Platform Edge

The computing platform is what matters. It’s one thing if you’re the big fish with THE platform. But what do you do when you’re the small fish, your competitor already owns the dominant platform, and has millions of customers? How do you switch customers to your platform? Answer: Reduce the platform switching barriers.

However, it may be more difficult than you think. I find it difficult enough to switch phone carriers. Maybe not, necessarily, for myself, but I find it difficult to get all my friends to switch with me. The benefit of a platform is exclusive lock-in. The benefit of getting your friends on the same phone carrier is free mobile-to-mobile chatting. Can you convince all them to switch again and again?

Five things may need to happen to get a customer to consider switching platforms:

  1. Cost – If switching to a new platform saves the customer a substantial amount of money, they may consider break the contract with their existing platform. Money talks. Would you switch cell phone carriers if they offered the same service, but one was half the price per month as the other?
  2. Compatibility – The learning curve should, ideally be none at all. Like a cell phone, when you switch cell phone carriers, you should be able to retain your existing account information. The customer has nothing new to learn and the change — behind the scenes — is transparent to them. However, if this is not possible, the change should be small. If there must be many changes, the changes can often be done incrementally. Too much added complexity and the customer can be lost. If the change is drastic and must happen all at once, it should simplify the old way of doing things so the customer feels that the new way is much more simple. This has a better chance of allowing the customer to adapt without feeling like it was any trouble at all.
  3. Popularity – If everyone has heard of the platform brand, the chances of a switch are greater. If the brand is popular, it may even be a status symbol.
  4. Speed – The platform should be fast. In this respect, productivity for the consumer should be improved — they can get more done in less time. Time is money. Save them time.
  5. Superior Features – The platform has features that are better than other platforms, such as: better security, widgets, better user-interface, undo/redo, etc.

Here are a few notable examples of computing platform migrations:

From: Microsoft Windows

To: Apple Mac OS X

2. Compatibility

  • x86 CPU Migration
  • Universal Binaries
  • Virtualization – Parallels, VMWare, etc.
  • Apple Bootcamp
  • iTunes released on Mac OS X and Windows
  • Safari released for Mac OS X, OS X, and Windows

3. Popularity

  • iPod halo effect

5. Features

  • iLife Suite
  • Security
  • More applications moving from the desktop to the Web. Not as dependent on Operating System, so you can use whatever OS you like.

From: Yahoo Search, InfoSeek, MetaCrawler, Excite, Ask

To: Google Search

4. Speed

  • Almost instantaneous search results

5. Features

  • Simplified the user-interface
  • Search Result Superiority – Quality and quantity

From: Microsoft Internet Explorer

To: Mozilla Firefox

2. Compatibility

  • Transparent web viewing experience

3. Popularity

  • Huge viral campaign

5. Features

  • Tabs (before Internet Explorer)
  • Restore Session
  • Security

From: Microsoft Windows Media, Real Media RealPlayer

To: Adobe Flash

3. Popularity

  • YouTube

4. Speed

  • Video clips load extremely quickly
  • Little to no lag time

From: Microsoft Hotmail, Yahoo Mail

To: Google Gmail

1. Cost

  • Hotmail and Yahoo were charging for more storage space.
  • Gmail gave users a lot more space for free.

5. Features

  • AJAX (one of the first)
  • Color coding
  • Labels
  • No folders
  • Search
  • Large storage space

From: AOL Mapquest, Yahoo Maps

To: Google Maps

4. Speed

  • Fast results

5. Features

  • AJAX (one of the first)
  • Draggable
  • Scrollable
  • Zoomable

From: Friendster

To: MySpace

4. Speed

  • Friendster’s architecture just about killed it, due to extremely, poor performance. MySpace’s architecture scales slightly better, but if they aren’t careful Facebook’s superior architecture will overtake it.

From: Microsoft Office

To: Google Apps

1. Cost

  • Microsoft Office is about $1000/seat for corporations. Google Apps is free for the standard edition and for the premier edition $50/year.

2. Compatibility

  • Basic compatibility with Microsoft Office

5. Features

  • Online
  • Better collaboration

Can you think of some other notable examples of computing platform migrations?