Jonvon pointed to Joel Spolsky's latest: Hitting the High Notes.  Some really cool truisms about software development in there, but first:

In some other industries, cheap is more important than good. Wal*Mart grew to be the biggest corporation on Earth by selling cheap products, not good products. If Wal*Mart tried to sell high quality goods, their costs would go up and their whole cheap advantage would be lost. For example if they tried to sell a tube sock that can withstand the unusual rigors of, say, being washed in a washing machine, they'd have to use all kinds of expensive components, like, say, cotton, and the cost for every single sock would go up.
(gets up off floor after major laughing attack)

Moving on,
If the only difference between programmers were productivity, you might think that you could substitute five mediocre programmers for one really good programmer. That obviously doesn't work. Brooks' Law, "adding manpower to a late software project makes it later," is why. A single good programmer working on a single task has no coordination or communication overhead. Five programmers working on the same task must coordinate and communicate. That takes a lot of time. There are added benefits to using the smallest team possible; the man-month really is mythical.

But wait, there's even more!

The real trouble with using a lot of mediocre programmers instead of a couple of good ones is that no matter how long they work, they never produce something as good as what the great programmers can produce.
This was a hard lesson I learned as a novice product manager working on Notes R5.  Many will remember that R5 took a long time to get out the door.  There were often questions about whether we could just "borrow" some developers from other Lotus/IBM projects and get the product shipped.  Obviously, that's not possible.  Mike Zisman had a politically incorrect way of saying the same thing that Spolsky does -- quantity doesn't trump quality.

Last, Joel hits the point about UI:
The software marketplace, these days, is something of a winner-take-all system. Nobody else is making money on MP3 players other than Apple. Nobody else makes money on spreadsheets and word processors other than Microsoft, and, yes, I know, they did anti-competitive things to get into that position, but that doesn't change the fact that it's a winner-take-all system.

You can't afford to be number two, or to have a "good enough" product. It has to be remarkably good, by which I mean, so good that people remark about it..
Remember IBM Lotus's "Hannover" announcement last month?  The page on my blog with the screenshots has had over 8000 hits in a month.  That's twice as many as the blog entry about the announcement itself.  Everyone likes a good user interface, everyone wants to talk about good UI.  Clearly, IBM wants to ship a powerful and buzz-worthy UI for Notes "Hannover".   Stay tuned...

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