I Am Canadian!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010 Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Yes, if you didn't know, I am indeed Canadian - and tomorrow, July 1st, is Canada Day. I'm off work and celebrating, but I want to remind everyone that I do offer several Canadian-oriented particle products at Electric Pixels. Pictured above is the very beautiful "I Am Canadian" effect. I really should post a video of it, since the still image doesn't really show the subtle motion and fading of the maple leaves. When you wear it, there's no doubt where you're from.

If you're interested in this and related Canadian products, why not drop by Electric Pixels and take a look? Not Canadian? I have similar products for many other countries - and if yours isn't there, drop me a line and I'll make it if there's sufficient demand.

Chasing the Bar: The Linden Lab Layoffs

Thursday, June 10, 2010 Thursday, June 10, 2010

I read the latest news from Linden Lab, where they abruptly announced they were letting go approximately 30% of the staff, closing and consolidating distant offices and changing strategy. On the surface, and indeed for the unfortunate 30%, this seems to be very bad news. Is Linden Lab on the ropes? Are they desperately cutting expenses in a last ditch effort to buy a few more months of life before the inevitable cash crunch?

Maybe, but I don't think so.They're profitable, but not growing fast enough.

As a business, Linden Lab's role is to provide a good return to the shareholders for their considerable investment. As business managers, they do this by executing strategies that hopefully will accomplish that goal. Like any business, strategies sometimes don't work out and alternative strategies must be developed and deployed. If it doesn't work, try something else. I think this is the case here.

From his beginning at The Lab, CEO Mark Kingdon has spoken about simplifying the user interface, improving the first hour experience and growing the user base substantially. I even seem to recall seven-digit numbers being bantered about.

Over the past year we've seen some moves that theoretically should have supported those goals: viewer 2.0, Linden Homes, policy changes and several others. However, we are now in mid-2010, and we just haven't seen any significant growth in the user base. We also haven't seen growth of the business client base, in spite of the release of the Second Life Enterprise private grid server. These strategies, while good intentioned and reasonably executed, haven't done the job.

For me, the main problem that still exists is the incredibly difficult user experience. Yes, viewer 2.0 did simplify some things for new users (although complicating things for some existing users), but it's no where near the level of simplification required. Let's face it: users who can have a good time in minutes on innumerable other simpler systems just won't spend the time to learn the mysterious intricacies of the SL viewer and the virtual culture.

The Lab has been spending efforts trying to simplify their total experience, moving towards an invisible goal of easiness. But the bar has just been moved.

This spring the iPad was introduced and it is a monstrous hit, so much so that it's expected to be in the hands of tens of millions of people a year from now and many more after that. I'm not saying we should run SL on an iPad, but there's an interesting phenomenon taking place: the iPad has revealed that many people want ultra-simplified computing. Its amazing to watch seniors, very young children and those unfamiliar with computers to immediately use an iPad. It turns out that many people (but probably not you) just want instant on, touch and a reliable simple interface. They don't want software versions, graphics cards, DLLs, viruses, upgrades and all the nonsense you have to put up with to use a PC. Sure, techies will still want and use PCs, but who among us hasn't found ourselves helping a baffled relative with a PC problem - and you just know they have no business owning a PC as they have no chance of ever properly operating it. Those are the new majority of computing users, the folks who will be using very simple interfaces on simple devices - and not just the iPad, but many similar devices that will inevitably follow. The bar of simplicity has just been raised.

Back to The Lab. Their new strategy involves creating a new web browser based interface. You know, something that would run easily on all these new simple devices? The ones to be owned by tens or even hundreds of millions of people?

Does this mean we'll all have to use it? I think not. I think we'll see existing and sophisticated users keep the main downloadable viewer to create SL content: the content needed by the (hopefully) huge numbers of new simplified users. Perhaps some of them will like SL so much that they'll take the time to download the "full" viewer and become content creators themselves.

Meanwhile, there should be a great many new users seeking content - from the content creators, property owners and service providers who could enjoy a new boom. At least I'd imagine that's the theory; we'll see if it comes to pass.

One more thing: this post was entirely created on an iPad.

Related Posts with Thumbnails