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AT LARGE: A promise a day keeps the gripers away

AT LARGE: A promise a day keeps the gripers away

It's often said that in life, only two things are certain: death and taxes. It can be argued that the same cliché is true in technology: the stuff will break, and it will cost you.

Not only are these statements true of technology, they are the only statements that you can be certain of in technology. All else is speculation. I'm not telling you anything you don't know here - you've built your businesses largely by speculating. Which trend will be the way of the future? Which product will become a standard? Which company will dominate and show us the way? Almost every day, you've made a business decision based on some level of speculation and guesswork, and your success in business is testament to how often you're right.

Even so, I still hear some wildly fanciful stuff passed off as fact, and I'm continually amazed at how many people seem to believe it. What I'm about to tell you are some impossible things - not one of them is true. Yet they are widely believed and people who have built successful businesses are banking on them.

1. Windows NT 5 will deliver this year

2. When it delivers this year, Windows NT 5 will have directory services which will make Novell's NDS pale by comparison3. When it delivers this year with fantastic directory services, Windows NT 5 will include native support for Intel's 64-bit architectureThe truth is that Windows NT 5 will deliver eventually (maybe next year), and it will have an impressive set of directory services, and it will support IA-64. I just don't believe it will happen this year, despite MS's claims to the contrary.

It's an age-old tactic MS is employing here. It currently doesn't offer anything better than NDS, and it currently doesn't support IA-64, or at least not terribly well according to "sources close to the company". (Yes, I really do have friends over there.) Microsoft knows that if it had to compete now for the enterprise with what it currently offers, then its Novell and Unix oriented competitors would win with little contest.

Once upon a time, IBM kept its competitors at bay with a similar tactic. Back then, we called it "Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt" (FUD) - a phrase which seems to have lost currency. IBM used to hold its competitors under with claims that people buying non-IBM products faced uncertain consequences. "Nobody ever got fired . . ." and all that.

Microsoft's "Promise Something Better" (PSB) tactic is slightly friendlier, but it's just as procrastinatory. No, I don't know if that's a word, but I like it.

IBM's hold on the industry broke when people stopped buying into FUD and started buying into Compaq, HP and Digital. One can't help but wonder what would happen to Microsoft if people stopped buying into PSB.

QuickRant

A bit of a personal soapbox now. I've been seeing demos of Apple's QuickTime 3 software for over a year now, so when it finally became available to download I just did it.

At the time I downloaded the thing, I actually had some stuff I wanted to do. A simple video capture with a little bit of editing. Exactly the kind of thing QuickTime 2.5 was really good and quick at doing.

Once I'd downloaded the miraculous new QuickTime 3, I went to do my little bit of editing - and found that I couldn't do it. The basic version of QuickTime 3 is actually less functional (on the Mac at least) than QuickTime 2.5. If I want to do the same editing I used to be able to do with 2.5 (which was free) I have to buy the Pro version of QuickTime 3, which is $US29.95 through a Web site.

What's more, the basic version comes with an annoying movie about upgrading to QT3 Pro which developers have to include with the player. If they don't want to include the movie, they can distribute the installer without the nagware movie for a dollar per copy. A dollar per copy might be no biggie for the big developers, but there's a lot of people out there for whom that adds up to a significant slice of small profits.

Apple's done well out of QuickTime by making it available to everyone free of charge. I can certainly see that it would be wise to try and get some of its money back from such a successful product. But charging for things that used to be free and irritating end users (or bankrupting small developers) seems the wrong approach.


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