Thought for the day: Memento Mori

Isn't it time the IT industry set up an archive of past products, before they are lost forever? asks Simon Moores.

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Isn't it time the IT industry set up an archive of past products, before they are lost forever? asks Simon Moores.

 

 

 

 

Reading the story that endangered species will be recorded in an online records "ark", I immediately thought that this might have some connection with the IT industry rather than the planet’s disappearing wildlife.

The connection, of course, lies with Hewlett-Packard creating digital profiles of those species that haven’t yet been eaten, shot or turned into fur coats or traditional medicine, and I wondered if it was time to create to create an equivalent archive for the IT industry.

After all, 20 years ago, the software industry in particular, enjoyed a remarkably diverse ecology, with products such as Lotus-1-2-3, SuperCalc, WordPerfect and many more pieces of software.

Of course, this all happened before the internet, which means that thousand upon thousands of pages of industry history, comment and analysis are lost to the future, because many of the magazines of the time and the companies behind them no longer exist.

Much the same argument applies to the software companies and their chief executive officers. Whatever happened to the powerful industry figures of the 1980s, with names such as Ray Noorda and Jim Manzi? The answer is that the success of Microsoft and the relentless march of consolidation squeezed 80% of the software industry out of existence in the space of two decades.

 As each year passes, choice becomes even more limited, until, in the hardware industry at least, we are down to a handful of key players, IBM, Hewlett Packard, Sun Microsystems, Dell and then, possibly, Intel, Cisco and EMC.

Which companies are next? And should someone start an online museum of software code? The problem with this idea is, of course, copyright, even if the authors and companies have gone out of existence.

A couple of years ago, I finally tracked down a software writer whose application my own company was still selling to the police, five years after his company disappeared, because his royalties were building up.

The author in question had given up IT and was living in a Christian commune in California.

In the end, I suspect, our choices will mirror the famous quote from Henry Ford: “You can have any colour you like, as long as it’s black” or, perhaps, even blue.

With the end of truly imaginative competition in this industry, there’s a risk that we will witness a decline in innovation as the highly conservative survivors concentrate more on consolidating their hold on a particular niche rather than risk attempting to expand their interests into the domain of the big gorilla next door.

What do you think?

What products would you like to see go into the IT archive?  Tell us in an e-mail >>  ComputerWeekly.com reserves the right to edit and publish answers on the website. Please state if your answer is not for publication.

Setting the world to rights with the collected thoughts and opinions of leading industry analyst Dr Simon Moores of Zentelligence.

Acting globally, Zentelligence (Research) advises governments, suppliers, business and the media on the evolution, application and delivery of leading-edge technologies and specialises in the areas of eGovernment and information security.

For further information on Zentelligence and its research, presentation and analyst services visit www.zentelligence.com

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