By Bob Walsh
This morning I’ve been reading the live blogging coverage of Steve Jobs’ iPhone announcement both at engadget and at ZDNet and I’m struck by how by focusing on design Apple, Inc. has again taken us into the future we all want.
iPhone
The hardware pieces have been around for years – but no one has had the guts to say, this is something new, and it needs to be true to itself. Apple Inc. (formerly Apple Computer, Inc.) has created something so incredibly well-designed it redefines what a phone is.
Way too often software designers are more like Peter Keating than Howard Roark in Ayn Rand’s Fountainhead: they build steel skyscrapers but stick a Roman temple, Victorian latticework and Gothic arches on it to make it “safe”, “popular” and “acceptable”. We have applications with Explorer panes, Outlook panels and toolbars not because those controls express what the application is, but because they make the app “safe”, “popular” and “acceptable”.
Micro-ISVs cannot afford to be safe because to succeed we need to produce apps that get people excited. Micro-ISVs cannot afford to be popular – we don’t want 10% of everybody, we want 80% of .0001% of the Internet to love our products. Micro-ISVs cannot afford to be acceptable, because what’s acceptable to IT departments and enterprises is conventional crap that no one ever got fired for signing off on.
Way back in the last century I was a “permanent” temp IT guy at American President Lines when it was still a proud American company headquartered in Oakland, CA. Over about two years I and a few other people brought about 200 Macs in through the corporate back door to replace aging Multimate Word Processors . Mac’s weren’t the safe, acceptable or popular corporate choice then, and neither is your micro-ISV app. Get over it.
Two last thoughts about design and micro-ISVs:

  • You don’t have to be a “graphic artist” to design an app that is true to itself. It doesn’t hurt to have some visual sensibility, but the biggest requirement is to stop trying to look like every other app out there. If you need graphic resources, you can find them.
  • Micro-ISV can build value on the shoulders of others. Whether it be third party commercial controls or Open Source stuff or adding value to the big software ecosystems out there like Microsoft Office, Mac OS, or Vista, or the Apple iPhone, micro-ISVs have the chance to dig deeper into all the problems smaller than the lowest common denominator stuff. If your micro-ISVs’ app goes in this direction, don’t try to look like Office or whatever: go further.

[tags]Apple iPhone, iPhone, micro-ISV[/tags]

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