Yesterday I received a .rar file. I double-clicked on it: nothing happened. I have 4 computers on my desk, and I vaguely remember having a utility to unpack various archives.
At this point I could have spent 5 minutes looking for that utility. I didn't remember its name, which meant looking through hundreds of programs installed on my machines. If I did not find it, it would have quickly turned into a 20 minutes endeavor: there are dozens of options in the App Store for extracting rar archives. WinZip is $29.99 (seriously!?) There are many free options, but only one of them had a rating when I looked, and for some reason it was not the first on the list. It is confusing, even for a software developer.
So I chose another path. I taught Dan how to unpack rar archives. Now I can simply forward an email to Dan with a simple "Extract" subject line. 20 seconds later it comes back as a .zip file, which both Mac and Windows open easily.
This may seem like a trivial example. After all, how often do you need to unpack rar files? However, it illustrates our "invisible software" model perfectly.
From a business perspective, if I wanted to build an app, there is no way I could have done it in one day. I'd have to decide how it is going to look and create a design. I'd have to program the user interface, and package it as an app - one version for iOs, another for Android, then for Windows, then for Mac. I'd have to submit these apps to Apple and Google for review, which means filling all sorts of forms and then waiting for approvals. I'd need to build a website where people can download Windows and MacOs versions. I'd have to create icons and screenshots (in different formats for each app store), write descriptions and instructions. Later I would have to update this app when new versions of Windows, MacOs, iOs or Android are released. It would take weeks, if not months.
And I would also have to decide why I am doing it in the first place: do I show ads? charge for a premium version? use it as a loss-leader to push other apps? That's a lot of work for something that most people use once a year.
From a user perspective, this is an annoying little issue that turns a 2 second task into a 20 minute problem. Installing an app just to use it once seems like an overkill.
This is why I added this skill to Dan. By itself it won't bring any users. (On second thought, why not? It is faster than installing an app.) However, users who choose Dan for some of its more sophisticated capabilities would appreciate being able to simply say "Dan, unpack this file" when they need it. Like you would ask that nerdy colleague in the office, if you have one (I mean office :))
And if Dan needs to learn a complex routine that involves dealing with archived files, now there is one less step to worry about.
As luck would have it, today I had to open another rar file! OK, "Dan, please extract this."
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