I recently came across an article on the Silicon Valley by Bill Davidow. The article was titled “What Happened to Silicon Values?”
Below is a snippet from the article …
When I arrived at Hewlett-Packard in 1965, the company was already a $300 million giant. The company was focused on delivering advanced technology of great value, then servicing and supporting the customer to make sure he derived value from what he bought. Customers trusted Hewlett-Packard. I remember one customer who so trusted the salesman who took care of his account that he let the sales rep purchase what he needed. That period of trust went on for a long time. The salesman told me his secret: He never bought anything for the customer that the customer did not really need.
At one point in his article, Bill wonders if the restrictions that Apple builds into its products might be not in keeping with Silicon Valley values (because they deprive customers of choice).
He says: “Apple controls our virtual landscape, bounded by iTunes to the north, the iPhone to the south, the iPad to the east, and the iPod to the west, giving it increasing power to deprive customers of choice.”
I wondered about that for sometime. Then I realized that giving people certain choices need not always be (depending on what those choices are about) the best thing to do.
For example, Apple products’ limited choices make them easier to use. Customers should not be burdened by unnecessary choices, and consequently be at risk of making bad ones.
The best service to the client is when you help them make the right choices.
I think that Bill’s anecdote about the HP salesman underscores the selfsame point. The HP salesman was actually making all the choices for the client. And it was in making those choices correctly, disinterestedly and fairly and in not leaving the client to her/his own devices that the HP salesman made his highest contributions to the client’s success. In that respect, the HP story is exactly the same as Apple’s.
I remember having worked at Sun Microsystems as an engineer in the 90s. Sun was very passionate about open systems – about architectures that people could mix and match at will. They went down because no one really had a need for or a will to pay for openness for openness’ sake, or for free will.
So, I don’t think anything has happened to the values of the Silicon Valley.