Dana Blakenhorn on Software Upgrades

January 26, 2004 at 9:15 pm | Posted in Technology | Leave a comment

Since coming back to work this year, I have been inundated with a bunch of software upgrades, and quite shocked at the large increases in both upgrade fees and annual license fees (or taxes as I like to call them).

When a company puts its eggs in one proprietary vendors’ basket, it should not be surprised when that vendor decides to squeeze as much cash from the customer as possible, once it knows that it would be costly to switch vendors.

Many years ago, as Macs were being replaced by Wintel PCs, I complained that all this effort to standardize on one platform, while saving costs in the short term, will eventually cost the company in the long term. We first got hit from the Microsoft monopoly, as their new software licensing fees were much higher than expected. It was a direct consequence of the “lock-in” effect; this effect is now starting to appear with other proprietary vendors we are dealing with.

Dana Blankenhorn has two thoughts on this issue. The first one deals with the fact that when you pay for software upgrades, you are essentially paying for the same thing again and again. The second one takes this idea one step further and suggest that the customer should have a more critical eye on upgrades – any additional investment you put into software goes towards adding value to your existing setup rather than paying again for the same capabilites you had before the upgrade.

The way Windows software works is so messy and disorganized that every bug fix, every new feature, and every new training material is essentially a “re-do” of whatever you have learned before. One cannot invest in Windows software; you cannot guarantee that any knowledge you develop can survive the next upgrade from Microsoft or another Windows software vendor.

At work, I always try to evangelize the Open Source way of doing things – make the interfaces simple, flexible, and open-ended as much as possible. Modularize code, design with care, and engage in defensive programming. I often get weird looks when using Windows as an example of bad practices, but why not? It’s an obvious and clear example to anyone who has lost files, been infected by a virus, or made to feel helpless can easily understand.

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