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No More Software! - Editorial

Editorial by No More Software!
You know, it used to be that as soon as an upgrade was offered, we all rushed out to upgrade our software. Have you noticed that we do things differently now?

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Let me explain: My work laptop has Microsoft Windows 98. The Microcontroller.com server is Windows 2000. My office software is Microsoft Office 2000. I make my PDF files using Adobe Acrobat 4, I'm still using Dreamweaver 4 and I've got Norton Antivirus 2001.

None of these is the latest software.

Now, before many of you start accusing me of being technically backwards, understand that I still exhibit obvious geek tendency of running out to check out every upgrade of software that I use. That happens to be a modification of a previous geek behavior of running out and buying every upgrade of the software that I use.

The question has now become, "Why Upgrade"? And this is a question that many software companies are now wrestling with - along with their dwindling sales.

The problem first surfaced about five years ago when McAfee (yes, I spelled it right) offered what they called an upgrade, of VirusScan v4 to v5. I don't know what McAfee is officially saying about it, but it was a disaster. It was basically the same program with a different user interface. Complaints about the "upgrade" were being posted on their forum faster than they could delete them (I was told they eventually shut down the forum). People saw exactly what was going on - McAfee used a version number as a sales gimmick, and it backfired on them badly. I suspect that, in reality, whilethey simply couldn't think of any new features to add to their software, they still had to make money so they could do things like, uh, pay their employees...

Now, I use Adobe Acrobat to generate important secure documents, like invoices for my marketing services. Using Acrobat 4, my invoices were only 7K in size. However, when I generated an Acrobat 5 version of the exact same document it swelled to 42K!!! Calls to Adobe's support line (remember when telephone support was free?) told me "oh, yeah, the files are just a little bigger now..." and two hours of fiddling with settings couldn't get them below 40K. I tried to tell the guy that bigger isn't always better, but that got him real insecure for some reason or other.

Here are some other examples:

  • Symantec has been removing features from SystemWorks since version 2000 - from 2001, to 2002, to 2003 they are removing features
  • Microsoft's Internet Explorer 6 should have been called IE5.6 - it wasn't that big of a deal, was it?
  • Hey, from the feedback I've been getting, Microsoft Office XP has been a corporate flop, people. How many new ways do you need to create a Word document?

Microsoft has a challenge of their own. They've recognized that except for people buying new PCs very few people are upgrading their Windows operating systems anymore. That's thay they have, quietly, taken a most unusual solution to the problem in typical Microsoft fashion: they've announced that Internet Explorer 6 will be the last general release version of Internet Explorer. So, guess how you get the next upgrade of IE? It comes with the next version of Windows! It makes me wonder what compelling features will be in IE7 to convince people to upgrade their OS, huh?

What we really want, is to use our computers for useful work rather than as a maintainance hobby.

- Bill Giovino
  Executive Editor


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