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Shipping Late Doesn't Hurt

Ironically, shipping late generally isn't fatal to a product. A third-rate product that ships late often fails, but if your product delivers value to its users, arriving behind schedule won't necessarily have lasting bad effects. If a product is a hit, it's not a big deal that it ships a month—or even a year—late. Microsoft Access shipped several years late, yet it has enjoyed formidable success in the market. Conversely, if a product stinks, who cares that it shipped on time?

Certainly, some consumer products that depend on the Christmas season for the bulk of their sales have frighteningly important due dates. But most software-based products, even consumer products, aren't that sensitive to any particular date.

For example, in 1990 the PenPoint computer from GO was supposed to be the progenitor of a handheld-computer revolution. In 1992, when the PenPoint crashed and burned, the Apple Newton inherited the promise of the handheld revolution. When the Newton failed to excite people, General Magic's Magic Link computer became the new hope for handhelds. That was in 1994. When the Magic Link failed to sell, the handheld market appeared dead. Venture capitalists declared it a dry hole. Then, out of nowhere, in 1996, the PalmPilot arrived to universal acclaim. It seized the handheld no-man's-land six years late. Markets are always ready for good products that deliver value and satisfy users.

Of course, companies with a long history of making hardware-only products now make hybrid versions containing chips and software. They tend to underestimate the influence of software and subordinate it to the already-established completion cycles of hardware. This is wrong because as Chapter 1, "Riddles for the Information Age," showed, these companies are now in the software business, whether or not they know it.

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