The New Software Industry
Monday, February 6, 1995 by Dave Winer.
Overheard at a streetside cafe in San Francisco yesterday...
At the next table a couple is talking about computers. The man at the next table (not mine!) leans over and asks "Hey -- do you know where I can get a copy of Windows 95 tomorrow or the next day?"
Wow! A few years ago he would have been asking about illegal drugs.
It struck me that an agressive software company could start shipping their Windows 95 compatible apps right now. A market probably already exists for Win95-savvy apps. There have been lots of complaints in the press and industry newsletters about developers being hurt by the delay. I bet there's no reason to hurt.
It reminds me of a Woodstock-like rock concert I went to in the early 70s at Watkins Glen, NY. Three famous bands. Hundreds of thousands of people show up the day before the concert. Oops!
The first two bands show up to do their 5-minute equipment test. The third band does a 5-hour test. They say repeatedly, "Remember folks, this is just a test!" Well, no, it was actually a concert!
[The bands were the Allman Brothers, The Band, and the act that won the hearts of the audience was... the Grateful Dead -- of course...]
The point -- the Windows 95 market has already started. It isn't a test. Stop grousing and ship your products! There's an opportunity out there. Go for it!
Software is not rocket science anymore. I find that all the pieces I need to make products are already on my hard disk, the result of spending the last six years solving a lot of problems, and bothering to do an organized job of building the stuff. Some people call this object orientation -- why bother? It's modularity, structured code, all old buzzwords for the same thing object oriented is meant to communicate. I like to think that it's just organized or thoughtful software development. Clean living. Don't cut corners and you get to re-use the code. That's where a lot of us are these days in the development biz. Lots of re-usable code out there.
If it isn't rocket science, why is Microsoft having such problems shipping a new word processor for the Macintosh? Personal computer word processing was leading edge 10 years ago. It should be routine by now. Why isn't it?
After running firstname.lastname@example.org's "My Mom's PC" series late last year, which included "Word 6 & Truck Stops," I got cc'd on a steady stream of email from all sorts of Microsoft people, including Bill Gates and Pete Higgins. A fascinating picture developed and I realized that the software industry is changing radically, and that the basis of competition is shifting. It used to be about features. Now I think it's about people.
It's shifting because the online business is booming. But the major innovation of online isn't what most people think it is. Online publishing -- ala the worldwide web -- is just a step on the road. It's really about connecting people to people. This is the really big stuff. Much richer connections between people, implemented using the Internet. The current DaveNet is one of the early instances. Others surely will follow, and more innovations in people-connections will happen.
Now, narrow the focus a bit, and see what this does to the software industry.
The people of the industry are becoming visible to users!
Watching Microsoft struggle with an outspoken customer (and with itself!) was fascinating. I had a feeling I was glimpsing a bit of the future -- where software products and the people who create them -- are visible to customers.
I can't prove this is the way it's going to go, it's just a hunch. If you run a software company, and want to go with this hunch -- start teaching your people now to be friendly and empathetic to customers in the online world. There will be a lot more contact in the future.
Create positive online energy. Elegance, fun and simplicity count for a lot more than feature lists.
Why is there an MTV?
Why isn't the cable version of Rolling Stone run by Rolling Stone?
Does that question even make sense?
What's wrong with this picture?
Why isn't ESPN called "Sports Illustrated, Cable Version"?
PS: Why is the name Motorola still at the leading edge?
PPS: Great dialog box, seen in SF yesterday -- "Have a Nice Day. Dammit!"
PPPS: Users won't give you any credit for having a common code base between your Mac and Windows apps. It's an implementation detail. Stop making an issue of it. Microsoft proved, with Mac Word 6, that common-code-base can be a real liability for customers, not an asset.
PPPPS: As always, if you aren't interested in this kind of stuff, send me email and I'll happily delete your name from the list. And it's OK to forward it or repost it anywhere you like. The list is expanding -- I'm always happy to add new names.