Shipping software is an art form. Trying to balance the right feature set within a reasonable time frame is a challenging exercise. Being able to see through the haze of feature requests — an important thing to have, by the way — to see the bigger picture issues. Sometimes, Infinity Softworks has been good at this and sometimes it has not. The wrong mix is poison.
If there are too many features and not enough vision then the product is satisfying to those who wanted those features but not endearing to anyone. It does the job, they will say, which frankly is the kiss of death. After all when something cooler comes along, your product will be dropped like a lead balloon. As unit volumes come in, it’s increasingly clear that Nokia has fallen into this trap. It does the job. But BlackBerry and iPhone are cooler and are now stealing sales. (See data here.)
If there is too much vision and not enough features then there’s no product. People can’t relate to it and thus they don’t buy it. An example doesn’t come to mind off the top of my head (these products usually die quickly) but one company who has figured out a strategy for dealing with this problem is Microsoft. They like to use an “Embrace and Extend” strategy. For instance, they embraced email and extended it to integrate personal information management in Outlook, at the time a visionary perspective.
The trick is that this combination has to be managed with EVERY PRODUCT RELEASE. So we recently shipped FastFigures Mobile for iPhone and iPod Touch. (Direct link to AppStore here.) The features are 30 (mostly) finance- and business-oriented calculator templates, an algebraic and RPN calculator that doubles as a number entry keypad, and the template format — a cross between a calculator and spreadsheet — for doing fast analysis. What’s the vision for release 1? Easily do quick calculations on the go.
Is it feature and vision complete? No, not by a long shot. But it’s a solid start with what I think is the right mix of features and vision for the first release.