I love what I do. I sure hope you feel the same way; with the ever-blurring lines between our professional and personal lives you have to, or bad things will happen.

I help businesses get more efficient, help the people who run them maintain perspective, and I play computer geek. It’s a fun and busy way to live my professional life. But in the course of tracking business change I’ve lost the chance to play with software the way I did in the days when I wrote IYM Software Review.

As you know, I’m a Droid user. And while I still use computers way more than my SmartPhone, it’s on my Droid that I tinker, because “software”, the thing you buy for lots of money and install on your hard drive, is . . . over. The markets evolved, we all picked our software, and then the markets shook out; if you use a Windows PC you use Microsoft Office, Photoshop, and . . . except for really specialized situations little else.

And of course, even Office and Photoshop are being supplanted by on-line versions of things that do the same or similar things and cost way less or are free.

When you start using a SmartPhone, you go off in search of Apps to make it do more stuff. And while there are some expensive options out there, it’s the rare App that costs more than about $15, with many costing just two or three dollars and even more being free.

And then the questions arises: how can Apps be free? The most common answer is that free Apps often include advertising. It’s an unsustainable model unless you get paid for a tremendous volume of advertising, and there will be a shake-out.

Among the Apps that carry a cost in dollars to the user there’s a trend developing that makes sense: give away the app, and create add-on materials that people who are your customers will pay for. Qik, the video streaming software, is beginning to charge for access to certain parts of their service, which would be fine if they had any handle on the basics of “service. Ask me sometime about the non-service I had from them when a video got stuck in an uneditable form on their server and was inaccessible on my Droid.

Actually, Qik doesn’t get it at all; their first foray into getting paid is to make people who’d use 4G phone pay for video conferencing. Only 4G users. Thanks, I guess I’ll stay with 3G, then.

There are companies that are doing it right, though. WorkSmart Labs gives away an App called Cardio Trainer. There’s really very little about Cardio Trainer to recommend it over the half-dozen or so similar Apps it competes with, because design goes only so far; Cardio Trainer and Apps like it are inherently inaccurate and absent precision they’re little more than toys.

But the folks at WorkSmart Labs sure do get it from a business change perspective.

Upon installation, Cardio Trainer will track your workouts and spit back a bunch of information. It may be all you need (and you may want to keep the accuracy caveat above in mind before you move forward), and if so that’s fine. But WorkSmart really is working smart: for just $3 each they’ll sell you add-on modules to Cardio Trainer that

  • let you compare your performance on a particular workout to earlier instances of it
  • track your weight loss and fitness goals

In my days as software reviewer I’d have come down hard on the way the add-ons work; there are holes in the software hat just aren’t OK. But as a business model and intelligent implementation of it, Cardio Trainer is the real deal. Remember the days of getting the razor for free and paying for the blades? People respond to that!

WorkSmart Labs understands business change. Qik understands software, but little else.

What do you understand about business change?

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