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9:30AM

THE HORSELESS CARRIAGE

 

I love the fact that we are living in a time of such profound change that our framework of understanding is struggling to keep up. The word 'phone' makes up half the letters of the word 'smartphone' because the evolutionary path from which the smartphone emerged started with the telephone. While 'phone' might still make up 50% of the word, it probably accounts for 10% (and falling) of what people actually use smartphones for. If the smartphone had just magically appeared in a puff of smoke, fully formed yesterday, we'd probably not put the word 'phone' in its name.

We've seen this kind of perceptual lag before. When the first automobiles emerged we called them horseless carriages because our existing framework of understanding told us that this was what they logically and quite literally were. The precursor to today's car even looked like exactly like a carriage with the horse part missing, but over time the design evolved into the rainbow of form and function we have today.

We often recognise and describe change by what's fundamentally different from what came before, what the principal modifier is. However, the problem with that way of comprehending change is that it limits our thinking for a few years. Our default framework of understanding is historical and not forward thinking.

I'm certain the same thing applies to online software. (If I've just got this - and I immodestly consider myself to be something of a software industry brainiac - I suspect that most online software businesses might not even realise this yet, let alone traditional software businesses.)

Ten years ago, we determined that if a software application was served up through a web browser over the internet, then it was logically and literally just online software and not software operated locally.

Innocuous enough.

Ten years on though, and my sense is that like the previous big shifts, our understanding is only now catching up with reality and we're beginning to recognise that a new, modern software business is here and about the only thing it has in common with traditional software is that they both employ software engineers. The technical delivery, design, marketing, customer support models and possibly most crucially, the metabolic rate is so profoundly different from traditional software business.

And I think we're all just beginning to get that.

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