Design trade-offs, and the virtue of cheap (part 2 of 3)

Another data point (for delivery over the web).

This is a Vlog of an interview of fixed gear bike rider. (Thanks to Bruce Sharpe for twittering this one).

High end gear vs. the “flip video” camcorder (not a lot more than $100).

Good Enough not to distract from the task at hand. There’s a lesson here (a whole flock of them, really). What do you think it is?


Design trade-offs, the knee in the price curve, and appropriate solutions

Poor man’s camera stabilizer

This is an important reminder that cheaper does NOT have to mean “radically worse.” This is brilliant; you may well have seen it before, but if you haven’t, go look. If you have…

Consider this. A good low-end, name brand stabilizer (Steadicam ‘Merlin’) is about $900. It’s a LOT nicer than this, won’t tire you out, and is beautiful (really). It buys you credibility if you have to Go Somewhere Important. The big, impressive-as-all-getout rigs for Professional Film cannot be beat…if you are carrying a 15 to 70 lb. camera.

The question, as always, is: what is your application, and what matters? Web video for personal use? $15 + your labor buys you what you need to do a few motion shots without that “hand held, make the audience ill” documentary look.

Now, consider what this means in the context of product evolution. Generally speaking, broader market adoption of products means a reduction in cost and features. When working in product development, it’s tempting to think of this as “sliding down hill” in terms of reducing your beautiful boutique product to least-common-denominator “mass market” stuff that “those people” might use.

This is a trap, and smart product managers know this. Quantity is its own quality. Go ahead, own the high end. But introduce the low-end product. If the high end product is that much better, you can still sell it. (Steadicam comes to mind!). But it’s better to make the low-end product that might cannibalize your high-end sales, before someone else does, if and only if there’s a sufficiently large market for it.

Now, you are thinking, how does this apply to software? And to software engineering?

I’ll give you a hint: amortization of development costs. More later.