This is the first in a series of posts on "analyst tricks"--heuristics and behaviors that I've picked up over the years that help me analyze technology and markets.
Whenever I hear an end user toss terms into the conversation such as, "obstructionist," "bunch of bozos," and "hard to use," my ears perk up. There's an opportunity for a technological revolution lurking somewhere here.
Major technological revolutions have taken place because they allow users to be significantly more productive. The invention of the word processor meant that secretaries didn't have to retype an entire letter when they got a sentence wrong; spreadsheets meant that financial analysts didn't have to manually add up numbers. These two technologies led to huge advances in productivity and helped explain their popularity. (When I worked at Wang Laboratories, there were a number of stories of secretaries--once they had seen a demo of the Wang Word Processor--who refused to type another letter until their boss bought one for them. These devices were not cheap: $20,000 in the late 1970's).
Pretty basic, huh? Such a statement is not a huge revelation. However, a twist on this rule is that technological revolutions take place when a product offers incremental productivity but gives users much more freedom and and a sense of well-being. Put another way, if you're looking only for huge productivity leaps, you'll miss the popularity of products that give visceral joy.