The Economics of Immortality

It is my contention that there are software houses out there that are losing the plot.

 Rather than being in the business of reducing costs for their clients they are increasingly focused on maintaining their own revenues.
I would suggest that long term this is a recipe for failure.

Many software companies were born out of individuals who recognised that there was a better way to do something reducing the need for duplication increasing speed of transactions and transmissions and reducing deterioration of information while improving distribution, that sort of thing. Some companies seem to be forgetting the ultimate promise of the digital age. Information duplication and storage with 100% accuracy and essentially zero degradation. Isn’t data and software held on them a complete analogy to bacteria? What else lasts for significant periods without change through thick and thin maintaining their information with low levels of maintenance and error while their environment expands and contracts.

Surely then software has the potential to become ubiqutous, expendable, 100% maintainable and awkwardly for software houses – immortal.

I argue that the objective of a software house should be to put themselves out of business. To make a product that is so good that they can move onto a different arena and create another product that is so good that it cannot be beaten. I am also of the opinion that the founding fathers of software created the discipline with that in mind.

Up until now many houses have been doing a good job of this and I certainly think of certain individual digital projects that have pretty much succeeded in this goal – they do tend to be the low level stuff though – SQL / C++ etc.

Present day the easy wins are away new products regularly focus on usability and distribution and reimplementation of features which for older hands were always there (albeit in different guise).

Microsoft sometimes demonstrate aspects of this but they are in no means by themselves on this.
ESRI (ArcView)
Alpha 5
have recently been making moves to rent out their product and its not just software houses , IBM have significant income from services on demand section.

I maintain that when this is marred with software provision I think this is in direct contradiction to why software was originally created and therein lies the problem.

Service provision is an erosion of customer rights not an increase in them. It is making the landlord into a tenant no wonder it’s a difficult sell.

Why else is open source gaining ground? Because those with intelligence inherintely recognise the fact that although they are power users the products being offered to them just aren’t doing what they want. What’s more sometimes increased usability in one feature may be at the expense of reduced functionality in another. They don’t want to be a tenant and would prefer to be the landlord.

I appreciate the work that Microsoft has done and many of their brilliant tools. I just think if Microsoft want to make money out of software hone their products then get those developers to build software specific applications out of their environment. Its not as if sections of the organisation aren’t trying to do this. XBox and Kinnect have all been great demonstrations of the benefits of essentially that. At some point the marginal improvements from polishing will only serve to focus demand for open source solutions rather than towards their products.

Who knows exactly how this will pan out but one thing I am convinced at at some point secondhand software will be as valuable as new software as the incremental improvement in usability will be minimal and because of the immortality of everything digital there will be for all intensive purposes no age difference between either.

I look forward to supporting microsoft in the future and see no reason to stop that using tools that continue to be excellent. I will however be very cautious about becoming a slave to any software provider.

Author: Mark

Mark Brooks a forty something individual working and living in and around Edinburgh