I read the crazy Wired essay/Kindle Single John McAfee’s Last Stand about how the guy who made antivirus software famous ended up wanted by the government in Belize. It’s a wild, but not all that interesting, tale, however, I found this snippet about how he started selling his software very interesting:
He started McAfee Associates out of his 700-square-foot home in Santa Clara. As a hobby, he had been running an electronic bulletin board out of a corner of his living room. He had four phone lines patched to a computer that anybody could dial in to and upload or download comments and software. His business plan: create an antivirus program and give it away on his bulletin board. McAfee didn’t expect users to pay for it. His real aim was to get them to think the software was so necessary that they would install it on their computers at work. They did. Within five years, half the Fortune 100 companies were running it, and they felt compelled to pay the licensing fees. By 1990 McAfee was making $5 million a year with very little overhead or investment.
Company’s like Yammer have been celebrated in the software industry for introducing a new, and very interesting, model wherein you sell to individuals first and then get enterprises to buy once there’s scale. Cool to see this has actually been around for awhile.
One of the things I’ve been saying lately about what we’re doing at Percolate is that from a design perspective our competition isn’t other enterprise software tools, it’s Twitter, Tumblr, and the like. Because so many community managers (the most common user from the brand side) are heavy users of social media personally, they have come to expect consumer interfaces across all their tools. Or, as Sarah Lacy put it, “millennial entitlement”:
Millenials are coming into the workforce and the generation has an amazing capacity to demand the world revolve around their desires, whether that’s reasonable or not. Millenials will just start demanding better software from the companies they work for, and if they don’t get it, they’ll start installing their own skunkworks implementations.
Sure, I guess I feel entitled to well-designed software even in a business environment …
It’s always interesting to see how smart people get their job done, which is why I like The Setup and Atlantic Wire’s Media Diet feature. The former asks interesting people – mostly engineers – about the hardware/software they use on a daily basis, while the latter digs into the media habits of some of the most successful journalists around (last week was Andrew Ross Sorkin). Beyond getting interesting tips for software and new Twitter feeds to follow, what’s so great about these things is that it recognizes the roll of outside tools and influences in the lives of successful people. It’s a good thing to remember.
Back in August I wondered about the long-term effect of the move to a software world:
Software companies optimize themselves to operate with as few humans as possible and many of them seek to replace functions that humans once performed. The net loss seems irreplaceable to me, even if everyone in the world knew how to write code. I’m no economist and I hope I’m wrong for lots of reasons, but I’ve been unable to find an answer in my head or in my conversations with others that satisfies me.
Since that time we haven’t seen much of an improvement as far as the economy or jobs numbers go and it looks like some other folks are asking the same questions I am (or, more likely, I’m asking the same questions they are). TechCrunch has a nice roundup of the conversation (via Henrik), including a link to an Economist blog post that argues the rate of jobs being destroyed by software is simply faster than the rate of jobs being created:
Another implication is that technology is no longer creating new jobs at a rate that replaces old ones made obsolete elsewhere in the economy. All told, Mr Ford has identified over 50m jobs in America—nearly 40% of all employment—which, to a greater or lesser extent, could be performed by a piece of software running on a computer. Within a decade, many of them are likely to vanish. “The bar which technology needs to hurdle in order to displace many of us in the workplace,” the author notes, “is much lower than we really imagine.”
Again, I’m not an economist and certainly hate to think I might be on the side of the luddite fallacy, but what if this time is different?