Readings on Software Industry structure and economics

A collection of readings on software industry structure and economics. The common themes to me are that there is a still a lot of confusion and uncertainty about the way the industry works and will evolve, and there are still a lot of changes taking place in the industry, all of which means it is a great time for innovators and risk takers.

* As Olivier Travers and Anil Dash point out, Outlook has become a platform — though not as Microsoft expected — people aren’t building workflow apps using the built-in forms and programming language, rather they are doing simple integration with the UI, targetting the huge installed base. APIs don’t make a platform — installed base makes a platform.
* Two pretty smart guys, David Stutz and Ray Ozzie, are discussing the rise and fall of platforms. Some gems in here —
I would assert that every “pure software” company that has had large-scale success first offered their customers enhanced productivity in the form of packaged proprietary software, followed later by a redefinition of that software as a platform to be used by customers for rapid customization and their extensibility needs.
and New platform efforts that set out to be highly modular or deeply object-oriented from day one are doomed to fail, because they are recognized as being vulnerable to cloning by potential ecosystem members and are consequently not adopted because of their lack of business potential. Truly useful standards always come after the fact, and often without a formal standardization process. Successful platforms ossify, leaving standardized patterns of information in their wake.
* David and Ray referred to Clayton Christensen, whose latest talk was reported on by Phil Windley. Interesting counsel for startups.
* Over at marginal revolution, the double monopoly problem — perhaps we are better off with Microsoft bundling the browser in the OS — it certainly has helped created (or at least not hindered) the opportunity for the current toolbar wars, search engine wars, rss reader wars.
* Additional open source encroachment — now routers have an open source alternative, just as clients, servers, apps, and devices have alternatives.
* Offshoring and globalization observations from Ray Lane via Phil Windley No matter what your politics are, you have to decide where you stand on free markets and globalization. India and China have focused on Math and Science over the last 25 years and we can either use them of someone else will. If we don’t, we’ll be France.
* I need to read Ross Mayfield’s post on power laws and private equity about 5 more times. I think it is saying something fundamental about the nature of private equity investing but there are so many ideas in this article that I can’t come to a clear conclusion — fatter tails, greater interdependence, faster shifts, greater exploration of alternatives — there is a lot of stuff in this article.

Prince's distribution experiments; open source Jay-Z

I don’t understand how the music industry is going to evolve, but I sure love artists that are attempting experiments and not just sitting back and letting the RIAA lob bombs at everyone.

Kudos to Prince for his own music store, I loved his original body of work and am going to have to give him a try again.

And kudos to Jay-Z I think — the Jay-Z construction set is totally cool, allows users to build their own mixes. I’m not sure if Jay-Z actually sanctions this work, maybe he hates it. But letting users interact more deeply with the music seems like a great way to add value to music and thereby encourage people to buy it.

Gear wishlist

Random collection of hardware that I’d love to pick up:

* via Scott Hanselman, the Quaddisplay from Tiger. Beautiful.
* via PVRBlog, a prebuilt MythTV box (because I am too lazy to build one myself)
* a glowing USB mousepad
* via engadget, a bluetooth wireless surround sound system. I would love to place these around my office and pipe anyone of my PC’s sound to them.
* I’m not a Mac user currently but the idea behind the Sailing Clicker is cool, why can’t every phone do this?
* A Java OS pc from Walmart (via the register). I’m not sure why, I guess just to see the current state of a windows alternative.
* The NEC MobilePro 900C mentioned over at engadget. I’m not sure why, this form factor has always appealed to me.
* A nano-itx machine. Continuing the assault on the tower and mini-tower form factors.
* via Gizmodo, the etymotic earbud.
* OK I can’t buy this yet but I love the idea of a noise-cancelling PC
* and of course, trolling thru the japan importers (list from Martin) always generates a list of things i want to have.

As with software, I just don’t have time to try all this stuff. Installation and config is so time consuming. If these guys all want me to continue to be a healthy consumer of gadget gear, they better be hammering on integration and config features. I want devices that autorecognize all the crap i already have, slot themselves in nicely, grab the right state data from my existing config automagically, and require absolutely minimal cabling.


Some recent posts — Marc Andreessen explains comparative advantage on John Robb’s blog. Also goes on to explain what the US’s comparative advantages may be. Per Tyler Cowen, small businesses are outsourcing too.

These mostly have me thinking about this question: What guidance should we be giving our college-age and high-school-age kids as they think about their educational and career paths? Offshoring/globalization/whatever you call it is going to be a big fact of their lives. Complaining about it is like complaining about gravity; you just have to embrace it and learn how to use it to your advantage. Some of the points of guidance I am formulating:

* Educate yourself to the top of the world. A bachelor’s degree by itself doesn’t cut it. Plan on a masters or phd. Take advantage of today’s higher standard of living here in the US and spend more money and a longer time on education.

* Be multi-lingual. The US has historically not emphasized language education. It might be more important now.

* Consider the fusing of multiple domains in education. In a world where everyone has a batchelor’s, expertise in two domains will still stand out and be valuable. Engineering AND economics, materials science AND computer science, materials science AND law, etc. I know in my own case having MSs in both business and engineering made a huge difference in the number of job offers I received as well as average salary offer — that will only be more true in the future.

So much software

I am awash in links to software I’ve been meaning to try:

* Installspy (yet another spyware detector), noticed at Lockergnome.
* FirelogXP (ICS log analyser), also via Lockergnome.
* Outlook Junk Filter Upgrade via Chris Meirick
* Newsgator service release.
* Markdown markup processor for MT via Aaron Swartz (tho I am already a Textile user)
* Xbox friends tracker, via Scott Hanselman
* Feedburner rss processor, via Martin
* Co-citer and Onfolio, both via Scoble, both for organizing my collection of web findings
* Artrage paint program via Don Park
* A bunch of CSS tweaks at Mandarin Designs, via Weblogg-ed News
* Blognavigator, yet another rss reader, via Scoble.
* Some math symbol fonts via Lockergnome.
* the latest BitTorrent via emergent report
* Anagram from Marc’s Outlook on Productivity (Marc has consistently cool stuff)
* Ebay RSS feeds via Sebastien Paquet
* Style Master, a css editor, from Digital Web Mag.
* Windows Installer Cleanup Utility to get rid of annoying install turds, from Lockergnome.
* Motherboard Monitor from Lockergnome.
* Dodgeit for throwaway email addresses (checkable via RSS!)
* Onenote via Marc’s Outlook again.
* Knoppix via Matt Croydon and Rich.
* some of these recos from Pirillo.
* Windows Services for Unix from Anil Dash.
* Drag and Drop attachments for OWA via Tosh Meston
* Whizfolders to organize writing snippets.
* Icecast streaming media server.
* Tasktracker from Marc’s Outlook
* Mute filesharing software via Slashdot.
* FTPEditor via Betanews.

All these great packages and I haven’t tried a one. Why? I am a huge consumer of software and am generally willing to install anything. The impediment is state management. Increasingly I use 5-6 machines interchangeably on a regular basis — 2 at work thru a KVM, 3 or 4 at home in different places, and public machines at other workplaces, hotels, etc. It is not helpful to have an app installed on just one machine — and it is too time consuming to install it on all. Really I want to install stuff just once, on my webserver, and have it be available on any machine that I work from. I am a bleeding edge PC user but I think this is going to become a more prevalent issue for all consumers…

Coca-Cola Brands

I was reading the Coca-Cola annual report tonight. What was most interesting to me was the partial list of all the brands they have worldwide.

* Diet Pop. Now that is marketing magic. Ditto 187168.
* Bimbo Break. I guess we know the target market for that one.
* Diet Almdudler, Drim, Tuborg Squash. Now don’t those sound refreshing?
* Beat, Burn, Hit, Shock, and Slap. For the masochists in the crowd.
* I knew about Dr. Pepper and Mr. Pibb, but did you know about their buddies Disney Winnie the Pooh, Fraser & Neave, Master Chill, Master Pour, Mickey Mouse, Pepe Rico, the Pocket Dr., the Robinson Brothers, Samantha, and the Thextons?
* Chivalry and Neverfail sound very uplifting.
* Combine Ripe N Ready and Love Body, which via a Wink, leads to an Urge, and then Joy — but don’t forget Safety First.
* Chaudfontaine, Diet Inka Kola, Guarana Jesus, Jurassic Well, Sparletta Iron Brew, Water Salad. No idea what these are, but I’d buy a can of any of them in a second.