Monday, May 31, 2004

All the Other Kids are Doing It

Rafe Needleman writes about a company that uses peer pressure as a marketing tool to sell online games:

Xfire, made by the eponymous company formerly known as Ultimate Arena, is an application that gamers run on their desktop, like an instant messenger client. The application tracks what game you are running and lets you see which games your friends are playing. You can just click on any friend's name and, if his (or her) game server has room on it and you have the game software, you'll find yourself in the same game, on the same server as your friend, so you can play with your pal.


Xfire is free to users and is growing well—the product has been out for four months and has been downloaded over 500,000 times. So where's the money? Of course, gamers want their pals to be running Xfire so they can find each other. This means that the application should spread virally (and current download numbers indicate that it is). Xfire sells advertising in the client software, and it is highly targeted.

And here's the peer-pressure angle: if a bunch of your friends have a game installed that you don't, you won't be able to play with them. Xfire, though, will alert you—it will tell you, "Five of your ten friends are playing Far Cry, and you don't even own the game." Then it will sell the game to you, and make you one of the cool kids. Of course, the company takes a big cut of these transactions.

Friday, May 21, 2004

I love getting shit done

Caterina's To-Do List January 1-2
Originally uploaded by caterina.

My father-in-law said that at one point in his life he was completely caught up. And he meant completely. He had returned every phone call, answered every email, apologized to those he'd wronged, paid his taxes, made his bed, flossed his teeth. He said that it took him months to get there, but that when he crossed the last item off his To-Do list he had never felt so good in his entire life. He was completely free.

I found this very inspiring.

As is inevitable, few days later things started to pile up, the list lengthened, and it started again. But that is how it is.

Rules for Revolutionaries by Guy Kawasaki

Yesterday I read Rules for Revolutionaries by Guy Kawasaki, chief evangelist for Apple Computer, which was written in 1998, and was amazed at how much of it had already come to me in the form of received knowledge. Was Kawasaki just putting into print the customary business practices of Silicon Valley (churn, evangelism, failing fast) or were his several books so influential its tenets became standard practice? Reading In Search of Excellence I had a powerful sense of deja vu, because these were the business practices that emerged out of the 80s, and which my father exemplified when I was growing up. Another book I read recently, the autobiography of Jimmy Pattison, a Vancouver tycoon, was likewise informed by In Search of Excellence. The waxing and waning influence of business books is an interesting phenomenon. Everyone these days seems to have read Crossing the Chasm and The Cluetrain Manifesto and all those Tom Peters books (which I'm reading now). Business books are as trendy as hairstyles and skirt lengths.

In any event, I did glean some useful ideas out of Rules for Revolutionaries. Kawasaki described evangelizing Macintosh software to developers in 1984:

At the start of meetings with developers, we used this three-pronged pitch:
  • Macintosh is a technological breakthrough. With what-you-see-is-what-you-get printing, pull-down menus, iconic interface, developers can finally create the kind of software they dreamed of
  • Macintosh will expand the market for personal computers and therefore for your software. Because of its radical ease of use, people who wouldn't have considered buying a computer can finally do so.
  • Writing Macintosh software is a way to spread your risk. IBM is publishing MS-DOS application software and competing with you, so the market for your software can get extremely crowded.

If there was any interest in Macintosh development, one of these three pitches appealed to the people in the meeting, and they began to resonate with what we were saying. From that point on, we deemphasized the other two pitches and focused on the one that appealed to the developer.

Good listeners, marketers and women understand this point intuitively: people will tell you how they want to be evangelized.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Business apps continue moving online

In a posting on the AlwaysOn Network, Brian Desmond muses on the Future of the Business Applications Market. He predicts that:

...five years from now the market for business applications will be dominated by a group of business service providers that provide applications in a utility like manner. The majority of applications will be accessed via the web negating the need to implement software and customers will easily be able to transition from one provider to another if they are unsatisfied with the service provided and/or value attained.

I tend to agree with this prediction. It is already happening to a large degree, and I'm sure there are dozens of other products currently in development beside the three he indicated (, Webex, and Ketera, his own company), and the ones that I am aware of. The installation and maintenance of software systems is onerous for any company, and if it lies outside the company's core competencies, it's almost always easier and less expensive to offload the burden to a web service. See also the first commenter, who points out which industries would benefit most from "software as a service model."

I, for one, think that we should push absolutely everything that we can online. More on this in a future post.