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They come in 3's - What makes a good consumer software offering

I am by nature an early adopter that is willing to spend time trying new pieces of software. Over the years I have been in search of the perfect pieces of software to make me a more organized person. In reality I am fighting my nature of being a low prudence person. In this quest I have realized there is one thing that really makes a really good software solution for me - actually 3 things. It is not really about features because based on what you are looking for that can change quite a bit. There are some core things that are absolutely essential such as usability but I really want to talk about what to me sets some pieces of software that I use apart from the others - access.

There are 3 components to accessibility for me - desktop, mobile and web.

Desktop

This is traditional software. Something you install on your computer and can access without being hooked to the internet.

Web

The requirement is that you can access the same software you have on your desktop over the web. I use lots of different computers. I am with my Mac Book Pro most of the time, I have an iMac at home as well as a PC, I have a PC on my desk at work and you never know when you will be at someone's house, a hotel or other and need to get to something. This is also the foundation that allows you to sync across all devices automatically.

Mobile

This allows you to access this software (or a subset of it typically) on your mobile device. I live on my iPhone. My wife jokes that I am married to it (I take it as a joke but she might be more serious than that). Because this is my main communication device and is always with me, anything that is core to my functionality needs to show up here in a mobile usable way.

I wanted to give you a few examples of what I am talking about with software that I use in my daily life and what they do well and not well.


evernote.png

Grade = A+

Evernote is one of the main, can't live without products for me and they do an amazing job in allowing me to access their functionality from anywhere. They have a great desktop device, great web presence and a strong iPhone app (they also support many other mobile devices). No matter where you are making changes you see those changes across all platforms within seconds. Because of the platform I am advocating the licensing and pricing model must be considered. I like their model for this in that you pay a subscription to use their service and can use any of the platforms you need. One other thing they do well is integrate tools into your web browser and OS to allow you to use the functionality seamlessly where ever you are. This is the standard for others in my book.

201001232320.jpg

Grade = A+

Dropbox is the other top performer on my list. They have a very simple product that is amazingly simple to use, manage and meets a major need. I described all of the computers that I use earlier. This can be a real pain if you have files you want on all of those machines. In the past you would email them to yourself or carry them on a flash drive but that is a royal pain to figure out what is the latest copy. A great example of this is that my wife does all our pictures on our PC (I have tried to convert her to a Mac). I want to see them on my Mac Pro so I use Dropbox. This lets me see all of them whenever I want AND on my iPhone. This is the simplest and greatest iPhone app - especially for sharing pictures. I can also log into the website to see anything on the web - I use this for my work PC that I don't want to have the desktop version on.


201001232326.jpg

Grade = B+

Things is how I manage all of my tasks. After experimenting with many different ways to implement GTD (Getting Things Done) I discovered this app. I LOVE IT - except for one thing which is why it gets a B+. It does not have a web component and does not sync automatically. What I want and would expect is that it syncs over the web (wireless or not) to my iPhone as well as other computers. Right now you can sync with your iPhone on a wireless network but it does not work most of the time and is a pain in the butt. They have stated in a forum post that they are working on this. I would assume that they would also have to change their licensing model but I would go to subscription for this in a heart beat if they fixed that.


201001232356.jpg

Grade = C

I have been testing out Google Wave for some time but have not really run it through it's paces but I can say that from what I have used I am not as in love with this as Chris Brogan is. One of the main reasons is the need for an offline component. If I am going to collaborate with people I need to be able to work on things when I am not connected. I would love to live in a world of free and always on internet but that it not reality for me yet. Obviously this tool has a long ways to go to be ready for everyone (it is still in preview) but in order for this to provide real value it needs to fit this criteria. It is also lacking an iPhone app - which I would expect for a preview version. Even though it is not supported I do access this on my iPhone in the browser and it works ok.

The group that does not really need a third.

There is another group of tools that I use that by their nature require an internet connection so while they are good products and they have a web version and a desktop version (and iPhone) the desktop version really does not matter all that much because you need internet. These are mostly my social tools that are all about conversation anyway.

  • Seemic - I am really liking the seesmic web product but had been using the desktop version in the past. The gap here for me is the fact they they don't have an iPhone app. This really blows me away but I hope to be surprised when it finally comes out as I wrote in this previous post. They are a company that is really pushing their technology. The Seesmic Look product is really interesting for the masses.
  • I also have been using Tweetdeck for quite a while but have been moving towards Seesmic.
  • Yammer is something that we have been using at our company in a small pocket and I really like but again you need to be connected to make it work.

I think more and more companies are figuring out this model of creating software for the way that people actually live and want to access it but so far there are only a few that have truly figured it out.