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It's Not About The Technology

timothy posted more than 9 years ago | from the it's-about-the-risk dept.

Businesses 198

prostoalex writes "No one quite knows the exact point when high-tech marketing went wrong. When instead of selling distinct products and services, the company Web sites and brochures started pitching 'the next big thing.' When even software developers don't have a slightest idea about what's being sold to them. Raj Karamchedu from Silicon Image, however, feels that certain things in high-tech marketing should be straightened out, hence this book." Read on for Moskalyuk's review of Karamchedu's It's Not About the Technology .

20 chapters are written from the point of view of tech marketing executive, as Karamchedu tries to answer the question of why some products gain a loyal audience and enjoy commercial success, while the others are simply additions to the dusty shelves of history. Everyone has their favorite comparison, where a technically advanced product does not gain acceptance on the market while a supposedly inferior competitor is rolling in cash. Hey, IBM built an entire theory on how it was safe to let Microsoft sell its not-so-great DOS with IBM PCs in order to push the hardware from the warehouse while the company was preparing the next revision of state-of-the-art OS/2 -- which, of course, everyone will buy on the day of release in order to replace Microsoft's software.

History occasionally teaches tech marketers some curious lessons, and the conclusion that the author comes up is summarized in the book title. The title might sound like an insult to a design engineer, but in most of the cases the success in the market is not guaranteed by superiority of technology. Karamchedu is on the mission to find out why.

The first chapters take us through a conflict inside a company. Seldom will you find a high-tech startup where marketing people do not clash with engineers. Marketers promise the features to the customers in order to adhere to the mantra of "we listen to our customers," only to see feature requests denied by the engineers, since the budgets and deadlines are fixed. Marketers then complain to the executives about lack of response from the engineering staff and their inability to deal with the new features, while engineers fight back, claiming that the product is about to miss the deadline even with existing feature set and overworked staff.

Later, Karamchedu focuses on a second problem, peculiar to high-tech marketers: after being immersed in the technology world for too long, they cannot relate to the customers. Hence grandmas in Best Buy staring at the computer described as "P4 3.0 GHz 256 DDR 40.0 GB DVD/CD-RW" when all she wants to know is whether she can check email and view photos of the grandkids. Marketers forget to empathize with the customers. They spend too much time with engineering, and like to tell customers how the new microprocessor has a much wider front-side bus, or how their new piece of software supports dual-core systems, without really telling the customer how that will improve business processes or increase efficiency.

The third part of the book takes a look at a typical semiconductor company and tries to draw the plan of attack for a starting marketing executive. At this point the book turns into a manual on high-tech marketing, which the author hopes the readers will find useful, as there are no set rules and algorithms for launching successful marketing campaigns in high-tech world.

The book is quite insightful, but one can't help but feel that it is missing something. It will probably prove to be a valuable read to anyone facing the daunting task of marketing a high-tech product, but even though I got to the last page of the book, I found the title to be too terse and dry, lacking concrete examples and not quite coherent as far as the chapter-by-chapter arrangement. The preface and the author's description of the book are available online. It's also strange that in an attempt to write a textbook on high-tech marketing, the author decided to provide no case studies whatsoever. In Search of Stupidity from Apress is a great book about high-tech marketing, since it tells the story of a failed marketing attempt and also tries to figure out the reasons, but in It's Not About the Technology, Karamchedu just tells years of his personal experience, without references to specific companies or projects, which makes the book a compilation of abstractions on high-tech marketing.


In his spare time Alex enjoys reading technology and business titles. He also keeps a collection of free books for readers on a budget." 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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198 comments

Bullsh** detector (5, Insightful)

baggachipz (686602) | more than 9 years ago | (#11247662)

When looking at a brochure-style website dealing with services or products, count how many times the word "solution" is used. The higher the number, the more full of crap they are. The all-time record is held by ibm.com.

Re:Bullsh** detector (4, Insightful)

JeffTL (667728) | more than 9 years ago | (#11247763)

I've noticed that myself. And also note how often there isn't an explicit price tag on a "solution" -- that's what makes it different from a product, which is when you can see what you're considering getting and for how much money without promising your firstborn and getting on a mailing list.

Re:Bullsh** detector (1)

baggachipz (686602) | more than 9 years ago | (#11247798)

Very true. I find it hilarious that I got modded as flamebait -- we speak nothing but truth.

Re:Bullsh** detector (1)

AviLazar (741826) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248452)

A few things to note is, in B2B transactions prices are almost never discussed in the "advertisement." This is because prices in B2B are generally negotiable. This has carried itself (sometimes) to B2C transactions. Nothing is wrong with this. A lot of times companies do not want the prices listed because they are so expensive - and the face explanation of the product does not show exactly what the customer is getting (i.e. world class support). Other times prices are not listed because quantity rules, or the sales person might be willing to take a cut just to help make the sale - or the company might get special packaging (buy product X for 1000 bucks, but if you buy product Y we will give oyu X for 800 bucks), etc...

Though I do agree, somewhat, that more fluff talk = more BS...but that should not exclude someone from researching the product. I would rather have a well thought out, complex sentence that shows some imagination then the "Me John, Me hit Jane head. Jane now mine."

You are correct, sir (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11247770)

Re:Bullsh** detector (3, Insightful)

micromoog (206608) | more than 9 years ago | (#11247776)

That's funny, because IBM actually does drive a lot of the innovation, and definitely performs a lot of the work, in IT. "We intend to sell dog food on the Internet" is a much better bullshit signal.

Re:Bullsh** detector (1)

mOoZik (698544) | more than 9 years ago | (#11247955)

I don't think I understand your dog food reference. Care to expound?

Re:Bullsh** detector (1)

goofyheadedpunk (807517) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248011)

Pets.com was an ill fated dotcom company that aimed to sell pet food over the internet. That's most likely what he's referencing.

Re:Bullsh** detector (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11248055)

but... but... Pets can't drive. How else are they supposed to get their food?

Re:Bullsh** detector (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11248071)

Pets can't use the internet either, dumbass.

Re:Bullsh** detector (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11248067)

pets.com was one of the hyped companies of the Internet hysteria of the late 90s. Their business case has been repeatedly summed up as "we intend to sell dog food on the Internet".

The GPP is a bit awkward - the dog food reference could also refer to software, as in the phrase "eat our dogfood" to mean using your own software product.

My bet is on the first take though.

Blame M$ (4, Insightful)

superpulpsicle (533373) | more than 9 years ago | (#11247670)

It went wrong when the biggest players in the market can sell lemon to the consumers and get away with it. Think of how many versions of M$ windows are unusable before a service pack 2 or 3.

Imagine buying a car and it doesn't work until 6 months later when your manufacturer has a recall for you. Commercial hi-tech industry seriously need a good role model.

Re:Blame M$ (4, Insightful)

garcia (6573) | more than 9 years ago | (#11247755)

Think of how many versions of M$ windows are unusable before a service pack 2 or 3.

Hmm, Windows2000 and XP ran just fine for me right out of the box without service packs. Yeah, you needed a good firewall (hardware and software) and you needed to make sure some services weren't running but I really don't consider that to make the "unusuable".

Honestly, I wouldn't run ANY OS without the above mentioned changes being made to the configuration.

Should we say that RedHat is bad because everyone knew that you shouldn't use a RH release before X.3?

Re:Blame M$ (1)

Soko (17987) | more than 9 years ago | (#11247961)

Yeah, the grandparent is a zealot - over-exagerating about "OMG, w1nd0z3 is sooo crashy and insecure". I use XP, and rather like it. Since I'm a geek in the know, I can keep Windows running safely and smoothly, when I need to run it.

The point you didn't address, however, is that "Microsoft is the cause of this problem". He's dead wrong that "Crappy software from Redmond" is the root cause, but he has the right culprit. Over-Hyped, crappy software from Redmond that came pre-installed on every bloody PC is the cause.

The reason marketroids in this industry over hype everything is that a tech companies success is judged againt Microsofts success. Well, you lying, back stabbing^W^W^Wmarketing people, listen up:

Microsoft is, and always will be, a one time thing. There will never be a company that grows as fast as they have in this industry, period. Get over it, and start telling the truth, please - you can't replicate thier level of success by hyping something. "Once bitten, twice shy" and all that.

*glares directly @ google*

Soko

Re:Forgot Windows 1,2,3.0? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11248374)

Remember Windows XP is Windows NT 5.1! Windows had Windows NT and sold 16-bit Windows on top of DOS. You claim the grandparent is a zealot as an easy way to get credibility. Just because you're not rabidly anti-MS doesn't give you any more cred when criticizing them.

Re:Blame M$ (1)

mOoZik (698544) | more than 9 years ago | (#11247838)

There were other choices besides Windows at that time, but guess what? The consumers made a choice. Whether or not it was prudent is subjective, but no one forced anyone to purchase anything. I have been using MS products for more than a decade, and I can tell you I have not had problems. One can similarly state that no one should buy a computer with an OS that doesn't support the vast majority of hardware, software, and since it is a minority player in the OS market, support is lousy for non-nerds. Get my drift?

Re:Blame M$ (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11248064)

That's rich man. Real rich! I had problems in every OS I've used. I know you're lying when you say "no problems" because there's always one thing or another that doesn't quite work right. It's the nature of computers.
But anyway, all this isn't Microsoft's fault, or the consumer's fault. It's IBM's fault, and that of every PHB who wanted IBM solutions, because of the brand name.

Re:Blame M$ (1)

nitelord (824762) | more than 9 years ago | (#11247893)

That's why I just download the latest pirated copy with SP2 included. Works great every time.

Re:Blame M$ (1)

peragrin (659227) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248101)

My biggist paranoid fear about doing that, is that you never really know if they slipped in a nice little trojan and hole in the swiss cheese firewall to begin with.

For testing I don't mind but for machine that keep my data, I only trust certian systems.

Re:Blame M$ (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11248073)

Hell yeah. But how many Gnome/KDE versions are usable before version 2.8.0/3.2.0 (compared to "M$ windows")?

Re:Blame M$ (1)

xtype2.5 (761755) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248254)

In the automotive world, the M$ equivalent is Jaguar!

Blame Ourselves! (2, Interesting)

beaststwo (806402) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248366)

We're the reason that bullshit sells. We're the ones that have to have the new toy, the new drug to try and satisfy our technology cravings.

When I was a kid, industry pulled the same crap on housewives by putting the same detergent in a packaging label "new and improved". Media outlets provide crap programming because that's what people will watch, which sells advertising. .Marketers have found equally fertile ground in technology.

If you want better products, quit buying the bullshit. Fewer dollars chasing the same products will weed out the bad. This is basic economics, people!

Re:Blame M$ (3, Insightful)

Audacious (611811) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248394)

I believe that the blurring of lines between what is being sold to someone and what is being leased has not helped things out at all.

My take on the above is:

Sold: An item is sold to you when you do not have to make any other payments to the manufacturer and you do not have to give it back after a specific period of time.

Lease: An item is leased when you have to make payments based up a daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly time period and, after the lease has expired, the item has to be returned to the manufacturer.

From the above, if you "buy" a copy of Windows and do not have to make any additional payments, then the copy has been sold to you - not leased. If this is true (ie: M$ sold the software to you and did not lease it) then all of the leasing agreements imposed by the EULA are null and void. Further, your rights as a purchaser of a product have just increased ten fold because there are a lot of rules and regulations about items which are sold which do not pertain to items which are leased.

With the recent decision by a court in California that M$ et al must display the EULA on the outside of the box and/or have it readily available for viewing before a purchase is made - the distinction of whether a piece of software is sold to the end user or leased will become a greater issue in the near future.

Too old to be assimilated. (2, Informative)

xtermin8 (719661) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248430)

Many posters must be too young to remember Win16. Apparently on /. you have to name Windows 1,2,3.0,3.1, WinNT 3.x, Windows 95 etc. and remind them that Windows XP is NT 5.x!

Who is the customer? (2, Insightful)

rainmayun (842754) | more than 9 years ago | (#11247696)

If the people making the purchase decisions aren't the software engineers, then why should the advertisements be tailored to them? of course I am speaking out of the side of my neck... in a more ideal environment, the purse-string-holder would consult the geeky-technician for an opinion before pulling the trigger on any tech purchases.

10 posts until (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11247704)

somebody quotes ballmer

Doesn't Joel look a bit silly now? (2, Insightful)

Ckwop (707653) | more than 9 years ago | (#11247712)

I don't know about you but I think he has egg on his face.. ASP.Net was a revolution..

For the first time rather than having three hundred asp/php pages with cut-and-copy disease we had a way to make structured code that could be developed very quickly and maintained easily.

At work we've got loads of legacy ASP and lots of new .NET stuff. I'll probably never understand all the ASP. Cut-and-copy disease has made the thing a fucking pain to maintain. In contrast, the .NET stuff is readily understood.

I don't think .NET was a tremendous revolution but it did improve things considerably from a web development point of view.

Simon.

Sure, Joel looks silly to those who do odd things. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11247803)

rather than having three hundred asp/php pages with cut-and-copy disease

The problem doesn't lie in PHP, per se, but in the "cut-and-copy" you describe. It's relatively easy to develop a dynamic web (page|site|service) with only a handful of PHP pages, all easily maintanable. Look at the immense number of dumbed-down blogs, shopping sites and whatnot for simple examples of small-scale applications. For a nominal fee (and sometimes for free), you can develop a full-fledged company site with a few clicks and a pointer to your product database.

ASP.NET doesn't introduce anything new, unless you've only used ASP and have since upgraded to (pre-existing) functionality that "new" in ASP.NET.

Re:Sure, Joel looks silly to those who do odd thin (3, Insightful)

Zebra_X (13249) | more than 9 years ago | (#11247950)

ASP.NET doesn't introduce anything new, unless you've only used ASP and have since upgraded to (pre-existing) functionality that "new" in ASP.NET.

Not true at all. Each "page" is a class and is treated as such in it's implementation from a functional perspective.

A UI developer can make changes to the controls, with out wortying about breaking some server script. In addition it is possible to completely remove SQL code from the presentation tier, this is not possible with out a great deal of engineering and com components with traditional ASP.

ASP.NET simplifies state management on three levels, application, session, and page as well. Page state is something that has traditionally needed to be built by the developer, but this is no longer the case in .NET. Each control on a page manages it's state via the view state.

Also validation for all forms is simple and easy to implement, taking a fraction of the time to complete, and it's twice as robust (it runs client side, and server side depending on what your browser will support)

At the moment, I'd be hard pressed to find another technology platform for web development that is as flexible as .NET.

The revolution was really for the developer - not so much from a product perspective. Have a look at how easy it is to incorporate 3rd party components into web applications. Provided the 3rd party provided designed their component well, it usually "just works". That's more than I can say for similar development platforms.

Re:Doesn't Joel look a bit silly now? (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 9 years ago | (#11247830)

There's no excuse for having cut and paste disease run rampant in your asp code. There was much better ways to manager your code. Code behind pages are nothing new. If you wanted your code hidden from the page design, all you had to do was make an include file with all the page processing code, and leave the page design where it belongs. Just because ASP.Net forces this upon the developer, doesn't mean it couldn't be done in old ASP. Things can be just as bad in ASP.Net as they were in ASP, if your developers don't follow good design techniques.

Maybe you should check out Zope one day? (2, Insightful)

PaulBu (473180) | more than 9 years ago | (#11247850)

Or something else... really...

To say that the current version of the Company X product is so much better than the previous version of the _same company's_ product does not really endorse _either_ version.

Paul B.

Re:Doesn't Joel look a bit silly now? (4, Insightful)

That's Unpossible! (722232) | more than 9 years ago | (#11247852)

I don't know about you but I think he has egg on his face.. ASP.Net was a revolution..

That is highly debatable, but Joel was talking about .NET. You're talking about one aspect and more easily defined part of .NET, called ASP.NET.

Back in 2000, it *WAS* confusing as to what the fuck .NET actually was supposed to be. People would ask me what it was, being a developer they thought I knew, and I could usually muster was, "Well, it's a lot of things all under one umbrella."

Now when people say ".NET" they are usually talking about ASP.NET or the .NET APIs. But back when Joe's article came out, .NET was being bandied about to talk about everything, from Windows .NET Server (aka Windows 2003 Server), to the new API/platform to replace COM, to a set of web services (like Passport), etc.

Re:Doesn't Joel look a bit silly now? (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11247889)

In otherwords your code was a complete pile of shite before because you don't know how to code, but now you have all these predefined functions to call to output completly broken HTML / Javascript you reckon things are better? You traded cut/paste not knowing what the hell was going on, to call predefined function / create object from predefined class still not knowing what the hell is going on.

Re:Doesn't Joel look a bit silly now? (3, Informative)

Jeff Carr (684298) | more than 9 years ago | (#11247942)

Joel wasn't refering to ASP.NET, he was referring to .NET in general. If you check the article How Microsoft Lost the API War [joelonsoftware.com] , you will see what he meant more specifically. He actually quite likes [joelonsoftware.com] ASP.NET.

However, ASP itself wasn't soley responsible for the problems with cut-and-copy disease. It was a problem of developers thinking at page level versus creating an application that handled page generation. The problem could be prevented with ASP, although admittedly it did encourage that style of coding.

Re:Doesn't Joel look a bit silly now? (1)

avandesande (143899) | more than 9 years ago | (#11247952)

nothing you couldnt do in jsp/tag libraries

Re:Doesn't Joel look a bit silly now? (1)

CaptnMArk (9003) | more than 9 years ago | (#11247953)

Relative to ASP, yes. But compared to good java frameworks it's nothings special. (And there's competition on the Java side which means things are improving faster).

And don't get me started on "web projects" in VS2003. A piece of crap if I ever saw one.

Re:Doesn't Joel look a bit silly now? (3, Insightful)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | more than 9 years ago | (#11247975)

For the first time rather than having three hundred asp/php pages with cut-and-copy disease we had a way to make structured code that could be developed very quickly and maintained easily.

I never touch ASP, but if your PHP suffers from "cut-and-copy" you need to take a cattle prod to the developers.

This is a coding practices issue, not a language issue - the legacy code at my current employer is C++ CGI programs that suffer greatly from the use of cut-and-paste rather than code libraries. It's just about the worst C++ code I've ever seen, but that's not C++'s fault. PHP makes it easy to create reusable modules that you can just "require_once"; if developer's don't, that's not PHP's fault.

"Our old code in Language X sucks, our new code in Language Y is better written" doesn't mean that X is better than Y.

Re:Doesn't Joel look a bit silly now? (1)

lack1uster (627987) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248497)

"Our old code in Language X sucks, our new code in Language Y is better written" doesn't mean that X is better than Y.

I know what you meant, but for clarity's sake, that should be written as:

"Our old code in Language X sucks, our new code in Language Y is better written" doesn't mean that Y is better than x.

Re:Doesn't Joel look a bit silly now? (2, Insightful)

jdhutchins (559010) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248088)

ASP.Net was not the first time you could use modular programming in web pages. You can do it in perl, you can do it in PHP, and you can do it in Java. If you had significant amounts of copy-and-paste code in every page, you probably had web designers instead of programmers write your website. ASP.Net was not a revolution.

Re:Doesn't Joel look a bit silly now? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11248326)

New code always looks better than old. Look at your .Net stuff in a few years after it has had a chance to decay and you'll think it's just as bad.

Word (5, Insightful)

t_allardyce (48447) | more than 9 years ago | (#11247748)

It took me 3 years to have a basic understanding of what .NET was. 3 years just to figure out that it was basically Java.

Re:Word (3, Funny)

GGardner (97375) | more than 9 years ago | (#11247829)

It wasn't you. It took MS three years to figure out what they wanted to sell was basically Java.

Re:Word (2, Interesting)

Swamii (594522) | more than 9 years ago | (#11247874)

It took me 3 years to have a basic understanding of what .NET was. 3 years just to figure out that it was basically Java.

As a former Java developer, it tooks me less than a week to discover that .NET was much more than Java. From a purely technical and programmatic standpoint, .NET's inclusion of operator overloading, value types, enums, delegates, multiple langauge support built in rather than added as an afterthought, just to name a few, truely make .NET much more than another Java. If it took you 3 years to discover that, then you need to take off your Java zealot blinders.

Looking at the bigger picture, .NET isn't just the framework & the languages though. For Microsoft, .NET is a strategy, a marketing phrase, a programming framework, a set of languages and tools. This is where the confusion set in as to what exactly is .NET, and it's Microsoft's fault for slapping the ".NET" moniker on everything.

I thought it was SOAP (1)

oneiros27 (46144) | more than 9 years ago | (#11247995)

I thought .NET was supposed to be language agnostic -- ie, it was SOAP. [although, document/literal, as opposed to early SOAP that was rpc/encoded]

I wasted way too much time before I found a decent explaination of the different SOAP encoding styles [ibm.com]

Re:Word (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11248178)

No, it was javaly Basic...

audience (4, Interesting)

confusion (14388) | more than 9 years ago | (#11247752)

I haven't read the book, but it seems to me that, in the case of Best Buy, the company is not selling to "grandma". They're selling the top of the line systems to the clueless geeks (clueful ones would get a better deal online). The fact is that the "speeds and feeds" are what sell many on a more expensive computer.

In many areas, this is a big driver for convergance of different technologies - to be able to provide a "system" that does "something", not pieces that have to be put together. It's true that PCs have very tech centric marketing, but it is quite a bit better than it used to be - now you go out and buy a computer system with keyboard, mouse, printer, camera, monitor, etc etc. That used to not be the case, so I think there has been some level of improvement.

Jerry
http://www.syslog.org/ [syslog.org]

Re:audience (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11248327)

Have you been in Best Buy lately? The large majority of the systems they are selling are not top of the line, they are low end / low cost systems for families on a budget -- or Grandma's on a fixed income.

And most of those family buyers don't have any real understanding of what all the buzz words mean. Though, many have heard enough to compare the metrics (3GHz is better than 2.4GHz, 512MB is better than 256MB).

Software is inexcusably bad as released. (2, Interesting)

crovira (10242) | more than 9 years ago | (#11247764)

The quality of software is appaling. The quality of OS is marginally better (or worse depending on what you use.)

The reason for this is very simple but to fix it requires people to open their eyes.

It starts with computers being deaf, dumb and blind, gets worse with how we think of information modeling (ask your DBA to model a wall. Its a simple and straight forward request. Bricks & mortar do NOT make a wall.) then we compound this with security that isn't in the least bit secure and it absolutely fall down from there.

Put on the THINK! sign people.

Put on the DUH hat people! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11247909)

It's comments like the parent that annoy the hell out of me.

If you know a solution, state it. If you know what the problem is, specifically, state it.

Saying theres a huge problem and waving your hands about just gets you ignored like all the other crazy whiners out there.

and the think hat? what is this 1976? yes I know that date has no relevance, neither does your stupid post.

Re:Software is inexcusably bad as released. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11247977)

So, what's your solution?

Re:Software is inexcusably bad as released. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11248185)

I know OpenBSD takes bugs seriously. So much that they kick buggy shit like ethereal out of their ports tree, and rewrite stuff at the drop of a hat when that's the only way to fix something.
Not all projects are as dedicated, but hey at least somebody's doing it.

Re:Software is inexcusably bad as released. (1)

zangdesign (462534) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248347)

ask your DBA to model a wall

It would be helpful if you would define what a "wall" is before turning it over to the DBA to work out the details of modeling aforementioned wall.

When did slishdot book reviews jump the shark? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11247790)

When even book reviewers were unable to write in more than sentence fragments.

When instead of selling distinct products and services, the company Web sites and brochures started pitching 'the next big thing.' When even software developers don't have a slightest idea about what's being sold to them.

Re:When did slishdot book reviews jump the shark? (2, Funny)

miller701 (525024) | more than 9 years ago | (#11247990)

I read it like a movie trailer In a world where: When instead of selling distinct products ... When even software developers don't have ... This Fall, Miramax pictures presents "It's not about the technology" Starring the 3 time Oscar winner ...

advertising doesn't tell you anything anymore (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11247792)

I remember when advertising would list the benefits of a product. Now all it has is a picture of the sky with a question "where do you want to go today?". Thanks a lot, that tells me nothing.

I was reading some back issues of Pc Magazine from the 80's, the ads told me as much as the articles. Ads would say "The new microsoft compiler has these features... that are better than the last version" I miss those type of ads.

.NET (0, Troll)

jericho4.0 (565125) | more than 9 years ago | (#11247801)

It's nice to see someone (Joel Spolsky) rip into .NET as it deserves. I've never worked with .NET or C#, and I understand it has some things going for it (the language itself and the IDE are often mentioned), but I've never been able to grasp what .NET actually _was_.

Re:.NET (1, Interesting)

Timesprout (579035) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248000)

It's nice to see someone (jericho4.0) rip into something they dont understand in the best slashdot 'I don't know it, have not used it, don't get it and it comes from MS so it must suck' tradition, as it does not deserve. Your ignorance becomes you. Wall building seems to have been beyond you jericho so its hardly surprising you are strugging with a sophisticated development framework.

Re:.NET (1)

rainmayun (842754) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248086)

It's nice to see someone (Joel Spolsky) rip into .NET as it deserves. I've never worked with .NET or C#, and I understand it has some things going for it (the language itself and the IDE are often mentioned), but I've never been able to grasp what .NET actually _was_.

If you've never worked with it, and don't grasp it, what qualifies you to judge it as deserving of being ripped up?

Re:.NET (4, Interesting)

Frostalicious (657235) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248113)

.Net is a failed marketing campaign. That's it. It no longer makes sense to speak of ".Net" without some other qualifier. You can talk about:

Visual Basic.Net. A programming language.
Visual Studio Net. An IDE.
.Net Framework. A platform.

These were supposed to be part of a larger ".Net" product strategy, however the term ".Net" was so ill defined that the term became meaningless. So only use that term when referring to a specific product as above.

Security Software (0, Offtopic)

maxeypad (764349) | more than 9 years ago | (#11247808)

Security software marketed at big businesses is the absolute worst. Risk management software, what the hell is that? Compliance tools?

Being the most advanced definitely isn't enough (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 9 years ago | (#11247814)

For one, does it work? Is it resilient from crashing or breakdowns? If it breaks, is it easy to fix? Is it easy to set up? Does it fill a basic need?

Rise and Fall of the Marketdroids (3, Insightful)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 9 years ago | (#11247816)

The problem is that consumers believe marketers' lies, which are cheaper to produce than a working product. High-tech is no different from any other industry (what do you know of that really works, the way high-tech "doesn't"?), except the cost difference between marketing lies and good products is extremely high, matched only by the their obvious difference in performance. While that NP-complete problem is intractable, the breakdown occurs when consumers react to discovery of the lies, when the product sucks, by switching liars. High-tech offers greater possibility for changing that, as the degree to which products actually work is increasing consumers' ability to filter the lies, and report the reality, through mass P2P communications by people with mutual interest in consuming quality, rather than producing profit.

teachers' responsibility (5, Insightful)

czaby (93380) | more than 9 years ago | (#11247820)

When I give lectures about highly technical topics like J2EE, half of my presentation is writing buzzwords to the whiteboard and explaining what it actually means. Most of the time I finish with: "See, this is really trivial. It was made to LOOK complicated, because the business needs it. But you are technical experts, you should know how simple it is."

The REVOLUTIONARY next big thing . (1, Insightful)

zymano (581466) | more than 9 years ago | (#11247832)

Has got to be REAL superfast broadband.

The cable companies CAN'T and WONT deliver it. I am talking about higher than 100 megabits/sec. .

Imagine a billion HDTV channels and no more installing operating systems.

No more needing to even buy a computer because of distributed networking. You will buy supercomputer time for tough projects.

All this will never occur because municipal fiber to the curb has been killed by stupids in government and their cronies in the private markets.

Re:The REVOLUTIONARY next big thing . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11247921)

Oh, that's cute. He thinks he came up with a clever, new idea. The thin client vision of the world that both Sun and Oracle have had has been around since 1995, and has its roots in the 1960 terminal computers and early ARPANET.

Re:The REVOLUTIONARY next big thing . (1)

cunniff (264218) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248316)

This is a great vision, but, as Joel points out at http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/APIWar.html [joelonsoftware.com] , there are quite a few applications where latency matters, not bandwidth (scroll down about 4/5 of the way, where he says, "Here are a few examples of things you can't really do well in a web application").

Even if you got all of the other latency limitations out of the way, you're left with speed-of-light delays. Imagine a server on the other side of the Earth; it's 20000 km away. That's a 13 ms round-trip, which limits interactivity to 8 Hz, which is way below the threshold considered "interactive" (which is around 20 Hz).

What this means is that those operations which are latency-sensitive need to live on the client, or very close (on-LAN, most likely, or, perhaps, at a municipal level), which still means substantial local computing power.

Re:The REVOLUTIONARY next big thing . (1)

ThosLives (686517) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248334)

I have made a funny observation. Granted, NTSC (and similar) don't have great pixel resolution or anything, but analog is a much more efficient use of a medium than digital. You can cram a LOT more information in analog bandwidth than in digital. I'm not up on the mathematics behind this, but you can think of it this way: say you want to send the number '500' across a medium. You can send an analog signal for time, say, t that is some level above a reference that indicates 500 (say, 500 mV). To send that digitally, you have to send at least 9 bits. If the minimum time to sample some voltage value is t, the analog packing there is more than 9 times information-dense than digital.

Sure, digital has its advantages for reproducible exactness, and analog hardware has a more difficult time coping with noise, but digital loses out every time to analog in information density. After all, what's the "bit rate" for analog television anyway? It's a meaningless comparison, mostly because there's no way (of which I'm aware) to quantify just how much "information" is in an instant of an analog phenomenon.

cheap bastards yankdot steals bandwidth (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11247834)

to sell its ads

What's wrong with marketing... (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 9 years ago | (#11247869)

...three words: Reality Distortion Field.

Not Applicable (0, Troll)

ravenspear (756059) | more than 9 years ago | (#11247982)

That's not marketing, it's brainwashing.

Customers Don't Buy Technology (4, Interesting)

reallocate (142797) | more than 9 years ago | (#11247884)

People aren't interested in "better" technology for its own sake. (And, "better" is usually a matter of debate. Just because techies think something is better, why should the rest of us agree? Or care?)

People buy "stuff" that that we can use to do whatever it is that we want to, preferably without breaking a sweat or needing to read a book first. Technical superiority, by itself, isn't much of a sales pitch. Why should I buy something that is "superior" if I know I won't use that "superiority"?

Techies like to say things like "Windows is unusable" (when most of the world uses it) or "corporations put profit above technology" (gee, do you think?). Just shows why a lot of them get along better with hardware than with people.

Re:Customers Don't Buy Technology (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11248169)

you are out of touch with reality and the modern consumer.

if it is new they want it, regardless of whether itis better, worse or the same. they want it. that goes for technology and every other single industry.

Re:Customers Don't Buy Technology (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11248462)

and you are retarded. consumers buy newer stuff because they perceive "newer" == "better", regardless of whether it actually is or not.

Actually, some do. (3, Insightful)

khasim (1285) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248274)

The owner of the company that I work at buys whatever the latest and coolest toys are.

He doesn't know how to work them or even why a cell phone that works in Europe won't always work in the US .... but he buys them. He buys them because they are cool and newer than what other people have so he can impress them. He is the type who will buy something because it is "superior".
Techies like to say things like "Windows is unusable" (when most of the world uses it) or "corporations put profit above technology" (gee, do you think?). Just shows why a lot of them get along better with hardware than with people.
I think the techies are pretty much like other people in that regard.

They have their point of view based upon their requirements / values and have trouble recognizing that other people have different requirements / values which result in different points of view.
People buy "stuff" that that we can use to do whatever it is that we want to, preferably without breaking a sweat or needing to read a book first.
But part of "Marketing" is making the consumer believe they have a "need" that they weren't aware of before, that can only be supplied by your product.

That "need" can be as esoteric as "I am a rebel against authority" to as mundane as "fast food you like".

Marketing high tech is different from most other markets because newer stuff is constantly being released. The perception of obsolescence is a key factor both in pushing the new stuff (don't be a loser, everyone else is faster) and in resistance to purchasing (why buy now when tomorrow it will be faster and cheaper).

I haven't read the book so I don't know if he covers that in depth.

Something gone wrong in Redmond? (1)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 9 years ago | (#11247928)

From the linked article:
...and I think it proves that something has gone very, very wrong in Redmond.

Yeah, it's called Microsoft. :)

Subscription Model (2, Interesting)

grahamsz (150076) | more than 9 years ago | (#11247940)

How long before people start subscribing to "computers"?

Why not have a reasonably fast system, all the software you need, broadband and tech support for "one low monthly fee". Whenever it gets obsolete someone appears and moves everything to a more recent system.

We "buy" cellphones that way, many people lease cars that way... sure it wont be popular here, but it'd work for most people.

Re:Subscription Model (2)

mabu (178417) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248026)

I think Dell or Gateway had something like this going a few years back. You could trade your computer in for a more powerful one. Obviously it didn't pan out because they dropped the scheme.

Most software these days is pseudo-subscription based. Some are more obvious about it, such as the Norton products which give you X amount of virus definition file updates before they try to mafia-squeeze money from you. Others are more insideous like Quickbooks charging their customers an arm and a leg for a stupid 10k annual tax table.. which I consider to be almost criminal.

Other companies like Oracle, don't actually sell their software. You purchase a "support plan" which includes the software. All the companies are constantly devising ways to leverage their mediocre products to get more money from consumers.

Re:Subscription Model (1)

TrollBridge (550878) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248060)

"Other companies like Oracle, don't actually sell their software. You purchase a "support plan" which includes the software. All the companies are constantly devising ways to leverage their mediocre products to get more money from consumers."

Sounds familiar [redhat.com] .

Re:DirecTV (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11248373)

I've had my one set reciever for a couple of years. If I didn't already subscribe, I could get a 2 set or 4 set box for free. They only give free stuff to new customers. I think I'll have to cancel and resubscribe to get them to upgrade. Why else should they keep my hardware up to date as long as they continue to recieve their monthly fee anyway?

I've been complaining about this for years (4, Interesting)

HarveyBirdman (627248) | more than 9 years ago | (#11247959)

OK, I've been whining in ranting outburts, but they are highly articulate outbursts.

Every big announcement in the tech field for years now has been one limp-dicked anticlimax after another. Oooo! A new palm top PC running a ShitpileOS (Windows) variant that never quite does anything in particular very well. Oooo! Another all in one home entertainment system that's overpriced and has to be completely replaced if one part of it wears out. Piles of new tech gadgets constructed from lowest common denominator components. $8000 televisions. Cell phones with games worthy of, oh, the Sega Master System, at best. Seventeen more first person shooters that require $3000 worth of PC upgrades.

It's all just so boring and bland. IMHO, the only neat devices to come out in the past few years are the DVRs (Tivo/Replays/etc) because they really made a common task (watching TeeVee) vastly more efficient, and those tiny USB flash drives which have made shuttling a CD's worth of data quick and easy and tiny. Oh, and I like my iPod. Those are cool.

What I'd like to see is some existing technologies improved. Stop putting cameras and video games into cell phones, for example, and make the system work better. I should not be having dropped calls in a major metropolitan area at this point.

And, oh yean, my usual call for a functional sexbot. I'm telling ya, they will make their inventor $billions. If you happen to be working on one, hire me. I'm one of the best general digital and FPGA hardware designers you could hope for. I'm really bored in my current job. I want a piece of that sexbot action.

Re:I've been complaining about this for years (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248458)

I know what you mean. In the 80's and early 90's there was some great stuff happening. Computers, then better computers (not just faster, but decent sound and graphics), new mobile phone technology, more and more portable devices, and those funky shiney digital music discs.

Now we just seem to be getting software. The PC as a games machine. The PC as a music player. the PC as a "home entertainment system". The internet - which the tech industry seems to be trying to convert to TV.

Oh, and your sexbot - what I think we need is internet sex. With a portable version. I need something for the daily commute.

not surprising (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11247965)

We all know its the marketing departments that dream up many of these crap products. When they are all done with the plan and have made the press release, then they visit engineering. Then the engineer says "oh crap that is technically impossible." Then your fired because your not a "team" player.

Whoops, all the engineers are outsourced now. We have marketech shell companies now.

Options are expensed now with the change in the US laws. Expect tech stock market to implode in 2005.

If the technical documentation does not have a glossary just throw it away. Maybe web sites need a glossary of terms also.

Its so true when you've seen it!

In the 'ol days (1)

mabu (178417) | more than 9 years ago | (#11247980)

It used to be when a publisher released a product, it was bug-free and of good quality. Nowadays, and this doesn't apply specifically to games -- the same can be said for movies, music and all other "software", you're taking your chances when you purchase something. At least half the products on the market aren't worthy and are just fluff, and the other half are un-original and derivative. And products don't stand on their own any more... they're part of a larger franchised marketing and merchandising plan designed to squeeze as much money from you as possible.

The most notable examples are the hoards of terminally-boring FPS games... Wow, it's just like the last 20 games except now you can sit in a turret or your shots damage texture maps.. oooh. Suckers. The same thing with movies... the people out there who fell for the Matrix Trilogy-of-taking-money-from-suckers. Stop being sheep. Stop buying this crap. Stop the cycle of mediocre content that is 100% marketing-driven with no substance.

This is why I don't buy or play console games. If I buy a computer game, it will be a year or more after it's already been out and the hype has dissipated to the point where its value shines through. I'm not going to be these corporations' little consumer monkey, and I urge others to do the same.

Re:In the 'ol days (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11248234)

It used to be when a publisher released a product, it was bug-free and of good quality.

That is just flat out wrong. Advertising and consumer culture is much more pervasive now than in the past, but products in the past have been dangerous or worthless at least at the rate they are now. The only real change for the worse that I can think of is that products are not built to last on any scale.

Re:In the 'ol days (1)

rainmayun (842754) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248246)

It used to be when a publisher released a product, it was bug-free and of good quality. Nowadays, and this doesn't apply specifically to games -- the same can be said for movies, music and all other "software", you're taking your chances when you purchase something. At least half the products on the market aren't worthy and are just fluff, and the other half are un-original and derivative. And products don't stand on their own any more... they're part of a larger franchised marketing and merchandising plan designed to squeeze as much money from you as possible.

The most notable examples are the hoards of terminally-boring FPS games... Wow, it's just like the last 20 games except now you can sit in a turret or your shots damage texture maps.. oooh.

Your memory is a bit rosy, or perhaps you aren't old enough to remember the Pac-Man product tie-ins (cereal [zutco.com] , clothes [zutco.com] , etc.) sequels (Ms Pac-Man [online.no] , Baby Pac-Man [arcadeflyers.com] , etc.) and clones (Mousetrap [arcade-history.com] , etc.) ? And let's not even talk about movies based on Space Invaders....

Next big thing? (1)

Himring (646324) | more than 9 years ago | (#11247983)

We all know the next big thing in technology is Internets!...

Who is the target audience for this book? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11247998)

With a price tag of $70 I'm not sure who the author expects to read this book.

Sell the sizzle, not the steak (1)

fuzzy12345 (745891) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248027)

That's how it has always been in marketing. How do you get someone with a perfectly good set of golf clubs, and for whom the best way to improve his game is to play more, to buy new clubs? TITANIUM!

Why don't marketers care whether grandma can decode "P4 3.0 GHz 256 DDR 40.0 GB DVD/CD-RW"? Because ALL the profit in this low margin business is from people who CAN decode it.

PC specs (4, Insightful)

HarveyBirdman (627248) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248036)

Hence grandmas in Best Buy staring at the computer described as "P4 3.0 GHz 256 DDR 40.0 GB DVD/CD-RW" when all she wants to know is whether she can check email and view photos of the grandkids.

I hear that at work all day and it drives me nuts. Not that I don't look at specs when I buy a computer, but I have learned never to ask about anyone else's new computer because you get the five minute laundry list of numbers that have no real importance. Do I really need to know if your new Duh-ell PC has an 80G or 100G hard drive? PC specs have replaced dick size and engine displacement as bragging fodder or something.

I overheard the guy in the office next to me last year spend hours on the phone shaving costs of his new PC. $10 here. $5 there. He must have spent 20 hours to save $100. He drives a $45,000 car. Nobody places value on their time. He finally bought the thing and announced it to the bay the next day. Absentmindedly, I asked what kind... D'oh! Nine hours later I could have reverse engineered a schematic of the motherboard based on what this guy told us.

A Dollar For IT is a Dollar Less Profit (1)

was_ms_now_linux (834256) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248053)

In less complex situations, the phenomena he describes would be easier to detect and label and guard against. Unfortunately, the IT industry has its own media and does a great job of minimizing those that question blank-check budgets for IT systems. But, the fact remains that a dollar spent on each version upgrade of an IT system or platform is simply one dollar less profit for that period. Some corps are wising up and slashing costs by using Linux and other low-cost platform alternatives.

Re:A Dollar For IT is a Dollar Less Profit (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11248369)

The fallacy of your post is one of the biggest problems I face in I.T.

I.T. is not just an expense.

Spending $10,000 on System XYZ to replace System ABC might can save my company $15,000 inside a relevant timeframe; the critical, most difficult, and most frustrating part of my job is quantifying the time of particular departments and employees when even the managers and owners cannot do so.

Sentence in the Title (3, Funny)

Euphonious Coward (189818) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248148)

I have a simple rule: never touch a book whose title is a full sentence.

It's not obvious why it works so well. My working hypothesis is this: The writer had a message so important that even people who don't touch the book should get it. Where to put it? Cram it into the title. The problem is, if it fits in the title, it doesn't need a book, does it? Furthermore, anybody who's that sure his idea is so important is probably wrong about a lot else. Even if the book says more than the title, we have been given a good reason to distrust it before we open it.

From the marketers standpoint (4, Insightful)

Lord_Dweomer (648696) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248186)

As someone in marketing/advertising, I have to agree that I have seen few areas as hyped up as the tech industry in terms of their marketing.

Frankly, its disgusting at times because they hurt the credibility of the entire industry (not that we had much with the /. crowd to begin with).

I try to do my part by not misleading people with what I market as I understand that an informed customer that you treat with respect will be a repeat customer who will spread the good word about you. I also inform people of when deceptive marketing/advertising is used and explain why it is bad and meaningless.

I think all of you are familiar with such lies as the "industry leader" claim or the "does more" claim. To those I have to ask "industry leader according to whom? The CEO fo the company? Because legally as long as you have the quote from someone, you are allowed to make that claim", and then I ask "does more? Does more WHAT?! Oh wait, legally that doesn't matter as long as you don't state it. It could ben "does more to line the CEOs wallets" and it would still be legal."

eWeek is a pure example of M$ B/S (2, Interesting)

salmonz (697297) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248190)

Has anyone ever read eWeek? Each article is Microsoft marketing mumbo jumbo with high-level words and makes me wonder "wtf are they talking about?". I don't see any IT manager or company executive talk like that. Btw, eWeek is sponsered by Microsoft, just look at the ads every 2nd page.

Upgrades Are Huge Part of Sales Revenue... (1)

was_ms_now_linux (834256) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248330)

...so there is always going to be an elaborate multi-layered marketing campaign in place to ensure those oaying the cash aren't officially informed that it's just like a broker churning a customer's brokerage account. Some of the purchasing managers probably don't want to know as they are placed from corp to corp by the software makers in order to gain huge sales and keep the cost-cutters away. Think of Sgt Schultz saying "I Know Nothing". As long as any high-budget print or TV article doesn't explain the situation, it all works OK. Most managers don't bother to look at tech-oriented web-sites, just the ones bought by the advertisers, who shape the content. The level of complexity makes it all work. How could you fault someone for making a bankrupting spending decision when the decsision was so complex?

Once again, Slashdot blows it. (2, Insightful)

ednopantz (467288) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248343)

By adding a dubious, four year old dig at MS to the post, they manage to get the reviewer's actual comments ignored in favor of yet another M$ sux thread.
Good going guys!

Re:Once again, Slashdot blows it. (1)

was_ms_now_linux (834256) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248492)

What is the 4 year old dig you are referring to?

vague marketing... (1)

stygianguest (828258) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248445)

from the article
"The fact that it is so broad, vague, and high level that it doesn't mean anything at all doesn't seem to be bothering anyone."

Maybe they have these marketing people working at the patent office as well?

Snake oil sales (3, Interesting)

canuck57 (662392) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248466)

Hence grandmas in Best Buy staring at the computer described as "P4 3.0 GHz 256 DDR 40.0 GB DVD/CD-RW" when all she wants to know is whether she can check email and view photos of the grandkids. Marketers forget to empathize with the customers.

Tactics like this and others go back as far as I can remember. The only difference in the .com/2000 bubble was that a large group of business people believed it and spent billions on vaporware promises of profits with no fundamentally sound reason. I guess they don't teach MBAs how to calculate profits and do basic business marketing analysis first.

Grandma's in the mean time are looking at sub $500 solutions that does not require the maintenance of Microsoft Windows and with players like SAM's club are now selling alternatives. The real big kick will come from the Chinese as "toaster like" computers come in even cheaper and more reliable.

A very large part of this is due to businesses laying off the older experienced types and promoting those well past their level of experience and capability. We often think this is just a problem in I/T, but in actuality it is a problem in business in general as it is out with the baby boomer and in with the "never had to really work hard for a buck" generation.

This industry of computing is going to continue to evolve, it happened before with IBM and mainframes, now defunct Digital VAX, commodore PET, TRS-80, Apple, Apple II, Mac then PC. Next will be the standards based and open appliance.

Unplug 'N' Prey (2, Insightful)

Ranger (1783) | more than 9 years ago | (#11248489)

No one quite knows the exact point when high-tech marketing went wrong.

I do. About two seconds after the words 'high-tech' and 'marketing' were merged in the acorn sized brain of a marketer. Due to their limited storage capacity any relevant technical information was squeezed out and replaced with marketing slogans. He/She/It thus completely divorced from reality was provided with the ability to create a marketing strategy unecumbered by facts.
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