Sunday, September 04, 2011

Consumer vs business application

Having the same software for consumer and business market is something that most people think is OK, but it is not. Now it is not that only these two market segments exists, there should always exist some in between - like artists and students.

During 80s it was very clear: PC was a business machine. Consumers had Commodore, Atari or Sega and Nintendo, and artists had Mac. All of a sudden, in 90s things changed. Commodore and Atari went to near oblivion, so only PCs left and consoles. But consoles were too much single-purpose, so only PCs left as general purpose consumer computers. And it lasted until 2010. But then it was iPad. Steve Jobs saw how much consumers needed appliance that would just work.

But it caused the view that consumer applications are going to take over the business. Oh, how wrong is that. Even Steven Sinofsky, Windows division president said something like that.

First, there is general problem in motivation - consumers usually want to surf, and business users usually want to take away distractions. Surf started with remote control, and it is quite obvious that consumers want to face different and sometimes random content. That is part of the fun.

Second, businesses are not ready to trade-off flexibility for simplicity, consumers are. You can't say that you can't service the consumers because your IT doesn't support that. You can't expect to pay higher taxes because your IT doesn't support that. So, you must be able to do everything and even some marginal cases, which makes systems much more complex.

Third, security as in business software you must be able to audit, track and protect nearly everything. Consumers usually don't need it.

So that's it. You can obviously have the same platform for both purposes (like HTML or Java or .Net), but you need different applications and interfaces to succeed.

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