In another post, I claimed that software can’t be written with no bugs at all. Well, it turns out that’s not quite true. What I should have said is that writing bug-free software is not possible within the constraints of most software businesses or open-source projects.
But that just doesn’t have the same pizazz, does it?
The trouble is that software businesses exist to make money, and open source projects exist to give developers interesting things to do and exposure. (Naturally, there are some exceptions in both camps, but if you imagine that’s always true, you won’t be too far off.) And if these are the goals you’re chasing — customers and money, or interesting problems and exposure — you don’t end up with perfect software. You go broke or get bored before you get there.
The United States is in the midst of its worst recession since the Savings and Loan crisis of the 1980s, and arguably before that. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down almost 25% from its all-time high in October 2007 to $10,850. The NASDAQ is down about 15% from its all-time high from November 2007. But while seeing layoffs in this economic climate hasn’t been a surprise, the sheer number of them has. The unemployment rate has more than doubled since April 2008 to 9.7% as of the time of this writing (March 2010), and Forbes estimates the number of layoffs since November 2008 at the Fortune 500 alone to be 697,448. And the problem is likely worse than that due to “shadow layoffs” that aren’t reported.
But you know layoffs are a big deal when they spawn an Oscar nominated film starring George Clooney.
Now, we all know how much fun it is to declare things dead before they’re dead, but surely they’re not talking about Adobe Flash, right? Not the Flash that has been the go-to technology for complex animation, video, and games on the web since it was introduced in 1996. Not the Flash with gigs of impossible-to-replace user-generated content scattered across the Internet. Not the Flash that powers your favorite games, and your favorite animations, and your favorite webapps. Not the Flash used to build all that neat, goofy stuff we all love so much. Not the Flash that runs 30%-40% of the websites on the Net, including the websites of some of the world’s most influential organizations. Not the Flash being used to make some of the most important animation on TV right now. Not that Flash. They must be talking about some other Flash. Right? I mean, come on, let’s not be ridiculous.
Ask 100 CEOs of software companies if they want to ship software with bugs. What will they say? 50 won’t answer at all, saying something about how bugs are a huge problem in the industry that needs to be addressed; 40 will say “Of course not!” and promptly call their shark tank in preparation for a lawsuit; 9 will hang their heads and say “we can’t help it”; and that last 1 will look you straight in the eye and say “Absolutely.”
I have no idea what that last guy’s doing heading up a software company, because he studied economics.
My friend @AvantSavant sent me an interesting article pointing out that IBM has stopped breaking out its corporate headcount by country. In the past, IBM would disclose in its annual reports not only its total employee count (399,409 as of December 31, 2009… yikes), but also the number of those employees currently employed in the United States.
Personally, I have little doubt that this is indicative of IBM’s international “rebalancing.” IBM is moving jobs overseas because wages there are cheaper.
My company, Consumetrics, is currently in the process of raising money for operations. (Please forgive the terrible website. We know, and we’re working on it!) We’re considering several options for raising our first tranche — angel investors, high net-worth individuals, even a couple seed-stage venture capital funds — but our most recent attempt at raising capital was with the Texas Emerging Technology Fund.
One of the things Henry Chesbrough discusses in his book Open Business Models: How to Thrive in the New Innovation Landscape is how early adopters of a technology often get “marooned,” or trapped on a particular application or platform. This is a well-known issue in the software industry where it’s called “vendor lock-in.” Vendor lock-in is a powerful force, and I don’t think Chesbrough spends enough time talking about just how abusive this practice it really is.