Living in the Present is SO Yesterday

It’s an occupational hazard of living in the future that analysts can begin to ignore the present – unless we make it a practice to seek it out. Here in the Valley, that can be difficult, when being a week behind the latest version of something the rest of the world hasn’t heard of yet equates to being a luddite. That can lead to AADD (analyst attention deficit disorder.)

This was brought home to me this morning while catching up with some thoughts from friends in the Enterprise Irregulars. Vinnie Mirchandani, author of the excellent The New Polymath, has understandably been observing things in the publishing business of late.  He cited Amazon’s recent statement that  ebooks outsold hard covers last quarter. As the New York Times reported it, Amazon “sold 143 Kindle books for every 100 hardcover books, including hardcovers for which there is no Kindle edition.” And the pace appears to be quickening.

In his typically polymath way, though, Vinnie didn’t stop there. He dug into the data, and added that “worldwide ebooks are only about 4% of all book sales.” And in perspective, that’s a reminder that rest of the world may not look exactly as it does from inside our reality distortion field.

The epiphany for me as I contemplated all this was a simple one: it’s important, no matter how caught up we get in the new, to recognize how much the old matters too. In my own primary area these days, the ADBMS marketplace, we spend a lot of our time talking about vendors who have 2 or 3 dozen customers, and occasionally dismiss the Oracles and IBMs with a wave of the hand. Oh, they’re so behind…

Excuse me. The leading vendors generate more revenue in a day than these players do in a year. And new revenues are just the leading edge. Their upsell, cross-sell, and – love it or hate it – maintenance revenue is massive too. And it’s not just money we’re talking about, though that’s our convenient metric. The products existing leaders sell, and have sold, are used (one hopes) to run businesses, create value, and in their own way, to build the future too.

Analysis that fails to provide context runs the risk of being irrelevant to many of its consumers. It’s important – I remind myself – to understand the value provided every day by software and hardware that were acquired yesterday, last month, last quarter, last year – even a decade or two ago. It colors adoption trends. That’s the analyst view.

For vendors it means that the barrier is high: why is what you’ve got better? Not, we must remember, just because it’s new. It’s one reason vendors like to talk about transformation so much. If you are not trying to change things, the stuff that you’re already using to good effect may be just fine.

Concept mashups are great; adding the newest things we can find to one another can create dramatic new value, inspire breakthrough thinking, and transform the art of the possible. But perspective matters too, and in our collection and analysis of information, we need to remember not to leave out older, proven value.

Published by Merv Adrian

Independent information technology market analyst and consultant, 40 years of industry experience, covering software in and around the data management space.

12 thoughts on “Living in the Present is SO Yesterday

  1. Great post Merv. Reminds me of some thoughts that just came up the other night at dinner with some entrepreneur types: The best technology doesn’t always win. One of the names that came up as a failly recent poster child for that statement was TiVo. Seems that TiVo has been the “best” DVR for a decade now but they simply have not been successful as a company.

    Another comment along the same lines was that a company doesn’t necessarily have to be the best, they need to be competitive enough and [keep] make loads more money than the other guys doing it. I think that defines the difference between simple product success and company success.

  2. Merv – Excellent insight to keep us analysts honest and focused on the present. I am probably as guilty as anything on this issue! Keep reminding us of the obvious to those who may have lost sight of the obvious.

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