Sunday, October 26, 2008

In a New Age of Impatience, Cutting PC Start Time
Published: October 25, 2008

Sorry for the delay in posting, but we moved back down to Florida and Comcast cable acted like Comcast Cable—it took about a week to reengage the cable. This article appeared on the front page of the Now the New York Times talking about how the computer industry is dealing with dealing with a nagging problem of the time it takes to start up a computer. I immediately reflected on the Attribute Map we discussed in an earlier posting
which is briefly summarized here.


In an effort to further the discussion comparing competitive advantage vs. separation, I would like to introduce a very powerful tool developed by McGrath and MacMillan that is summarized in perhaps the greatest business book ever written – The Entrepreneurial Mindset. The tool is the Attribute Map and it shows the dynamic nature of how your target customers react to your offering’s attributes:

The labels going down the table –POSITIVE, NEGATIVE, OR NEUTRAL – describe the type of reaction from the customers. Obviously, the more positive and less negative the better. The labels on the top of the table –BASIC, DISCRIMINATORS, and/or ENERGIZERS – define the intensity of the reaction.

For the BASIC category:
- A POSITIVE defines table stakes – you need these attributes to play and you are conspicuous by their absence (Non Negotiable)
- A NEGATIVE defines attributes that the customer is willing to tolerate (Tolerable) if there is no other alternative.
- A NEUTRAL is one that has no or little impact (So What) on the customer but does add cost

- Differentiate between competitors to influence the purchase decision. The POSITIVE (Differentiator) attribute is in the positive direction and the NEGATIVE (Dissatisfier) is in the negative direction.
- The NEUTRAL is an influencer to the purchase decision but is not directly related to the purchase

- Attributes are so powerful that they overwhelm the purchase decision either positively –the Exciter – or negatively – the Enrager

I believe our current “patience” with the time it takes to startup a computer is currently a ‘TOLERABLE” situation. As the computer manufacturers shake up the market dynamics – when there is true improvement--people will no longer tolerate the wait and our feelings will move to a DISSATISFIER at the least. However, the competitive separation created by the early entrants with these new computers will eventually disappear as consumers begin to expect this from all systems ,i.e., “instantaneous” startups become a BASIC table stake

SAN FRANCISCO — It is the black hole of the digital age — the three minutes it can take for your computer to boot up, when there is nothing to do but wait, and wait, and wait some more before you can log on and begin multitasking at hyper-speed. (the critical attribute)
Some people stare at their screen and fidget. Others pace or grab a cup of coffee. “Half the time, I go brush my teeth,” (how we TOLERATE it) said Monica Loos, 40, who is starting a business selling stationery online from her home in San Francisco.

Now the computer industry says it wants to give back some of those precious seconds. In coming months, the world’s major PC makers plan to introduce a new generation of quick-start computers, spotting a marketing opportunity in society’s short attention span.

“It’s ridiculous to ask people to wait a couple of minutes,” said Sergei Krupenin, executive director of marketing of DeviceVM, a company that makes a quick-boot program for PC makers. “People want instant-on.”

Hewlett-Packard, Dell and Lenovo are rolling out machines that give people access to basic functions like e-mail and a Web browser in 30 seconds or less. Asus, a Taiwanese company that is the world’s largest maker of the circuit boards at the center of every PC, has begun building faster-booting software into its entire product line.

Even Microsoft, whose bloated Windows software is often blamed for sluggish start times, has pledged to do its part in the next version of the operating system, saying on a company blog that “a very good system is one that boots in under 15 seconds.” Today only 35 percent of machines running the latest version of Windows, called Vista, boot in 30 seconds or less, the blog notes. (Apple Macintoshes tend to boot more quickly than comparable Windows machines but still feel glacially slow to most users.)

There is nothing new about frustration with start-up times, which can be many minutes. But the agitation seems more intense than in the pre-Internet days. Back then, people felt less urgency to log on to their solitary, unconnected machines. Now the destination is the vast world of the Web, and the computer industry says the fast-boot systems cater to an information-addicted society that is agitated by even a moment of downtime. (the changing dynamic)

Yet it is a condition that the technology industry — with smartphones and other always-on gadgets — helped create, said Gary Small, a professor at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at the University of California, Los Angeles. “Our brains have become impatient with the boot-up process,” Dr. Small said. “We have been spoiled by the hand-held devices.”
PC makers are not merely out to ease our data anxieties with the new machines. They want to help themselves, too. The industry has grown so competitive, and profit margins so thin, that each company is looking for any advantage it can trumpet. Computer makers say the battle for boot-up bragging rights could resemble the auto industry’s race to shave tenths of a second from the time it takes a car to go from 0 to 60 miles an hour. (but will it create sustainable competitive separation or eventually “just” fundamentally improve performance for the consumers but still leaving thin margins as this attribute becomes a BASIC table stake.)

Hewlett-Packard research shows that when boot times exceed more than a few minutes, users have an exaggerated sense of the time it takes. Four or five minutes can feel like an eternity.
In June, H.P. introduced a new kind of fast-booting laptop, for $1,200, and the company says the technology is destined to spread quickly. Right now, H.P.’s goal is to offer PCs that boot in 30 to 45 seconds, said Philip McKinney, chief technology officer for the company’s personal systems group. “In 18 months, you’ve got to be 20 to 30 seconds.”

Until Microsoft comes up with a way to greatly shorten the time it takes to load Windows, PC makers are speeding up boot times using programs that bypass Windows. The systems vary technically, but they all rely on a version of an operating system called Linux that gives users quick access to Web browsing and other basic functions of their computer. In some cases, Windows never boots, while in others, Windows starts in the background.

DeviceVM, the maker of a fast-boot program called Splashtop, says it charges PC makers $1 to $2 a machine for its software. The company hopes to make more revenue over the long term by charging other software providers that want to include their applications in the menu of programs accessible without a full boot.

Of course, some computer users try to avoid slow boot times by never turning off their machines; they simply leave them in standby mode. But PCs sometimes have a hard time waking up from standby and tend to crash the longer they run without rebooting. Leaving a machine on also wastes electricity and, for laptops, can drain the battery.

Victor Dailey, 54, a computer engineer from San Diego who works at NASA, has an alternative prescription for boot-up anxiety: “I’ll do the cigarettes and a cup of coffee while I wait.”
But he would much rather skip the caffeine and nicotine and get his fix from his computer. “If you could just open it up immediately, just like you do with your cellphone, and text somebody or whatever and close it back up, that would be ideal,” he said.

No comments: