Thursday, March 02, 2006

On commoditisation, gear indicators, and web search - part 1

Today, I woke up later than I wanted to and after wrangling for precious resources, I missed my pickup cab by a whisker (as always?). So, I asked Kishore to wait for a few more minutes and rode pillion to him on Johnsy's motorbike. Given the state of Bangalore traffic, we had plenty of time to opine and discuss several things. That's when the engine stopped. Kishore explained that from rest, he released the clutch without realising that the drive was in second gear. Because of his mechanical engineering background and my exposure to automotive talk, we naturally began to discuss solutions to this problem. We wondered why there is no gear indicator in all motorbikes, even when that and auto-clutch has been shown to be possible.

Initially, we thought this kind of lack of choice in features might go away in the face of increased competition. While this is true to an extent, we realised that no company would invest in such features as long as they know that people can't afford to choose bikes on isolated features like this. I reasoned that this may change if these products are "commoditised". That is, when motorbikes become platforms where you can get comparable configurations of mileage, power, and other core functions from virtually everyone, you can then pick and choose on the "peripheral" features. In fact, component technology companies like Delphi are set to offer after market solutions. Given my predisposition, I began to think about commoditisation of the web search market. More on this in part two. Do you see similar commoditisations happening in other (non-internet, non-automotive) sectors?


Blogger Anthroponym said...

Commoditzation is already in place in the computer hardware industry. You can replace product from vendor X with that from Y. Yes a processor comes with a specific type of motherboard. I probably can't use an AMD motherboard with an Intel processor though both are x86 architecture. But when it comes to stuff like PCI/USB...plug and play.

Maybe standards drive commoditization.

Still...when it comes to software...we seem to lack something. Yes I can replace MS Word with Open Office for Windows, but Open Office Linux executable wont run on Windows. :-(

March 02, 2006 2:37 PM  
Blogger Sundar said...

Still...when it comes to software...we seem to lack something. Yes I can replace MS Word with Open Office for Windows, but Open Office Linux executable wont run on Windows. :-(
It's because M$ engages in this?.

March 02, 2006 2:40 PM  
Anonymous Sanket said...

This is reagarding the add on features for a bike. I guess bike manufacturers also take into consideration the psyche of riders. A lot of "serious" riders would not like their bikes to be too "friendly". For example, people who buy these cruiser bikes like thunderbird detest any sort of alteration/add ons to its original design. If you want to ride in Bangalore traffic, an electric starter would definitely be handy. But those guys would frown against it. I have a strong feeling that these things also matter. That aside, I would definitely like a gear indicator myself.

March 03, 2006 6:55 PM  
Blogger Sundar said...

@Sanket: You're right about "those guys." In fact, I'm a "Hero Honda Splendor" kind of guy, and also usually don't like messing with factory settings. These are barriers to "commoditisation", created intentionally or otherwise. However, imagine a scenario like that of PCs. HCL sells packaged computers with various configurations that I could choose from. It gives me the "factory setting" feel even while letting me choose my configuration. Speaking of Enfield thunderbird riders, a Mac will likely exist in the land of Compaqs, Dells, etc.,

March 06, 2006 3:29 PM  
Anonymous Sanket said...

Yeah! What you say makes sense.

March 07, 2006 10:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have you wondered how different is the psyche of "those car guys" and "those bike guys". I guess the former loves more easy to use features , while the latter would love features, but not easy to use. And they are not exactly apples and oranges..

March 15, 2006 10:16 AM  
Blogger Sundar said...

@anon: I've never been "a car guy", not the least one of "those car guys." So, I take your word for it.

March 15, 2006 10:23 AM  

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