Future Tech: Cheap and Simple

The idea that price and capability are intimately linked goes without question, but when a disruptive technology or business model introduces a step change in that relationship, then you have a revolution - or if you are the incumbent, you have a dilemma. Cheap and simple is coming, ready or not.

HP Founders GarageGarage: Breeding ground for cheap and simpleLicense: CC BY 2.0, Brian Solis


The widespread adoption of the internet has produced many a dilemma in recent times for entrenched companies - even mighty technology companies, such as Microsoft. Young upstarts can now start businesses and immediately reach a global audience, thanks to the internet. However, it isn't the global reach alone that distinguishes the new startups, it's also the nature of the products that are being offered and the price - simple and cheap.


If you are going to reach a mass market, then cheap can be highly profitable, but if you are offering cheap products then they also have to be simple, otherwise you will drown in support costs. It's a ground-up philosophy, well suited to new-age, internet businesses. Better still, it is difficult for premium-priced product producers to understand, let alone match. As an example, look how Sony has struggled while trying to move its premium products down-market.

Innovator's Dilemma

Developing simple products, based on the 80-20 Pareto principle (where 20% of a product's functionality satisfies 80% of the market), is like mixing a primordial soup of new technology, processes, and business models. If you strike the right balance you could have a winner on your hands. You could even hit the jackpot, along the lines of The Innovator's Dilemma, where products using disruptive technologies can rapidly catch and surpass entrenched existing products. Many examples of The Innovator's Dilemma are evident today - just consider the growth in popularity of:

  • On-demand TV (e.g., Hulu) compared to broadcast TV
  • Voice over Internet Protocol (e.g., Skype) compared to landline phones, and soon wireless phones too
  • Online music distribution (e.g., iTunes) compared to CDs

Creative Destruction

The recent recession (some are calling it a depression) has the potential to unleash a whole new round of cheap and simple products due to Creative Destruction. The cheap and simple movement is here to stay - maybe it never actually went away - but it is intensifying, driven by 'recessional frugality'.

Cheap and Simple CFD

Of course this brings us to the Computer-Aided Engineering (CAE) analysis arena and specifically the Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) market, which is where we at Symscape choose to play. CFD is currently dominated by pre-internet companies with feature-heavy, expensive ($10,000s/yr) software products. Symscape, however, was conceived from the beginning as an internet business - offering hassle-free product downloads, free full-product trials, automated online payments, and straightforward pricing.

RC Car in Ground EffectCaedium in Action

Caedium, Symscape's legacy-free, integrated simulation environment makes it easy to prepare, run, and visualize simulations. We are focused on the 20% of features that 80% of us actually use, which means we can keep prices within the range of the smallest companies and hobbyists.

Welcome to the cheap and simple CFD revolution.