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In Search of Stupidity 183

Posted by samzenpus
from the you-don't-have-to-look-far dept.
Ben Rothke writes "In Search of Stupidity gets its title from the classic, albeit infamous business book In Search of Excellence: Lessons from America's Best-Run Companies, by Tom Peters and Robert Waterman. In Search of Excellence quickly became a best-seller when it came out in 1988 and launched a new era of management consultants and business books. But in 2001, Peters admitted that he falsified the underlying data. Librarians have been slow to move the book to the fiction section." Read the rest of Ben's review.
In Search of Stupidity: Over Twenty Years of High Tech Marketing Disasters, Second Edition
author Merrill Chapman
pages 373
publisher Apress
rating 9
reviewer Ben Rothke
ISBN 1590597214
summary Excellent analysis of hi-tech software marketing disasters


In Search of Stupidity is not a traditional business book; rather, it's a high-level analysis of marketing mistakes made by some of the biggest and most well-known high-tech companies over the last 20 years. The book contains numerous stories of somewhat smart companies that have made stupid marketing mistakes. The catastrophe is that these mistakes have led to the demise of many of these companies.

For those who have been in technology for a while, the book will be a somewhat nostalgic look at what has happened over the years from the world of high-tech marketing. Combined with Chapman's often hilarious observations, the book is a most enjoyable and fascinating read and is hard to put down once you start.

The first chapters of the book discuss the story and mythology around the origins of DOS. It details such luminaries as Digital Research, IBM, Microsoft, Bill Gates and Gary Kildall and more. The first myth about Microsoft is the presumption that the original contract with IBM for MS-DOS gave Microsoft an immediate and unfair advantage over its competitors. The reality is that over time, MS-DOS did indeed become Microsoft's cash cow; but it took the idiocy of Apple, IBM and others to make this happen.

The book also notes that throughout its history, Microsoft would consistently make the most of its competitor's mistakes and stupidity to its advantage. The book repeatedly notes that yes, Microsoft has not always been ethical or nice; but the reality is that such behavior has also been practiced by many in the software industry. Not that it rationalizes what Microsoft has done, and to a degree still does. But it is unfair to pinpoint Microsoft as the sole miscreant in the dirty software waters.

For the better part of the last decade, Microsoft has owned the desktop. But that was not always the case. In the early 1990's IBM was frantically working on its nascent OS/2 operating system, working alongside Microsoft as a trusted partner. IBM had the cash and talent to ensure that OS/2 would own the desktop. So why did OS/2 miserably fail? It was primarily IBM's own ineptitude in marketing OS/2 which led to Windows 95 taking over the desktop. The desktop was IBM's to lose and that is precisely what it did.

Microsoft at one point was working with IBM to develop OS/2 and many have written that Microsoft took advantage of IBM in that joint effort. But Chapman writes that complete and direct responsibility for the failure of OS/2 falls completely on IBM. He notes that it is difficult to find a marketing mistake around OS/2 that IBM did not make. At the time, the market was ready to accept almost any GUI and it was Microsoft that gave the people what they wanted. It was not so much that Microsoft beat IBM; rather that IBM imploded with OS/2 and Microsoft was there to pick up the pieces.

As to ownership of the desktop, Chapman notes that even with Microsoft's near endless budget, bullying tactics, and use of the FUD factor, those alone did not enable Microsoft to monopolize the desktop operating system market. Chapman notes that the following key factors, all which are unrelated and out of Microsoft's control had to take place in order for that to happen.

First, Xerox, the original inventor of the GUI had to never develop a clue about how to commercialize the groundbreaking product that came out of its own labs. Digital Research then had to blow off IBM when it came calling to them for an operating systems for the original IBM PC. IBM would then have to fall victim to Microsoft during its joint development of OS/2.

Finally, Apple would have to decide not to license the Macintosh operating system. That decision led Apple to have a 30% share of the desktop market in the early 1990's to its current irrelevant 4% share.

Chapman lists numerous secondary factors that also contributed to Microsoft's dominance. While the accepted wisdom is that Microsoft single-handedly cornered the desktop operating system market; the reality is that the ultimate success of Microsoft is as much a result of their near endless good luck combined with the recurring stupidity of its competition.

The stupidity of IBM and Apple gave the desktop market to Microsoft. Similarly, Novell gave the NOS market to them. In the mid-1990's, Novell owned the NOS market. Netware along with myriad CNE's (Certified Network Engineerswere the dominant force in network computing. When Windows NT version 3.1 shipped (it was really version 1.0), it was clearly inferior to Netware, as myriad product reviews stated.

Yet a few years later, Windows NT was the dominant NOS and Novell was struggling. While Netware was clearly superior to NT from a functionality perspective, the genius of Microsoft was that it knew better how to deal and communicate with its development community. Today, Netware is an irrelevant NOS and Novell has effectively abandoned it to primarily focus on its Linux strategy.

Exactly at the same time Microsoft was pushing Windows NT and wooing developers, Novell shutdown its third-party development center in Austin, TX. Novell also became preoccupied with its misguided purchase of WordPerfect. Novell developers were left hanging until Microsoft came calling with its promises of NT development and marketing support. Similarly, it was Novell failures that directly lead to the success of Windows NT.

Novell had myriad chances to decimate Windows, but it never stepped up to the plate. Novell's inexperienced marketing department thought that "if you built a great NOS, they would come." But come they did not, and leave Netware they did.

It is chapter 10 that will likely give Slashdot readers a fit. The author attempts to set straight additional myths around Microsoft: that their products are of poor quality, that they have only succeeded because of its market monopolies, that they are not innovative, and more. For those who want all of the details, they should read the book. But the authors notes for example that while Microsoft has been widely criticized for not being an innovative company, it is no different from companies such as Lotus, Borland, Xerox and more.

Most recently, when Microsoft found itself behind the 8-ball and lacking a browser, Internet Explorer was quickly developer and in time, surpassed the capability of Netscape Navigator. By 1998, most reviews were giving IE a higher rating than Navigator. Of course, Microsoft has more cash and developers than Netscape, but that alone was not what doomed them. Simultaneously, Netscape derailed itself in an attempt to completely rewrite Navigator in Java. This led them to the state where they would permanently fall behind Microsoft in the development race.

The book contains 12 chapters each with a different set of stupid marketing actions. Rather than simply being a Monday morning quarterback, chapter 14 contains an analysis of each scenario and what the respective companies should have done.

In Search of Stupidity: Over Twenty Years of High Tech Marketing Disasters is a most valuable book and is a wonderful read for anyone in the software industry. For those in sales and marketing, it is clearly required reading, and in fact, should be reread periodically. While In Search of Excellence turned out to be a fraud, In Search of Stupidity is genuine, and no names have been changed to protect the guilty.


You can purchase In Search of Stupidity: Over Twenty Years of High Tech Marketing Disasters, Second Edition from bn.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.
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In Search of Stupidity

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  • Executive Summary (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lord Grey (463613) * on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @04:07PM (#16956202)
    Hindsight is 20/20.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @04:17PM (#16956394)
      Mad Dog is 20/20
    • Re:Executive Summary (Score:5, Interesting)

      by thesandbender (911391) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @05:23PM (#16957348)
      I think comment is insightful in that it only reinforces flawed approaches that this book is trying to discuss and resolve. The review itself states that sections of the book are likely to give /.'ers fits because it tries to dispel common viewpoints in the IT industry of Microsoft being an underhanded company with a grossly inferior product.

      I worked on games published for Microsoft ("Close Combat") and the level of effort that Microsoft put into the polishing and marketing of that game was astounding... especially when compared to work that the prior publishers of the V for Victory series had done.

      Microsoft is underhanded at times and their products are technically inferior to other solutions. But the reason that Microsoft is successful is because they understand their customers very, very well. I am not their customer... my parents are. The unwashed masses of /. are not their customers... corporations are. They're not going to make much money off us so they don't care about us... their focus and their concern is on those customers. Which is exactly what a business *should do* and how businesses succeed.

      The point of this book is that other companies did not do this and that is why they failed. It may be 20/20 hindsight but the message is a core fundamental of even basic business classes and the failures documented in this book just prove that the lessons were not always learned.

      (And I'm tied to the book in anyway and haven't worked for Microsoft in any manner for a loong time.)
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jc42 (318812)
        The review itself states that sections of the book are likely to give /.'ers fits because it tries to dispel common viewpoints in the IT industry of Microsoft being an underhanded company with a grossly inferior product.

        Well, I understood the review as saying that this is quite true, but it doesn't much matter because the other companies are also underhanded and have inferior products. They just aren't as good at underhanded marketing of inferior products as Microsoft is.

        Did I read the review wrong?

        (And lin
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mblase (200735)
      Hindsight is 20/20.

      And those who do not learn from their history are doomed to repeat it.
    • by plumby (179557)
      A phrase often said by managers who ignored all the warnings and dismissed the people giving them as "negative".

      Of course you are sometimes hit by things that you couldn't expect, or should have been able to ignore. But in my experience it's the blatantly obvious, but overlooked/ignored (the "elephant under the carpet") that's going to get you 9 times out of 10.
  • by shidarin'ou (762483) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @04:11PM (#16956294) Homepage
    Because if not, the amount of time you spend on the first chapter, and ignore the rest, seems a little disproportionate and uninformative.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by (A)*(B)!0_- (888552)
      Not only that, he's not really viewing the one chapter he talks about; he's merely summarizing it.

      This barely qualifies as a review.

    • by twitter (104583) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @09:03PM (#16960008) Homepage Journal

      Yes, if the summary is accurate, the whole book is some kind of, "M$ is the geniuz, and everyone else is the stupid," apology. Every one of those stories is easily dissmissed by use of memory, or reading old articles and the Microsoft Anti-Trust Trials. The destrution of Microsoft's former partners and competitors is mostly a matter of licensing and vendor deals that locked everyone else out. They have paid for those deals again and again and had judgment after judgement thrown at them. Their stratagy of destroying "loss leaders" instead of inventing things is something they brag about to shareholders.

      The inside cover of this book should be a mirror. That way, anyone who's bought this book in a "search for stupidity" will find it when they open it. The publishers and Microsoft will agree.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by flnca (1022891)
        The book isn't that far off from reality. I've seen it all happening myself, watching the computer industry since the early 1980ies.

        And you cannot blame it on the users, per se, either.

        OS/2 was a failure only because IBM canned it too early -- in 1996, just when the market for OS/2 was finally gaining momentum. And nowadays, if OS/2 still existed, it would be the ideal choice for many users who wanted to escape Windows Vista. Also, banks and insurances would still be using OS/2 (being traditional IBM custom
        • Java, yes. I sometimes wonder if we dug up those old java versions of openoffice and netscape, wouldn't they run a lot better on today's superior JVMs? I know of at least two large Java apps that have gone from being overexhausting my machine to not breaking a sweat (JEdit and NetBeans).
  • by DiamondGeezer (872237) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @04:14PM (#16956346) Homepage
    ...there should be an entire twenty-volume set of all the mistakes that Novell have made and continue to make.
    • by AK Marc (707885)
      Since the "review" (summary, if you ask me, and they are different things) didn't mention it, I suppose it wasn't listed as a primary reason, but there is one very very important Novell piece left out. They latched onto IPX as a better LAN protocol. They are right, but they refused to natively support IP long after everyone wanted IP for Internet connectivity. Given the choice of IP only and NT or IP and IPX with Novell, and people didn't want the trouble of IPX. If they had embraced IP earlier, they'd
  • catastrophe? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by stoolpigeon (454276) * <bittercode@gmail> on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @04:18PM (#16956416) Homepage Journal
    The catastrophe is that these mistakes have led to the demise of many of these companies.
     
    Maybe this is a fine point, but I can think of a lot of catastrophes in the last 20 years and none of them has to do with the demise of any company. I know it may be traumatic for those involved but catastrophe seems a bit strong. And from what I gather from the review, most of the companies mentioned still exist, though they are possibly not as dominant as they once were.
    • by Bent Mind (853241)
      The catastrophe is that these mistakes have led to the demise of many of these companies. And from what I gather from the review, most of the companies mentioned still exist,

      If you want see some truly catastrophic marketing mistakes, take a look at the history of Atari. They had a very innovative computer at one time. However, all that is left of them is the brand name.
  • by brokeninside (34168) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @04:20PM (#16956442)
    Assertion: It was primarily IBM's own ineptitude in marketing OS/2 which led to Windows 95 taking over the desktop.

    Microsoft already had almost complete control over the desktop before Windows 95 was released. Some of this was due to IBM's mistakes with OS/2. Some of this was due to Microsoft's predatory licensing practices. But the single largest reason has nothing to do with either of these factors. IBM's competitors didn't want to subsidize IBM's hardware division by preloading software from it's software division. I remember an interview with the CEO of Compaq. When asked about the possibility of preloading OS/2, he laughed and said something like, ``yeah, right, I'm going to preload the software of a direct competitor on my machines.''

    IBM's biggest blunders with OS/2 didn't come until after Windows 95. The ``OS/2 obliterates my software'' campaign was certainly a disaster. So was the gamble that IBM's PSP division made on blowing almost the entire OS/2 v.4 budget on a the stillborn port of OS/2 to the PowerPC chip. But as large as these mistakes were, they were made too late in the game to affect the outcome.

    • > IBM's biggest blunders with OS/2 didn't come until after Windows 95

      That wasn't a blunder by IBM. That was a deliberate marketing decision by Microsoft. Windows 95 was released about six months ahead of schedule. One month it was going to be due in summer, the next month it was to be on store shelves by Christmas.

      The way that I see it:

      Microsoft blindsided IBM and doomed the computer industry with Windows 95. Microsoft and IBM were in a race for years to see who would own the desktop. Microsoft deduced, correctly, that whatever OS people picked up next, no matter what it was or who it came from, would become the default OS simply because people, after paying $100 for one, weren't going to shell out another $100 even if the first was completely broken. Windows 95, known in beta as Chicago, was falling progressively further and further behind schedule and it looked like IBM and OS/2 were going to sweep the field.

      So what did MS do? They took a horrific beta edition, Chicago, slapped enough duct tape and bubblegum on it so that it would work, with massive amounts of coaxing, on just over half of the high volume production systems being shipped, and put it on the store shelves about six months before it had been scheduled to be released. They didn't make a better product but they did get the first product onto the shelves. Coupling it with a monstrosity of an EULA and the budding resistance from stores to refund money for unuseable (but opened) software Microsoft managed to turn the entire American population into a free army of beta testers and socially engineered them to accept sub-par software as a norm. The majority of American consumers didn't know any better, knew nothing about the acceptable levels of software quality, and when Win95 broke repeatedly they, lemminglike, kept calling customer support centers until someone would promise to ship them a floppy or a CD with the necessary patches for their hardware.

      How did IBM lose? They stuck to schedule and attempted to uphold their standards of software functionality before releasing it onto the public.

      What did the computer industry gain? A .com boom-bust, the triumph of x86 architecture over m68k architecture (not really a gain but that's the way things went), the enormous expansion and mangling of years and years of carefully planned and thought out standards, and an "all sales final" reputation of a seedy used car salesman. Well, it made a few millionaires too but you'd never guess it by looking at the horrendously tangled mess that is the internet and the industry these days.

      Thank you Microsoft for bringing all of the stray cats and dogs from the whole neighborhood to play/poop/pee in the carefully planned sandbox that we had.
      • by brokeninside (34168) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @04:57PM (#16957006)
        OS/2 v2 had years of a head start on Windows 95. OS/2 Warp had a ten month head start. The fact of the matter is that both of these had insignificant market share when compared to DOS/Windows 3.1. So all your points about how IBM was blindsided by Windows 95 are irrelevant.

        And the reason for this is simple: preloads. Consumers very rarely upgrade their operating system. Instead they prefer to run the system that their computer came with. This holds true to today where Microsoft's largest competitor for Vista is itself because no one wants to upgrade without a compelling reason. And IBM couldn't get any of its competitors (Compaq, HP, NEC, DEC, Packard-Bell, etc.) to preload OS/2 for a very simple reason, none of them wanted to be beholden to one of their largest rivals for an operating system.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by niks42 (768188)
          One of IBMs biggest mistakes was venturing down the OS/2 route (CPDOS in its development days) in the first place. IBM was ignoring the fact that it already had a 32-bit capable, virtualising, multiuser multitasking operating system that could run on 386 hardware. It was AIX. Now think about that, in the decision matrices going on in Boca Raton in 1986. I can recall when people came over from Austin, TX to demonstrate AIX to the CPDOS development team in Building 227/229.

          Think about it - we might have had

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            The people at Boca Raton seem to have thought that they could prevent some of the perceived flaws of Unix, and wanted to provide some level of familiarity to developers comming from DOS.

            When I was involved with OS/2 and its development, AIX, and Unix in general were considered outdated and flawed, esp. with regards to scheduling and priority management. Considering how systems like OS/2 and BeOS perform under heavy load, and seeing how esp. the schedulers of modern Unix systems look little like what was the
        • by plover (150551) * on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @06:47PM (#16958542) Homepage Journal
          Absolutely, preloads were the key to Microsoft's success. Yes, the IBM clone competition had a large part to play in preloading Windows, especially since IBM was threatening them with the PS/2 line and its patented, locked-down architecture. But there were other IBM "stupidity" factors that helped kill OS/2, also.

          I remember back then when IBM trotted their dog'n'pony show through our conference rooms trying to convince us that since Presentation Manager was 32-bit and the Microsoft stuff was a half-assed combination of 16-bit thunks running inside 32-bit windowing that the only intelligent decision was to pick OS/2 for our new development.

          Back at this time, IBM still proudly wore the crown of the Kings of FUD, and we techies didn't respect them for it. Anyone with an IQ of 80+ could see that new development would be only on 32-bit systems anyway, and the whole thunking argument was just bullshit for salesmen to shovel to ignorant VPs.

          IBM fervently believed that if they could sell OS/2 4.0 to Corporate America (TM) then OS/2 was the winner. Most people reading this won't appreciate just how much they believed this, but that was the truth. IBM was exactly like a rich poker player who bets his entire bankroll on one good hand and figures he has bought the pot. They had true TCP/IP networking (not that shitty Trumpet Winsock.) They had true multitasking, (not the idle-time-sharing kludge that was Windows 3.1.) They had their WoW layer (the original precursor to WINE) that would run Windows 3.1 apps right inside OS/2 (although back then virtually every useful Windows app violated the Windows API for performance or hardware reasons.) And they had performed huge amounts of quality control testing. OS/2 4.0 was, for its day, a solid operating system. It absolutely kicked ass over Windows 3.1, and was far superior to Windows 95. They had every technical reason to believe they had a superior product.

          Finally for the "cool rollout factor" to appeal to geeks everywhere, they had Leonard Nimoy as their pitchman. What geek wouldn't automatically trust Spock to make the logical choice of operating systems?

          But to IBM, home computers were almost irrelevant. Microsoft, on the other hand, aggressively made sure that Windows 3.1 (and 3.11 and WfW) came preinstalled on every computer sold. And while they wanted to get into big corporations, they realized they were making their money one sale at a time, and one small workgroup at a time. By sliding in the back door, they became dominant before IBM sold a single copy of Warp. People running WfW migrated to NT 3.1, and then to NT 3.5. People running Windows 3.1 believed Microsoft, upgraded to Windows 95, and then bought new computers that could actually handle the added CPU and disk loads. And with Windows 95's native reliance on DOS, most of those broken Windows 3.1 apps were able to continue to function (unlike WoW on OS/2.)

          IBM was shattered. Our account reps walked around looking like dogs that had been beaten for crapping on the carpet. They seriously and honestly thought that their better product and their sales to every Fortune 100 company was how you played hardball and won these games. After all, that's how they ruthlessly and utterly dominated the mainframe market for over a generation. But in the end, it turned out to be a popularity contest, and they had actually been beaten before they knew the game was on.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by joto (134244)

        OS/2 died when Windows 3.0 started getting bundled with new computers. Whatever happened after that was completely irrelevant, and everybody that was involved with computers back then knew it!

        I agree that between the releases of Windows 3.1x and Windows 95, IBM tried a number of desperate marketing campaigns to regain some of their lost mindshare. I don't think they even dared to hope to become "the next windows" anymore, but maybe at least a sizeable alternative. But it was all futile. It didn't matter h

    • I'd agree - I was around developing software at the time of OS/2 Warp, Win95 etc, and my general impression was that Windows 3.1x ownz0red the desktop. With OS/2, I always felt that IBM had to come up with a really good reason why you'd want to run it instead of Windows...and they never did (to be fair, I was running NT 3.1/3.5 around that time, so it was harder to convince me). It always seemed like a 'different' GUI rather than a better one. And the 'it runs all your Windows apps' adverts just made me

      • by operagost (62405)
        Apparently you did not run games, terminal applications, a BBS, or even more than one applications at once because those were the biggest reasons for running OS/2. The GUI was OO and solid (there's a reason to run it over NT's crufty Program Manager), but being able to run your DOS games without exiting your GUI and running Word and Excel simultaneously without corrupting the whole OS if one crashed was pretty much a killer application. Isn't that kind of stability why you ran NT 3.x? OS/2 ran a lot more
        • by Fred_A (10934)
          However, in the end, as the parent poster pointed out, all OS/2 was really used for was running Windows apps since nobody bothered to write apps for it.

          I too poked quite a bit at OS/2 2.x but in the end I just switched to Unix where at least I could multitask *and* run native software.

          The real problem with OS/2 2 was that for 99% of users there was absolutely no point in using it unless they already lived in OS/2 1.3 land (as a number of banks apparently did at the time). It was a pretty impressive system a
          • Far from being an advantage, the Windows compatibility killed OS/2 because it was the only thing most people saw in it. "It runs Windows better than Windows !" "Well, if it's to run Windows stuff, I'll stick to what I know". End of story.

            Are you seriously suggesting that the OS that ran Windows apps badly (Windows) outsold the OS that ran them well (OS/2) merely because users wanted native apps? Perhaps there's a more plausible reason such as no other PC manufacturer were prepared to preload an OS from on
            • I believe this has something to do with a thing called mindshare.
            • by Fred_A (10934)
              I was referring to a common theme of the IBM marketing at the time "it runs Windows better than Window" was typically used (at least in Europe) as a central selling point. Yet another IBM blunder.

              When you've got the choice between what you already know, *and* is already on your machine, *and* is already paid for, you're not going to go try some exotic OS that you're going to have to learn how to use just because it has some Windows compatibility mode that's supposedly better than the real thing. The fact th
              • So it wasn't being compatible with Windows that killed OS/2 it was the fact that it wasn't on every machine. Thank you now please say that from now on.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by rk (6314) *

        I tried like heck to get us to use OS/2 desktop systems at a place I worked in 1993. I gave up when I tried to connect our IBM brand (PS/ValuePoint!) PCs, running IBM's OS/2, to an IBM midrange computer, using an IBM 5250 emulation card, only to be told by IBM technical support that the 5250 software written by IBM only supported Microsoft Windows. At this point, I knew OS/2 was doomed as a desktop OS. When you can't even convince another division of your own company to interoperate with your product, you

    • > When asked about the possibility of preloading OS/2, he laughed and said something like, ``yeah, right, I'm going to preload the software of a direct competitor on my machines.''

      I think that is a good point. It is usually assumed that having two businesses in one company leads to synergy. Reason given are that you can bundle solutions, you can focus your brand etc etc.

      However, being in several fields of business can also be a problem. IBM doing hardware and software is an example: you would assume that
    • by khasim (1285)
      In 1994 Microsoft signed a "consent decree" because of their "per processor" agreements with the OEM's.

      So it would seem that Microsoft already owned the desktop market prior to 1995.

      http://www.wired.com/news/antitrust/0,1551,35212,0 0.html [wired.com]
    • From my perspective the IBM PS/2 line of computers killed IBM's dominance and lead to the dramatic rise of Compaq, Dell and others. The rise of clones lead to the rise of the generic (non-IBM) OS which was MS-DOS.

      In the mid 80's I was doing field service on PCs and IBM had almost complete dominance in hardware and OS (PC-DOS). There was a Compaq here and there and a few other clones but they were very rare. When the PS/2 came out the customers I dealt with were pissed.

      They has brought a PC then an XT then a
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Bozdune (68800)
        I totally agree that the PS/2 killed IBM's hardware business. Before the PS/2, IT departments buying PC's said, "Why not IBM?" After the PS/2, it was "Why IBM?" IBM pissed everyone off, including me. I probably told hundreds of clients not to buy PS/2's, and everyone I know who was in a position to recommend PC hardware did the same. Everyone flushed the toilet at once. It was amazing to watch.

        However, this has nothing to do with the software business. The point is, and this is made by other commenta
      • the IBM PS/2 line of computers killed IBM's dominance

        I could not agree more. The MCA expansion slots were a design nightmare with a huge license fee to prevent other computer makers from using it. ISA sucked, but it was relatively open and made it easy to design add in boards that would work in machines from multiple vendors.

        Gah! I still have a book shelf full of the constantly moving timing requirements for that stinker of an asynchronous bus. It was very easy to end up with a MCA add in card that would

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by _Sprocket_ (42527)

        They has brought a PC then an XT then an AT and kept all the same peripherals, monitors, add in cards, software, etc through the upgrades. Here was a new computer that was incompatible with everything they already had. Granted it was time for an upgrade, but consumers saw it as lock in and they hated it. People started buying clones in droves and the IBM dominance was dead. By the time windows 95 came out I rarely saw am IBM brand PC in a small business office.

        And here is a hint of the true source of Micr

  • Do we really need to search for stupdity in high-tech marketing? I can't seem to escape those Microsoft Office dionsaur ads.
  • /em stands up

    I am right here, you don't have to keep on looking. Sorry if finding me delayed anythign important. I will still be here latter if now is not a good time. /em sits back down
  • by nani popoki (594111) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @04:26PM (#16956548) Homepage
    who can top Osborne's "If you think this model is great, just wait to see what we'll have for you next year!"?
  • Has anyone else read this book? Is this primarily focused on Apple/IBM/Novell/Microsoft, or are there other 'stupid' business decisions included as well. I'd be surprised if the AOL/TimeWarner merger wasn't included. Even decisions such as Gateway's cow themed retail stores probably rank high enough to mention. Unfortunately neither B&N or Amazon have a Look Inside or even an Index posted for this book.
    • by siberian (14177)
      I read this book awhile back and while it was interesting it is highly focused on the timespan when the author was 'in the industry' and leaves out vast swathes of recent history.

      Still, its a good and entertaining read. You also get to pull out some truisms that really can help your day to day life if your in product management, engineering management or deal with marketing folks on a regular basis. I find myself regularly applying some of the lessons I took out of it.

      Quick read, you can eat it in a few hou
    • Table of Contents [apress.com]
      1. Introduction
      2. First Movers, First Mistakes: IBM, Digital Research, Apple, and Microsoft
      3. A Rather Nutty Tale: IBM and the PC Junior
      4. Positioning Puzzlers: MicroPro and Microsoft
      5. We Hate You, We Really Hate You: Ed Esber, Ashton-Tate, and Siebel Systems
      6. The Idiot Piper: OS/2 and IBM
      7. Frenchman Eats Frog, Chokes to Death: Borland and Philippe Kahn
      8. Brands for the Burning: Intel, Motorola, and Google
      9. From Godzilla to Gecko: The Long, Slow Decline of Novell
      10. Ripping PR Yarns: Microsoft and
    • What GEC did in the late '90s puts many other company cockups very much into perspective.

      Google for "gec disaster marconi weinstock" and you'll get a selection of articles, including the Telegraph's obituary of Lord Weinstock.

  • by HBI (604924) <kparadine AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @04:27PM (#16956574) Homepage Journal
    10%? Maybe. But never much above that after the mid-80s. 5-10% was the estimate range back in the early 90s and it has since declined.
  • by King_TJ (85913) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @04:30PM (#16956614) Journal
    As a big OS/2 supporter back in its heyday, I can attest to the fact that IBM shot itself in the foot, repeatedly, in their half-baked attempts to sell that product. Any idea that Microsoft "killed" OS/2 is nothing but revisionist history B.S.

    OS/2 had a fanatical base of users who really wanted to see it take over. Quite a few open source utilities and apps were ported over, in attempts to bolster its "credibility" as a powerful OS. Entire magazines were published just for it. It had IRC channels devoted to it. And I remember the excitement OS/2 users had every time a commercial app would finally get native 32-bit support for it. But IBM did such boneheaded maneuvers as selling a whole line of PCs that came preloaded with *Windows* and weren't even certified as compatible with OS/2. They barely even tried to sell their last version of Warp, v4.0 "Merlin" - despite it having numerous innovative features that could have easily been marketed to the public as good reasons to buy it. (The integration of IBM's voice recognition and dictation system with the OS was years ahead of the competition, for example.)

    The OS/2 community tried to keep on supporting the OS long after IBM gave up on it, in fact. But eventually, it just became pointless to try to run a "dead" OS with no driver support for any new peripherals, etc.

    I will say though, in defense of Apple, they doggedly stuck to their original business model - which was really the model *every* brand of computer was sold with, before MS-DOS and "IBM compatible" became the "industry standard". If they caved in and started selling PC clones, or licensed out MacOS back then, where would they be today? You can say their unwillingness to change forced them down to 5% sales vs. 30% or more ... but I'd argue that if they did change, they might well be out of the computer hardware market completely today. (Asking Apple to drop their "proprietary" business model is essentially the same as asking them to become a software vendor, iPods not withstanding.)
    • This thing was clearly superior to Windows, and had a fanatical user base. Yet, IBM pretty much left us with no support. There idea of porting an app to OS/2 was to slap a sticker on a Win 3.1 app saying it will run in emulation on OS/2.

      Eventually, I had to realize that, if the developers of OS/2 won't support it, there is not point to me doing so. I un-installed it, put Windows back on, boxed up what I had of OS/2 Warp, and threw the whole shebang in the nearest dumpster.

      They really had something there.
    • Many ATM ( cash machines ) are powered by OS2 - even today. NCR, at least.
    • by sphealey (2855) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @05:27PM (#16957422)
      From the OP: === Microsoft at one point was working with IBM to develop OS/2 and many have written that Microsoft took advantage of IBM in that joint effort. But Chapman writes that complete and direct responsibility for the failure of OS/2 falls completely on IBM. He notes that it is difficult to find a marketing mistake around OS/2 that IBM did not make. ===
      Even worse: Jerry Pournelle, who at that point was still an influential person in the PC industry, documented the mistakes IBM was making with OS/2 in real time. And discussed them one-on-one with the top dudes and dudettes on IBM's OS/2 team. And documented their lack of responses to the problems in real time.

      And IBM still didn't listen.

      sPh

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by asuffield (111848)

      They barely even tried to sell their last version of Warp, v4.0 "Merlin" - despite it having numerous innovative features that could have easily been marketed to the public as good reasons to buy it.

      The irony here is that the last version of Warp was "Aurora", the should-have-been-v5.0 version that was finally released, in a blaze of no publicity at all, as "OS/2 Warp Server for e-Business". They tried so hard not to sell it that you haven't even heard of it - the policy was to tell nobody but the large ent

    • I remember the marketing for OS/2 Warp. If I hadn't already known that it was an OS, I'd have concluded they were selling a web browser.
    • As I recall, there was a point when both Windows (3.x) and OS/2 were concurrently being developed by Microsoft. This caused confusion in the development community -- which OS should they target? Microsoft responded by saying "develop for Windows" and we will provide a migration tool to OS/2. This, I think, is were Microsoft really out-maneuvered IBM. They successfully captured the developer community and convinced them to target Windows (partly by providing superior tools and documentation). Once more

    • Yup... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Greyfox (87712)
      I got into OS/2 while doing development for a small company and was an IBM phone support guy and later one of the people who answered questions on the various online networks, so I got to see this all from the inside. IBM had this corporate attitude that PCs were toys and that anyone who wanted to do real computing would buy a mainframe with a "real" OS anyway. Several times I heard developers scoffing at the idea of really trying to do multitasking on a lowly PC.

      AFAIK the only machine you could ever get

      • OS/2 preloaded on... the crappy PS/1 from freaking Sears

        Well, when you say it that way it doesn't sound so great.

    • by igb (28052)
      I seem to recall that one key difference was that Microsoft gave away (near enough) development kits for Windows, reckoning that lots of applications was good for them. Whereas IBM sold development kits as a profit centre, figuring that developers should pay for the privilege.

      Certainly today, MSDN can't possibly cover its costs directly. But Microsoft's great asset is all the ISVs who develop to their API. I didn't follow Apple `back in the day', but I get the impression that their current supportive a

  • From the Article: "Apple would have to decide not to license the Macintosh operating system."

    Apple and others did a lot of stupid things to give Microsoft the desktop. Few would claim the Windows 3.1, the first popular version, was even half as good as Mac OS at the time. However, Microsoft got Windows 3.1 to work on the VGA graphics "IBM Compatible" computers that people already owned. Furthermore, Windows 3.1 could run almost all of the DOS software that people already had.

    The Mac OS GUI features requi
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by iocat (572367)
      I remember being at company in the early 1990s which was developing products for Windows 3.0, OS/2 and Macintosh. OS/2... There was just no one steering that boat. Windows 3.0... I didn't believe, until we got our retail copies, that it would ship with those horrid fonts. It was sooo not ready for prime time. Apple... they just fucking hated us, because we weren't Apple, or Claris, or Apple. From my perspective, they pretty much did everything they could to dissuade us from developing our products for the M
  • 1982 (Score:5, Informative)

    by behindthewall (231520) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @04:42PM (#16956776)
    "In Search of Excellence" came out in 1982, not 1988 as indicated in this topic's summary. I remember having to deal with it in 1984.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_Search_Of_Excellen ce [wikipedia.org]
    • Was it translated into newspeak?
    • So, is this the same book I remember? Isn't there a chapter on the ISOE profiled companies 10-20 years down the road? As I recall, that was the most damning part: the companies held up as examples stagnated and fell from grace, or simply didn't grow or innovate.
  • by david_thornley (598059) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @04:56PM (#16956986)

    In reading the review, I was struck by several points.

    Microsoft did have a big advantage when the first IBM PCs were shipped: MS-DOS, under the name of PC-DOS, was shipped by default. You could get (IIRC) CP/M-86 or the UCSD p-system, but most people had no reason to do so. I would think that Microsoft did have a big advantage with the first contract, contrary to what the reviewer says.

    Nor is the account of how Microsoft won the desktop at all correct. By the time there was a Windows 95, Microsoft had already won. Windows 3.1 and Windows for Workgroups were standard, and the question at the companies I knew was whether to upgrade to 95 or NT. IBM's OS/2 was not so much a competitor as a challenger. The real story is back when Windows first came out, and was competing with several other desktops for the IBM PC and clones. They were all crappy products then, including Windows, but Windows came out on top. Why? The reviewer does not suggest that the book has much to say about this.

    The view of Apple seems odd, to say the least. I don't think the Macintosh ever had near 30% of the marketshare. If we're talking about the Apple II, that went the way of the other major systems when the IBM PC came out, and there was nothing Apple could do about it. Anything that wasn't strictly compatible with the IBM PC was a fringe market at best. Radio Shack's Tandy 2000 was a superior product, with its own versions of the major software of the time, and it tanked. The major problem Apple had was not that it didn't license its software, but that its software was not IBM-compatible. Licensing the Macintosh OS might have helped, or it might have hurt, but it couldn't have given Apple a 30% market share. This gives me the feeling that the author doesn't understand the issues, and just makes assumptions as to what would work.

    In short, this is not a convincing review. It suggests that the book is inaccurate, glosses over important issues, and makes unwarranted assumptions when convenient.

    • by oliderid (710055)
      Another questionnable point is the IBM's failure with the PS/2 architecture. OS/2 was branded as the OS for this new architecture (which amongst other things tried to replace the ISA BUS).

      IBM tried to force Taiwan manufacturers to adopt its new architecture. There was a small technologic gain over the ISA bus, but nothing that impressive and they failed miserably.
  • by operagost (62405) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @05:02PM (#16957072) Homepage Journal
    Most recently, when Microsoft found itself behind the 8-ball and lacking a browser, Internet Explorer was quickly developer and in time, surpassed the capability of Netscape Navigator.
    ... by licensing Spyglass's technology (and ripping them off in the process).
    • by Alomex (148003)
      BS. While Microsoft did license Spyglass' code and did rip them in the process by bullying them into a pittance of a payment, Spyglass' browser was waaaaaaay crappier than Netscape or the first version of Internet Explorer.
      • I don't care how much better IE was compared to mosaic or what it was. It still was based on that so it wasn't starting from scratch.

        What the book said was a the tale of microsoft being late and quick to develop an alternative, but it wasn't developed from scratch so the whole point of the book was moot for that example, and since the writer seems less informed than slashdot regulars like me, I guess I'll keep reading comments here instead of buying his book :D
        • by Alomex (148003)

          It was pretty much developed from scratch. The code from Spyglass was pretty useless and back then (pre-frame, pre-CSS world) developing a whole new browser wasn't that hard. Today it would take several years, as Mozilla learned.


          • It was pretty much developed from scratch. The code from Spyglass was pretty useless

            Still, it was a working implementation. You're saying the code was so poor that even people accustomed to work with microsoft code (same microsoft who can't modularize a browser into an OS :) ) couldn't do much with it? Ain't that a lil' hard to believe?
            • by Alomex (148003)

              people accustomed to work with microsoft code

              Microsoft code is no worse than the rest of the industry. FOSS fanboys used to sneer at the high-bug-rate memory-hogging IE, and guess what? when firefox came out it was (and still is) equally buggy and memory hoggy.
              • (Trying not to recall again the smoking pile of crap MS Office preloaded on my 1997 mac was...)

                I use firefox on linux and explorer on windows, so i keep well separate the OSS and the proprietary stacks, as features and stability go, Firefox has its share of bugs but stability and feature wise 1.5 was much better than ie6, so it would have to experience LOTS more problems if code quality were the same: on the other hand explorer couldn't be easily modularized as a separate component in the OS, w98 is said to
    • by _Sprocket_ (42527)
      The "innovation" quip also stuck out for me. I used to get a chuckle out of seeing criticism of Microsoft innovation. Long diatribes about the origionation of the GUI as we know it from Xerox PARC to Apple were interesting historical exercises. But I never found it particularly damning of Microsoft (or Apple). Things changed when Microsoft themselves started to push the "innovation" meme. It took on an even darker tone when Microsoft claimed that their business model was the sole path to continued "inn
  • by proxy318 (944196) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @05:12PM (#16957206)
    I don't have to search for stupid. It comes to me.
  • by pcubbage (78216) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @05:15PM (#16957246) Homepage
    Speaking of folklore, Gary Kihdal DID do a deal with IBM and did publish CP/M for the PC. It took a while and IBM had it's doubts and went back to Bill Gates who came up with DOS. Two things happened:

    1. DOS had an amazing (for the time) street price of $49 and was out first.
    2. CP/M came later had a street price around $225
    3. Game over.

    Did Gates not devlop, but rather buy, DOS from Seattle Computer Products and push it out? Yes.
    Did Gates know OEM's business model from selling BASIC to several and price DOS for that? Yes.
    • You could run regular CP/M-86 on a PC long before the DR release came out, though you had to do a fair amount of patching to link to the BIOS (not unusual for CP/M at the time) if you wanted any sort of I/O at all (e.g., text, write to the floppy, etc.). It mostly just amounted to moving things around so they were in the right registers, calling the hardware BIOS, and moving things back to where they were supposed to be for CP/M.

      The problem was, pre-Google (heck, pre Gopher and news groups) it was a pai

    • by doom (14564)
      Quoting the review:

      Digital Research then had to blow off IBM when it came calling to them for an operating systems for the original IBM PC.

      pcubbage wrote:

      Gary Kihdal DID do a deal with IBM and did publish CP/M for the PC. It took a while

      Yes, it "took a while", in fact it took too long for it to matter. IBM released the PC with PC-DOS (essentially, MS-DOS), CP/M happened later -- and if IBM was willing to ship boxes with CP/M pre-installed, that's news to me, I didn't hear about anything like that

  • chilling effect (Score:5, Insightful)

    by epine (68316) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @05:22PM (#16957330)
    Tom Peters did not admit to "faking the data" in any substantive way. He poked a sharp pin into self-importance of business consulting (and by implication their purportedly yet rarely-in-practice objective data-driven metholodogy) that the editor of Fast Company then spun for cheap thrills and effect. What we end up with here, at the end of the day, is a world where self-important people become to afraid to poke fun at their own self-importance, for fear that their remarks will become an eggregiously misconstrued sound-bite spun for cheap thrills and effect to pawn a second-rate parody twenty years later. We all snigger at this revelation, before heading off to the pub to complain about stuffed-shirts acting like stuffed-shirts, in a climate we ourselves have created through our ill-considered sniggers where it is too dangerous for a stuffed-shirt to risk the slightest statement of self-mockery. I have seen the enemy, and he is us.
    • What we end up with here, at the end of the day, is a world where self-important people become to afraid to poke fun at their own self-importance, for fear that their remarks will become an eggregiously misconstrued sound-bite spun for cheap thrills and effect to pawn a second-rate parody twenty years later.

      No, self important people are by definition unwilling to poke fun at themselves. That's what it means to be self important.

      We all snigger at this revelation, before heading off to the pub to complai

  • you have come to the right place.
  • I'm amazed at the claim that IBM's marketing sunk OS/2. Their marketing may have been marginal , but there were many other deeper reasons OS/2 didnt make it:
    • OS/2 was tied to the old 80286 architecture, as IBM was making lots of PS/2 boxes with 286's. That was a major millstone around its neck-- it could never do any of the clever real to protected mode switching and emulation that Windows 3.1 could do.
    • IBM had a lot of programmers in the UK assigned to OS/2. Distance, before the Internet, was a big h
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by flnca (1022891)
      What you're not saying is that all of the above applies only to OS/2 version 1.3 and below. OS/2 2.11, Warp 3 and Warp 4 not only had a great GUI that was far beyond that of Windows in terms of functionality (like the CORBA compatible component-based Workplace Shell that was truly object-oriented and fully integrated into the user experience), but also that they fully supported 80386 and above microprocessors. The second-to-last version of IBM Visual Age for C++ (V3.5) optimized well even for Pentium II an
  • by hellfire (86129) <deviladv@g m a i l . com> on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @05:43PM (#16957696) Homepage
    Market share is just one of many factors determining the success of a company, but it's not the only one. Apple has higher revenues than Dell right now, and is making sweet profits, which is an even bigger factor in success.

    Licensing, I agree, would be a great boon for consumers, but there is no evidence than it would have been good for Apple. It was a conscious decision not to do it because licensing would undermine their hardware sales, which was of course later proven when they actually did license the OS!! Yes they lost market share, but they retained revenues they couldn't get any way else at the time. Therefore calling it a mistake is a typical fallacy that far too many techies and tech business types make because they fail to look at apple's real business model.

    This book seems to be a skimming of information from moderated slashdot comments. This might be a good book for someone new to the idea, but there doesn't seem to be anything good here. Plenty of company bashing we've all done before, and nothing new to add. Nothing to see here... move along.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by gitchel (858517)
      Actually, Apple's revenue for FY2005 was about $13B. Dell's was about $49B. Not real close. Dell made more profit and more return on stock, too, I think, but I'm late for something and can't look that up right now. On the other hand, Apple made much better equipment, created more brand loyalty, held tightly to its 5-6% market share, ruled a few non-computer markets, and - in the end - really made more people truely happy. You simply must have been adding in their karmic revenue :-D
    • by albanac (214852)

      Market share is just one of many factors determining the success of a company, but it's not the only one. Apple has higher revenues than Dell right now, and is making sweet profits, which is an even bigger factor in success.

      o_0 Is this true? I can believe it if you're comparing apples to oranges (ie. the total revenues of the companies) but not if you're comparing Apples to Dells (ie. the personal desktop computer markets, which we're, you know, talking about). As I understand it the only reason Apple i

  • The review says that

    in 2001, [In Search of Excellence Author] Peters admitted that he falsified the underlying data

    . This is not really true [businessweek.com]. Quoting Business Week,

    For years, many assumed that the authors employed rigorous research and stringent financial screens to identify "excellent" companies. Peters now maintains that he and Waterman simply asked their McKinsey colleagues and other "smart people" for the names of companies doing "cool work." Then, they screened that initial list of 62 organizations f

  • Librarians have been slow to move the book to the fiction section.

    Maybe we should start with the Wikipedia article [wikipedia.org]? From the Wikipedia article:

    This article about a non-fiction book is a stub. You can help Wikipedia by expanding it.
  • Circa 1989, I was working for a Fortune 500 company--a very stupid one, but that's another matter--which made PCs and pretty much toed the Microsoft line. From time to time they would herd hundreds of developers into Auditorium III where people from Microsoft would give us The Word. They took Q&A from the audience.

    In 1989 they were asked about Windows and OS/2, and said, unequivocally, the OS/2 was the mainstream OS and that we should develop OS/2, that Windows was a sort of toy for the home market. (At
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by swordgeek (112599)
      I think you need to fast-forward a little bit, to somewhere about 1994. OS/2 2.0 was out and recognised in the computing industry as superior to Window NT 4.0. NT5 was still a long ways away, Win3.1 was still a GUI on top of DOS, and the Pentium floating point bug was just getting noticed. That's when IBM announced OS/2 2.1--a really great next generation OS, for the home and also for the office. It had flash, it had utility, it actually ran Windows programs, and IBM was going to start selling PCs with the
  • Most recently, when Microsoft found itself behind the 8-ball and lacking a browser, Internet Explorer was quickly developed and in time, surpassed the capability of Netscape Navigator. By 1998, most reviews were giving IE a higher rating than Navigator. Of course, Microsoft has more cash and developers than Netscape, but that alone was not what doomed them.

    I worked at Netscape and I can tell you exactly what happened. Latest versions of the Netscape Browser was free to download, but companies and organiz

  • In search of stupidity? You can all stop looking, I've found it! [myspace.com]
  • "High Tech Marketing Disasters" Sony's ps3 marketing seems to fit the bill with that. Their PSP marketing would also.

    Say what you want about their products, sony has completely boggled the recent ball. They might have the best system, they might not but the only thing the marketing has done has been to hurt them.

    Time will tell how deep it cuts (as big as Apple's decision to work with Microsoft? probably not. But at least as big as Apple's decision to sell Microsoft stock which undermined a lot of Apple's
    • by NineNine (235196)
      Say what you want about their products, sony has completely boggled the recent ball. They might have the best system, they might not but the only thing the marketing has done has been to hurt them.

      That's not true. You and I have no idea if Sony was at all impacted by the GEEK media. All of the PS3's they made sold out instantly. Unless you can time travel, I certainly wouldn't say that Sony has been hurt. I'm wagering that they'll be just as successful with the PS3 as they were with the PS2, if not mor
  • I've been in the business for 24 years, and I've seen all of the above mentioned mistakes as they were happening...

    I am one of those NetWare CNEs, and I love NetWare as surely as anyone can love a bunch of software. It has allowed me to make a good life for myself, but Novell willfully gave their NOS leadership away by snubbing their developers just as Microsoft was wooing them...

    Back in the early 80's, MicroSoft was one of the biggest jokes in the industry. Their programming languages sucked. Their OS suck
  • Old news for nerds.

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