To make pro tools into mass tools you need to take a step back. You need to prune features only used by a relatively smaller population of professionals. You need to ignore the cries from your most loyal customers and focus on the future. Only once you’ve built a beachhead of new mass users, casual users who are more numerous but pay less, you can start training these users towards the features you once cut. Or take advantage of the clean slate and head somewhere new, where you couldn’t previously go with only the pros for support.
Perhaps the most famous pro tool to mass tool shift was the iMac and OSX. Jobs and company ignored the cries from pro audio users who clung to OS 8 and 9 to keep latency down. The challenger brand was diluted and refocused by partnering with Microsoft and Thinking Different. The floppy drive, ABD ports, and expansion cards were pulled from the final product. Many who had clung to Apple through the 90s protested. But Apple kept their heads down, focused on new users, and grew towards the digital hub.
For products with saturated user bases the first step towards a brighter future is painful. It will be fun to watch how Yahoo, Apple, and Microsoft fair.
I like that Drew recognizes that making mass tools is indeed the way toward a “brighter future.” I’m fascinated by the tension between power users and “the masses,” and how it reveals the complex relationship between power, freedom, and democratization.
Power users – or hackers – often frame their complaints about missing features in terms of freedom. When the iPad debuted, Alex Payne made this incredible statement:
The tragedy of the iPad is that it truly seems to offer a better model of computing for many people – perhaps the majority of people.
Such tragedy boggles the mind.
As Drew has explained well, tools made for most people require focus and ease of use that usually fail to satisfy power users. The upshot of this is that more people have power to do more things, which diminishes the need for professionals. It’s a distribution of power and freedom from elites to the masses. It is, indeed, democratization.