Why Are Businesses Not Buying?

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Computer companies seem to think WindowsXP is going to unleash a buying frenzy: tell businesses that.–Ed

Yes, We Need No Computers. We Need No Computers Today

The current paper edition of eWeek, a ZDNet trade publication, recently had a little business survey asking business folks why they weren’t buy computers.

Almost 80% of the responses stated, “We’re satisfied with what we got” or “We have no money to buy more.” Only a little over 10% stated that lack of new, innovative products was keeping them back.

This does not bode well for any great surge in buying, despite every effort by MS and Intel to talk themselves and everyone else into believing that.

If this were happening two years ago, I bet this would have worked great. Times looked good, companies had money, computing looked sexy.

But now?

Essentially, what Wintel thinks (Thinks? Hope/Pray seems more like it) is going to happen is that that 80% will suddenly become disgusted with their machines because Wintel told them so, and just as suddenly rip up their recession- or even survival-induced budgets and start spending like drunken sailors in port.

Am I the only one who sees a problem here?

High-End Suits Don’t Give A Hoot About The Latest Techno-Beaut

I find looking at eWeek a good corrective to being in the performance world. It tells me that the business world looks upon computing a lot, lot differently than we do, and I don’t mean just because they don’t consider Quake a major benchmark.

On the whole, the business world is just not cutting-edge. Computing is more a necessary evil than something to get excited about.

You can understand why many feel that way because everytime some Pied Piper has gotten them excited about something, they’ve gotten excited about them lately, they’ve gotten burned.

The business isn’t there for the computing, the computing is there for the business.

I see plenty of folks who say, “We’re very satisfied with our systems” with PII 450s.

Nor is it just hardware. There are still plenty of businesses that are still using NT, for instance, and not even thinking of going on to Win2K.

Plenty of businesses are doing fine with Office97, thank you, and if all you do is write memos and do a couple spreadsheets, what great benefit does anything newer really give you?

Tools, Not Toys

Is a lot of this complacent dinosaur gas-passing? Sure. However, the new, nimbler species not only haven’t taken over; they’re the ones going extinct, not Dino.

The whole Internet/dot.com fiasco emphasized that old business skills still apply to the new cyberworld. The hottest looking website means nothing if you can’t ship your products to the customer in time.

For businesses, the Internet is simply a better mail-order catalogue, a better phone, a better news advertisement, a better interoffice mail. It’s just a better tool with which to do the old job, which is sell things and make money.

Look at success stories like Dell, I mean really look at them with some sense of business history. If you do, a Michael Dell doesn’t look like some New Paradigm cybergenius at all. What he looks like is a twenty-first century Andrew Carnegie or John D. Rockefeller or Henry Ford.

This is someone who knows these are tools, not toys, and uses the tools that work well to ruthlessly apply old business principles, not to look cool.

Many will say “this is not nice.” They’re right. So what?

His company is not around to be nice, it is out to run a brutally efficient production and selling machine. It is out to provide the best combination of product, price and service to its customers, using the best effective technology available to deliver that. It wants to crush its competition, and in the meantime make a lot of money doing so.

You could not describe the big businesses of a century ago any better than that.

Do you know what? The old-fashioned ways with a couple new technoaccessories are working and winning, and whining is no weapon against it.

There is no revolution; there is no new paradigm. Just the old world and goals with new tools.


We’ve reached a plateau for computing for most uses and people. Basic business functions can be handled in a reasonably convenient way with current technology. There will always be niches that can always use more power, but overall, they’re a small minority.

Essentially, computers have become a means of communication, and generally speaking, most businesses haven’t figured out what to do with what they’ve got, and probably won’t for some time. Many won’t ever.

Organizations are not radical beasts. They’re essentially conservative, and the bigger they are, the more conservative they get.

There’s a good reason for that. Most people are afraid of change. Change is risky, and people don’t like giving up a bird in the hand to find two in the bush.

It does not help that the wild innovators tend to be just that: wild, and the events of the past few years have shown that not only do they throw the baby out with the bathwater, they don’t even know or care what a baby is.

To a shocking degree, you get the feeling that there are a lot of little children out there in suits out there with a complete disconnect that the purpose of all this is to make money.

It’s like they just want to sell or play with new toys all the time. And like a little child, there’s really no past or future. They forget about the old toys fast, and there’s certainly no concern about paying for this or any other sense of responsibility.

You get that feeling when you see one company come up claiming to be the leader in the latest corporate buzzword every three months. You get that feeling when you read about these companies promising everything, delivering practically nothing, and the clients end up having to hire adults to clean up the mess.

You wonder whether or not a lot of people understand the difference between play and work, that there are consequences to actions, and that you have to do what you promised.

After all that, people who even vaguely looks like that are going to be discredited in many circles.

Don’t Give Me A Better Word Processor, Give Me Something Better Than Word Processing

Outside of the niches, there’s no terribly pressing reason to drop whatever’s working reasonably well, and panic-buy what looks to be merely incremental improvements. Especially when you have no money. The path of least resistance in most corporatedom is just to put X dollars into the budget every year, and play hand-me-down. Or just not fund them so long as business prospects look bad, then panic-buy to make up for it later.

Just because we’ve hit a plateau doesn’t mean we’re in permanent stasis. What it does mean is that you’ve got to come up with a better mousetrap for business, and then convince the business that it’s worth buying zillions of mega-Ghz machines to make them work.

Buying a mega-GHz machine to run a slightly better word processor makes no sense. What you need to do is come up with something better than word processing for the word processors, then convince them of that.

That’s going to take time, both technologically and then psychologically. Years and years, in all likelihood.

People complain there’s no new “killer app” out there, and that’s true. But no matter what that killer app ends up being, it will have to mean changing business practices considerably.

I personally think the next “killer app,” the “better than word processing” is what I’m calling “free video.” Essentially, you’ll have the ability to easily become your own video producer and send it all around as cheaply as you do email today.

That’s going to take some time to do technologically (the bottleneck being broadband). My point is that even after it can be done, it will take additional time for businesses to start doing it. Two steps, not one.

Email Ed


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