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Last week, I drove some 2,000 miles around the south west. I dashed through las Vegas, Zion National Park, and Yosemite. It was a whirlwind tour, cut short by heavy snows in Utah.
Of the whole trip, the most impressive part was central Nevada, since it most defied my expectations and drove home a few points:
- We have an enormous amount of open space. In all my travels, even in the most remote corners of the Himalayas, I saw nothing like central Nevada–vast swathes of terrain utterly devoid of humans, populated by a few itinerant cows.
- Despite this vastness of space, we have amazing infrastructure here. I was driving across smooth and well-maintained highways…and Iw as the only car within a hundred miles, at times. Every now and then I’d pass massive reservoirs tucked into the hills, or isolated towns that, despite their isolation, were well served with cell-phone towers, paved streets, and electricity.
- I can understand how people who live in these vast and isolated spaces feel independent. The government–even state governments–are far away. There were few signs of law enforcement, and I suspect regulations are enforced erratically, at best. And growing up in these vast spaces would likely mean limited schooling, limited jobs, and limited cultural exposure, so the people in the cities and the government truly are a different folk. But …
- I think the sense of detachment is a facade. Who builds the roads or supplies the electricity? Where are the beef consumers? Where are the passing truckers heading? Maintaining modern life and an economy in these remote corners is hard. The facilitator is, of course, the government. The rugged and legendary Western independence strikes me as mythology, instead of reality.
Some other photographs:
Tomorrow, I’m leaving on a 2,000 mile road-trip around the Southwest. The plan:
- Friday: Drive to Death Valley, an 8 hour trip.
- Saturday: Explore Death Valley in the morning, driving down to Bad Water. By 2pm, however, I’ll be back on the road heading to Las Vegas. There, I’ll stay at the Westin (Points!), watch a Carrot Top performance (I’m skeptical, but he gets rave reviews), and explore the strip.
- Sunday: Explore Las Vegas a bit more, and possibly take a ride on the Stratosphere Hotel’s Sky Jump. That evening, I’ll hop in the car to drive to Zion National Park.
- Monday-Wednesday: I’ll explore Zion. Ideally, I want to camp, but weather seems risky, and the best multi-day trips are at high elevations. I suspect I’ll end up doing a combination of day hikes.
- Wednesday: I’ll drive to Lake Mono, and explore the area. It is a long trip, so most of the day will be spent in the Nevada deserts. At this point, I’ll find out whether Yosemite is open enough for me to drive through, which will determine my course for Thursday.
- Thursday: I’ll drive back to San Jose, either through Yosemite or via southern Lake Tahoe. All told, the trip will go about 1700 miles and leave me in a car for 29 hours. Should be fun!
These two charts, taken together, are what have me convinced that freemium is going to be the dominant business model for any serious application in the future.
What these charts tell me:
- Mobile applications either win or lose; users try lots of apps, decide which they like, and then use those few heavily
- Users are willing to pay for apps they use heavily
The key, then, is how to convert users into heavy users, and thus convince them to pay. Evernote, Dropbox, Pandora, and others find the freemium model well-suited to this–get lots of free-users, offer a compelling product, and convine the heaviest users to shoulder the majority of the cost.
There are other options. Microsoft and Adobe are able to jump immediately into a relationship via their reputation and business lock-in. But I suspect the days of such uniformity are drawing to an end. Google Docs, Evernote, and a whole suite of applications threaten the Office lock-in. Adobe and PDFs, another must-have software set, is also on the decline.
I can imagine the freemium model expanding to other industries. Amazon’s announcement of free book rentals is an interesting stab at a physical-world freemium program–users still need to buy (subsidized) Kindles, but it seems like their goal is to lower the trial costs as much as possible, and encourage the heaviest users to come in with gusto.
There’s real money to be made in figuring out how to apply this pay-gradation to other industries. I could imagine it would be effective in video, in particular.