Law #21: The Law of Acceleration
(This entry is part of a series I am writing on
Immutable Laws of Marketing.)
The Law of Acceleration says that "successful programs are not built on fads,
they're built on trends".
Drawing their examples from mainstream consumer products, the authors observe
the tendency for companies to overestimate short-term fads. When something
new becomes big and hot, companies jump on the bandwagon, spending a lot of
money doing so. They restructure. They invest in new
equipment. They work hard to make themselves prepared to deliver products
for the fad.
And then the fad stops, and the company is left with problems:
- "What am I going to do with all the olive green refrigerators
and orange carpeting I bought just before the fashion changed?"
- "Oh, great -- I can produce fifty gazillion Cabbage Patch dolls per
day. That'll come in handy now that nobody wants them anymore."
- "Darn it! I just bought a warehouse of fruit-colored translucent
plastic, and now I find that the next iMac looks like a white desk
Fads accelerate very quickly, but often don't last long. Trends have a
much slower acceleration, but eventually run fast and steady. Chasing fads
is expensive, so it becomes very important to learn how to distinguish them from
actual long-term trends.
This discernment is particularly important for small ISVs. We are
constantly being presented with new technologies, new protocols, new formats,
new platforms, new components, and new APIs. Which ones will
be strong in five years? We want to know if we will eventually regret
building our apps on a given piece of technology.
I'm not sure this issue has ever produced questions more difficult
than the ones we are facing today, such as:
- Web applications: Is this a real long-term
trend? Will it ever be possible to create rich apps with
HTML? Will Microsoft succeed in using its control of the desktop to
kill this trend?
- Web Services: Is this fad going to become a trend
or not? We loved Web Services because they were simple, but they're
simple all the time.
- Windows Forms: Microsoft wanted me to get off MFC
and onto Windows Forms. Now they want me to get off Windows Forms and
onto Avalon. Doesn't anybody have an available API which is not
planned for deprecation?
These may not seem like marketing decisions, but they are. Technology
choices have big marketing implications. When you choose a platform, you
define the maximum size of your market.
I can't answer the questions above, but I will repeat one thing I've said
before: The technologies from the previous wave still work. If you
want to be an INETA speaker, yes, you need to be current with the very latest
stuff. But if you are building products or solutions to be used today,
there isn't any shame in choosing a platform and toolset which has completely
proven itself as more than a fad.