The benefits of centralization fade out, smaller markets work better with fast world-wide shipping networks. And development teams can be widely distributed. But most important -- it's easier to hear what users want. And the barriers to entry for users becoming developers drop, as technical information flows better.
In the centralized way of doing R&D there was distance and secrecy. A team of geniuses are sequestered for however long it takes to make their magic. Then they come down from the mountain to deliver the product, and we all buy one and talk about it and love it, while they return to the mountain and we wait for the next one. This isn't just how Apple does it, it's how everyone does it. They've just mastered the process better than anyone else.
I felt blogging would play a key role in bootstrapping this method. That communities of users would coalesce at blogs, exchange ideas over long periods of time, and gradually a consensus would develop of what the next version of a product will look like. That much certainly did happen.
We needed to learn how to listen better, and we had to learn how to be easier to listen to.
Well, anyway, now it's happening. And it's a race to see who has the model that works. Maybe they all will work, or maybe a hybrid, combining the features of one or more, will be the way it works. But in the next few years, this is where the big innovation in commerce will be. And it's going to be bigger than Google or Apple or Facebook. In many ways those companies are just providing role models for the next generation of entrepreneurs. Perhaps in some ways as negative role models, showing how not to do it.