Better-than inflation

My true start in pro software development was a high-school co-op placement at a learning software company in the early 90s. They made CD-ROM based learning programs for software like Corel Draw, and my job was helping to build the super-boring but necessary product help database.

I still clearly remember the CEO relaying a bit of wisdom to me that Corel Draw CEO Michael Cowpland told him; “products entering a existing market must be at least FOUR TIMES better than their rivals to have any chance of gaining traction”.

This was recalled today when reading this Wired interview with Google’s Larry page, who says that products need to be TEN TIMES better than their rivals in order to have a chance at success. Is this inflation of better-than?

In 20 years are we going to have to building products that are at least 40x or 100x better than existing options to have any chance? We’re still in the early days of the web, the web of 2033 will be dramatically different than the one we use today. Just like the web of today is so dramatically different than the one I used when I was working on CD-ROM software. The prospect of needing to make things 100x better than others is pretty daunting sitting here in 2013. But I’m confident if that’s the benchmark we’re heading towards it’s only going to be because the tools and methods exist to make it reasonably possible for most ambitious makers to do it.