I must say that I agree with Todd’s take on usability. Sure, it’s important but it’s really a baseline for any functional design. Since everyone ultimately wants to be usable, there’s nothing usability people aren’t doing or saying that competitors aren’t either. It’s not a differentiator.
It kinda reminds me of Michael Porter’s take on corporate strategy. He essentially says that operational effeciency is important, but not strategic. It’s operational. It’s something everyone strives for, even your competitors. Can’t find the full text of Michael Porter’s “What is Strategy?” article free online, so here’s the summary and order form for the article on HBR.
“Michael Porter argues that operational effectiveness, although necessary to superior performance, is not sufficient, because its techniques are easy to imitate. In contrast, the essence of strategy is choosing a unique and valuable position rooted in systems of activities that are much more difficult to match.”