Chris Dixon wrote in his Experience Economy post:
The trend toward experiences is important for technology startups. The era of competing over technical specifications is over. Users want better experiences from devices, applications, websites, and the offline services they enable.
I agree this trend is happening. But I’m not sure it’s an inexorable, monotonic movement that started in the 1950s. Rather, it represents a fundamental shift in technology – a shift from performance to design as a differentiator. This is the hallmark of an industry that has reached commodification.
Ten years ago, consumers cared about megahertz, megapixels, megabits per second. We were trained to care about specs because they really mattered. There was a noticeable difference in a Pentium I and Pentium III. Today, that’s no longer the case. Any computer will do what a user needs. So will most smart phones. From a performance point of view, most devices are functionally identical.
This is the same state of the industry as cars and planes. Any car will take you from A to B; they are all functionally identical. But how you get there, the experience, is the differentiator between a Prius and a BMW. Or United compared to Virgin America. Cars and air flight are commodities. The only way to differentiate is experience and brand.
Technology hardware has reached the same (temporary) apogee. I look at the current focus on design as a wonderful event because it means we’re on the cusp of some new disruptive force that will reinvigorate hardware and eventually software and eventually design again.