Monday, May 22, 2006

Free lunches

Posted this a while ago, but decided that it was somewhat weak. I'll post it anyway and see what happens: will people design their own UI elements or will they just use Google's?

In recent history, a number of companies have released free services or products. Google (nothing new) released a free and commercially usable AJAX framework that allows you to code your web-UI in Java (with or without eclipse) and convert it into mutiple browser compatible javascript and html files. Skype made calls to US and CA land and mobile lines free. Napster made its music service free. Each of these acts of generosity was motivated (or at least justified) by a not so obvious strategic decision.
  1. Skype doesn't only charge its users to call out, it offers phone numbers where you can receive calls and accept voicemail. Allowing people to depend on the Skype service will lead to a lot more paying customers for long distance calls and incoming calls.
  2. Google's release of the GWT or the Google Web Toolkit lets people take advantage of many Google web UI widgets. These are just like the kind Google uses and the more widely adopted they are, the easier and more intuitive Google's services (calendar, mail, etc.) that use the GWT become.
  3. The idea for Napster is actually obvious, it's free for the first 6 listens to any song.

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