Cost Effective Tools

5 April 2004

In the early 1980’s there were dozens of startup companies focused on bringing multiuser business systems to market. The common denominator for these companies had two key components – Unix and the Motorola 68000 series of processors. Our company sold the Fortune 32:16. We also sold – no, tried to sell – some of AT&T’s early entrants into that small business space.

What we quickly realized was that – absent a programmer’s deep involvement – none of the software written for one of these machines would run on the other. Various versions of Bourne shells and the mix of utilities and scripts that existed on each machine made them different from one another.

Reading Robert Scoble’s entry this morning brought back memories of those days of trying to find an easily supported solution to sell to our clients. For so many small businesses, it is simply a flawed notion to start a technology project by writing on the whiteboard, ”Assume a technical professional.”

In small businesses technical professionals don’t exist, and the funds to pay for a steady stream of billable hours from a technical contractor don’t exist either. The concerns mentioned in the Forbes article are valid. Get close the Microsoft pricing and Microsoft becomes the easier answer for most businesses.

Will Red Hat take the hint? Will Novell re-emerge? Will the Microsoft/Sun relationship deliver a new operating system with the best of ”both worlds?” Will Apple and IBM do something with their own variants of Linux/Unix? Remember, one of the reasons OS X came about is because of Next.

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