Retroactively Bundled

No one uses Apple Maps because it’s very good. But they do use it, three times as much as they use Google Maps on iOS. They use it because it’s there.

This is the story of Internet Explorer on Windows, of payments on Wechat, and of Apple Music, which just crossed ten million subscribers.

Bundling is insanely powerful because people like habits and like to use things that are close to them. Bundling a utility as close as possible to its functional use will make it more frequently used; this is why I live next to my gym.

What’s unusual is that now we have internet-connected, live updating bundles which can be continue to be updated after launch. This means you don’t need to start with everything right away: you don’t need to anticipate every user need, you can adapt and chance with your users.

This reinforces software’s ability to capture emerging adjacent value and is terrible from an anti-trust perspective. Internet connected software allows bundling in unusually reactive and anti-competitive ways.

There are two ways in which software bundling loses, without government intervention:

  • The surrounding context can change, by the force of its difference. For example, it doesn’t really matter if Facebook is bundling in payments if I’m using Snapchat instead. Facebook would have had to destroy itself to become Snapchat.
  • You can fall through the looking glass: perhaps one of the launch contexts becomes more powerful than its host. E.g., when the web became the platform and Windows became irrelevant.

But ultimately, these are rare. We are living in the days of big winners.

To receive future posts via email, sign up here.