It is that time of year again, time to look at the Big Software Whiffs of the first half-decade of 2000. One of the fascinations in life is the Big Whiff, the Choker Special, the Mighty Miss. You know – when one of the big players or big companies misses, swishes, strikes out in its specialty field. After all, what is the legend of Casey at the Bat all about ? So not to let their endeavours go unnoticed, we honor three software giants: Sun, IBM and Microsoft with the Big Whiffer Awards of the Half Decade.
Second runner-up, but hard pressing for the ultimate whiff has been Sun Microsystems
Sun invented Java and cross-platform and the mantra “write-once, run anywhere”. And Sun had not one but three Application Servers for the Java market. And Sun had not one but three IDEs for developing Java applications. And Sun had not one but three distributed frameworks for Java from J2EE soup to JINI nuts. But perhaps as custodians of the Java Community project, Sun felt the need to show no favoritism or competitive advantage to their products; – and so Sun let others like BEA, Borland, IBM, Oracle, and dozens of other ISVs take the lions share of most Java markets. Whiffff!!
First runner-up, but not to be dismissed as Whiffers of the great ADCycle, OS/2 and the San Francisco Project past , welcome again the famous Big Blast Whiffers of the Past, IBM Corporation.
IBM has shown indisputedly that they can work top-down and deliver virtually nothing usable many times and many DCEs, SAAs, SOMs, and San Franciscos in the past. Now in in a pique of special deviousness, they have gotten OS/2 good buddy, erstwhile partner, Microsoft , to jointly work on top down complexifying and obfuscating WS-I, BPM, and other Web Services standards such that they will prove utterly unusable except by annointed and designated acolytes of IGS and MSC consulting groups. Whiffff, Whiffff!
But undisputed Champion Whiffers, are not the guys and gals from Redmond but their bosses – hurrah for the Microsoft Executive Team.
This team in the past half decade has swished not once, not twice, but thrice. First, by creating chaos in its own development world by not eating its own .NET dog food. Since 2001, Redmond has been promising more secure, reliable, scalable and performant software by means of .NET. But the troops have steadfastly avoided using it. Only Biztalk 2004, Visual Studio 2005, SQL Server 2005 and Longhorn 2006-7 have been committed to using .NET fully – and the public can see what delays are on those delivery schedules. Meanwhile COM, DCOM, ASP, VBA scripting, ODBC, VB, and half a dozen other systems and development frameworks are in Limbo-like NeverNetherLand of yet to be planned obsolesence. Whiffff one.
But MSExec tops this with the Great Unlearning. Back in the early days of the Internet, Bill Gates and the MSExec team came to the conclusion that they could set up a proprietary Web based on their MSN network and their control of 85% of desktops. Problem – they could not disallow 3rd parties from providing real Intenet connections – open and interoperable Web access. So after an utterly dismal adoption of MSN , BillCo reversed their field and embraced the Web. But in a great UnLearning and just when the world is turning to open, integrated and interoperable; BillCo are out to establish a similar proprietary Bailliewick, The Proprietary Gates of Longhorn. The Gates will only allow entry through Web Services and its various subsystems will be tied and coupled together in more-than-less proprietary ways such that external interfaces and connections will work, but only best in Windows. Whiffff, Whiffff two.
Finally, BillCo is fully responsible for TheNeverLearned. Bill and his Co-dependent Executive Team have never learned that ZeroSum, 90%-market share monopolies where “we win means every body else has to lose” dont prosper over time. Sure you can fool many of the people a long period of time – and Windows desktop is testament to that. But eventually, as Economist Joseph Schumpeter pointed out, monopolists sew the seeds of their own destruction. Give Microsoft credit, they have been dutifully planting. First Redmond is the Pariah/PiranhaPartner not just in IT but the whole computing and electronics sector. As well Redmonds scorched marketing policies have accelerated the Open Source movement because venture capitalist for the past 5-8 years have been loath to extend capital to firms seeking to enter the PC desktop or any other market that might put the venture into competition with Microsoft. So many prospective developers have adopted the Open Source approach to introduce their ideas into the software market place. Others have gone elsewhere (Google and may Apple are in) or retreated to embedded and consumer electronics markets. The Open Sourcers dont have dreams of conquering the software world – just making a living and seeing that their software ideas and work prosper by service and customer-oriented upgrades/updates. And lo and behold, look who is no longer the lowest cost producer, nor the source of cost effective service, nor the source of the most user accepted innovations in its major markets – BillCo. Whiffff, Whiffff, Whiffff – strike three and you are out of there as a credible guide to the IT Road Ahead.