Permanet, Nearlynet, and wireless data (28 Mar 2003)
The permanet strategy is to start with a service that is good but expensive, and to make it cheaper. The nearlynet strategy is to start with a service that is lousy but cheap, and to make it better. The permanet strategy assumes that quality is the key driver of a new service, and permanet has the advantage of being good at every iteration. Nearlynet assumes that cheapness is the essential characteristic, and that users will forgo quality for a sufficient break in price.
What the permanet people have going for them is that good vs. lousy is not a hard choice to make, and if things stayed that way, permanet would win every time. What they have going against them, however, is incentive. The operator of a cheap but lousy service has more incentive to improve quality than the operator of a good but expensive service does to cut prices. And incremental improvements to quality can produce disproportionate returns on investment when a cheap but lousy service becomes cheap but adequate. The good enough is the enemy of the good, giving an edge over time to systems that produce partial results when partially implemented.
Article URL: http://shirky.com/writings/permanet.html
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