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Saturday, December 02, 2006

Nintendo and Firefox: keeping it simple

James Surowiecki writes in the New Yorker that Nintendo, despite being No. 3 in video-game hardware, is more profitable than industry leaders Sony (with the Playstation) and Microsoft (with the Xbox.) And why is this? Suroweicki writes:
Sony and Microsoft’s quest to “control the living room” has locked them in a classic arms race; they have invested billions of dollars in an attempt to surpass each other technologically, building ever-bigger, ever-better, and ever-more-expensive machines.

Nintendo has dropped out of this race. The Wii has few bells and whistles and much less processing power than its “competitors,” and it features less impressive graphics. It’s really well suited for just one thing: playing games.
In other words, Nintendo has kept it simple, and stayed focussed. This reminds me of one of the great success stories of the last few years: Mozilla Firefox. Firefox emerged out of the ashes of Netscape, which died in part because its developers kept adding features and add-ons until it became a slow, bloated monstrosity, far from the original, quick, reliable browser it had started out as.

The Firefox developers, Dave Hyatt and Blake Ross, stripped it down to the essentials. Internet Explorer might have been feature-rich, but it was also slow and suspectible to virus attacks. Firefox was light, fast and relatively secure. By keeping it simple, and focussing on the basics, Firefox made an impact.

Of course, Nintendo and Firefox keep it simple for different reasons: Nintendo keeps its costs relatively low by eschewing bells and whistles that are extrinsic to the gaming experience, while Firefox serves the fundamental need of the internet surfer -- a browser that is both fast and reliable -- by not adding too much dhingchak to the product. Simplicity works.

Update: Patrix gets Dugg with his screenshot of what Firefox can look like "when inundated with all possible extensions and add-ons." Quite monstrous, but they're all optional, so if someone does that to himself, well, that's fair enough. As long as they're not on the basic, default product.
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