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In Search of Stupidity

samzenpus posted more than 7 years ago | from the you-don't-have-to-look-far dept.


Ben Rothke writes "In Search of Stupidity gets its title from the classic, albeit infamous business book In Search of Excellence: Lessons from America's Best-Run Companies, by Tom Peters and Robert Waterman. In Search of Excellence quickly became a best-seller when it came out in 1988 and launched a new era of management consultants and business books. But in 2001, Peters admitted that he falsified the underlying data. Librarians have been slow to move the book to the fiction section." Read the rest of Ben's review.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can purchase In Search of Stupidity: Over Twenty Years of High Tech Marketing Disasters, Second Edition from 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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Executive Summary (4, Insightful)

Lord Grey (463613) | more than 7 years ago | (#16956202)

Hindsight is 20/20.

Re:Executive Summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16956372)

I think you might be on to something by connecting 'executives' with the 'search for stupidity'.

Re:Executive Summary (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16956394)

Mad Dog is 20/20

Re:Executive Summary (1)

HotNeedleOfInquiry (598897) | more than 7 years ago | (#16956512)

Damn, I wished I had some mod points to mod this funny. As it is, it will prolly get modded off-topic and disappear.

Re:Executive Summary (5, Interesting)

thesandbender (911391) | more than 7 years ago | (#16957348)

I think comment is insightful in that it only reinforces flawed approaches that this book is trying to discuss and resolve. The review itself states that sections of the book are likely to give /.'ers fits because it tries to dispel common viewpoints in the IT industry of Microsoft being an underhanded company with a grossly inferior product.

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

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

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

(And I'm tied to the book in anyway and haven't worked for Microsoft in any manner for a loong time.)

Hindsight (1)

markjo (977895) | more than 7 years ago | (#16958356)

I beg to differ. I figure that hindsight is 20/40 at best, with a touch of astigmatism.

If You Have To Search For Stupid... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16958808)


you might have to search for stupid on the level of billions of dollars in losses, though. okay, i'll give him that.

In Search of Stupidity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16956232)

The author could get ALL his resources and facts here at Slashdot ;)

Re: In Search of Stupidity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16956484)

I agree completely. Its getting to the point where there is nothing to learn from slashdot anymore. Most of the topics are political or religious rants that sound like Air America.

The entire book is on Microsoft? (5, Insightful)

shidarin'ou (762483) | more than 7 years ago | (#16956294)

Because if not, the amount of time you spend on the first chapter, and ignore the rest, seems a little disproportionate and uninformative.

I Live In Washington DC... (0)

saudadelinux (574392) | more than 7 years ago | (#16956432)

...and I don't have to look very far.

Re:The entire book is on Microsoft? (2, Interesting)

(A)*(B)!0_- (888552) | more than 7 years ago | (#16957050)

Not only that, he's not really viewing the one chapter he talks about; he's merely summarizing it.

This barely qualifies as a review.

It shouldn't be just a chapter... (2, Informative)

DiamondGeezer (872237) | more than 7 years ago | (#16956346)

...there should be an entire twenty-volume set of all the mistakes that Novell have made and continue to make.

Re:It shouldn't be just a chapter... (1)

sjwest (948274) | more than 7 years ago | (#16956802)

Perhaps Steve Balmer might send him copy with drawing of a chair and the words ha ha you sucka

Re:It shouldn't be just a chapter... (1)

AK Marc (707885) | more than 7 years ago | (#16958914)

Since the "review" (summary, if you ask me, and they are different things) didn't mention it, I suppose it wasn't listed as a primary reason, but there is one very very important Novell piece left out. They latched onto IPX as a better LAN protocol. They are right, but they refused to natively support IP long after everyone wanted IP for Internet connectivity. Given the choice of IP only and NT or IP and IPX with Novell, and people didn't want the trouble of IPX. If they had embraced IP earlier, they'd have had a fighting chance.

catastrophe? (2, Insightful)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 7 years ago | (#16956416)

The catastrophe is that these mistakes have led to the demise of many of these companies.
Maybe this is a fine point, but I can think of a lot of catastrophes in the last 20 years and none of them has to do with the demise of any company. I know it may be traumatic for those involved but catastrophe seems a bit strong. And from what I gather from the review, most of the companies mentioned still exist, though they are possibly not as dominant as they once were.

Re:catastrophe? (1)

Bent Mind (853241) | more than 7 years ago | (#16959096)

The catastrophe is that these mistakes have led to the demise of many of these companies. And from what I gather from the review, most of the companies mentioned still exist,

If you want see some truly catastrophic marketing mistakes, take a look at the history of Atari. They had a very innovative computer at one time. However, all that is left of them is the brand name.

If the review is accurate, the book is revisionist (5, Interesting)

brokeninside (34168) | more than 7 years ago | (#16956442)

Assertion: It was primarily IBM's own ineptitude in marketing OS/2 which led to Windows 95 taking over the desktop.

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

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

Re:If the review is accurate, the book is revision (5, Interesting)

HomelessInLaJolla (1026842) | more than 7 years ago | (#16956868)

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

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

The way that I see it:

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

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

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

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

Thank you Microsoft for bringing all of the stray cats and dogs from the whole neighborhood to play/poop/pee in the carefully planned sandbox that we had.

Chicago was vaporware for years, true (4, Insightful)

brokeninside (34168) | more than 7 years ago | (#16957006)

OS/2 v2 had years of a head start on Windows 95. OS/2 Warp had a ten month head start. The fact of the matter is that both of these had insignificant market share when compared to DOS/Windows 3.1. So all your points about how IBM was blindsided by Windows 95 are irrelevant.

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

Re:Chicago was vaporware for years, true (2, Informative)

niks42 (768188) | more than 7 years ago | (#16957956)

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

Think about it - we might have had a five year head start on GNU/Linux ... !

IBM thought they bought the market (4, Interesting)

plover (150551) | more than 7 years ago | (#16958542)

Absolutely, preloads were the key to Microsoft's success. Yes, the IBM clone competition had a large part to play in preloading Windows, especially since IBM was threatening them with the PS/2 line and its patented, locked-down architecture. But there were other IBM "stupidity" factors that helped kill OS/2, also.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Re:If the review is accurate, the book is revision (1)

operagost (62405) | more than 7 years ago | (#16957112)

Windows 95 came out in August 1995. How is that "by Christmas?" It was VERY late. It was supposed to come out in 1994 (and 1993, and 1992)!

Re:If the review is accurate, the book is revision (1)

Tim Browse (9263) | more than 7 years ago | (#16956890)

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

And I'm a techie - if that was my opinion, it should be obvious why the general population went for whatever was the next version of Windows.

Re:If the review is accurate, the book is revision (1)

operagost (62405) | more than 7 years ago | (#16957274)

Apparently you did not run games, terminal applications, a BBS, or even more than one applications at once because those were the biggest reasons for running OS/2. The GUI was OO and solid (there's a reason to run it over NT's crufty Program Manager), but being able to run your DOS games without exiting your GUI and running Word and Excel simultaneously without corrupting the whole OS if one crashed was pretty much a killer application. Isn't that kind of stability why you ran NT 3.x? OS/2 ran a lot more 16-bit windows and DOS apps than NT 3.x did, and just as reliably (if not more so). If NT's stability and multitasking weren't the selling point for you, then why didn't you just run 16-bit Windows? After all, it was the same GUI.

Re:If the review is accurate, the book is revision (1)

Fred_A (10934) | more than 7 years ago | (#16958040)

However, in the end, as the parent poster pointed out, all OS/2 was really used for was running Windows apps since nobody bothered to write apps for it.

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

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

Re:If the review is accurate, the book is revision (1)

cyber-vandal (148830) | more than 7 years ago | (#16958616)

Far from being an advantage, the Windows compatibility killed OS/2 because it was the only thing most people saw in it. "It runs Windows better than Windows !" "Well, if it's to run Windows stuff, I'll stick to what I know". End of story.

Are you seriously suggesting that the OS that ran Windows apps badly (Windows) outsold the OS that ran them well (OS/2) merely because users wanted native apps? Perhaps there's a more plausible reason such as no other PC manufacturer were prepared to preload an OS from one of their competitors - the preloaded OS being the one that is most likely to win due to the hassle of switching OS for the average user.

Re:If the review is accurate, the book is revision (2, Interesting)

rk (6314) | more than 7 years ago | (#16957346)

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

Re:If the review is accurate, the book is revision (1)

thsths (31372) | more than 7 years ago | (#16957066)

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

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

However, being in several fields of business can also be a problem. IBM doing hardware and software is an example: you would assume that selling hardware would give them an edge selling software for it, but it did not. Instead, IBM sold its hardware with Windows (for which ever reasons), and IBM compatibles where sold with Windows, because they were competing with IBM and thus with OS/2. Sony is another example: the media division makes them cripple the consumer devices, and in the end they all go down...

I am sure Microsoft was often tempted to produce hardware, but they were smart enough to stay from any actual computer components. They only produce peripherals (and nice ones), which do not threaten their software business.

The FIRST anti-trust trial. (2, Informative)

khasim (1285) | more than 7 years ago | (#16957362)

In 1994 Microsoft signed a "consent decree" because of their "per processor" agreements with the OEM's.

So it would seem that Microsoft already owned the desktop market prior to 1995.,1551,35212,0 0.html []

The failure of the PS/2 killed OS/2 (2, Informative)

jmyers (208878) | more than 7 years ago | (#16957512)

From my perspective the IBM PS/2 line of computers killed IBM's dominance and lead to the dramatic rise of Compaq, Dell and others. The rise of clones lead to the rise of the generic (non-IBM) OS which was MS-DOS.

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

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

People didn't know they were buying MS-DOS or PC-DOS or Windows or OS/2, there were buying a computer and if you bought a Compaq it came with Windows not OS/2.

Re:The failure of the PS/2 killed OS/2 (2, Interesting)

Bozdune (68800) | more than 7 years ago | (#16958668)

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

However, this has nothing to do with the software business. The point is, and this is made by other commentators later in this thread, none of the clone manufacturers would source an IBM operating system if they could avoid it. Buying an OS from your competitor? What idiot would do that?

The clones were climbing up IBM's ass at the time, and would have eventually won on price/performance anyway. So OS/2 was doomed, since the clones would have won huge market share, and the clones would have avoided OS/2 like the plague.

Re:The failure of the PS/2 killed OS/2 (1)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 7 years ago | (#16958762)

the IBM PS/2 line of computers killed IBM's dominance

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

Gah! I still have a book shelf full of the constantly moving timing requirements for that stinker of an asynchronous bus. It was very easy to end up with a MCA add in card that would only work on certain PS/2 models, much less machines from other manufacturers.

Re:The failure of the PS/2 killed OS/2 (2, Informative)

_Sprocket_ (42527) | more than 7 years ago | (#16959058)

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

And here is a hint of the true source of Microsoft's succes. The story really isn't about OS/2 and Windows... its about the emergence of a commodity platform.

The PS/2 was IBM's last-ditch effort to shove the commodity PC geanie back in the bottle. By this time, they had lost control of the platform they had introduced. The base system was off-the-shelf components. The gatekeeper of the whole syste, the BIOS, had been legally reverse-engineered (spawning the instant success of Compaq). An industry was rising around the "IBM PC clone" - and Microsoft was supplying an OS to anyone who wanted one. The PS/2 attempt surrounded the introduction of a competing bus archictecture - the Micro Channel Architecture (MCA). MCA was far superior to the standard ISA bus. But it was proprietary technology belonging to IBM and IBM would only allow implementing MCA bus and compatible cards under rather stiff licensing restrictions.

The industry decided to forego MCA's advantages for the advantages of a commodity platform. And so IBM lost its last battle on that front. OS/2 was collateral damage. Apple would later feel the sting. So-called clone manufactorers would continue to see their market grow. But the big winner was Microsoft who now made money (and built up network effect / market share) on every commodity platform sold... no matter who pieced it together. By the time OS/2 Warp came around... who was really keen to play IBM's game another time? And even if they were willing to... could they beat the network effect of Windows?

In search of...stupidity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16956468)

In this episode:

We examine the drawings on the Nasca plains, but the people who drew them must have been really stupid, because they can only been seen from UFOs.

How some idiot crashed his boat on top of Mt. Ararat.

Can Kirlian photography reveal auras of electro-magnetic dumbness?

Re:In search of...stupidity (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#16957008)

Can Kirlian photography reveal auras of electro-magnetic dumbness?

Sure. Anyone who deliberately has their photograph taken using the kirlian method in an attempt to see their aura qualifies. As such, 99% of kirlian pictures of humans reveal just this very thing.

Search? (1)

jay2003 (668095) | more than 7 years ago | (#16956508)

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

they've obviously been (1)

wardk (3037) | more than 7 years ago | (#16956534)

reading my posts

You can stop looking (1)

Thansal (999464) | more than 7 years ago | (#16956536)

/em stands up

I am right here, you don't have to keep on looking. Sorry if finding me delayed anythign important. I will still be here latter if now is not a good time. /em sits back down

Re:You can stop looking (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16956682)

Angle brackets + HTML = &lt; (<), &gt; (>).

In terms of marketing blunder's... (4, Informative)

nani popoki (594111) | more than 7 years ago | (#16956548)

who can top Osborne's "If you think this model is great, just wait to see what we'll have for you next year!"?

Re:In terms of marketing blunder's... (1)

ENOENT (25325) | more than 7 years ago | (#16956854)

Yup, that was my first thought, too.

There's nothing like the sensation of shooting yourself in the foot.

Gerald Ratner can beat that... (2, Informative)

rHBa (976986) | more than 7 years ago | (#16958312)

"People say, "How can you sell this for such a low price?" I say, because it's total crap." []

Other chapters? (1)

Josh Lindenmuth (1029922) | more than 7 years ago | (#16956568)

Has anyone else read this book? Is this primarily focused on Apple/IBM/Novell/Microsoft, or are there other 'stupid' business decisions included as well. I'd be surprised if the AOL/TimeWarner merger wasn't included. Even decisions such as Gateway's cow themed retail stores probably rank high enough to mention. Unfortunately neither B&N or Amazon have a Look Inside or even an Index posted for this book.

Re:Other chapters? (1)

siberian (14177) | more than 7 years ago | (#16956678)

I read this book awhile back and while it was interesting it is highly focused on the timespan when the author was 'in the industry' and leaves out vast swathes of recent history.

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

Quick read, you can eat it in a few hours so no huge loss if you don't like it :)

Table of Contents and sample chapter (2, Informative)

Rescate (688702) | more than 7 years ago | (#16957162)

Table of Contents []
  1. Introduction
  2. First Movers, First Mistakes: IBM, Digital Research, Apple, and Microsoft
  3. A Rather Nutty Tale: IBM and the PC Junior
  4. Positioning Puzzlers: MicroPro and Microsoft
  5. We Hate You, We Really Hate You: Ed Esber, Ashton-Tate, and Siebel Systems
  6. The Idiot Piper: OS/2 and IBM
  7. Frenchman Eats Frog, Chokes to Death: Borland and Philippe Kahn
  8. Brands for the Burning: Intel, Motorola, and Google
  9. From Godzilla to Gecko: The Long, Slow Decline of Novell
  10. Ripping PR Yarns: Microsoft and Netscape
  11. Purple Haze All Through My Brain: The Internet and ASP Busts
  12. The Strange Case of Dr. Open and Mr. Proprietary
  13. On Avoiding Stupidity []
  14. Stupid Analyses

Re:Other chapters? (1)

Curmudgeonlyoldbloke (850482) | more than 7 years ago | (#16957428)

What GEC did in the late '90s puts many other company cockups very much into perspective.

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

Apple never had a 30% share (2, Informative)

HBI (604924) | more than 7 years ago | (#16956574)

10%? Maybe. But never much above that after the mid-80s. 5-10% was the estimate range back in the early 90s and it has since declined.

Re:Apple never had a 30% share (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16956728)

ROFL. Who gives a shit about the exact numbers?

The important thing is that they are thankfully irrelevant.

Sounds like a pretty accurate book to me.... (5, Interesting)

King_TJ (85913) | more than 7 years ago | (#16956614)

As a big OS/2 supporter back in its heyday, I can attest to the fact that IBM shot itself in the foot, repeatedly, in their half-baked attempts to sell that product. Any idea that Microsoft "killed" OS/2 is nothing but revisionist history B.S.

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

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

I will say though, in defense of Apple, they doggedly stuck to their original business model - which was really the model *every* brand of computer was sold with, before MS-DOS and "IBM compatible" became the "industry standard". If they caved in and started selling PC clones, or licensed out MacOS back then, where would they be today? You can say their unwillingness to change forced them down to 5% sales vs. 30% or more ... but I'd argue that if they did change, they might well be out of the computer hardware market completely today. (Asking Apple to drop their "proprietary" business model is essentially the same as asking them to become a software vendor, iPods not withstanding.)

As another OS/2 supporter from "back in the day" (1)

StressGuy (472374) | more than 7 years ago | (#16956916)

This thing was clearly superior to Windows, and had a fanatical user base. Yet, IBM pretty much left us with no support. There idea of porting an app to OS/2 was to slap a sticker on a Win 3.1 app saying it will run in emulation on OS/2.

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

They really had something there...and they just let it die.

Re:Sounds like a pretty accurate book to me.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16956932)

There is no question that IBM blew it with OS/2. I would personally still love to have the Workplace Shell on whatever OS I'm running.

One of the things that I see missing in the history, though, is that Microsoft wasn't finishing their parts of OS/2 during the IBM-Microsoft OS/2 era, telling all the big software companies (such as Lotus) that OS/2 was the future, yet in their back room, they were working on Windows, and the software to run on Windows. So, when Windows came out, nobody else had their software ready. Excel and Word would have never overtaken 123 and WordPerfect if the'd been on the same playing field.

Re:Sounds like a pretty accurate book to me.... (3, Informative)

Jawood (1024129) | more than 7 years ago | (#16957204)

One of the things that I see missing in the history, though, is that Microsoft wasn't finishing their parts of OS/2 during the IBM-Microsoft OS/2 era,...

I was one of the hundreds of OS/2 developers at IBM. I can tell you this, at the top of every source module for OS/2, there was this statement "Copyright 1987, Microsoft Corporation."

Yes, MS wrote OS/2 - except for the networking layer and the installation programs - the worst parts of OS/2. When I mentioned that the worst parts of OS/2 were written by IBM, I got may ass chewed out royally!!!

My point? IBM dropped the ball on OS/2. Period. Their management decided that the company's resources would be best spent on developing their software on Wondows.

Don't ask me, ask Gerstner.

And also... (1)

mustafap (452510) | more than 7 years ago | (#16956960)

Many ATM ( cash machines ) are powered by OS2 - even today. NCR, at least.

Your explanation doesn't hold water (1)

brokeninside (34168) | more than 7 years ago | (#16957106)

Name one top tier vendor other than IBM that ever offered OS/2 2.0 or above as a preloaded operating system.

That right there is why IBM lost the war. And it doesn't really have anything to do with IBM's marketing mistakes (which admittedly were legion). There are really only two reasons for this. The first is Microsoft's monopolistic practices which, among other things, required vendors to pay for Windows licenses for every machine they shipped regardless of whether they had Windows installed. The second is that none of IBM's competitors wanted to finance IBM.

Re:Your explanation doesn't hold water (1)

niks42 (768188) | more than 7 years ago | (#16957700)

> Name one top tier vendor other than IBM that ever offered OS/2 2.0 or above as a preloaded operating system.

Europe had more, much more success than North America. Escom and Vobis both preloaded OS/2 2.1 and later. HPs desktop division in Grenoble, France even toyed with the idea. I put that success down to a fanatical bunch of people in Basingstoke, UK who thought nothing of jumping on planes and working round the clock with vendors to work through issues with device drivers, preload images and bundled applications. The Basingstoke team stuck with OS/2 preloads on ATM machines well beyond the point of extinction.

If I could add another reason - there was a problem with critical mass that sunk IBMs efforts to keep OS/2 successful. That was the huge cost of maintaining device drivers for all of the disparate hardware that was the 'IBM Compatible' platform. Since Windows had that critical mass, Microsoft could rely on hardware manufacturers to provide Windows drivers for their swiftly changing graphics cards, sound cards, motherboards and chipsets. The DDK was written so that Microsoft 'owned' the binaries developed. IBM had to practically buy that same support, or attempt to provide it themselves, or limit the range of hardware that could be guaranteed to run OS/2 without problems. Apple never suffered the huge problem of the multiplying quantity of device drivers that needed to be written and supported, since by and large it controlled the core hardware platform. The sheer weight of providing a huge support team for a piece of software was beyond IBMs willingness to compete; executive management saw that the division had spent enough money to launch another Hubble space telescope, and go repair the thing without gaining more than a few points of market share.

Re:Sounds like a pretty accurate book to me.... (3, Interesting)

sphealey (2855) | more than 7 years ago | (#16957422)

From the OP: === Microsoft at one point was working with IBM to develop OS/2 and many have written that Microsoft took advantage of IBM in that joint effort. But Chapman writes that complete and direct responsibility for the failure of OS/2 falls completely on IBM. He notes that it is difficult to find a marketing mistake around OS/2 that IBM did not make. ===
Even worse: Jerry Pournelle, who at that point was still an influential person in the PC industry, documented the mistakes IBM was making with OS/2 in real time. And discussed them one-on-one with the top dudes and dudettes on IBM's OS/2 team. And documented their lack of responses to the problems in real time.

And IBM still didn't listen.


Re:Sounds like a pretty accurate book to me.... (2, Insightful)

asuffield (111848) | more than 7 years ago | (#16957748)

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

The irony here is that the last version of Warp was "Aurora", the should-have-been-v5.0 version that was finally released, in a blaze of no publicity at all, as "OS/2 Warp Server for e-Business". They tried so hard not to sell it that you haven't even heard of it - the policy was to tell nobody but the large enterprise customers about its existence. They'd sell it to you if you asked, but you had to know about it first. It also contained numerous new features over Merlin, that could have been marketed to the public (like the JFS filesystem, AIX-style LVM, a full NFS implementation, etc). Nothing that we're not used to now, but this was in 1999.

Re:Sounds like a pretty accurate book to me.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16957824)

As a big OS/2 supporter back in its heyday, I can attest to the fact that IBM shot itself in the foot, repeatedly, in their half-baked attempts to sell that product.

The operative word here is "sell". I have on two occasions put pen to paper and written long letters to technical companies that were obviously in the process of doing something that was simply idiotic in the face of competition from Microsoft. Naturally, both missives were ignored. One was to IBM, written in the first few days after Win95 came out. It came down to: "give OS/2 away; if you do that, you stand a good chance of winning the desktop; if you insist on selling it, Microsoft is going to eat your lunch". I still maintain that giving OS/2 was the best strategy IBM could have followed as soon as Win95 hit the streets.

Re:Sounds like a pretty accurate book to me.... (1)

Michael Woodhams (112247) | more than 7 years ago | (#16958022)

I remember the marketing for OS/2 Warp. If I hadn't already known that it was an OS, I'd have concluded they were selling a web browser.

Re:Sounds like a pretty accurate book to me.... (1)

FirstTimeCaller (521493) | more than 7 years ago | (#16958122)

As I recall, there was a point when both Windows (3.x) and OS/2 were concurrently being developed by Microsoft. This caused confusion in the development community -- which OS should they target? Microsoft responded by saying "develop for Windows" and we will provide a migration tool to OS/2. This, I think, is were Microsoft really out-maneuvered IBM. They successfully captured the developer community and convinced them to target Windows (partly by providing superior tools and documentation). Once more (or better performing) applications were available for Windows, it was game-over for OS/2.

Yup... (2, Insightful)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 7 years ago | (#16958952)

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

AFAIK the only machine you could ever get OS/2 preloaded on was the crappy PS/1 from freaking Sears. That wasn't going to give anyone who used it a good impression of OS/2. The IBM PC division holds a lot of the blame for the death of OS/2. Of course several other IBM divisions did half-assed jobs of porting IBM Windows software to OS/2. Quite often those applications would do huge processing jobs and freeze up the OS due to the single system input queue. Ironically the windows counterparts of those applications ran better in the Windows emulation in OS/2 than the OS/2 versions did under OS/2. If they'd bothered to do their processing in threads and continued to handle system messages they'd never have had those problems.

Then there the annoying usability issues that IBM never bothered to fix. Hell if you formatted a diskette in OS/2 and left it in the drive over a reboot you'd get an error message like "OS2!!2047/OS2!!2048" during the boot up process and the system would hang. I handled 5 or 6 people a week who had that message on their screen, freaked out and called support. IBM refused to fix it claiming that they had no room on the floppy for an internationalized string library so you HAD to have the numeric error message. I guess so it'd be incomprehensible to everyone. Also, the aforementioned single system input queue -- it seeemd like most OS/2 applications would stop processing messages off the queue and freeze the system up. They came up with a half-assed workaround for it in 3.0 but it never did work as well as it needed to. And the binary-only ini files and extended attributes were a great idea in theory, right up until they got corrupted. Then you may as well just reinstall the damn OS because there was no recovering from that shit. A few of us could beat the system into submission but things would never be the same after your ini files got corrupted.

They seemed to go out of their way to piss off Team OS/2 as well. Oh there were a few "Believers" in IBM and I was one of 'em. I even did the 95 summer COMDEX on my own dime to provide installation and marketing support for the show (I still have a thank you letter from some VP or other.) But the company just seemed to want to kick that anthill at every turn, too. And grassroots fans can be your best friend but if you piss them off they can also be your worst enemy.

Yeah I don't think IBM could have done a better job of killing OS/2 if it had tried to. Too bad there's never any accountability in the IT world -- if I were an investor I'd be pretty angry about the lost opportunity to dominate the software industry the way Microsoft currently does.

Re:Yup... (1)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 7 years ago | (#16959148)

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

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

Look at slashdot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16956684)

"In Search of Stupidity" => just look at Shashdot and the search is complete.

Platform/Technology limited competitor options (2, Informative)

EMB Numbers (934125) | more than 7 years ago | (#16956696)

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

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

The Mac OS GUI features required much more than the CGA and VGA graphics (over an ISA bus) that typical PCs had at the time. Even if Apple had licensed Mac OS in 1990, nobody could have gotten it working on the craptastic PCs available at the time.

Microsoft leveraged its existing DOS dominance into its Windows dominance and leverage the fact the PC hardware sucked too much to run anything better at the time. Apple no doubt thought that anyone attempting to implement a GUI would at least have direct frame buffer access the way the Mac did in 1984. PCs did not have it in 1991.

Re:Platform/Technology limited competitor options (2, Interesting)

iocat (572367) | more than 7 years ago | (#16957028)

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

Then Windows 3.1 came out, and even though it was *well* below the Mac in quality and ease of use, I can easily see why the suits made the decision to support it and forgoe the Mac and OS/2.

Of course, the irony is that not much later, Microsoft developed a very similar product to theirs and ate their lunch! But they'd have failed if they'd supported OS/2 or the Mac instead of Windows. The climate was such that you had to be kind of stupid *not* to support MS, given the environment at the time, regardless of the fact that almost anything (GEOS for PC, anyone?) had better quality than Windows, espcially in the 3.0 days.

Stupidity found! (1)

maynard (3337) | more than 7 years ago | (#16956738)

Right here on slashdot [] !

1982 (5, Informative)

behindthewall (231520) | more than 7 years ago | (#16956776)

"In Search of Excellence" came out in 1982, not 1988 as indicated in this topic's summary. I remember having to deal with it in 1984. ce []

Re:1982 (1)

EVil Lawyer (947367) | more than 7 years ago | (#16956898)

Was it translated into newspeak?

George Bush does not care about black people (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16956824)

I doubt he gives a shit about books either.

Re:George Bush does not care about black people (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16956930)

Stupid white men!


another GREAT book!

Save $3.50 by buying the book at! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16956884)

Barnes and Noble is selling this book for $19.99, but is only selling it for $16.49!

Save yourself $3.50 by buying the book here: In Search of Stupidity [] . That's a total savings of 17.51%!

Questionable points (5, Insightful)

david_thornley (598059) | more than 7 years ago | (#16956986)

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

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

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

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

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

Re:Questionable points (1)

oliderid (710055) | more than 7 years ago | (#16958052)

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

IBM tried to force Taiwan manufacturers to adopt its new architecture. There was a small technologic gain over the ISA bus, but nothing that impressive and they failed miserably.

Microsoft "innovation" (3, Insightful)

operagost (62405) | more than 7 years ago | (#16957072)

Most recently, when Microsoft found itself behind the 8-ball and lacking a browser, Internet Explorer was quickly developer and in time, surpassed the capability of Netscape Navigator.
... by licensing Spyglass's technology (and ripping them off in the process).

Re:Microsoft "innovation" (1)

Alomex (148003) | more than 7 years ago | (#16958640)

BS. While Microsoft did license Spyglass' code and did rip them in the process by bullying them into a pittance of a payment, Spyglass' browser was waaaaaaay crappier than Netscape or the first version of Internet Explorer.

Re:Microsoft "innovation" (1)

_Sprocket_ (42527) | more than 7 years ago | (#16958858)

The "innovation" quip also stuck out for me. I used to get a chuckle out of seeing criticism of Microsoft innovation. Long diatribes about the origionation of the GUI as we know it from Xerox PARC to Apple were interesting historical exercises. But I never found it particularly damning of Microsoft (or Apple). Things changed when Microsoft themselves started to push the "innovation" meme. It took on an even darker tone when Microsoft claimed that their business model was the sole path to continued "innovation". Criticism of Microsoft's "innovation" is now more of an issue of debunking their rhetoric than claiming that any given company or project has earned the sole right to win marketshare.

soviet russia (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16957146)

in soviet russia stupidity finds you. (it just did.)

I found stupidity... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16957164)

In search of stupid (5, Funny)

proxy318 (944196) | more than 7 years ago | (#16957206)

I don't have to search for stupid. It comes to me.

Re:In search of stupid (1)

Bugs42 (788576) | more than 7 years ago | (#16958722)

I don't have to search for stupid. It comes to me.
Like moths to a flame?^U Like (l)users to a sysadmin?

Netscape stupidity and software management (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16957224)

I'd say that the failure of Netscape was their own stupidity as well, with Microsoft there to outdo them.

In particular, I'd put it down to (at least) Engineering management stupidity. Everyone had free reign to modify any part of the code that they wanted. And they did. This led to horrible bloat, numerous bugs, and a source code base that was hard (if not impossible) to deal with.

I know of one contractor there who was so fed up that he had his manager implement a policy that if anyone touched a section of the code that he needed to get his work done, they would be fired.

This is still appropo to software mismanagement today. I see numerous companies (especially startups) where they repeat this model.

While this can work well for small crews, after a certain size it fails - and that size limit isn't very large (a half dozen IMO).

What I find interesting is to contrast this with successful projects, like the Linux kernel source. Sure, you can modify any part you like. But your patches aren't getting in unless you have the approval of the right person - THE person who is responsible for that section. And even with that, unless Linus buys off on it, it still isn't getting in.

One of the things which is interesting about this approach is that it constantly seems to be ignored by Engineering management in many companies. The managers like to have replaceable bodies, which they can outsource or do what they will, rather than treat their employees as experts in a specific area, and delegate the decisions to these experts. I.e. make them responsible and accountable.

I've never seen the "replaceable body" approach be successful past a year or two. And it always leads to a mess which has to be cleaned up.

Digital Research DID provide an OS to IBM (3, Insightful)

pcubbage (78216) | more than 7 years ago | (#16957246)

Speaking of folklore, Gary Kihdal DID do a deal with IBM and did publish CP/M for the PC. It took a while and IBM had it's doubts and went back to Bill Gates who came up with DOS. Two things happened:

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

Did Gates not devlop, but rather buy, DOS from Seattle Computer Products and push it out? Yes.
Did Gates know OEM's business model from selling BASIC to several and price DOS for that? Yes.

In Search Of... (1)

triffid_98 (899609) | more than 7 years ago | (#16957268)

Am I the only one hearing a Leonard Nimoy voiceover [] in my head?

"This series presents information based in part on theory and conjecture. The producer's purpose is to suggest some possible explanations, but not necessarily the only ones, to the mysteries we will examine."

chilling effect (4, Insightful)

epine (68316) | more than 7 years ago | (#16957330)

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

Dear Curiosity Seeker, (1)

Glog (303500) | more than 7 years ago | (#16957420)

you have come to the right place.

Revisionist or flawed history? (1)

Ancient_Hacker (751168) | more than 7 years ago | (#16957524)

I'm amazed at the claim that IBM's marketing sunk OS/2. Their marketing may have been marginal , but there were many other deeper reasons OS/2 didnt make it:
  • OS/2 was tied to the old 80286 architecture, as IBM was making lots of PS/2 boxes with 286's. That was a major millstone around its neck-- it could never do any of the clever real to protected mode switching and emulation that Windows 3.1 could do.
  • IBM had a lot of programmers in the UK assigned to OS/2. Distance, before the Internet, was a big hindrance.
  • The UK crew had some very strange ideas, many of them impractical and antithetical to the PC world.
  • OS/2 first came out with a very crippled "text only" version, with most of the overhead but none of the benefits of the GUI version. A great way to make a poor OOB experience.
  • OS/2 was not torpedoed by Microsoft, in fact for the first year or so Bill gates worked quite hard to fix many of the worst design choices in OS/2.

Apple not licensing is not a Marketing mistake (3, Insightful)

hellfire (86129) | more than 7 years ago | (#16957696)

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

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

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

Re:Apple not licensing is not a Marketing mistake (1)

paudle (781865) | more than 7 years ago | (#16957940)

Just curious, what are the revenues of Dell vs. Apple and your sources for that?

Re:Apple not licensing is not a Marketing mistake (2, Informative)

gitchel (858517) | more than 7 years ago | (#16958786)

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

Re:Apple not licensing is not a Marketing mistake (1)

gitchel (858517) | more than 7 years ago | (#16958950)

And before someone asks, 3Q 2006 revenue for Dell was about $13.9B and Apple's was $4.37B. If you stop and think that maybe the current definition of "success" for Apple is that it has a rock-hard 5% market share of a hugely growing market, and that they continually (perhaps not consistantly, but at least frequently) delight their own customers, perhaps Apple is doing just fine. If you measure Apple with Microsoft's ruler, it'll always come up short.

"Peters falsified data": not really (1)

Knuckles (8964) | more than 7 years ago | (#16957764)

The review says that
in 2001, [In Search of Excellence Author] Peters admitted that he falsified the underlying data
. This is not really true [] . Quoting Business Week,
For years, many assumed that the authors employed rigorous research and stringent financial screens to identify "excellent" companies. Peters now maintains that he and Waterman simply asked their McKinsey colleagues and other "smart people" for the names of companies doing "cool work." Then, they screened that initial list of 62 organizations for financial performance over a 20-year period. That whittled the list to 43 companies, ranging from Johnson & Johnson to Intel Corp.

Even more peculiar than Peters' confession of inventing data is the author's insistence that his published admission is actually untrue. "Get off my case," he grouses. "We didn't fake the data. It's called an aggressive headline."

Wikipedia Article (2, Funny)

bheilig (516136) | more than 7 years ago | (#16957800)

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

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

This article about a non-fiction book is a stub. You can help Wikipedia by expanding it.

Re:Wikipedia Article (1)

lamona (743288) | more than 7 years ago | (#16959060)

If every flawed, even totally error-ridden, non-fiction book were moved to the fiction section the non-fiction section would be virtually empty. Well, that would depend on the library. In some parts of Kansas the non-fiction section would only contain the Bible; in Berkeley, it would only contain Che's Bolivian Diary and Kerouac's On the Road; in Maine it would only contain the Angler's Almanac. Sheeesh!

UHH!!! Pick me, pick me... (1)

dvazquez (1020429) | more than 7 years ago | (#16957960)

Just kidding

What about the Microsoft "head-fake?" (1)

dpbsmith (263124) | more than 7 years ago | (#16958046)

Circa 1989, I was working for a Fortune 500 company--a very stupid one, but that's another matter--which made PCs and pretty much toed the Microsoft line. From time to time they would herd hundreds of developers into Auditorium III where people from Microsoft would give us The Word. They took Q&A from the audience.

In 1989 they were asked about Windows and OS/2, and said, unequivocally, the OS/2 was the mainstream OS and that we should develop OS/2, that Windows was a sort of toy for the home market. (At that time, Windows programs ran in conventional memory... of which Windows itself took about 300K, leaving less than 300K for the Windows application. Even in 1989 that was a severe constraint).

In 1990, they were asked the same question with a bit more edge to it, by some groups that had started OS/2 development, and they and everyone else all noticed that Window 3.0 seemed to have a lot more fit and finish to it. It was prettier, it came with all those seductive little applets like Windows Write and Paint and so forth, and just generally gave the impression that Microsoft was working harder on it than on OS/2. Again, we were flatly told that Windows was not the future and that OS/2 was the "serious" platform.

Under the circumstances, I have to feel that Microsoft did, in fact, mislead developers. By 1990, they had to have had their own applications developers committed to Windows and not to OS/2. I can't think of any reason for them to do this other than to give their own applications a head start in the Windows market.

I don't see how you can blame that one on IBM.

Re:What about the Microsoft "head-fake?" (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16958704)

Your conclusion does not necessary follow your description of facts. I was also doing OS/2 work at the time and a friend was actually on the OS/2 team. It appeared to me that Microsoft did think OS/2 would be the serious platform. How could it not be? It had IBM's huge resources. After a couple of years, however, the Windows team far outstripped the OS/2 development team and Bill Gates saw his opportunity. Eventually, Microsoft realized that a joint project with IBM was a liability, not an asset.

The difference in polish had a lot to do with the difference in development styles. Some IBM developers were always complaining that the MS developers would do things like allocate static arrays instead of using dynamically sizing data structures (ergo some of the limitations in Windows: HWNDs, etc.). In the end, however, the MS method of getting something working day-in and day-out eventually added up. The end result was a product with more effort (because there was more time "left over") put into the usability and look-and-feel than into perfect data structures in the kernel. And look what customers preferred.

Some of his blanket statements are pro-MS foo (3, Interesting)

whatnever (1028390) | more than 7 years ago | (#16958352)

Most recently, when Microsoft found itself behind the 8-ball and lacking a browser, Internet Explorer was quickly developed and in time, surpassed the capability of Netscape Navigator. By 1998, most reviews were giving IE a higher rating than Navigator. Of course, Microsoft has more cash and developers than Netscape, but that alone was not what doomed them.

I worked at Netscape and I can tell you exactly what happened. Latest versions of the Netscape Browser was free to download, but companies and organizations (e.g. gov't) had to buy licenses. When MS launched ie, they gave it away for free and it put a price pressure on Netscape when it went to re/negotiate licenses. Customers would say, "Your browser is better than ie, but their's is free, we can't pay you as much as you want, we'll only pay x." After ie launched, though obviously inferior, it cut Netscape's income by 50%. As each new version of ie was launched, the Netscape's income from the browser dropped, and eventually went to zero.

There was no income coming from the Browser, so Netscape focused on their server software, webservers, LDAP, etc. That is why browser development fell behind Microsoft's ie. Microsoft effectively killed Netscape's revenue stream from the browser.

And to say Netscape dropped the ball and was doomed by a port to Java and not by Microsoft seems like an incorrect analysis of what really happened. It was mostly the predatory behavior of Microsoft business practices which killed Netscape. This books looks like an analysis by an armchair quarterback (with very heavy leanings towards MS) instead of a well researched scholarly work.

in search of stupidity? (1)

GrumpySimon (707671) | more than 7 years ago | (#16958894)

In search of stupidity? You can all stop looking, I've found it! []

Already has an addendum. (1)

kinglink (195330) | more than 7 years ago | (#16959114)

"High Tech Marketing Disasters" Sony's ps3 marketing seems to fit the bill with that. Their PSP marketing would also.

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

Time will tell how deep it cuts (as big as Apple's decision to work with Microsoft? probably not. But at least as big as Apple's decision to sell Microsoft stock which undermined a lot of Apple's position)

I'm sure in recent year's there's been a lot of failed marketting that they can add for the next one. All the Ipod killers and such come to mind quickly. Windows Vista might hit near there too. The real question that he can tackle in his next book is, are current High tech marketing failures only because of poor marketing or is the media also to blame for it?
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