Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Worst Software Disasters

John Dvorak has written an article for ABC on the worst software disasters. Given his years of experience in the software industry I would have thought he could have come up with some better stories than these. It seems his is the pablum version of the list.

From my perspective, products like Frameworks and Symphony were relative successes. During that time a lot of other companies tried to enter that market only to be burned. Back then I worked for Alpha Software and we actually had a low end product in the category, called Electric Desk, that did pretty well. Electric Desk wasn't as powerful as Symphony or Frameworks but it's simplicity appealed to less sophisticated users. (It actually was a top seller for IBM's ill fated PC Jr.)

I was Alpha's UI guy back then and my boss would on occasion ask me to evaluate some of the competition. I saw some real dogs. I can't remember their exact names but one was written in UCSD Pascal and was slow, slow, slow. Another was called Rabbit or something like that, and was just unfathomable. Both of these were a lot worse than either Framework or Symphony and didn't dent the market.

Even worse however, were the stories I heard about a company called Ovation Technologies that folded before they even brought a product to market. We hired their ex director of technology and he claimed the marketing department spent millions of dollars on lavish parties and promotions and burned all the companies cash before they could finish the code. I'm sure if I talked to someone from their marketing team they would claim the software was late. Either way, that's a disaster. (According to this link the Ovation story was the root of the term vaporware)

via Doug Ross

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