Control • 19 April 2008 • The SnowBlog
I'm sure Seth Godin blogs about this the whole time, but there's a sort of Uncertainty Principle at work in certain industries. The more completely you try to control customers the greater the possibility that instead of tightening your grip on them you'll actually cause them to ping off out of your reach for good. (Actually, forget the Uncertainty Principle metaphor. Since when was describing something familiar in terms of quantum mechanics ever a good idea.)
I'm just reading a book about Walter Murch, Oscar-winning film editor, and his decision to edit to edit Cold Mountain, not on a top-end professional Avid editing deck, but on a Mac using software you can buy in PC World. Why would he do such a thing? Well, the background is that Avid, the company, charged a lot for their products, were in no rush to bring out refinements or new technology, they didn't provide very good technical support and they were very inflexible in how they let you use their equipment, often blaming any faults on non-Avid gear if you were foolish enough to use any (one anecdote from the book mentions them blaming problems on the use of an NEC monitor). Famous names in the film industry would try to talk to them about innovations they'd like to see, but Avid weren't really interested. I bet for a while Avid thought they were really doing well. Not only were they the only game in town, with the high-end editing market sewn up, but they were really getting some mileage out of their monopoly position. So much so that cinema legends were prepared to use a home computer rather than their products because at least it was easy and reliable and flexible and you could fix it yourself.
I wonder when was the last time Avid sold one of their editing consoles. I wonder if they even make them any more. I wonder if they ever wish they'd done things differently and built a position of trust instead of control. Probably not.