When you’re trying to get people to switch from a competitor to your product, you need to understand barriers to entry, and you need to understand them a lot better than you think, or people won’t switch and you’ll be waiting tables.
In an earlier letter, I wrote about the difference between two kinds of companies: the Ben and Jerry’s kind of company which is trying to take over from established competition, versus the Amazon.com kind of company which is trying a “land grab” in a new field where there is no established competition. When I worked on Microsoft Excel in the early 90’s, it was a card-carrying member of the Ben and Jerry’s camp. Lotus 123, the established competitor, had an almost complete monopoly in the market for spreadsheets. Sure, there were new users buying computers who started out with Excel, but for the most part, if Microsoft wanted to sell spreadsheets, they were going to have to get people to switch.
在之前的一封信中，我写了两种公司之间的区别：一种是本和杰里的公司，它试图从已有的竞争中接管，另一种是亚马逊的公司，它试图在一个没有既定竞争的新领域中 "抢地盘"。当我在90年代初为微软Excel工作时，它是Ben and Jerry's阵营中的一员。莲花123，这个成熟的竞争者，几乎完全垄断了电子表格的市场。当然，有一些新用户在购买电脑时开始使用Excel，但在大多数情况下，如果微软想销售电子表格，他们就必须让人们转换。
The most important thing to do when you’re in this position is to admit it. Some companies can’t even do this. The management at my last employer, Juno, was unwilling to admit that AOL had already achieved a dominant position. They spoke of the “millions of people not yet online.” They said that “in every market, there is room for two players: Time and Newsweek, Coke and Pepsi, etc.” The only thing they wouldn’t say is “we have to get people to switch away from AOL.” I’m not sure what they were afraid of. Perhaps they thought they were afraid to “wake up the sleeping bear”. When one of Juno’s star programmers (no, not me) had the chutzpah, the unmitigated gall to ask a simple question at a company meeting: “Why aren’t we doing more to get AOL users to switch?” they hauled him off, screamed at him for an hour, a...