Building what customers want

Visting LinuxWorld in San Francisco reminded me that one of the advantages Apple has in the cell-phone market is that it can set design goals to be “what people who buy cell phones want”. While you might think this would be the obvious choice, many players in the market are trying to build what the companies that dominate the industry – cell phone makers, chip vendors and operators – want. The same dynamic seems to be having an effect on enterprise and desktop computing. DRM is being pushed into the hardware and bios level not because of any customer demand, but in response to demands from media and “content” providers. “Please charge me more for limiting the usability of the next computer I buy” is not showing up in my informal customer surveys – perhaps the more sophisticated market research of the big players is getting different answers. And many of the uses of hardware virtualization won’t benefit anyone who writes checks for computer hardware either. I don’t see much enthusiasm among business users of computing for a return to the good old days of mainframe data-centers when they had to negotiate with an internal provider. What we see is demand for running complex applications faster, cooler, and more reliably, and for making it easier to construct those applications.