The IT industry needs to end its turf wars and refocus on meeting the forgotten needs of its customers, according to Sybase chef executive Mitch Kertzman.
"The dynamics of the industry are not focused on technology or on the customer, but on each each other and the geopolitical war of knocking off Microsoft," he said. "Everything from Java through to Oracle8 is part of this geophysical war."
It would be difficult to see off Microsoft despite an apparent paradigm shift in the IT industry caused by the Internet, argued Kertzman in his keynote address on the opening day of Technologic Partners Enterprise Outlook conference in San Francisco. "There are other things we can do with technology than beat off Microsoft - although that would be nice."
"Paradigm shifts occur when the tectonic plates of the industry shift," he explained. "And like all earthquakes, there is a lot of damage done."
He cited two examples of companies that fell victim to a paradigm shift in the industry: heirarchical database supplier Cullinet and manufacturing applications software company Ask Computer Systems. Both are now owned by Computer Associates. "There?s a pattern here of what happens to industry earthquake victims," commented Kertzman.
The winners in a paradigm shift are companies which come out with a new technology or product at the time the shift occurs; the losers are those who fail to react. Cullinet was felled by relational technology, while Ask failed to move into open systems in time.
But, he argued, Microsoft does not fit the profile of earthquake victims, who are usually dominant forces in their sector and unresponsive to changing circumstances. "Microsoft is not arrogant, but it is paranoid," said Kertzman. "It learns lessons and it is technologically adept."
He called on industry players to stop hurling weapons at one another and on venture capitalists not to act as "the munitions factories" and to turn their attention to customer-centic applications of technology.
The database sector in which Sybase competes is a particularly battle-torn front in Kertzman?s geopolitical war. He joked about comments on the relative positions of database players made by Oracle senior vice president Jerry Held earlier in the day. These, said Kertzman,"made me wonder why I bother to get up in the morning!"
He mocked the "battle of the billboards" between Oracle and arch-rival Informix which has seen the two companies posting knocking-copy adverts about one another on Highway 101 in Silicon Valley. "I was going to take a billboard in between them," he said. "It would just have read ?Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right!"
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