Some day in the not-too-distant future, business-school professors who actually know what they're talking about will challenge their students to think about corporate strategy in these words uttered this week by Apple CEO Steve Jobs:
"You're looking at it wrong. You're looking at it as a hardware person in a fragmented world. You're looking it as a hardware manufacturer that doesn't really know much about software, who doesn't think about an integrated product, but assumes the software will somehow take care of itself. . . . And you assume that the software will somehow just come alive on this product that you're dreaming of, but it won't."
But. It. Won't.
Those words capture the major challenge facing both CIOs on the customer side and CEOs on the IT-vendor side: how do they shift their worldviews, rapidly and profoundly, from one focused primarily on infrastructure and architecture and servers and storage and networks and devices, to a new worldview concentrated on the power and value and potential of deeply integrated and optimized software?
Back to Jobs: "And you assume that the software will somehow just come alive on this product that you're dreaming of, but it won't."
I hope you're all laughing at the foolishness of your humble correspondent, and that this has all been obvious to you for years, because that would mean this industry over all is farther along the path to new innovation and prosperity than current signals would seem to indicate.
In too many cases, we are stuck today still "rubbing sticks together," as Oracle executive VP John Fowler recently said about the degree to which IT vendors and their enterprise customers are fully harnessing the raw power of the technology at hand.
We're still taking hardware that's immensely capable but built for general purposes and pairing it up with software that's highly sophisticated but built to run on multiple types of hardware with approximately the same level of pretty good but not great performance.
Jobs is saying—and business schools will one day teach—that we are tackling the problems of tomorrow with the outlook of yesterday: