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Day July 2, 2011

The Android (in)adequacy: How to tell if a platform is good enough

About 10 years ago I met an advertising executive in New York who explained the difficulty of advertising a new brand of deodorant to consumers. “Most people never change their deodorant,” I remember him saying. “They pick one brand when they are young, and stick with it for a long, long time. If it works, why switch?”

The same theory can be applied to customers who are making the switch to smartphones today. Once they have picked a type of phone, whether it’s Apple iOS, Google Android or something else, it’s difficult, and often expensive, to switch. Consumers become comfortable with the interface and design of the phone and the apps they have purchased on that platform. If it works, why switch?

Many Smartphone Customers Are Still Up for Grabs – NYTimes.com

This quote says a lot. The notion that customers remain captive to a platform is well understood. After all, it seems impossible to get people to switch out of Windows (or Mac or iPod). Platform vendors are aware of this as the land grab for users seems to be running at full pitch.

However, there is a critical condition described in the quote above: “If it works, why switch?”  The condition which keeps users loyal is that the product they chose is good enough–i.e. “it works.” That’s a symptom of over-service and commoditization. If a product, like deodorant, is good enough you won’t be tempted to move to another brand even if it’s marginally better since the new brand has switching costs in the form of uncertainties (“Will it be as good? What if I don’t like the smell? etc.) People are inherently conservative and you can’t compete with comfort and familiarity by launching a marginally better product.

So with that in mind, why is it that millions are switching mobile platforms?