Nothing too groundbreaking here but still a great article about the so-called MP3 Effect, which pretty explains why you prefer MP3s over vinyl, point-and-shoot cameras over DSLRs and netbooks over full-featured notebooks and desktops. Convenience and accessibility over quality. Somewhere out there, hovering over an old, dusty record bin, Bobbito is shaking his head. link

So what happened? Well, in short, technology happened. The world has sped up, become more connected and a whole lot busier. As a result, what consumers want from the products and services they buy is fundamentally changing. We now favor flexibility over high fidelity, convenience over features, quick and dirty over slow and polished. Having it here and now is more important than having it perfect. These changes run so deep and wide, they’re actually altering what we mean when we describe a product as “high-quality.”

What has happened with the MP3 format and other Good Enough technologies is that the qualities we value have simply changed. And the change is so profound that the old measures have almost lost their meaning. Call it the MP3 effect.

We’ve seen it again and again. Consider, for example, the rise of cloud computing. For years, software was something you bought and installed on your hard drive. A lot of it was made by Microsoft, which solidified its dominance by releasing ever more powerful, feature-laden updates. But with the advent of services like Gmail and Zoho Writer, many users are now turning to the Web for basic tasks like word processing, spreadsheets, and email. These cloud apps have inherent limits: They run through a browser window and can’t directly access your local hard drive or processor. They lack features. Their performance depends on the strength of your Internet connection. Nevertheless, tens of millions of people use Gmail, while Zoho Writer boasts 1.8 million users and is growing at a rate of 100,000 subscribers a month. Microsoft, of course, is now jumping into the cloud as fast as it can. Redmond says that Office 2010 will be largely cloud-based. Not to be outdone, Google recently announced a mostly cloud-based operating system that will work in tandem with the company’s Chrome browser.

Web tools are succeeding because they’re Good Enough. They do most of what we need from a word processor or a spreadsheet or an email program or even an OS. But, like the MP3, they also offer other advantages. You can access them from any computer. If your hard drive crashes, you don’t lose your work. And they are incredibly cheap—free in the case of simple tools or just a few dollars a month per user in the case of business apps.

Compare these qualities with those of the MP3 and the Flip, and a clear pattern emerges. The attributes that now matter most all fall under the rubric of accessibility. Thanks to the speed and connectivity of the digital age, we’ve stopped fussing over pixel counts, sample rates, and feature lists. Instead, we’re now focused on three things: ease of use, continuous availability, and low price. Is it simple to get what we want out of the technology? Is it available everywhere, all the time—or as close to that ideal as possible? And is it so cheap that we don’t have to think about price? Products that benefit from the MP3 effect capitalize on one or more of these qualities. And they’ll happily sacrifice power and features to do so.