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Where Is the Disruptive Software?

Where Is the Disruptive Software?

Where is the truly disruptive software? Are we stuck with Microsoft Word until the end of eternity? For now, promising companies are usually just gobbled up by their bigger rivals.

In the early days of the personal computer revolution, everything was disruptive. Relatively affordable microcomputers appeared, and everyone knew they’d eventually supplant the minicomputer, which itself had largely supplanted the mainframe. And I suppose you could argue that someday smartphones will supplant the desktop computer of today.

But what about the software realm? Are we stuck with Microsoft Word until the end of eternity? Modern word-processing software did disrupt the scene dominated by dedicated word processors like the Wang 1200 WPS and other devices. The word-processing wars went on for a while, but they have died down and we have been stuck with Microsoft Word for a while.

Yes, there’s Google Drive, but it’s actually worse, as is Google Sheets, its answer to Microsoft Excel. Though neither is as bad as PowerPoint at clogging up progress. Where is the product that disrupts this old clunker?

Curiously, some nifty high-end presentation software is indeed better, but a key element of disruption is the cost. Disruptive technology is always based on the cost. But it should always be so cheap that only an idiot would not commit to it. This process continues until the product is free.

If we are to subscribe to the entire disruption idea, then nothing in the field of technology existing today should still be around in a decade, but lack of innovation in traditional computer tech is lagging. Or is it?

An examination of projects on GitHub, GitLab, Bitbucket, and Source Forge shows us all kinds of nearly finished programs and utilities, many of which could be useful if not disruptive. You can compound this with the numerous companies bought by Yahoo and others that were never marketed and simply shelved after a few years. Google is another company that unceremoniously kills promising projects.

The more I look over the scene the more I’m reminded of Xerox PARC. This operation was notorious for developing things that should have evolved into something disruptive and needed by the market. In the case of PARC, many of its inventions—from the laser printer to the GUI to Ethernet—were exploited by others, so not all was lost.

But with the majority of software inventions (and this is where my complaint centers) exercising their way through these semi-public repositories led by GitHub, the commercial exploitation seems to be managed by already established companies that swoop in to grab the project and eventually kill it, like Yahoo has done with so many good ideas. As a result, genuinely disruptive tech rarely emerges.

Maybe there are disruptive packages out there and I just don’t know about them. Some would say blockchain and cryptocurrency fall into the category. I suppose. Nothing could be more disruptive to the world than a new monetary system that circumvents everything ever. Yes, that is disruptive. But which companies does it affect? What does it mean to me? What does it mean to you?

So let’s look at my original complaint: when do Microsoft Word and PowerPoint get disrupted and disappear? I see nothing on the horizon that can seriously wipe out Word, nothing. A product called PowToon looks interesting as an alternative to PowerPoint. But I see someone buying it any minute, and that will be the end of it.

In other words, we are at a technology impasse. I’d like to blame someone or something: a person, a trend, JavaScript, millennials, something. But have you considered that we are at the end of the line? Word and PowerPoint are like automobile tires. Noting ever disrupted tire technology. It just evolved. They were not wiped out like the Wang word processor was.

So my advice is to get proficient at Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. You won’t regret it. Maybe this advice will change in a decade, but from the looks of things, I doubt it.

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