Monday, August 11, 2008

Non-Existent Products and Vaporware

The story goes that Bill Gates' mother sat on the board of IBM. When IBM decided in 1981 to build their first PC, they went to Digital Research for an Intel 8086 operating system. Digital Research had not developed an 8086 version of its CP/M operating system, and was not interested in developing one for IBM. When this was reported to the IBM board, Mrs. Gates suggest that IBM could talk to her son Bill at Microsoft. When IBM came to Bill Gates and asked him if he had an operating system, Bill Gates lied, told them that he did, and sold it to IBM.

Around the corner from Microsoft was a small computer manufacturer, Seattle Computers. They were one of the pioneering manufacturers of 8086 computers. Because Seattle Computer's had a computer with out an operating system, Programmer Tim Paterson was ask to produce one. In two months Tim came up with a CP/M clone for the 8086, which he called the Quick and Dirty Operating System, or QDOS.

Bill Gates' partner Paul Allen knew about Paterson's QDOS, so he scurried down the street to Seattle Computer in order to buy rights to QDOS. Seattle Computer sold those rights for $25,000, thus launching the rise of Microsoft.

Bill Gates for ever after set the pattern. It is cool to offer to solve technology problems with solutions that are not in hand. One can always buy or create the solution after the sale. Far to often, however, the solution proves to be far more difficult that anticipated. In software when a non-existent product is announced, it is called vaporware.

America now turns to self styled energy experts who have energy problem solutions for sale. Unlike Bill Gates, who was smart enough to realize that if he did not have a product to sell, he could buy a unnoticed product for a song, and sell it dear to IBM. Sell someone else's product, or if no one has the product, sell a none existent product in the hope that it will exist some day.

The number of failed software product ideas appear to be far greater than the number of successful products. Thus a large number of vaporware projects never materialize. Others like Microsoft's ill conceived Longhorn eventually emerge as bloatware after years of unsuccessful development. The original Longhorn design had to be scraped, because it reached the perpetual failure limitation of Microsoft's software development philosophy. Every time software engineers patched a problem in Longhorn code, another problem would pop up. Eventually Microsoft was forced into a massive code rewrite guided by a more intelligent code design philosophy. The result was Windows Vista, hardly a triumph for Microsoft, but at least not vaporware.

EEStor has no Seattle Computer to solve its "no product" problem, and according to EEStor critics, EEStor design philosophy violates the laws of nature, which is ample warning for irretrievable product failure.

Overhyped products come close to vaporware because what is delivered does not perform up to expectations. I plan to look at the overhyping of energy solutions, in the near future, as well as the tendency to ignore other more promising solutions for irrational reasons.

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