Essays

Jun 29, 2021
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Inflation's back.

After decades of relatively low inflation rates—averaging 1.2% a year in the US since 2000—suddenly prices are rising again, especially in the US where consumer goods, on average, cost 5% more this year and inflation is predicted to hit 3.4%. That's been illustrated most…

Nov 25, 2020
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“It’s a feature, not a product,” said Steve Jobs of Dropbox, after approaching founder Drew Houston about acquiring the file sync software.

Everything could be a feature, to Jobs. Cameras, alarm clocks, calculators—all features in the iPhone. Even Apple’s other products weren’t immune. The iPod was…

Aug 27, 2020
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It almost felt like common knowledge that software was increasingly expensive. Yet was it, really? Had the move from boxed software and one-time licenses to subscriptions and SaaS had actually resulted in higher prices, we wondered?

So last year we picked 100 popular business software, dug through…

Jul 15, 2020
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The tipping point was May, 2011.

For the first time, the same number of people searched for app as software, ending software’s decades-long reign as the popular term for the stuff we run on computing devices. Program, application, software, applet, all replaced with a three-letter-word.

When Steve…

Jun 26, 2020
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The problems with email were there from the beginning.

You’d be reading documentation, see something to improve, and wish you could tell the author.

For MIT’s programming staff in 1965, that idea led to the invention of email. “A new command should be written to allow a user to send a private…

May 29, 2020
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Remember Google Wave?

Gmail had quickly become the most popular email service, enough that invites to the free service were bid up on eBay. Google Docs made modern collaboration possible, spooked Microsoft enough to build free, web-based versions of its Office tools. Google itself had become a…

May 11, 2020
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When the team that built Wunderlist set out to build something new, its whimsically designed landing page got all the attention.

Wunderlist itself was a final hurrah to the skeuomorphic design that the early iPhone popularized, launched only a couple years before iOS 7 decreed flat design was the…

Apr 22, 2020
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Write the first draft on your computer at a desk. Add a few random extra ideas while in line for lunch. See the changes a colleague made among your phone’s other notifications when you first wake up tomorrow. Rediscover the document years later, go back in time and see the first sentences you edited…

Mar 17, 2020
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It wasn’t supposed to happen this way.

For those who have worked remotely for years—decades, even—it often started as a gradual process. We worked freelance first and figured out collaboration remotely on individual projects. That’s easy enough: One task, one set of deliverables, a deadline and a…

Feb 7, 2020
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“The future is already here—it’s just not evenly distributed.”
~ William Gibson

It’s hard enough to convince people to pay for software, much less unfinished software quits working merely 9 months after purchase. Not Apple. When the first beta of Mac OS X came out in 2000, fans paid $29.95 for the…

Nov 13, 2019
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A cardboard sign and chartered plane doesn’t make an airlines, nor a video and signup form an app. But neither does a full-fledged airlines—complete with check-in counters, planes, pilots, and safety videos—guarantee success, nor the most polished app in the App Store.

“Ideas are worth nothing…

Oct 30, 2019
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Software’s not all that expensive when you buy one app for one person. It saves time and makes you money, and all’s well.

Then your team grows, and by the time you pay for G Suite, Slack, GitHub, and all your other work tools, software’s not such an innocent expense anymore. Pay $75 per person for…

Oct 16, 2019
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It starts with a shiny new app in beta, free while you try it out. It sticks, and its paid plans make sense. You happily upgrade and bring your team onboard.

Then one day you get an email about amazing new features and their associated rise in price, or add another team member and notice the price…

Sep 23, 2019
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Free is a hard genie to put back in the bottle.

When Microsoft charged $999 for Office in 1990, little did they dream that 16 years later, their greatest competitor would be a free office suite from Google—along with dozens of small, often free apps that individually did many of the same tasks as…

Sep 3, 2019
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A dollar today is worth a bit more than a dollar tomorrow, something we’ve learned from experience since childhood. Yet thanks in part to Moore’s Law, technology flipped the equation on its head. First appliances, then computers, then TVs and phones seemed to offer more and better features each…