What happened to all the risk takers?
I have spent most of my career either implementing corporate systems, or testing and writing about them for eWEEK and other publications. However, I took the last five years off and helped launch a 24-hour cable network—called TechTV—all about technology.
Back in the late nineties, IT departments were full of risk takers. Innovative new technologies were brought in, piloted and in some cases turned into real competitive advantage. Sure, there were a lot of duds. But many new technologies turned out pretty well, including intranets, PDAs and clustered servers. But today, it seems like everyones running scared. No one wants to go out on a limb and try new things.
As John Taschek, director of eWEEK Labs, has noted, AMDs Opteron processor has many technical virtues, but only flawless marketing by AMD—and its been far from flawless so far—will overcome the innate caution of IT buyers.
There may be hope now that IBM has joined the Opteron party, but the larger point is still that IT today is just too timid to take a risk—even on a server that runs faster and cheaper than the competition.
Take open source, too. Ive been pushing our own CIO, Jasmine Alexander, to write a guest column for eWEEK.com in which she would detail why open source software would never darken her door. Ive been reading about all the hand-wringing and teeth-gnashing over Microsofts restrictive Office licensing policies, yet if big greens financial results are any indication, IT has been lining up to sign the contracts like lambs heading to slaughter.
Why hasnt Open Office or Star Office made any headway? Where are the successful pilot implementations? Are we really doomed to mediocrity because were all chicken?
Well, Ive got good news. Innovation is happening, its just coming from odd places. I was talking with a friend who works at a major Silicon Valley foundation, designed to help non-profits build better communities. The entire foundation has given Windows and Office the boot, and theyre rolling out open-source desktops. Even better, theyre developing a model program for doing so, which will turn into a turnkey approach for non-profits across the country. This is great. After all, who would you rather receive foundation and grant money: The organizations working to make our towns better, or Microsoft?
Maybe you really are doing some innovative stuff. Maybe you just arent willing to talk about it because itll create some real advantages in the marketplace. But if you can, let me know. Id love to be able to say that innovation is alive and well in corporate America, but I cant. Five years ago, Id never have thought Id write these words, but it looks like non-profits are leading the way in technology innovation. And thats pretty darn amazing.
If you can talk about it, talk to me. Id love to show off some of the cool stuff going on, and maybe change my mind about businesses. Give me a shout at [email protected].
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