Horizontal and Vertical Products

I was browsing around Joel on Software, looking for information about Trello and its API, and the following extracts from this article stood out.

Regarding horizontal and vertical products:

Horizontal means that it can be used by people from all walks of life. Word processors and web browsers are horizontal. The software your dentist uses to torture you with drills is vertical.


Vertical software is much easier to pull off and make money with, and it’s a good choice for your first startup. Here are two key reasons:
– It’s easier to find customers. If you make dentist software, you know which conventions to go to and which magazines to advertise in. All you have to do is find dentists.
– The margins are better. Your users are professionals at work and it makes sense for them to give you money if you can solve their problems.


Making a major horizontal product that’s useful in any walk of life is almost impossible to pull off.


The great horizontal killer applications are actually just fancy data structures.

Topical: thinking about what software to write and who it’s for; knowing your customers and their problems; reaching your customers; making apps to solve problems for professionals; acknowledging the difficulties of horizontal apps…

It was refreshing to read.