Thursday, December 15, 2005

Selling Simple

Will simplicity ever sell? Currently it's a hook for grass roots engagement; but can it compete with the big guns of functionality, scalability and performance at the enterprise level?. Given its very real impact on total cost of ownership, it seems like it should. But how do sellers quantify simplicity into the TCO equation or use it counter claims of less than stellar performance? Searching the web for "TCO Simplicity" yields a lot of results so people are talking about it, but is it working?

I know simplicity sells to some degree at the consumer level. My old employer, Alpha Software built itself on developing approachable products. You might think that the fact that most of you know of a product called 'Microsoft Access' but not of our product called 'Alpha Five' invalidates this thesis, but I don't think so. How many small companies, that went head to head with MS in the 80's and 90's, are still around to talk about it? Not many. But Alpha is and that's because they made developers, who were willing to risk a less traveled path, more productive.

This whole post came about because of my continuing work with Ruby on Rails. Once the hype wears off from it and people understand its capabilities and limitations will they see that its inherent simplicity trumps its less stellar attributes? The fact is I don't know how it performs head to head against other similar products in terms of raw performance, I'm just guessing that it's slower given its foundation. The fact is I just don't think that matters.

In the not so distant future I see a world were reasonable performance is a given and the talk is more about simplicity and maintainability. In many ways Java started down this road as well, but got hijacked by the J2EE chowder heads. Perhaps it was just too early on the curve and not quite simple enough even by itself. I for one look forward to the new world. It's going to be fun.

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