In the marketing world, we used to laugh at the idea of “if you build it, they will come,” popularized by the movie “Field of Dreams” but dating at least as far back as Ralph Waldo Emerson’s famous remark about building a better mousetrap. Then came Google. We’re not laughing anymore!
Anderson argues that free helps create an attitude of abundance, going against those who cry out that resources are limited and the world can’t take the pressure, from Malthus to Paul “Population Bomb” Ehrlich. He cites as an example the explosion of computer use and benefits that happened once programmers were allowed to “waste” their bits and bytes to create user-friendly but processor- and storage-intensive interfaces and tools. He says that Moore’s Law (computers exponentially increase in power while decreasing in cost) applies not only to the processing unit, but also to bandwidth and storage–and this triple front drives prices toward zero (pp. 77-78). In fact, some successful companies actually anticipate this trend, and price today’s products as if we already had tomorrow’s computer power, thus accelerating the downward price spiral. Eventually, some companies begin to act as if the resources were free. Not “too cheap to meter,” as the electric companies used to predict, but too cheap to matter.
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