Thursday, June 26, 2008

Those darned switching costs

In this age of cheap and easy development, it seems that every day there's a new online productivity tool that improves incrementally on the last. But there are diminishing returns to evaluating each new thing.

Today (in my daily struggle to get through the information deluge) I read about a new service called PutPlace that gives you access to all your files, wherever they may be, on any computer, and on any online storage system.

It reminded me a bit of another service I use, Sugar Sync, which I had learned about during a previous information foraging session. Sugar Sync is great. I can effortlessly synchronize my files between my home desktop and my work laptop, with backups stored online.

PutPlace adds the ability to track what I've stored on Flickr, for example, in one summary view of everything I have. But does PutPlace do the other things that I value in Sugar Sync? I don't know, and I don't feel like spending the time to find out.

Further, it took time to set things up in Sugar Sync, and it would presumably take similar time in PutPlace. It's not worth it to me to set it up again. Just as it's not worth it to me to try new social networks now that I'm already set up on Linked In and Facebook. I don't want to switch banks, because my online billing is already set up with my current bank.

These switching costs add up. And they create an increasing challenge for makers of better mousetraps to make their differentiators truly worthwhile. Innovators have more opportunity, of course, in fledgling sectors like the one where Sugar Sync and PutPlace play, but the window doesn't stay open forever.