Lets see. For every one icon AOL gets to place on the XP startup screen, Microsoft gets to place three icons, according to our recent news story. But PC makers are facing tough times, and those bucks they get from Internet service providers for sticking those icons on startup screens have suddenly become their most profitable product. So if Dell cuts the deal for an AOL button and cuts another deal with Yahoo, Lycos, eBay and Symantec, we end up with about 20 buttons on the startup screen. So much for the clean experience of the XP startup screen, which, at one time, if memory serves me, was just going to be a rubbish bin and start button.
While its doubtful the XP startup screen wars could ever get this far out of hand, the only thing holding the warfare back might be Microsofts inability to keep coming up with three shortcuts with each new competitive icon. After buttons for MSN, the media player, Microsoft Messenger, bug fixes and Bills favorite sites, you start to run low on shortcuts. Whats interesting in the icon wars now under way before XPs Oct. 25 release is that the corporate maneuvers usually taking place behind closed doors (like how many corporate logos can you place on an athlete before he looks like a billboard?) are part of the public discussion. And barring any last-minute court injunction or computer makers adopting Linux en masse, the outcome of the icon wars will be available for all XP users to see.
But while the icon wars may be the most entertaining technology-titan conflict now taking place, the more important IT decisions taking place in the corporate space involve databases. This weeks issue includes West Coast Technical Director Tim Dycks review of Oracle9i. Just as HP Chairman Carly Fiorina has stopped wandering far afield to try to concentrate on the companys core, profitable products, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison must make sure his company builds the strongest, fastest, most secure database if he wants to continue his acquisitions of jet planes, fast cars and tailored suits.
Tim finds a lot to like in the 9i offering. The trend over the past couple of years has been to bundle more and more offerings on top of the underlying database. This bundling makes sense, as it gives the associated applications a firm foundation. But the complexity of adding file and document management, e-mail, application serving and more makes installation and development more difficult. The downside of the Oracle strategy, as Tim notes, is the loss of a best-of-breed approach for the consistency and centralized management of an integrated suite. You pay a lot for 9i, but you get a lot. But you can also get a lot from Microsoft, IBM and Sybase database offerings. And it is making the right choices among those types of offerings that will have a far greater effect on your corporate IT structure than keeping track of who wins the icon wars. One battle is fun to watch; the other is fundamental to your companys success.