Industry Leaders Look To Software's Future

Business-technology executives, vendors, and software developers give their 2 cents on everything from how users will pay for software in the future to what's next for Linux.


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What will the software industry look like in three, five, even 10 years from now? And what customer demands and business trends will drive changes in software products, how they're developed, and the industry that provides them? Here are some thoughts from suppliers and buyers of enterprise software:

On relationships with software vendors:

"The issue of software quality might begin to hit software vendors where it hurts--on the financial bottom line. In the future, vendors who are used to getting paid for their products up front, even if the software is buggy, may find payments from customers tied to how well their products perform." – Tony Scott, a chief technology officer at General Motors Corp.

The trend is toward simplifying the enterprise software architecture, and software as services offers a way to do that. Hence, customers will demand that more software be delivered this way. With software as services, software vendors are being drawn more intimately into the day-to-day operations of their customers. "Increasingly, the software vendor's fortunes are being tied more closely to the customer's." – Madhavan Rangaswami, co-founder of Sand Hill Group, a Silicon Valley venture-capital firm specializing in enterprise software

On hosted software services:

"Software as a service is an appropriate name. Service should be in bold block letters, because it's the service over time that will change. Software will become more of a commodity." – Bud Mathasiel, CIO of Solectron Corp.

"Getting true functionality to the end user will drive success or failure. Welcome to the services world. If they don't like it, you don't get paid." – Treb Ryan, CEO of OpSource Inc., a provider of infrastructure, systems and application management, and hosting to ASPs

On application development:

"There's been a lot of hand-wringing over the number of development jobs that have been outsourced to offshore companies. Won't increased automation of software development processes accelerate that trend? I'm not sure if that actually pans out. It's the basic programming jobs that have already been outsourced that are in danger of disappearing." – Patrick Hynds, chief technology officer of CriticalSites Inc., an IT development and integration services firm

On the next killer app:

"The punch line is that the next killer apps are going to be new ways of doing old things." – Dan'l Lewin, VP of .Net business development at Microsoft

On standards:

Don't underestimate the influence China will have on the software industry. With millions of businesses and hundreds of millions of users, China may be positioned to dictate software standards for the rest of the world. "I believe China will play a larger role in setting software trends." – Danny Sabbah, chief technology officer in IBM's software group, pointing to Red Flag Linux, China's own version of the open-source operating system

On the next version of the Linux operating system:

"I absolutely hope that it will be fundamentally different some way. But in many ways I don't actually expect that to be the case. Operating systems have been around for decades, and the fact is, they don't tend to do surprising things. I suspect we'll be doing some things very differently internally, and there are bound to be new interfaces for new things people do, but in the end, an OS is an OS." – Linux creator Linus Torvalds

On the cost of software:

"Software is a human, intellectual activity. It is automating knowledge. I think there is a natural limit to how cheap enterprise software can become." – Gerald Cohen, CEO of business-intelligence software vendor Information Builders Inc.

On security:

"People who are building service-oriented architectures --which as far as I can tell is everyone, I haven't found a global 2000 who isn't --(have) a whole bunch of new concerns and new issues. Web services punch a hole in the firewall, so the firewall doesn't do me any good, and someone with an identity unknown to me is coming in and asking for service. And if that service is accepted, out goes information that's potentially my business-critical information. How do we deal with that? I think the answer is you need to consider (having) security on every single one of your computers, not just (around) the perimeter." – Jothy Rosenberg, founder and chief technology officer of Service Integrity Inc., a developer of Web services monitoring and analysis software, and author of Security Web Services With WS-Security.

On long-term predictions on the future of software:

Return to The Future Of Software homepage"I think the IT industry needs to keep a fairly short horizon. Our horizon is about two years. We make it a practice not to have these big five-year plans. If you do, you're going to get about halfway through and the world is going to change. – SAS Institute Inc. CEO Jim Goodnight

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Illustration by Brian Stauffer

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