Monday, August 04, 2003

In search of Stupidity

The race goes not to the strong, nor swift, nor more intelligent but to the less stupid

100 largest personal computer software publishers in 1984
#1 Micropro International $60,Mn
#2 Microsoft Corp. $55,Mn
#3 Lotus $53 Mn
#4 Digital Research $45 Mn
#5 VisiCorp $43Mn
#6 Ashton-Tate $35Mn
#7 Peachtree $21Mn
#8 MicroFocus $15Mn
#9 Software Publishing $14Mn
#10 Broderbund $13Mn

Same list for 2001
#1 Microsoft Corp. $23Bn
#2 Adobe $1Bn
#3 Novell $1Bn
#4 Intuit $1Bn
#5 Autodesk $926Mn
#6 Symantec $790Mn
#7 Network Associates $745Mn
#8 Citrix $479Mn
#9 Macromedia $295Mn
#10 Great Plains $250Mn

every single company except Microsoft has disappeared from the top ten. The personal computer software market is Microsoft. Microsoft’s revenues, it turns out, make up 69% of the total revenues of all the top 100 companies combined.

Is this just superior marketing, as our imaginary geek claims? Or the result of an illegal monopoly? (Which begs the question: how did Microsoft get that monopoly? You can’t have it both ways

the answer is simpler: Microsoft was the only company on the list that never made a fatal, stupid mistake.

But for every other software company that once had market leadership and saw it go down the drain, you can point to one or two giant blunders that steered the boat into an iceberg. Micropro fiddled around rewriting the printer architecture instead of upgrading their flagship product, WordStar. Lotus wasted a year and a half shoehorning 123 to run on 640kb machines; by the time they were done Excel was shipping and 640kb machines were a dim memory. Digital Research wildly overcharged for CP/M-86 and lost a chance to be the de-facto standard for PC operating systems. VisiCorp sued themselves out of existence. Ashton-Tate never missed an opportunity to piss off dBase developers, poisoning the fragile ecology that is so vital to a platform vendor’s success.

Netscape’s monumental decision to rewrite their browser instead of improving the old code base cost them several years of Internet time, during which their market share went from around 90% to about 4%, and this was the programmers’ idea


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