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Why Software Is Eating the World

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the om-nom-nom dept.

Software 192

An anonymous reader writes "Web browser pioneer Marc Andreessen writes in the Wall Street Journal that software is 'eating the world.' He argues that software's importance to the economy is being underestimated, and will become much more evident in the near future. Quoting: 'But too much of the debate is still around financial valuation, as opposed to the underlying intrinsic value of the best of Silicon Valley's new companies. My own theory is that we are in the middle of a dramatic and broad technological and economic shift in which software companies are poised to take over large swathes of the economy. More and more major businesses and industries are being run on software and delivered as online services—from movies to agriculture to national defense. Many of the winners are Silicon Valley-style entrepreneurial technology companies that are invading and overturning established industry structures. Over the next 10 years, I expect many more industries to be disrupted by software, with new world-beating Silicon Valley companies doing the disruption in more cases than not.'"

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Developers still 2nd class citizens (5, Insightful)

digitallife (805599) | more than 3 years ago | (#37153616)

And yet developers are still treated like second class citizens in far too many organizations. The fact is that most management simply does not have any appreciation or understanding of good coding practices, instead using short term metrics to try to recognize valuable developers... Such as how little they are willing to work for. Just recently I read a comment here on slashdot from some developer who said his whole team had been working 12-16 hour days for a year and a half with no extra pay... Because it would "secure" their future with the company. They are in for a very sad surprise.

Re:Developers still 2nd class citizens (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37153704)

Yeah, those devs will wake up one day when they're 50 or so and realize they are idiots.

Re:Developers still 2nd class citizens (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37153752)

As a up and coming programmer I appreciate these comments, I will attempt as little overtime as I can from now on!

Re:Developers still 2nd class citizens (3, Insightful)

Cryacin (657549) | more than 3 years ago | (#37153994)

The problem is that business values the player who brings home the bear, not those making spears.

The trick is to brand the quality and purpose of your tools to your market, like the sales staff, the operations guys etc as a vital tool to bring home the bear. A very famous tool maker once said "God created all men equal, Col. Colt made them equal".

Re:Developers still 2nd class citizens (1)

jhoegl (638955) | more than 3 years ago | (#37154312)

Paul Newman?

Re:Developers still 2nd class citizens (1)

interval1066 (668936) | more than 3 years ago | (#37154164)

I will attempt as little overtime as I can from now on!

No no no... that's not the take-away from this... you need to recognize that who you are working for is paying you what you are worth, its not a simple matter of working as few hours as possible. If you value your company, and your company values you, you don't want to be the odd man out when the company needs you for an "all hands on deck" situation.

Re:Developers still 2nd class citizens (3, Insightful)

jhoegl (638955) | more than 3 years ago | (#37154334)

Yes, but the company constantly creates the "all hands on deck" situation to make you work more.

Re:Developers still 2nd class citizens (2)

interval1066 (668936) | more than 3 years ago | (#37154822)

Not in my experience, not true.The companies I've worked for have tried to avoid those situations where possible as developer wear-out was constantly being addressed and avoided. And that's been true for just about every shop I've worked in. You sound like you've been in a few third-world sweat shops.

Re:Developers still 2nd class citizens (4, Insightful)

BoberFett (127537) | more than 3 years ago | (#37154916)

You've gotten lucky. There are a lot of horrible shops where it's always crunch time. And usually because of poor decisions by upper management that could have been prevented with a little bit of planning.

and some places have little to no QA + poor IT (4, Insightful)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 3 years ago | (#37153748)

and some places have little to no QA + poor IT support as well.

A lot of falls on management who does not know that much about IT.

Re:and some places have little to no QA + poor IT (5, Funny)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#37153856)

That's socialist talk buddy. Next thing you're going to suggest that executives shouldn't get obscene bonuses for running their company into the ground.

Re:and some places have little to no QA + poor IT (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37154172)

No next they are going to to like clowns [clownsong.com] . Silly PHBs.

Re:and some places have little to no QA + poor IT (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37154180)

That is because a lot of companies have no CIO or one that did not come from IT background. Someone needs to be the champion of IT in the Officer ring, otherwise the CFO will keep relegating IT to the "cost center" side. When in fact, with modern systems Accounting and Finance are the cost that drags on the company since most of that work is now automated. Other than the CFO, you need to have an AR/AP clerk (quantity based on volume) and that is about it.

Also, I am talking about IT in a non-software based company (Manufacturing, not Apple, Google, etc). The proper and judicious use of systems and software can help a company stay profitable and not have to move operations to China.

Answered your own question (4, Insightful)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 3 years ago | (#37153754)

management simply does not have any appreciation or understanding of good coding practices

There are no measures - just like there is no objective measurement of good prose. As a consequence management places value on things that it CAN measure: cost, time, manpower, bugs, lines of code. What all this means is that without any way to measure what is "good" code, or to quantify its "goodness" all the coding practices are really just as much hot air as any other management fad.

Back to the reason why developers are considered 2nd class citizens (actually, fourth class: customers are second class citizens, prospective customers are first class and suppliers are third class). The reason is that they produce nothing with any measurable value. Sure the software they write SOMETIMES adds to a company's profits, but the link between a specific piece of code and a line in the P&L is tenuous at best and non-existent most of the time. If you want to improve your worth (to the company, to society, to yourself) come up with a way of demonstrating the hard-currency value of your code: how handling a particular exception is worth $500 and how reading that input data is worth $2000. When you can do that, there's be some value to employing developers - until then, they're just a cost item.

Re:Answered your own question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37153808)

No. Until then, you go work for a better company.

Re:Answered your own question (3, Informative)

Billly Gates (198444) | more than 3 years ago | (#37154512)

Management hates I.T. because their bosses are accountants who view it as a cost center rather than an asset. The problem is the bean counters are all upper management in most fortune 1,000 companies today and frankly do not care about productivity as programmers waste money anyway.

Many are switching to clouds and switching from C#/C++ to Excel. If Excel was fine for these bean counters then it is fine for real programming too. Then they do not have to waste it on I.T. and these silly contracptions called databases.

their bosses are accountants ... (2)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 3 years ago | (#37155006)

All accountants do is measure some metrics, convert those measurements into a dollar value in a sort of "normalisation" process and then seek to maximise that value.

That's fine. So long as the things they assign monetary value to are real (not necessarily tangible, but aren't simply fictional or some sort of trick/device) and the valuation process makes sense. The problem with software is that it's not well matched to this measuring / valuing / optimising mechanism.

if the software industry is to thrive, something has to give. It probably won't be the way accountancy works - as it's too successful (or maybe just entrenched) in all other branches of industry. Obviously it evolves and accounting rules and practices change, but until the world of software development finds a way to produce inputs that the accountants can deal with, we're stuck trying to justify our existence in a world that can't value what we do.

Re:Answered your own question (2)

Will.Woodhull (1038600) | more than 3 years ago | (#37154582)

There are plenty of ways to do this kind of quality measurement and any competent management would be at least peripherally aware of these, know how to get more information about any of them, and be able to implement them. This is child's play with a product like code which can be directly inspected. Various forms of peer review, even very fancy double blind peer review systems, are easily constructed and managed with a few spreadsheets.

What management needs to know is fairly simple: who are their best 20% of coders, and who are their worst 20%. And within the bottom 20%, who are the jokers who not only write crappy code, but have shown through the way that they have participated in the peer review process that they do not know good code when they see it. Replace those few with new blood asap. Just doing that is well worth the cost of implementing the peer review process. (As a wag, the cost of implementing a double blind peer review system where each coder is required to do one review each month could increase direct coding costs by 5% per year, but it would decrease the much greater costs of debugging and patching production code by much more than that.)

Additional benefits a savvy company would think very hard about doing: token bonuses for those who are consistently in the Top Twenty, and some way to use the best of the best as consultants on any decisions that might impact the coders. Including changes in the cafeteria menu. Happy galley slaves will row your boat faster.

Re:Developers still 2nd class citizens (3, Informative)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 3 years ago | (#37154062)

In early 1920s cars were taking over the world.

Assembly workers were still 2nd class citizens.

--

Those who know "HOW" will always have employment.

Those who know "WHY" will always be employers.

Re:Developers still 2nd class citizens (1)

Envy Life (993972) | more than 3 years ago | (#37154722)

You're a bit off base with this analogy on a couple accounts. You can teach anyone off the street to work on an auto assembly line, but the success rate is much lower teaching the same set of people to "assemble" software. Also the focus of the article is also not in the mass production aspect of software (i.e., burning CD's and packinging the boxes), it is on the companies inventing and building the software to run industries.

Re:Developers still 2nd class citizens (2, Insightful)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 3 years ago | (#37154886)

Software developers are assembly line workers. They do the same proven thing over and over and over and over again, there is nothing new invented anywhere in software development.

Systems architecture is closer to engineering.

Business analysis is understanding the needs of specific business function and translating it into overall systems requirements.

Running a business that needs any of the above is answering the question: why being in this business is more profitable than being in any other business with the same investment capital.

Re:Developers still 2nd class citizens (1)

gad_zuki! (70830) | more than 3 years ago | (#37155202)

Err, engineers aren't 2nd class citizens. The problem is that software engineers/coders still are.

Re:Developers still 2nd class citizens (1)

iluvcapra (782887) | more than 3 years ago | (#37154114)

Accounting ate the world 3000 years ago, and accountants are still treated as second-class citizens in organizations.

Re:Developers still 2nd class citizens (4, Insightful)

billcopc (196330) | more than 3 years ago | (#37154274)

As they should be. Once you acknowledge the fact that money is an artificial construct, the only realization is that accountants truly create nothing in the enterprise. They don't produce a saleable asset. They don't offer any services to the clients.

If you run a company without an accountant, the only bad thing that will happen is the tax man will get angry.

If you run a company without software, you have no company.

Re:Developers still 2nd class citizens (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 3 years ago | (#37154448)

IANAA but good business accountants are not simply calculators and tax form filers. They actually find ways to minimize costs, foresee various implications of current business decisions and use that foresight to plan a better execution, which means cost cutting. They can work on financing business via leases, overdrafts, loans. Tax planning is a huge issue of-course, nobody would make any profit if all taxes were paid 100% and exactly as they are on the books.

Re:Developers still 2nd class citizens (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37154910)

As they should be. Once you acknowledge the fact that money is an artificial construct, the only realization is that accountants truly create nothing in the enterprise. They don't produce a saleable asset. They don't offer any services to the clients.

If you run a company without an accountant, the only bad thing that will happen is the tax man will get angry.

If you run a company without software, you have no company.

so wrong

Re:Developers still 2nd class citizens (1)

Billly Gates (198444) | more than 3 years ago | (#37154436)

I couldn't disagree more.

The accountants are the ones moving to upper management and are saying No to IT. 2 decades ago engineers became CEOs and upper management. All they know is cost and yes a company's job is to make money not blow it on I.T. so bean counters who are accountants get bonuses for cutting it. They are the ones who moved I.T. from investments to cost centers.

Also many accountants feel programming can be done in Excel since they use it all the time. If it can't be done in Excel then it is a waste of money. So Excel and accountants are the reason I.T. is dying and being replaced by clouds.

Re:Developers still 2nd class citizens (1)

davester666 (731373) | more than 3 years ago | (#37154678)

Well, they are 2nd class humans.

Re:Developers still 2nd class citizens (4, Insightful)

RogerWilco (99615) | more than 3 years ago | (#37154154)

I think the problem is that software developers aren't organized.

I don't just mean something like a labour union. It could also be like the medics, civil engineers and lawyers, with widely regarded exams.

We let ourselves be treated like this.

I think it's because of three reasons:
1) Unlike medics and civil engineers, there usually is no responsibility for failure.
2) Software developers as a whole aren't the most social.
3) Software engineers usually don't have money as their prime motivation.

Re:Developers still 2nd class citizens (2)

StripedCow (776465) | more than 3 years ago | (#37154248)

I think developers still have enough reason to form a union. For example, if there was a union, it could very effectively ban the use of IE6 on the web, or it could put an end to the anti-competitive moves of apple, or force the W3C/WHATWG to give up their hijacking of web-standards.

Re:Developers still 2nd class citizens (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 3 years ago | (#37154496)

It doesn't seem to me that you want a union, it seems to me that you want a dictatorship.

Banning the use of IE6 by a company? What are you, their CEO?

Re:Developers still 2nd class citizens (2, Interesting)

garyebickford (222422) | more than 3 years ago | (#37154640)

I have been in two recruiting situations in which the fact that the company's software developers were unionized was a major factor in my decision not to go there. If nothing else, my own observations have shown that if a company's policies are so screwed up that the workers feel the need for a union I don't want to work there; and also that in some cases (for some particularly in the northeast US) many unions seem to still have a greedy, self-destructive attitude that continues to drive entire industries out of business, and throw artificial barriers between (for example) firefighters and police against the people, making it difficult for individual members to maintain a constructive relationship with their populace - their ultimate employers.

Having said that, I am aware that in some industries unions have a valuable role. I grew up in the construction business, and for certain trades the union hiring halls act in a sense as brokers for their members, and provide somewhat of a guarantee that their tradesmen are competent. And back in the 1980s (IIRC) in Portland OR the metal fabricating companies and the metal workers unions became concerned that the schools were no longer producing potential apprentices, and worked together to build an associate degree program in metal working. I'm not a musician, but from my limited long-ago experience, there are similar benefits with the musicians' union.

I've suggested privately that one possibly beneficial union role would be as the representative and hiring agency for Central and South American nationals coming over the border to work in low-level jobs in the US - much like the construction trades unions. The union could maintain responsibility for the individuals, protection of them against unfair practices, and assisting in handling their legal and financial relations. I haven't thought this through thoroughly but it seems like it might help.

Re:Developers still 2nd class citizens (0)

0123456 (636235) | more than 3 years ago | (#37154410)

I think the problem is that software developers aren't organized.

I don't just mean something like a labour union.

Good. Because a union would mean that not only would the company not be able to lay off the incompetent developers, but they'd be forced to pay them the same as me.

It could also be like the medics, civil engineers and lawyers, with widely regarded exams.

Which would mean that many developers would be out of work as the American Software Association decided they'd only issue a thousand licenses this year, and even more work would go to India or China instead.

Re:Developers still 2nd class citizens (3, Insightful)

mikael (484) | more than 3 years ago | (#37155026)

Some IT departments bill by the hour. So there is pressure to get some feature implemented as quickly as possible as well as do *exactly* what the customer wants, along with a need to make as few changes as possible to minimize breaking the code. In the short-term this saves costs. In the long-term this makes code unwieldy, monolithic and harder to maintain.

It's strange how we evolved C to C++ to make use of features like inheritance, polymorphism, pointers, templates and design patterns in order to encourage code reuse, then move over to other languages because doing all that design takes up too much time.

Of course, you have to fight for your rights (1, Insightful)

bigsexyjoe (581721) | more than 3 years ago | (#37154316)

If you don't want to be mistreated and spat on, you organize and fight for your rights. The Haymarket massacre had to occur to get the work week done to forty hours in the first place. I wouldn't suggest anything so extreme, but I think software engineers and IT workers need to organize and unionize.

If you think about it, you are better off in the International Union of Elevator Constructors or the International Brotherhood Of Electrical Workers, than being a rank and file coder. The difference? Unions! While the unfortunate truth is that unions of unskilled people are in a lot of trouble these days, unions of skilled workers do very well.

If software engineers unionized, they'd be paid like doctors and lawyers.

Re:Of course, you have to fight for your rights (1)

NekSnappa (803141) | more than 3 years ago | (#37154612)

I feel a folk style organizing song coming on. What's the IT equivalent of silichosis?

Re:Developers still 2nd class citizens (1)

dadioflex (854298) | more than 3 years ago | (#37154502)

And yet, and yet... he's a software developer over-egging software development. Software development is like farming. Automation will render human input, not only irrelevant, but undesirable.

Re:Developers still 2nd class citizens (1)

x8 (879751) | more than 3 years ago | (#37154642)

The fact is that most management simply does not have any appreciation or understanding of good coding practices

I believe it's because the management bonus/incentive/promotion system is primarily focused on:
1. Deciding on the right product to build
2. Making more money off the product than the cost to build it

Notice that "building a quality product" is not in that list.

Many companies can't claim success on #1 and #2 more than 20% of the time, so that gets the majority of management focus.
This is because a manager doesn't get a bonus on a super well-engineered product that no one wants to buy.

Engineering quality often doesn't get noticed/rewarded until AFTER the product is a success. Which often is less than 20% of the time.

Nth verse, same as the first (1)

Daetrin (576516) | more than 3 years ago | (#37154920)

Most farmers didn't get rich during the agricultural revolution. Most factory workers didn't get rich during the industrial revolution. Software developers are a little better off because we've got skills that are _relatively_ rare and hard to acquire. However that's just enough to guarantee that we'll get decent wages (assuming we can find a job in the first place of course) not enough to make all, or even most of us rich and powerful.

Re:Developers still 2nd class citizens (2)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 3 years ago | (#37155278)

Because it would "secure" their future with the company.

This is their problem. As soon as someone starts saying, "You need to work more than 8 hours for no extra pay," that's when you start looking for another job. Don't let people treat you like that.

There is no 'job security,' especially in the software industry. You need to view yourself as a service provider, who is providing a service to a company who is willing to pay a good price for the service. When they are no longer willing to pay, that's fine, take your service elsewhere. There ARE others.

Security in our industry comes from being able to find another job. As long as you are capable of that, you will have no problem.

Re:Developers still 2nd class citizens (1)

HalAtWork (926717) | more than 3 years ago | (#37155296)

The fact is that most management simply does not have any appreciation or understanding of good coding practices

And they don't even value how a software engineer thinks. At my job, I've thought of many ways to combine and automate many tasks through the use of simple applications. While users would previously open various documents, copy and paste between them, and update from various email notifications, I have designed systems that keep central lists of information and are able to automate the creation/updating of these documents.

They used to spend hours setting up tabs, fiddling with borders and fonts, and switching between various documents without even knowing how to highlight, say, entire columns in a spreadsheet, and not even knowing shortcuts like CTRL+C and ALT+Tab. Now the results are perfect every time, and don't contain a myriad of errors, and users can even include markup in other documents that will automagically be filled in with correct and up-to-date data.

Management in companies all over don't even know where software begins to fit in, and how it can help save time and money. I had to work on this crap in secret because they had no concept of what was possible, and even when I tried explaining it they thought it was technobabble. They had to see it in practice, and now suddenly they consider it a miracle and want me to learn more about each department so I can find other ways to improve things. Does IT need a bigger/different presence in the workplace to address these things when the laymanager can't even see the potential/possibility to begin with?

Re:Developers still 2nd class citizens (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37155364)

Developers are like builders. They come with wildly differing work ethics, qualifications and talent, but most importantly, they're replaceable. In the past, people in that position improved their bargaining position by speaking with one voice. Developers still think they're white collar people, so they won't do what's necessary to avoid being played off against eachother.

FOSS undermines your theory (1)

drnb (2434720) | more than 3 years ago | (#37153622)

My own theory is that we are in the middle of a dramatic and broad technological and economic shift in which software companies are poised to take over large swathes of the economy.

FOSS undermines your theory. If anything popular emerges some group is bound to start a project to implement a clone of the commercial software.

Re:FOSS undermines your theory (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37153828)

My own theory is that we are in the middle of a dramatic and broad technological and economic shit in which software companies are poised to take over large swathes of the economy.

Fixed that for you. If there's any way that software is eating the world, it's stifling innovation through bullshit patent wars. From Apple and Oracle all the way down to the bogus holding firms in East Texas.

-- Ethanol-fueled

Re:FOSS undermines your theory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37153926)

I'm getting tired of the lack of neutrality when it comes to writing summaries and even stories on slashdot. Most of the stories are completely USA biased!

What is the percentage of Americans in the whole /. visitors cake?

Re:FOSS undermines your theory (2)

santosh.k83 (2442182) | more than 3 years ago | (#37154066)

The Slashdot FAQ does claim that the vast majority of Slashdot users are from the USA. Though I'm one of the recent exceptions, I personally don't find it all that US centric, with some exceptions like articles on creationism. As for software eating up the world, the only thing eating up the world is entropy, and it's inexorable.

Re:FOSS undermines your theory (1)

iluvcapra (782887) | more than 3 years ago | (#37154148)

Well... if we were to somehow expand the definition of "software company" to include non-profit foundations, collectives, and community organizations the point might still hold. The commercial, profit-making enterprise is not the only way human beings organize.

I'm very skeptical of the contention, if only because software always is dependent on hardware, and while PCs are commoditized, the trend of the last decade is to move away from PCs to specialized appliances and mobile devices that do whatever a wireless carrier needs them to do in order to achieve their objectives.

Re:FOSS undermines your theory (1)

Will.Woodhull (1038600) | more than 3 years ago | (#37154830)

Actually I think FOSS is one of the major indicators that a sea change is under way.

Companies that are heavily invested in FOSS appear to be emerging as leaders in the new economy. It takes the kinds of resources and organization that corporations can do best to manage a large successful FOSS project. Finding ways to pay for these needed services has been a bit slow, mostly due, I think, to incredible amount of FUD being thrown around by the "intellectual property" fanatics. Things are beginning to settle out with the increase in support contracts and subscriptions.

I expect to be paying a reasonable subscription fee for my uses of Ubuntu in a few short years. Exactly what shape that would be has yet to be determined, but I know that the cost would be comparable to the cost of electricity to run my desktop. And that I would not be paying for access to the software-- that would always be free-- but I would be paying for convenience features like automatic updates, compatibility-assured packages, and so on.

I don't believe it (5, Informative)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 3 years ago | (#37153644)

You cannot virtually grow food. In the end, humans need something real to eat.

Re:I don't believe it (4, Funny)

neokushan (932374) | more than 3 years ago | (#37153820)

That's bullcrap, my computer is chocked full of cookies and every time I visit a website, it grows more!

The world is eating food (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37153858)

My own theory is that we are in the middle of a dramatic and broad technological and economic shift in which food companies are poised to take over large swathes of the economy. More and more major businesses and industries are being run on food, from movies to software to national defense...

Re:I don't believe it (1)

Sarten-X (1102295) | more than 3 years ago | (#37154906)

And yet, a farmer can increase his yield by using monitoring equipment to more accurately time the addition of fertilizers. Harvesters can be driven with the aid of laser mapping, allowing for safer early-morning and late-night operation. Animals can be given more freedom and mad more comfortable, thanks to tracking beacons and climate-controlled housing.

All of that nice equipment is managed by software.

Re:I don't believe it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37154928)

But the whole process, from deciding what crops to plant to seeding, watering, harvesting, processing and delivering them is done by software. The part that is done by humans is not really relevant compared to it. Just look at industrial processes - say car production, particularly in Europe.

Re:I don't believe it (2)

FoolishOwl (1698506) | more than 3 years ago | (#37155170)

Last I checked, only about 5% of people in the US are involved in agriculture. And much of agriculture and food production is already heavily automated. For that matter, so is heavy industry in general.

Mass production depends upon repetitive work that is readily automated. Automation multiplies the effect of human creativity, meaning that you need fewer workers to produce the same amount. People have the idea that US doesn't produce anything real anymore, when the US still dominates global industrial production. But if you walk into an actual working factory, you see dozens of workers, not the hundreds or more it took to do the same work a generation ago.

More and more, I think the real challenge is reorganizing society on the basis of a recognition that we ought to be doing a lot less work, that we're producing things needed only in order to support unnecessarily high levels of productivity, and that we'd all be better off if we spent less time and energy on production.

Re:I don't believe it (2)

theurge14 (820596) | more than 3 years ago | (#37155240)

Try running a large scale ag business without software.

Re:I don't believe it (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 3 years ago | (#37155328)

What exactly don't you believe? His main point was,

Over the next 10 years, I expect many more industries to be disrupted by software, with new world-beating Silicon Valley companies doing the disruption in more cases than not

He's not saying, "software will replace every industry!" Nice strawman, though.

Not eatting it yet (1)

Dyinobal (1427207) | more than 3 years ago | (#37153660)

nah it's not eating it just yet, Cthulhu.exe has not even hit 1.0. We still have a few more developers minds to warp before we are ready for launch.

And here I thought is was byzantianism (1)

skids (119237) | more than 3 years ago | (#37153662)

I always pictured software eating the world by becoming I giant "Blob" like creature composed entirely of a new substance called "bloatium"

Not likely (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37153668)

And what exactly does this software run on?
Hardware may become a commodity, but it will always constrain what software can do.

Re:Not likely (2)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 3 years ago | (#37153680)

And what exactly does this software run on?

The Matrix, of course. :-)

'highly defensible businesses' - *snicker* (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37153676)

We believe that many of the prominent new Internet companies are building real, high-growth, high-margin, highly defensible businesses.

'Believe' is the key word there.

Mr Andreessen really needs to read this article [economist.com] at the Economist.

I think he'll change his attitude.

Software is the means, not the end (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37153696)

There's certainly a revolution happening but it's not about software companies. That's confusing the food industry with the refrigeration industry. The winners of tomorrow are firms that can use software to create knowledge pools that can exploit new markets successfully. Future digital businesses may look more like 4chan than like IBM or Oracle.

Re:Software is the means, not the end (1)

jd2112 (1535857) | more than 3 years ago | (#37154130)

Future digital businesses may look more like 4chan than like IBM or Oracle.

Capitalism is doomed.

Re:Software is the means, not the end (1)

tqk (413719) | more than 3 years ago | (#37154458)

Future digital businesses may look more like 4chan than like IBM or Oracle.

Frankly, from what I've seen lately, we're already there. Every company and its dog now has "web presence", but it's so half-assedly done, it's useless. Yeah, you can finally apply to most jobs while still in your pyjamas, and you can log into some op's website and see the status of your account. On the other hand, try to discontinue a service you've subscribed to and you land back in telephone land. It took hours for shaw.ca to call me back yesterday. Unsubscribing from Telus (telephone provider) cannot be done in person with any form of "customer support" person; all done on the phone.

Then, there's connectedness. When you phone them, are they sitting in front of a computer where you can tell them your phone number, and they can then bring up the details of your account? No. It can take fifteen minutes for them to transcribe your pertinent details, then you're put on hold while they contact another department which can access those details.

Present day computer development produces a lot of marginally useful websites geared towards marketing their product, and that's all. "Systems Analysis" is a now dead skill. Present day developers are simply unable to completely think through all of the ramifications of whatever they're working on, so you get brittle, shallow, ultimately useless and frustrating results from them.

But they sure have pretty animations.

Re:Software is the means, not the end (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 3 years ago | (#37154990)

On the other hand, try to discontinue a service you've subscribed to and you land back in telephone land. It took hours for shaw.ca to call me back yesterday. Unsubscribing from Telus (telephone provider) cannot be done in person with any form of "customer support" person; all done on the phone.

Wow. It's almost as though companies don't want you to stop paying for their services.

Re:Software is the means, not the end (1)

tqk (413719) | more than 3 years ago | (#37155304)

It's almost as though companies don't want you to stop paying for their services.

I'm moving. I'd think they'd want to impress me with their abilities so I'd want to re-subscribe to their service.

Re:Software is the means, not the end (1)

Nerdfest (867930) | more than 3 years ago | (#37155132)

So ... less evil.

Its economic importance is being underestimated? (2)

White Flame (1074973) | more than 3 years ago | (#37153720)

Does this guy work for the BSA?

And another dumb quote: (1)

White Flame (1074973) | more than 3 years ago | (#37153756)

"And, perhaps most telling, you can't have a bubble when people are constantly screaming "Bubble!""

Has this person somehow avoided living through the real estate bubble, where everybody was screaming the same?

It's very difficult to read this article.

Re:Its economic importance is being underestimated (1)

iluvcapra (782887) | more than 3 years ago | (#37154162)

Boy Scouts of America?

Meh (1)

cultiv8 (1660093) | more than 3 years ago | (#37153736)

Quoting: 'But too much of the debate is still around financial valuation, as opposed to the underlying intrinsic value of the best of Silicon Valley's new companies.

This is EXACTLY the point that anyone who works in IT makes: we're financially undervalued and our intrinsic value is overlooked.

Re:Meh (1)

1u3hr (530656) | more than 3 years ago | (#37154156)

"Financial valuation" is supposed to measure the "underlying intrinsic value". When it doesn't, you get a bubble, and then a correction. Back in 2000, they bought this line of moonshine that software could create value from out of the air. And when the absurdity of that became obvious, a lot of people went bust. Software is valuable; the people who create it as a rule aren't. It's like diamond cutters: most of the world's diamonds are cut in sweatshops in India. Doesn't matter how expensive the product is, the workers who make them get paid as little as the market allows. Before long, that will be true of software too. No matter how world beating your software, it won't make you king of the world. Bill Gates didn't get rich for making great software, he did it by having rich parents, the right connections and being a great businessman.

Electricity is eating the world (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 3 years ago | (#37153746)

Electricities' importance to the economy is being underestimated, and will become much more evident in the near future.

I can think of a few other things about which one could make similar assertions. As software, electricity, transportation systems and other technologies become integral to our lives and businesses, they become commoditized and pushed into the background of our conscious. We expect them to be there and to work. But when they do, we don't care much about it.

This whole upcoming revolution in software isn't the sign of a stable technology. Its more like the first years of the electrical power business, with infighting between Edison, Westinghouse, Tesla and others.

Agriculture? Oh god not that... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37153758)

More and more major businesses and industries are being run on software and delivered as online servicesâ"from movies to agriculture to national defense.

I hope he's not talking about Farmville. I know that game makes shitloads of money, but ugh.

Re:Agriculture? Oh god not that... (1)

Cryacin (657549) | more than 3 years ago | (#37153924)

How about the movement, management and distribution of aforesaid food? Software is all about moving bits and bytes to the right place. If you move the right bits and bytes to the right place, you move the food to the right place as well.

Wrong. (1)

Eravnrekaree (467752) | more than 3 years ago | (#37153774)

I disagree with him, movies and audio are easily digitized, so they have moved over to software distribution easily. But it is fallacious thinking that movie and audio can be digitized that other things can as well. For instance, houses, cars, and so on cannot be digitized, they may use some software but this is just one component.

Also, software runs on hardware, and that requires a physical devices, antennas, cables, and manufacturing and so on, and manufacturing of computers depends on hundreds of other industries, all the way back to mining the minerals which are used to build a computer and farming for food for computer engineers to eat.

It is more accurate to say that software basically is dependant on a hundred physical industries. In fact, these physical industies can exist without software, but software could not exist without them. Software has helped improved efficiency of operations but farming, mining, cars, houses, etc have been around long before software.

Confirmation Bias (5, Funny)

Mozai (3547) | more than 3 years ago | (#37153792)

THIS JUST IN
An expert of [field of study] believes [field of study] will change the world.
Also emphasizes that other people are not taking [field of study] seriously.

Sounds like more "new economy" talke (1)

stevegee58 (1179505) | more than 3 years ago | (#37153816)

"...too much of the debate is still around financial valuation, as opposed to the underlying intrinsic value of ..."

What a load of crap. How soon we forget the tech bubble pop in the late 90's. P/E ratios? Earnings? Who needs 'em.

Patents? (1)

Bob9113 (14996) | more than 3 years ago | (#37153838)

Over the next 10 years, I expect many more industries to be disrupted by software patents, with new global-economy-destroying patent trolls doing the disruption in more cases than not.

There, FTFY. Your points are well taken, Marc (and well documented in singularity theory). The problem is, software patents reward litigation over innovation, so it's not going to be the information processing innovators who will win. Under the current system, we will continue to be the serfs -- skilled labor in a cage.

The more interesting question to me is, will we realize what is happening to us, and change our future? Is it already starting, through the various pseudo-revolutionary information processing collectives (GNU, WikiLeaks, Anonymous, etc)?

Not like this is completely new... (1)

michael_cain (66650) | more than 3 years ago | (#37153872)

Starting back in the late 70s, I spent a career telling senior managers in telecom and cable that "...it's a software world. Your projects aren't late because the hardware isn't ready, they're late because of software problems. The embarrassing failures in the widgets aren't hardware problems, they are in the software. The hang-up on rolling new services is that the billing and customer care software systems can't handle it."

And in my last paid gig, trying to explain that last one to members of the state legislature: "No, you can't make that particular change be effective in July, because it will take 12 months to get the necessary modifications in the state's software systems finished."

Re:Not like this is completely new... (1)

iluvcapra (782887) | more than 3 years ago | (#37154184)

"No, you can't make that particular change be effective in July, because it will take 12 months to get the necessary modifications in the state's software systems finished."

Puke. So developers now write our laws? They're the client. you do what they tell you. (And it it throws their system into chaos you bill for the overtime.)

Re:Not like this is completely new... (2)

mikael (484) | more than 3 years ago | (#37154668)

Sounds like California - they were wanting to make cost savings by reducing overtime payments or salary grades. It sounded simple, just update the Excel spreadsheet or whatever table they used. Didn't realize that the entire pay scale system was hard-coded in Cobol, as nested if-then-else statements. Every new employment grade had resulted in a new set of conditional statements. Just having a special exemption for a single year would have meant duplicating everything.

I disagree with him too (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 3 years ago | (#37153874)

Software is intangible goods with a shelf life less than warm milk, all built from the same building blocks. I do agree however we are in for a large economic shift but not in the same way. As these companies spend a lot of time and resources suing over who figured out the click mechanism the world keeps moving, people don't give a shit and eventually it will all implode.

Re:I disagree with him too (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37154144)

Software is intangible goods with a shelf life less than warm milk, all built from the same building blocks.

So are you.

Or are you really the same set of cells you were born with?

Re:I disagree with him too (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 3 years ago | (#37154186)

wow what a pointless troll

ok fine, my parents did not replace me with a 2.0 version and stick me in a box in the attic. when I was 4

These things go in cycles (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37153964)

They said the same kinds of things about financial services being the master profession six to eight years ago. At that time software was looking like a dismal profession for First Worlders, and mid-career programmers were bailing out for law school in droves.

Re:These things go in cycles (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37155298)

Financial services and lawyers still ARE the master profession. The whole dot com things was just a blip where a few nerds got lucky, but most will be condemned to a life of grinding servitude just like any other technical profession (engineers, etc).

Sure (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | more than 3 years ago | (#37153980)

It is very very important, just like the hardware it runs on, the people who maintain it, the people who make it, the power to power it, etc, etc ,etc.
And at the end of the day for 99% of software hundreds of thousands of people could of made it. Sure only one company did and then patented it but every developer on the team could of been replaced by someone else.

This is like saying food is important, and obviously it is. but that does not mean that it does not grow on trees or that everybody and their mother can grow it in their back yards.

Software is eating the world since a long time (2)

drolli (522659) | more than 3 years ago | (#37154054)

DSPs killed of many analog designs.

MC and PLCs killed of digital controls

image recognition killed of many specialized sensing techniques.

People building control panels are replaces by gui designers.

Wiring of sensors in industrial plants is replaced by a single digital bus.

Re:Software is eating the world since a long time (2)

mikael (484) | more than 3 years ago | (#37154966)

You can go back further:

1850's:
Punched cards and weaving looms killed off skilled craftspeople (Luddites)

1950's
Punched cards and electro-mechanical computers killed off rooms of accountants and clerks.
Automated electromechanical (Strowger) telephone exchanges kill off telephone switchboard operators.

1980's
Laser printers killed off print technicans and departments (boiler plate technicians and strippers).
BT's System X killed off electro-mechanical exchanges
Word processors/Desktop PC's killed off the need for every manager to have a secretary (but they became admins, executaries and PA's).
(some managers thought having to learn to typewriting skills meant they would become glorified typists).
E-mail and Fax killed off Telex (Paper tape with punched holes in it).

Group E-mail killed off steep pyramid hierachical management chains (director/assistant director/deputy assistant director/senior manager/ associate manager/ manager/junior manager/trainee manager/senior engineer/engineer/junior engineer)

1990's
ATM killed off System X
TCP/IP killed off ATM
Broadband killed off ISDN / X.25 / dial-up modems
Windows MFC/C++ killed off X-windows/Motif/ C programming
Windows 95/NT + HAL kills off the need for users to fiddle about with IRQ's and motherboard settings
Gameboy killed off the custom electronic game (Magic Merlin).

2000's

USB kills off serial/parallel/keyboard ports
memory sticks kill off 3.5"/5.25" floppy disks
Internet killed off the dominance of the newspapers over opinion and perception of world events.
High density disk drives 100+ Gigabytes kill off low density disk drives (Megabytes)
PDA killed off the Filofax

We knew the digital revolution was coming 30 years ago, since the 1980's:

"The Coming of the Chip" by Anthony Hyman, "The Computer Revolution", and "When the Chips are down" by BBC Horizon really document the era
of the 1980's, and the fear that everyone had.

In each case, the authors knew that once you had the means of transferring documents, text, video and images at the speed of light back and forth through a communications link, there was no restriction where that work would be done, and that it usually ended up going wherever costs were lowest.

We still don't understand the scale of it (4, Insightful)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 3 years ago | (#37154086)

We think we're pretty good at "doing" software. That because it's been around for 50 or more years, we've basically got it cracked and we know all the problems.

We don't

If we were to liken the software "revolution" to the change that the world saw when printing was invented/developed/popularised, we're not at the end of that process - we're still futzing around trying to design workable printing presses and wondering why our ink doesn't stick to the dried leaves we call paper.

Software isn't a process that we've mastered, we've barely started to use it. Hell, we don't even have a functional language to write our stuff in: one that deals with the abstractions and realities of the world we live in, as the spoken and written languages we use everyday allow us to communicate with each other..

Re:We still don't understand the scale of it (1)

marmotte (857974) | more than 3 years ago | (#37154290)

We think we're pretty good at "doing" software. That because it's been around for 50 or more years, we've basically got it cracked and we know all the problems.

We don't

I'm not surprised you don't. You seem more into literature actually.

And the Laywers are eating the Software (1)

RotateLeftByte (797477) | more than 3 years ago | (#37154192)

The only winners are the Lawyers.

Until these endless lawsuits stop Software won't eat the world.

But hey, being able to sue anyone else for a billion dollars over something trivial is the American way right?

Other parts of the world will move on and leave the US to carry on sinking in the quicksand of you sue me, I sue you.

Very soon you will start seeing software packages marked 'Not for sale or use in the USA'.

"Companies" manufacture products. (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 3 years ago | (#37154282)

(At least traditional companies). Software is not a product (and no, it isn't a service either. Supporting it is a service.)

I see more .coms and less corporate software (1)

Billly Gates (198444) | more than 3 years ago | (#37154554)

Corporations prefer Excel than C++ and view I.T. as a terrible waste than does not produce value thanks to the cost center attitude of upper management who are fiancial analysis and accountants rather than former engineers of yesterday.

So more will switch to clouds and salesforce.com and outsource I.T. so they can focus on what they make. Software will grow in intranet and .com portals and clouds. I feel the age of software can acomplish more productivity is over. Witness the folks still on 10 year old Windows XP? It is not the same as the 1990s when I.T. managers made 120,000 a year and companies upgraded every 3 years to the latest MS OS. Today, it is how much will it cost rather than what will it do for me.

Until this changes and Wall Street stops drooling for such people as CEO's I do not see a change. This is hte new norm

We need more Free Software (1)

Lazy Jones (8403) | more than 3 years ago | (#37154792)

The more important software becomes for the economy and standard of living, the more we can benefit from Free Software. Don't listen to the people who want to enforce software patents, DRM and proprietary SaaS everywhere in order to maintain existing inequalities in the distribution of goods. They would patent air and build a business on it if they could ...

On the topic of finance... (1)

v(*_*)vvvv (233078) | more than 3 years ago | (#37154934)

Gotta love it. So Marc is complaining on the Wall Street Journal that "too much of the debate is still around financial valuation".

Why, Marc, to them it is always about financial valuation!!!

The importance of software in the economy has not been underestimated. I'd go as far as to say, it has been kept a secret. Our whole financial system runs on software. The stock market is driven by system trades. Our economy is pretty much online and runs on software.

If you can't see it, it's because it's everywhere.

Honestly, to the financial markets, philosophy, ethics, morals, insight, what have you, are all just distractions. Valuation is all that matters, and it has nothing to do with the topic of software.

why only? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37154968)

"Silicon Valley companies"

why only companies in Silicon Valley? As if it's the only place coders came from.

mo3 0p (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37155024)

a GAY NNIGER
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