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Top Ten Software companies

I'm a bit curious about that list (in Joel's new article) of the top ten software companies in 2001.  Where's Oracle?  What about some of the big CRM companies like Siebel and PeopleSoft?

Or do those companies have too much consulting to count?

And what about game companies like Sierra or EA?  Maybe they just aren't as big as I think.

This isn't a criticism, I'm just curious.

Friday, August 1, 2003

It said "personal software companies".

Although I'm not sure where they draw the line between personal software and other software.

Teri Pettit
Friday, August 1, 2003

It seems like the book has a set agenda and the author pulls in whatever evidence he needs to prove the point while ignoring no less relevant things.
Personally, I need no data at all to conclude that bad management can screw up a company in a big way. Be it due to sales drones, or engineers lacking sales skills ...

Mr Curiousity
Friday, August 1, 2003

I disagree about the decision to rewrite Netscape.  From everything I've heard and my experience using the 4.x versions, the code was in such a state of disrepair that it was like a condemned building -- better to destroy and start over than to fix it.  It had to be rewritten to stand a chance.  The mistake was letting it get into that crappy state in the first place, not the decision to rewrite it.

T. Norman
Saturday, August 2, 2003

I think the main flaw with rewriting Netscape was that they didn't have a working version for about 3 years.    They could have done a complete rewrite by refactoring and had working versions that supported newer web standards rather than writing a cross-platform GUI toolkit and re-architecting the whole product.

I think that Mozilla in 2003 is a great product, but Mozilla in 1998-2001 was basically non-existent or unusable, and the only Netscape offering was out of date and unable to compete with Internet Explorer during that time period.

Saturday, August 2, 2003

Most companies don't have resources to maintain multiple code bases well

I would have thought Netscape would have been able to however.

If they had to do a rewrite, couldn't they also have another team improving the current (4) version too.

S. Tanna
Saturday, August 2, 2003

The Top Ten lists were for "personal computer software companies."  I think that's a little different then "personal software."  I guess, technically, Oracle and CRM suites are usually installed on servers, so maybe they don't count.  It seems like Citrix would be the same thing though, but then I've never seen their stuff so I could be wrong.

Not sure why the Netscape stuff ended up in this thread.

Sunday, August 3, 2003

From a quick google search ( ) it looks like EA wouldn't have made 2001 but might've made 2002. 

Sunday, August 3, 2003

I agree that Netscapes decision to rewrite is code base was daft. Microsoft has also made plenty of clever decision and even finally get around to producing a quality desktop. (just recently upgraded to XP from 98)

However the almost complete churn in the top 10 of software suppliers begs the question, is it really just that Microsoft is competent and almost everybody else who competes in the same field isn't.

I think Microsoft has and is making a plenty of mistakes. Its huge monopoly is of course a classic network effect that is hard to break. Those desktop and office revenues can fund it through plenty of mistakes until it has broken it competitors in any other area it chooses to compete.

Some examples. It almost missed the boat with the Internet. It really wasn't until IE 5.0 that it had a clearly superior browser. That time to turnaround would have broken many other companies. Its lock on distribution meant it could ensure that its initally inferior browser could gain traction by being the default for many years.

Windows Pocket PC has evolved from its crock  of pants early CE roots, into something really quite good. But how many companies would have over 5 years to get it right? All it will take now is for Palm to slip up just once in execution, for Microsoft to turn around the market share. No doubt in 5 years we will blame whatever future mistake that Palm makes, convientley forgetting that Microsoft made plenty as well in the same field. Microsoft can afford to wait. Its desktop and office revenues mean it can take losses for an awful long time. A luxury no other company has.

XBox. Decent machine I grant you, but then so was the Dreamcast. The Gamecube is already been written off despite globally having the same market share as Xbox. Unlike the Xbox, the Gamecube is pulling in a small profit, though nowhere like Nintendos original expectations. However it is being written off by industry analysts while Xbox which is losing a billion dollars or so a year, with no chance of profitability for this generation. Microsoft seems to be essentially considering it a loss leader for generating brand recognition for the Xbox2. Who can afford that business model? Not Sega certainly and I don't even think Sony could make it though a failed console generation. Sony just has to mess up once. Microsoft can fail repeatly until its broken it competitors. It has the luxury of a business model almost no other company has in histoy.

The chart showing evolution of software revenue is interesting. Are we really saying every other company could not compete with Microsoft, that they suffered from incompetence of some sort while Microsoft is seemly overimbued with competence, or is it as I think more likely, there is some economic network effect that once locks in on supplier gives them an invincibility and protects them, even from their own mistakes.

I think Microsoft position arose from a lucky break given to it my IBM when it essentially outsourced the design of the PC in the 80s. A huge mistake for IBM but once made the network effect essentially kicked in for both Microsoft and Intel. If IBM hadn't done this I think we would be now suffering the same overbearing monopoly but with IBM at the helm or if IBM hadn't even built the PC then Apple would now be in the same position.

Essentially the butterfly effect in chaos theory applies here. A small decision by some forgotton committee by IBM over 20 years ago, with almost impossible to predict consequences, amplified with a huge positive feedback once the network effect took hold. The lucky receipient was Microsoft. Competence or no competence.

Peter O'Connell
Tuesday, August 5, 2003

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