I was reading with a critical eye this article by The Register hack Matt Asay. It’s titled “Microsoft’s Surface proves software is dead” and right away we have a terrible misnomer.
Software isn’t dead, it didn’t die, it’s still critically important in driving machines with incredibly complex rules. True death would be machines without any software in them. The headline is thus an attention grabbing lie worthy of a tabloid. Now to the content about Microsoft’s business plans with software…
Software’s complexity over the past 20 years has completely failed to keep up with the very rapid improvements to hardware. We’re still using tools which are not that much different. Part of the problems with the inefficient development of tools has been proprietary software.
Each proprietary platform, every library and game that doesn’t publish it’s code fails in it’s auxiliary mission to become a part of the computer science of the future and thus the software of the future. Sure, the program will be useful, the game fun to play; but next gen software will be harder to make, easier to get wrong and far more expensive without a stable base. This isn’t in the article.
What Matt is trying badly to communicate is how much in a hole Microsoft are. But he’s wrong about why. Business has _always_ been about delivery of labour, those embodied in products or that which is directly delivered in services. What Microsoft’s business has been and what they have been trying to spread as the best method of software creation, is nothing short of money for nothing. Create a bit of software and keep on reselling the same $0 value at enterprise rates.
Monopoly is the only way to sustain this kind of economic magic trick but it does come with a cost. Microsoft are now stuck trying to both invest into bigger and bigger software cathedrals and retain their monopoly by keeping everything out of the scientific commons (open source ecosystem).
Matt’s point is that software delivered directly onto devices, proprietary or not, are what’s really economically drivable. But even the xbox will suffer from fatigue unless it’s software can be open sourced. Same goes for Apple’s iOS; oh sure it may seem like they can defy gravity, but a quick look into how much open source their platforms use gives us all the data we need to see that they’ve simply built upon the open source science to get a higher competency than Microsoft. they’ve not truly invested in open source and they’ll be on the back foot when the next level of complexity is required.
Apple’s and Microsoft’s software will completely fail to make it into the next generation, their next products will either be rehashed old code or they’ll scrap everything and start again, using new open source as the base and trying to build yet another pointless cathedral on top of it. Repeat and regurgitate until the magic dies and people learn how the trick was done and paying for software finally becomes what it always was: Paying for programmer’s time and nothing more.
Is software dead? I don’t think so, I think it’s just become Common.
Thoughts? Disagree? Post below.