Stop the Noiz

Cursed with Options: Too Much Software Choice Is Not a Blessing

Frank Fox - 2008.02.12 - Tip Jar

I'll take better choices over more choices.

I know that it may sound like heresy to say that more software choice is bad, but it's true. Software isn't like food, where you can get tired of eating the same thing over and over. Software is more like a marriage, where it will last a long time if you picked "the right one".

But it's also unlike marriage, where we often have to date dozens of people to find that perfect match and there is only one "right person" for each of us.

If software were like that, then having lots of choices would be a necessity. fortunately, with software we can all choose the same most beautiful, smartest person software around. There is no need to settle for second best.

Software of the same high quality can be installed onto anyone's computer, so we can all have the "best choice".

As I see it, a few companies have made full featured, easy to use software that most people are going to want to use. Like any supply and demand situation, other developers see this and want to get in on the profits. They make a knockoff. It's usually not as beautiful, but it has one or two new features.

Then everyone acts surprised when it doesn't sell as well. They lower the price, and it still doesn't make a big difference.

Make Something New

To these people I say, "Why don't you make something new?"

The truth is that new is harder. You have to be creative, risk more, and there's no guarantee that one of the big guys won't steal your idea. Instead they go for the lowest common denominator, another software security package, DVD burner software, or bulk email program. You get a hundred Ugly Bettys to choose from, and no Katherine Heigl rises to the top.

Katherine Heigl, Ugly Betty, and Katey Sagal
Katherine Heigl, Ugly Betty, and Katey Sagal

This also highlights a major problem with the free/open source software (foSS) crowd: much of what they are making is simply Ugly Betty copies of commercial software. If you have to spend your time making copies, can you at least all work together on the same model, maybe that way you could at least get to the Katey Sagal level.

So Much Second-Rate Software

When I started to write this article, I thought I would research some Windows software sites and compare the most popular programs to their Mac equivalents. What I found were so many of these Ugly Bettys that I didn't know where to begin. There are no great Mac-only security programs with which to compare to PCs - no duh.

It's like PC people are cursed with choices we don't have to make on the Mac.

It's like PC people are cursed with choices we don't have to make on the Mac.

Then the next thing I found was that more programs are being made for both Macs and Windows. One of the "most popular" programs was for burner software, and it was made for both PC and Mac. (Don't these people know that you can burn right from the Finder, and that we have iMovie and iDVD with each new Mac? There's already a long time solution with Toast from Roxio if you want to buy something.)

Then, in looking at Stuffit Expander, which was traditionally a Mac-only program, it's now made for both platforms. (How they expect to compete with WinZip I'll never understand.) PC developers are courting the Mac crowd and vice-versa.

Where will the madness end, with a resurgence of video games for the Mac?

Will all these choices make my computing experience better? Maybe a little, but with so little innovation, it's mostly all the same.

To those few developers who try new ideas, I say good luck and God bless. LEM

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