in it, it’s almost impossible to get out of it because while I’m looking for a radical mutation into something as elegant as Pages, Keynote and Numbers, if they did that, their installed base would howl that things are no longer in the same place and now the program is harder to use. They struck a pretty good balance, but Word (all I’ve tried so far) certainly isn’t elegantly simple and intuitive yet. I see what they’re trying to do: gradually making it cleaner and easier. But at this rate, they’ll get there in about 25 years.
I would really like to like them again.
Why don’t some people and organizations simplify and easify their messages, products, directions, etc.?
I’m beginning to think that it’s not that they don’t want to, or don’t understand the value of simplicity and ease. I suspect that they might actually be incapable of simplifying!
Can people who understand the power of ease and simplicity, who devote large amounts of resources to these pursuits, actually be incapable of simple and easy product design, web site design, communication, structure, etc?
I’d like to raise some questions and share some musings.
I won’t bore you with the complexity, but I’ve just been sensitized to this issue in struggling to move my web site to another supplier that gives the site more speed and ease of use. I’m also switching from Drupal to WordPress and moving my mail to Google Apps Mail. So, I’m attempting to do three major switches that all have to be done at the same time. What’s important to you is that I’m learning some important life lessons and questions about Ease and Simplicity (EAS) that I thought I’d share.
You don’t have to know what they are, but WordPress and Drupal are programs for managing the content of web sites like this one. WordPress is a dream, written totally from the point of view of the user. They really understand ease and simplicity. Drupal gets the need for ease and simplicity, but they have been unable to implement it, even when they just spent years on a massive crusade to make it more user friendly.
It’s a fascinating mystery to me why some organizations like Microsoft and Drupal understand the need for ease and simplicity, but seem epistemologically unable to do it despite intense efforts. I’m not talking about the old Microsoft, which didn’t have a clue about simplicity. I’m talking about the present, hip Microsoft which desperately seems to want to simplify and make their products easier to use. There are Google, Apple and WordPress, sitting out there as outstanding examples of simplicity, dominating their markets, the most successful organizations on the planet, with everybody understanding that Ease and Simplicity (EAS) are major keys to their success, with everyone trying to emulate them, and no one able to.
Why can’t fabulous organizations, with amazing resources, copy the Ease and Simplicity that they know they need, that competitors have demonstrated are successful? It’s not that they don’t have the resources, attitudes, will, knowledge or desire. It’s not that it cannot be done: Adobe is a shining example (the only one I can think of at the moment) of a company that had hopelessly complicated products with the most capabilities in their fields. They have somehow gone to elegantly simple interfaces and explanations, while increasing the capabilities of their programs. Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Illustrator, and their other programs can hardly be considered simple and easy in the grand scheme of things. But they are masterpieces of EAS, given that they are professional programs designed to have more bells, whistles and other capabilities than their competitors. They also have simpler versions, like Photoshop Elements and Lightroom, that aren’t just stripped down, they are re-designed from the users’ point of view, for the non-professional in the case of Elements, and from the photographer rather than the graphic artist point of view, in the case of Lightroom. BRAVO!
You would think that Microsoft, Drupal, all the phone companies, HP, and many others, could do anything they set their minds to, given their resources. So what’s going on and what can we learn from it?
Here’s my thinking so far: I realize that the inability to easify and simplify is related to a particular kind of knowledge blindness, but it seems to go beyond just blindness.. Knowledge blindness (and its more extreme form, expert blindness) is the inability to see things the way a beginner or less-informed person sees it. But I think that something much more profound and deeper may be operating here. Maybe it’s not just the inability to see, but Ease and Simplicity demand that someone’s mind work differently: They have to engage in an alien process. instead of piling on more and more information and features, they have to see what can be simplified or eased for the other person, even though it’s easy and simple for them. Then, they have to simplify, which, it turns out, is a very difficult process. It doesn’t only involve leaving things out. It involves many things like abstracting out the details, re-sequencing things, organizing concepts into sub-concepts or higher-level categories, forming new concepts or groups, and many other psychological, communication, and product design skills. It’s a form of thinking that very smart people don’t have to do much, because they are so smart that they can hold so much in mind, and less intelligent people can’t do because it takes a lot of intelligence.
So, my working hypothesis is this: Easification and Simplification can only be done by very intelligent people who have mastered an additional complex skill set, much like some writers and editors have mastered the art of writing simply about complex subjects. No one — to my knowledge and I’ve searched a lot — has set out the methods of easification and simplicity. Hell, there isn’t even a word “easification” “easify” or, for that matter, “funification.” I plan to write about this skill set in much greater detail. Stay tuned.
David Pogue has recently attempted to explain the Macintosh Surge, and solicited opinions about it:
The comments, hundreds of them!, are a primer on WOM and should be read by anyone interested in WOM.
(Those of you who go to the WOMMA conventions: remember when I got up and challenged the Vista product manager to give me a single reason to switch to Vista, instead of a contest to win a trip to the moon!)
In part, here’s what he says:
At the risk of enraging the Apple bashers, I can’t keep my mouth shut any longer: Something is going on with the Macintosh.
At this week’s Macworld Expo, there were 475 exhibitors. That’s 100 more booths than last year.
There were 50,000 attendees. That’s 10,000 more people than last year.
A book publisher told me that 2007 Macintosh book sales were up by double-digit leaps over the previous year.
Gartner’s fourth-quarter 2007 research shows that Mac shipments grew 28 percent over the year before, giving it an 6.1 percent market share. (It was 3-point-something only a couple of years ago.)
According to Net Applications, use of the Mac’s Web browser, Safari, climbed 32 percent in 2007.
Apple sold 2.16 million Macs in the last quarter–a new company record.
And anecdotally—well, you probably know somebody who’s switched to the Mac recently.
What is going on?
He rejects the IPod (and by implication iPhone) halo effects.
He rejects the “fed up with viruses and spyware” argument.
He says that the best theory is “Windows Vista.” “When people found out they’d have to buy a new computer and learn a new interface, a certain slice of them just said, ‘Well, if I have to buy a new machine and learn a new interface, I may as well get the cool-looking, virus-free one.’
He goes on to ask, ”But could that effect explain this gigantic 35 percent leap in just 12 months? It’s still an expensive proposition to switch platforms once you’ve got an investment in software and peripherals.
Anyone else got a better theory?“
What he didn’t mention:
He and other gurus now openly support the Mac.
A HUGE increase in the Mac notebook share of market.
The ability for Macs to co-exist on Windows networks.
The seamless integration between the iPhone and/or iPods, email programs, iPhoto, ITunes, IMovie, iCal (the Mac calendar).
Some programs that are Mac-only that are so good that it’s worth switching for them. For me, they are DevonThink Pro (a free-form database that you can dump all your info into and retrieve with artificial intelligence — and a whole lot more) and Scrivener, an authoring program for articles, scripts and books that goes light years beyond word processing by separating info gathering, writing and formatting into totally separate processes. Quicksilver — the most useful program I’ve ever used that is so all-purpose that I can’t even describe it adequately. (But, here’s a try: with a couple of keystrokes, it lets me instantaneously find any file, move it, open it, launch programs, add text to files without even opening them, send emails, look up phone numbers, plus dozens of other things without even thinking.) Plus, Keynote is way better than PowerPoint. Plus some technically advanced photography programs that I can’t even go into.
in addition, the upcoming arrival (which he did mention in another post) of MacSpeech Dictate, the super-accurate speech recognition program, and the even better implementation of Microsoft Word 2008 on the Mac than Word 2007 on Windows itself! also make the Mac much more attractive, and well worth the learning curve.
Here’s my take:
His premise is wrong. He is looking for something that has recently changed to explain it all.
PC vs. Mac is the largest word-of-mouth disparity that I have found in decades of studying word of mouth. I’ve been predicting this surge for years because nothing can withstand the degree of negative word of mouth that Windows and Microsoft have, especially against such a positive WOM alternative.
As I’ve reported before, when I give a speech and talk about this, I ask the audience how many people use Windows. Then I ask, knowing what they know now, how many of them think they would switch to a Mac for their next machine if it were feasible to run their Windows programs, or make an easy switch, if it didn’t cost them much in money or time. At least 80% of them say they would, if their companies would only let them. This much pent-up demand is screaming to be satisfied.
But for the first time, it’s becoming ever more easily satisfied.
What has held it back is that Apple has ”knowledge blindness“ and doesn’t understand how onerous people imagine the switch to be. Apple doesn’t understand that most people don’t even know what an operating system is, and don’t want to. Apple doesn’t understand all the things they could be doing to ease the switch and think they are doing all they can.
The ”Tipping Point“ is arriving.
Gradually, these decision barriers have been coming down. Required, legacy Windows programs can be run on the Mac, so businesses can use it. Famous Windows mavins, and regular IT people are encouraging their non-geek spouses, children, friends and grandmothers to buy Macs, so they don’t have to be bothered by phone calls. The technology mavins like Pogue himself and Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal have finally come out of the closet and no longer afraid to say that the Mac is much better. The Mac kids are growing up. The last few areas missing Mac programs, such as voice recognition and GPS mapping, now have Mac alternatives, often better ones. And now, they keep hearing how easy it all is to switch. Apple is porting over files from PCs at Apple stores. More complete switching support would be even better, but it’s coming along. Apple stores themselves have revolutionized retailing. More of people’s friends are able to offer support, as are stores and consultants. Apple offers a $99 one-year series of private, weekly lessons in how to do YOUR things on the Mac. It’s turned many people I know from people who hate the computer, to people who have fun on it and produce cool things that spread the word of mouth.
Example: My wife — who barely tolerated and rarely used her Windows computer — has been having a ball doing the things she is learning in those lessons. She has produced our Holiday cards on it, stunning picture and all. Of course, on the back of each card, it says ”Made on a Mac“ (which could have been optionally removed, but we are Mac fans).
Gradually, the word of mouth is reaching critical mass, so that a large number of people keep hearing from people they know and trust that the switch will be painless and supported. In addition, they keep seeing all the cool things that their friends can do: the movies, greeting cards, coffee-table picture books, web sites, picture galleries, etc.
So, the answer, David, in summary, is that you are seeing a surge now because of the exponential effects of word of mouth. At some point, it reaches critical mass, then everyone asks, ”what’s new,“ looks around for an event, and points to the most obvious or most proximal. There is no single event. The so-called ”tipping point“ is made possible by all of these events, plus the removal of most of the under-appreciated barriers to switching.
Apple creates WOMworthy products (spectacularly simple, elegant yet powerful) that makes people feel very good about themselves, creating word of mouth. AND — the reason that the geeks don’t understand — we are reaching the point where real people are viewing the switch as less onerous. What technical people see as an adventure and ”not a problem“ is becoming actually just about tolerable and only minimally painful for the rest of the world..
At some point WOM grows exponentially, so look for the surge to turn into an explosion in Mac sales at some point in the very near future, if Apple doesn’t get too arrogant and shoot itself in the foot, which it could easily do, since it is product oriented (in the best sense) rather than people oriented. When they make mistakes, that’s where they tend to make them.
One last point. Imagine what would happen if the Mac OS could run Windows programs natively, without virtualization software and without Windows. Apple would take over the market overnight.
Here is an old joke, that I’m not telling for the humor. I’m telling it to make a point.
An elderly man goes into confession and says to the priest, “Father, I’m 80 years old, married, have four kids and 11 grandchildren, and last night I had an affair. I made love to two 21 year old girls. Both of them. Twice.”
The priest said: “Well, my son, when was the last time you were in confession?”
“Never Father, I’m Jewish.”
“So then, why are you telling me?”
“Are you kidding? I’m telling everybody!”
When you understand what is driving that man, you will understand more about marketing than you can possibly learn in all the marketing books put together. More about this in future blog posts, but there is breaking news that I want to “tell everybody!.”
On Tuesday, at MacWorld, a product was officially announced that I have been beta testing. This releases me to talk about some details that have been publicly revealed, although I still can’t talk about many of the other details.
MacSpeech has announced a completely new voice dictation product for the Mac. One that is so accurate that it can be used by professional writers.
For those of you who don’t know what voice dictation is, or who don’t yet appreciate its significance, let me explain. Simply, you talk and your words magically appear on the screen, like in a science fiction movie.
I have been beta testing this new product for the last three weeks. While I have been publicly critical of MacSpeech’s previous product, iListen, this product, MacSpeech Dictate, just blows me away. It has sensational accuracy with only 5 minutes of training. That means that you can dictate into any program on the Mac and have your words appear.
Now I’m a pretty fast Dvorak typist, around 120 wpm.
But, when I’m writing books, articles and speeches, that’s not fast enough, and my arms and hands get tired, even with the 1/16th lower finger movement that Dvorak typing requires (look it up). So I have written my last two books in Dragon NaturallySpeaking, which is a Windows program. At this point, with continual training and corrections, I’ve gotten it beyond 99.7% accuracy. But, I had to maintain a separate Windows machine to do it, which was a great inconvenience, and ruled out voice dictation when I traveled, when I do a lot of my writing.
Ever since it’s been possible, I’ve been running Dragon NaturallySpeaking on my Mac. I has been an acceptable solution, even though it takes considerable memory resources, disk space, and central processing power. It also requires me to run Windows, putting me at considerable risk, even though I have a firewall, anti-spyware software, antivirus software, etc. Windows also requires constant maintenance, and is unstable, so it can’t stay up for days and weeks on end like my Mac. I consider Windows to be an almost criminally unsafe product. Also, I have to continually transfer my dictation into whatever program I’m using, such as my word processor and my e-mail.
None of these drawbacks is terrible, but all of them together add up to considerable inconvenience. Like most Mac users, I can work much longer and conveniently on the Mac side of the machine. The Mac aesthetics are not just a matter of being pretty. The machine is much easier on the eyes, cutting down on fatigue, something that is almost never mentioned.
Then, I broke my arm skiing three weeks ago. I found myself totally dependent upon voice dictation, except that using the trackball to highlight text, copy and paste it was excruciating. In an extraordinary bit of coincidence, MacSpeech happened to send me a beta copy of their new program, MacSpeech Dictate, a couple of days after my accident. I was pretty skeptical, since I found their previous program unacceptable for sustained writing.
Even though some parts of it were still under development, it blew me away. (The MacSpeech people just revealed that it has licensed the Dragon NaturallySpeeking speech recognition engine, and is adapting it to the Mac. So, MacSpeech Dictate is using the Dragon voice recognition engine.) It also dictates right into my word processor, e-mail, writing program (Scrivener) and my blog post editor (Ecto). I can dictate so fast it’s almost frightening. Steven Wright jokes that he got hurt in a speed-reading accident. I feel like I’m about to get injured in a speed writing accident.
What’s so important about writing fast? Time saving is the least of it.
It makes my writing better. The processes of writing and editing should be separated. With voice dictation, I can close my eyes or look at the ceiling and just think my thoughts without distraction. When I look at the screen, there are my thoughts! I can then go back and polish. This has made a dramatic difference in the quality of my writing. Anything that gets in the way of putting thoughts onto paper is a distraction and decreases the quality. With voice dictation finally accurate enough to use on the Mac, all I have to do is think the thought and it magically appears in whatever program I want. Nothing else gets in the way.
Furthermore, my typing speed is about 2-3 times faster, since I make virtually no mistakes and can dictate much faster than I can actually type. So, I can sail through my e-mail at dazzling speed.
This entire blog post was done with MacSpeech Dictate, with well over 99% accuracy.
I want to congratulate the folks at MacSpeech. They are a living lesson in word-of-mouth marketing. I was publicly critical of their previous product. Instead of ignoring me or getting defensive, they contacted me and asked if I would like to work with their technical support in increasing my accuracy. Their technical support put in hours increasing my accuracy, but still, the fundamental design of the program and how it made corrections was just was too unwieldy for me to use. I stayed on as a beta tester mostly on the strength of their Customer Evangelist’s enthusiasm (thanks Chuck Rogers) and complete confidence that things would get better. What they couldn’t tell me was that they were coming out with an entirely new program, based on Dragon.
They were so customer oriented and enthusiastic about their product that I hung in there with them. As a result, I am now the poster boy for the expression “The biggest skeptic is the biggest convert.” I’m also going to tell thousands of people about the program via my speeches and blog, and demo it every chance I get. I can now also enthusiastically recommend the Mac, since it now has voice dictation. (I would never recommend that anyone but a very sophisticated user put Windows on a Mac.)
My arm is feeling better, but I won’t ever go back to Dragon NaturallySpeaking in Windows. Although I will leave Windows on my Mac just in case I need to run another Windows program, I really don’t think I’m ever going to see Windows defacing my Mac ever again.
WHWL? (What have we learned?)
- if you’ve got the goods, stay with your strongest critics, work with them, acknowledge that they may be right, take their suggestions. You never know who they will tell, who they know, how many thousands of people they can reach.
- Get them involved in product improvement. It’s very hard to be a net detractor for a product you have helped develop. They will, however, not be shy about criticizing you, usually constructively.
- Be straight with customers. Don’t make believe your product is better than it is. if you tell the truth, you’ll always be reality based and fix real things. If you distort, you’ll be fantasy based and start believing your own fantasies. You will break a lot more than you will fix.
- Make your customers feel like that 80 year old guy. Well, as close as you can get. These days, people only talk about the sensational.
Breaking News: MacSpeech Dictate just received Best of Show at Macworld! Congratulations!
Oh, by the way, the new Apple announcements at Macworld are pretty good too, but you can read about them elsewhere.
Steve Chazin, a former Apple marketing and sales exec, has identified 5 of the things that make Apple such successful marketers.
This little 8 page eBook is absolutely brilliant.
I believe that there is one, underlying thing that Apple is doing, and I wonder if Steve Jobs has realized it:
All of the great, wildly successful products, services, companies, institutions of the last decade or two have all done one thing at the root. They have helped the customer make Better Decisions Faster: not only faster in buying, using, recommending the product itself, but also helping the customer use that product to make better decisions faster in their lives.
For instance, Apple makes it faster to get on the Internet; operate a computer; organize, find, store, carry & access their music, photos, etc.
Amazon has done the same for books, eBay for collecting, Google for searching & reaching the customer at the exact point of interest, Yahoo for accessing certain types of content, Prius for making a certain social statement, Toyota in general for making it easy to buy a more reliable car, etc.
An the root of all successful marketing these days, is helping the customer make Better Decisions Faster. I have always been able to find several major ways to make it faster for your customers to decide on your product, if your product is the better decision.
When you enable customers to make better decisions faster, you accumulate customers faster, your customers get to be better users faster, they feel better about the whole experience, so they spread the word faster.
In the Age of Overload, time is more than money.
Most companies focus on beating the competition. Apple focuses on … well, let’s let Steve Jobs say it:
Is Apple’s goal to overtake the PC in market share? Jobs said, “Our goal is to make the best personal computers in the world and make products we are proud to sell and recommend to our family and friends. We want to do that at the lowest prices we can.
”But there’s some stuff in our industry that we wouldn’t be proud to ship. And we just can’t do it. We can’t ship junk,“ said Jobs. ”There are thresholds we can’t cross because of who we are. And we think that there’s a very significant slice of the [market] that wants that too. You’ll find that our products are not premium priced. You price out our competitors’ products, and add features that actually make them useful, and they’re the same or actually more expensive. We don’t offer stripped-down, lousy products.“
This isn’t a lot different than the official statements from many companies. The difference is that Jobs means it and lives it.
As quoted in MacWorld today. He was announcing the new ILife and IWork 08 suites.
Extraordinary review of a new product by an acknowledged expert:
What an example of the kind of word of mouth no one wants to get for a new product!
So, how do you avoid such negative word of mouth?
Involve people like David Pogue as consultants from the beginning, so that you can build in features that reviewers will give positive reviews to. (He probably wouldn’t do it because of the conflict of interest, but there are other people who are just as astute and practical, just not such good writers!) But, I’m afraid that’s too superficial.
The truth is, you have to have the right philosophy, viewpoint, mindset, frame of mind – whatever you want to call it. Apple has a profound respect for the customer and an deep understanding of design. Apple understands the whole Decision Experience. That’s why the iPod isn’t just a player. It’s a whole system that makes all the decisions seamless, easy, simple and fun. Everything about the music experience is made easy, elegant, even beautiful: finding, tasting (trying), refining one’s tastes, acquiring, managing, playing, sorting, etc. (except for backing up and sharing).
Microsoft, on the other hand, has a profound understanding of cut-and-try: getting something out into the marketplace, then learning from the feedback how to gradually refine it. That’s why everyone is wary of Microsoft 1.0 anything. It’s OK if you are very early in a marketplace where no one has a product or no one has a good product, but everyone wants it. In other words, fine for wild innovators, which Microsoft has long-ago ceased to be. But against Apple???!!! Particularly iPod???!!!!!! No, I don’t think so. Microsoft just doesn’t get it — particularly doesn’t understand the overwhelming power of WOM.
I trust Apple to get it right the first time, then improve it. I don’t trust Microsoft to get it right until version 3.0 at least. That’s why I’ll unhesitatingly put Apple’s new operating system on my Mac, but wait for a long time (if ever) to put Vista on my Windows machines. (Written on a Mac by an ex-windows lover)
As I predicted, it happened. I won’t rehash
the thousands of blog posts on the subject of running
Windows on the Intel Mac. For those who haven’t
heard, and for the record, Apple announced yesterday
an official version of a program that allows Windows
to run on the newer Macs with Intel chips and they
announced that it will be built into the next update
of their operating system.
Thousands of blog posts
were instantly posted yesterday. The announcement
made the front page of the New York Times and the
front page of the second section of the Wall Street
Journal today. All of this despite the fact that
Apple virtually hid the announcement: no usual big
splash, not on the home page of their web site, buried
in their web site. This, despite the fact that it’s
one of the biggest announcements in the computer
industry in the last decade.
The reason I’m talking about it here is because
it illustrates many word of mouth and other marketing
principles, and allows us to make many predictions.
As I’ve said before here and here, there is a huge disconnect
between the word of mouth for Macs and their actual
sales. Only about 2.6% of business users use Macs.
But more than half of them say that they would switch
to Macs if they could do so painlessly.
This illustrates the principle that word of mouth
is not enough. Word of mouth is only powerful because
it gets people past the decision blocks that conventional
marketing is not effective with. Issues having to
do with experience, credibility, simplification,
subtle interpretation, reassurance, encouragement
and real-world practical nuts and bolts. Advertising,
sales people and other conventional marketing methods
do not work very well on marketing blocks that involve
these issues. Friends, colleagues, experts and advisers
are much more helpful in these areas.
Now, there is a gradual way to switch to the Mac,
as I’ve described in previous posts.
My analysis of the Mac decision map has revealed
many blocks. The biggest one is the lack of a way
to try OS X and to switch to it gradually. This new
development is important because it wipes out these
Word of mouth ultimately wins. Blatantly inferior
products like Windows, GM and Ford cars, AT&T
and Verizon long distance telephone service ultimately
lose because information transmitted independently
through word of mouth will ultimately overwhelm (in
both credibility and quantity) slick ads. It doesn’t
matter how big the company is. Especially when those
ads are insulting to customers. (For instance, depicting
them as dinosaurs, as Microsoft does.) These were,
and are, the largest companies in the world. It doesn’t
matter. Google may be headed in the same direction.
People love telling other people about new and better
search engines, and the cost for switching is very
low. For instance, ask.com and accoona.com have been
mentioned to me many times in the last week and I’m
actively trying them out, even though I love Google.
The cost of switching to Apple has always been high,
The takeaway here is to keep your eye on the steps
that people need to go through in the decision process.
This will reveal all sorts of blocks and opportunities
that will allow you to have very high prediction
Oh, yes, the predictions. The necessity to reboot
when switching between OS X and Windows is a huge
block. My guess is that it will not take more than
a few weeks, given the enormous interest shown, to
develop a switching program that does not require
a reboot. In fact, it may already be here. Today’s
Wall Street Journal mentions a beta program called
Parallels that purports to do this.
I predict that GM and Ford will continue to take
themselves into deeper holes before desperation causes
them to take some very bold moves. First there will
be the corporate financial moves, which may bring
them breathing room but will do nothing for their
sales. Then there will be some dramatic product quality
moves. I have no way of predicting whether these
moves will be too little or too late. I am very pessimistic,
because the only thing that will save them is to
turn around word of mouth. But they don’t even
begin to understand what word of mouth is, as evidenced
by the Tahoe CGM campaign. They’re just using
word of mouth as another manipulation. They need
to bring in the customer by having the customer help
them design the car, not the ads. They need to openly
and transparently share their commitment and steps
to solving the product quality problems.
That’s what Apple did. They paid attention
to the enormous desire of their customers to be able
to run Windows on their Macs for the few programs
that cannot be translated to OS X. The announcement
released an almost overwhelming torrent of word of
mouth. Sales will go through the roof because the
solution is already “good enough” and
will only get better.
Another prediction: there will be an enormous fight
the other way around. People will get OS X working
on Windows boxes. This will probably unleash a gigantic
fight from Apple. While I believe that they should
have the right to attach any conditions to the sale
of their programs, this would be a mistake. They
could sell a huge number of operating systems without
the machines. This would result in huge incremental
profit. Since they always seem to be able to stay
ahead of the other machines in features, quality
and attitude, they would compete very well on the
boxes, too. But only if they stay the “good
guy” and don’t turn people against them
by coercive actions.
Give the people what they want, don’t fight
their desires and their WOM, empower them to go the
next steps and don’t set up obstacles to what
they are going to do anyway. So far, so good.
The implications are enormous, on many levels. First of all, it shows that a desirable outcome can be encouraged by a very interesting kind of word of mouth: user, customer, consumer initiated contests or incentives.
Also, it shows that products will get modified, even if the customers don’t know how to do it themselves.
As I’ve written about before, and spoken about at the WOMMA Orlando conference, this is a very big step for Apple. Now that Windows can be run on the Mac, there is little reason for people not to switch to Macs, the clearly superior machine and operating system. They can now do so gradually, and have Windows for any custom programs (or games) they may have to run.
I hope Apple doesn’t fight this development. It’s the best thing that has happened to them since the return of Steve Jobs and the launch of the iPod & iTunes.
I will we awaiting further developments before switching. I’ll wait for some software to catch up to run natively on the MacIntel machines. Also, the Windows installation has to be simple and seamless, preferably without a re-boot. Most importantly, I have to make sure that Dragon Dictate Naturally Speaking will work on the WinMac. Since it makes calls to the chip, it is not obvious that it will work. I use Dragon to do my more lengthy writing of long articles and books. There is nothing remotely close on the Mac. Everything else is better on a Mac.
I’ve been following an interesting contest, but realized
that it has wider, Earth-shaking implications.
Here’s the contest, posted by a guy named Colin.
See if you can see its wider consequences:
“My new Apple MacBook is shipping …. I told
my boss that this would replace my IBM desktop and
I could boot Windows XP on it. I am still confident
it can be done. I am giving $100 of my own money
and offering anyone else who would like the instructions
on how to Dual boot these two operating systems the
ability to give some of their money into the pot
as a prize for the person / group that can make dual-booting
Mac OS X and Windows XP happen on an Intel Mac. Good
Luck, Colin” (Rules and other details follow) Boot
Windows XP on an Intel Duo Core Mac and Make Money
This is an example of a ‘solution contest.’ There
have been several very famous ones in the past:
- The Wright Brothers’ first flight was
actually part of a worldwide contest for powered
flight (there were 3 rules: powered, controlled,
landing the same altitude or higher). Everyone
knew it was about to happen, and about when it
was going to happen. It was a worldwide race.
- During WWII, there was an “inventions needed” list
of over 300 crucial things that we needed. Most
of them were invented.
- There was a Friday meeting at
the Manhattan Project. People would get up and say
what they needed. If anyone else knew how to do it,
or who was likely to be able to do it, they got up
and volunteered the information. If the solution
was outside the project, people were flown to find
the inventor and bring the “volunteer” back
to Los Alamos under military escort.
Do you see the new implications of the “Windows
on an Intel Mac” contest?
It’s a “Consumer Generated
Contest.” CGC (You
heard it here first — I’m looking for
a better name). Its implications can be HUGE. A customer
has stepped up and put up $100 into a PayPal account,
inviting others to join in and contribute. Within
a few weeks, it climbed to over $12,000, and got
worldwide coverage in the blogs and technology press.
Also, someone stands to make a lot of money from
marketing the solution itself. As I’ve written
before, it would cause sales of Macs to multiply.
But the point is: here’s a customer who has
no vested interest other than a desire for the product,
stepping up and starting a fund for something he
I think it’s only the first and that it will
start a major trend.
This got me wondering: what would you gladly contribute
$100 or more to encourage the invention of? Don’t
be too fast to say things like, “cure for Cancer,
Diabetes, etc., solution to Global Warming, alternative
to Oil, etc.” These BIG PROBLEMS would require
almost impossible-to-define rules, the incentives
are already up and running, a PayPal pot is unlikely
to increase the motivation of people already motivated
by a variety of incentives, throwing more money of
any kind is not likely to increase the probability
of a solution. Anyone solving these problems would
get the Nobel Prize, plus plenty of others.
CGCs are for a certain type of problem:
- Clearly definable
- Clearly “in the sights.” Something
we know is inevitable, imminent. We can taste it.
Our mouths are watering. We would pre-order it
right now on Amazon (a metaphor).
- Something where the additional incentive pot is likely to motivate people to invest their resources in developing a solution
- Something for which adding to the incentive
IN ADVANCE would be attractive to a large number
They may be hacks to existing products. I would
have paid in advance for a way to defeat Verizon’s
removal of Bluetooth Dial Up Networking to my Treo
(already developed), how to defeat the inability
to program the Prius’ navigation system while
the car is moving (already posted), and many
They may be accessories, new products, utilities,
Are there a lot of these? Is it worth building
a web site to encourage them?
Think about it:
What would you eagerly contribute $100
in advance to a PayPal pot to see developed?
Just to make it real, make it something that you
would actually put up the money for, right now, if
I set up the contest.
Just got back from the WOMMA WOMBAT (Word of Mouth Basic Training) conference. 450 people! It was great. More about it later. But I just had to post this:
I gave a presentation to a standing-room-only crowd. Very flattering. But I digress.
In the course of the presentation, I said, apropos of a recent post that if WOMwere everything, we’d all be using Macs. Think about it: the best word of mouth in the
whole universe, and about a 4% market share. I asked how many people
had Macs. About half of the people raised their hands. Then
I asked, “Of the Windows people, how many would like to switch
if it weren’t for the expense and trouble of switching?”
Virtually ALL said yes! Wow. What’s wrong with this
Apple has done a magnificent job of creating the reasons to switch, but failed to provide a simple, easy way to switch. It’s like England trying to get everyone to drive on the right side of the street, gradually. Can’t be done.
Some things can’t be done gradually, but MUST be done gradually or they are perceived as too painful. The switch from Windows to Mac is one of these for the average computer owner. Virtual PC is too slow and doesn’t work for many programs, such as my favorite, Dragon Dictate Naturally Speaking 8. So, even though I’ve switched, I have to maintain a Windows machine to write my books and articles.
Until now. If Apple will encourage developers to develop a simple operating system switcher (they exist now on the Windows platform) that will allow people to switch between Windows and OS X, people will be able to buy a Mac, install Windows and have a Windows machine just as if they bought a Dell. Then they could switch gradually, starting with the browser and mail client, which would get the Windows side of the machine off the internet. Now, they have a Windows machine that is unsusceptible to viruses, spyware, malware, etc. They can switch the other programs gradually and see much easier each application is on a Mac.
Apple probably won’t do this. But their customers will. And in the new, new marketing, the customer is in control. As long as Apple doesn’t sabotage the ability of its new Intel machines to operate Windows, we will see all of this pent up desire to switch cause a major shift.
Of course, there are a whole lot of other things that Apple needs to do (none of them that hard compared to what they have already done), in order to get a wholesale switch from Windows to Mac.
The lesson: Even when there is a major pent-up demand created by word of mouth, the mechanisms have to exist to switch to it easily.
Word-of-Mouth Marketing Consultant
Author, The Secrets of Word-of-Mouth Marketing