Jason continues to come up with insightful views on technology development, most recently his article on the age of excellence http://blog.launch.co/blog/the-age-of-excellence.html/ and his follow-up, the Time to Excellence http://blog.launch.co/blog/t2e-time-to-excellence.html.
I think Jason is on the right track, but I am not convinced about his views on “T2E” Time to Excellence. Consider for instance the iPhone5, which Jason asserts is excellent. I agree iPhone5 is pretty excellent, but it still dies before the end of the day, has much to be improved in the home screen navigation, sports a keyboard that still frustrates many, maps that send you in circles, crappy quality facetime video, and it drops calls all the time (just like all mobile phones).
When we’ve got full HD/3d video conferencing on our phones, a 7 day battery, a dynamically extruded touch sensitive keyboard, gesture recognition and incredible natural language recognition — what then will we say about iPhone5? Was it an excellent phone by comparison? No, it will be viewed as positively archaic. Good for its day? Yes. Excellent for its day: Absolutely. To Jason’s point, I’d argue that the Palm Pilot was excellent in its day, napster was excellent in its day.
My view is that excellence is a relative benchmark. Excellent for today is not excellent compared to some future technology.
Another dimension beyond excellence is timing. There have been plenty excellent technologies which were simply ahead of their time. For example, take Google Wave (or any other half decent email replacement, of which the past is littered like the Everest basecamp). At the end of the day, while these technologies may have been better than what they replaced, they never caught on because they were ahead of their time. The world isn’t ready for an email replacement, so every email replacement has failed. When the world is ready, then I’d bet that some of those old approaches could be dusted off and made to take off in a significant way.
Taking both dimensions into account gives us killer apps. Its about finding the sweet spot of excellent technology at the right time and place.