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The Cool Kid and the Geek

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Since the birth of consumer computing we have had many companies come and go. It's a great business study of markets, personalities and crowd psychology. Current and past players include Apple, Linux, Microsoft, Oracle, Atari, Commodore, Borland, Netscape and thousands of others. Two, Apple and Microsoft, form an interesting diametrically opposed pair of market leaders that I've always called the Cool Kid and the Geek.

The Cool Kid

The world of the Cool Kid is people-centric. It’s a world where people are given products that are fun, easy to use, and seem to always work right. It’s an intuitive world, and built for the behavioral patterns of humans.

Defining what we mean by ‘cool’ is a bit difficult, but in a general sense I think it expresses admiration and approval. If something is cool, it means you like it. The Cool Kid’s world is cool. It’s playing the ukulele in the morning, then recording it and giving the music to others. It’s about writing a great story, adding images and getting your book published. It’s about organizing your personal and professional life in a holistic and natural way. It’s cool. You approve of it.

The world of the Cool Kid is an attractive place, and you want to be a part of it. There are always interesting things happening, and although the entrance fees are high you don’t mind paying because the benefits vastly outweigh the costs. It’s the cost of getting into the world of the cool toys, where all of the other cool people are. It is also a way of self-validating that you too are one of the cool people.

These cool toys change the world. No other company has ever done more fundamental changes to the fabric of humanity than the Cool Kid. All of our lives have been impacted. The products are chic, modern, oriented toward achieving goals. The Cool Kid delivers products that work the way people work, are comfortable and ergonomic.

Cool Kid products, easily identifiable as wicked cool and easy to use:

  • Mac
  • iPod
  • Apple TV
  • iPhone
  • iPad

The Geek

The world of the Geek is techno-centric. It’s about ‘the software’. It is a world where a product doesn’t have to work well or fully, or be easy to use. It is not about ease of use. It is about establishing a perception that the software was built by people much smarter than you, and you need to change your natural thinking processes to adapt to its superior way of doing things. It’s geeky. Its analytical, antiseptic.

People are attracted to the Geek’s world because they seek products with have a superior level of technical capability, even if they have difficulty using the features. The products are made by computer scientists. People need to adapt to the products the Geek delivers. The products insist upon themselves. They insist they are correct in their behavior, regardless of any dysfunction you may perceive.

Although the Geek was an early innovator, over the last decade or so, it has tended to copy innovations from others, such as iPod into Zune and Google into Bing. There are original innovations such as Kinect, but these are becoming increasingly rare.

The big innovations are in the technical realm. Over the last decade its been the .Net Framework, the C# language and a bevy of great technologies such as the Entity Framework, the Razor rendering engine, the Windows Presentation Foundation, and Silverlight. Most people are not programmers, so they do not see (nor do they care about) these advances. Software developers and computer scientists are the audience.

The Geek's products are characterized by their technical accomplishment:

  • SQL Server
  • Outlook
  • Office
  • Kinect
  • XBox

Cool Geek

The Cool Kid can learn a lot from the Geek when it comes to core technologies. The geek knows how to truly create stunningly effective programming languages and enabling technologies. The Geek has the opposite problem. Far too much emphasis is placed on software engineering principles and practices. This is important, but most of the Geek’s products continue to be difficult to use because software engineers appear to be winning most of the arguments with product managers. In fact, there are entire websites dedicated to listing the inconsistencies, ugliness and broken functions with the Geek's products.

The question is whether there can be a Cool Geek. The other players in the market, such as Google and Facebook seem to successfully play this role more than Apple or Microsoft. Nevertheless, if Apple could get some Geek power, or if Microsoft could get some Cool Kid power, their positions in the market would juggle around once again.

The Apple juggernaut of new products and innovations is making Microsoft look like grandpa's old and stodgy software. Microsoft's response is to be more of a Cool Kid. The upcoming Windows 8 and the Metro UI is an attempt to be cool. If you've read the recent Vanity Fair expose on Microsoft, you have to wonder if they will be able to ever be cool.

Today, the Cool Kid rules. But, with corrective action, the Geek could once again be top dog. The best solution for the rest of us, is for either to become a Cool Geek.


Posted On: January 29, 2014
Posted By: Anonymous

Nice Topic

You discussed nice topic .. for me iam hybird mean combination of both :D

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