Small is beautiful, again...

If you come to think about it, most kitchen appliances could be reduced to one big motor and one resistor. That would be the case if we were to follow the same logic as, let us say, Microsoft's Windows Vista or Vioxx--the blockbuster drug. Then, for example, the central shaft of the motor, analogously to the steam engine powering the first industrial plants, would set everything in motion through various-size gears/belts. An analogy like this is valid inasmuch an operating system (OS) consists mostly of a file system and a scheduler, and supports all applications, small or large. As well, the blockbuster drug is designed with the largest population target in mind, despite considerations of the cost-benefits analysis that, in the case of Cox inhibitors, would indicate a much smaller target population.

The results of extending a product to do more for most people could and will eventually be outweighed by the risks of failure. Production costs rise fast and even more so does the risk. For computing system vendors, increased complexity is intended to replace innovation while protecting the incumbents. However, as we saw with Vista's delays, or Intel's first 64-bit architecture, the risk and costs of failure are big and real. Vista's latest delay has dented billions from the market value of Microsoft and several of its partners. Intel's failed attempts at a 64-bit architecture cost the company and HP a lot of money and opportunities seized upon by AMD. On the other hand, the drug companies have perfected a distorted game (consider the strenuous FDA approval process, or the limited human-testing abilities) by spending excessively on marketing and on convincing doctors more people need their drugs. All goes well as long as the side effects are being kept under control and new blockbusters are being introduced. But, as the Cox inhibitors case shows us, nobody can force the course of innovation nor control the side effects on patients beyond reasonably intended targets.

Solutions seldom come from a single direction. In the case of hi-tech companies we have a combination of regulatory measures and the nimble Google. On their part, the blockbuster-drug companies are under pressure from litigators and the nimble biotechs. In either case, be it personalized/mobile computing or tailored drugs, small and agile is beautiful again. After all, today's premium kitchens have a device or an appliance dedicated to one or a reduced number of tasks.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

well chosen analogy, i ponder whether or not the big pharma's blockbuster could be the big resistor in your kitchen that does it for all but works for few.