Friday, May 20, 2011

Digital Evolution

65 million years ago, environmental conditions on Earth changed radically when an asteroid collision made it impossible for the dinosaurs to survive. They couldn't adapt and natural evolution is too slow a process to even have given them a chance. In contrast, transitions in technology can change the landscape just as dramatically as an asteroid though they usually give us more time in which to adapt and evolve.

In the mid 1980's I bought a compact disc player along with about 10 discs. I never bought another vinyl record again. Movies went digital about a decade later and after buying a DVD player, I never bought another VHS movie. Last year I bought a Blu-Ray player and I only buy Blu-Ray DVDs now. And of course I already know that eventually I won't even be buying physical media at all. I certainly don't buy music on CD anymore. Print however, has been much slower to go digital but it appears that it's finally reached a tipping point.

Yesterday, Amazon announced that they are now selling more ebooks than printed books. Amazon is a very smart company. They knew this transition was going to happen and if they weren't prepared for it, they would be left behind. They went a step further and even decided to help make it happen by creating the Kindle.

Barnes & Noble is trying to make this same transition and offer their own ebook reader, the Nook. However, I think it really only appeals to the hardcore Barnes & Noble fans and they are almost certainly more interested in printed books since Barnes & Noble has such a big retail presence. Of course Barnes & Noble is also going through a transition as they have recently received an offer to by acquired for a $1 billion. For a chain that has over 1300 stores, that doesn't seem like a lot of money. Barnes & Noble has about $4 billion in assets and $3 billion in liabilities. Subtract one from the other and you get $1 billion, so they are being bought for their book value. That looks like a fire sale to me and could mean the beginning of the end for Barnes & Noble. It feels to me that their effort to transition to ebooks (if they even looked at it as a transition rather than just some additional way to sell books) was half-hearted at best. Don't get me wrong. I like Barnes & Noble and if they go away I will miss browsing the bookshelves. But books and magazines are transitioning to digital and it's looking more and more like digital is the asteroid that will take out Barnes & Noble. An article on the Huffington Post from April suggests that Barnes and Noble should go all digital and close their stores.

Borders was too late and filed for bankruptcy last February.

Blockbuster Video should have seen the transition coming for video and bought Netflix when they had the chance years ago. By the time they realized their mistake and tried to create their own online copy of Netflix, it was too late. That mistake has cost them everything.

These types of transitions happen in every business but they happen most and quickest in the information business and that's what music, video, books and magazines are: information. Here at Real Software we are constantly looking at what we need to do to transition as well. We have recently added the ability to build web applications and are making preparations to support mobile platform as well. You have to be constantly on the lookout for how things are changing so you can adapt and evolve.

What changes are going on in your environment? How are you evolving and adapting? Share your thoughts.


Steveorevo said...

Adopting more cross platform and portable technologies. Ie. What RealStudio's forte was to Mac/PC/Linux, I'm adopting technology that does this for computer/mobile/set top devices.

Mark said...

(sorry for being cryptic, but... you know ... don't want to invite more competition)

17+ years ago, I created the world's first Windows version of my primary software product. All competitors were still DOS.

A few years later, although I could see it coming, I missed the shift to the web due to lack of time and skill to tackle that market - which is now saturated.

However, due to end-user demands, I believe a significant change to bring about a variation of the web market for this type of software is inevitable and, right now, the RealStudio Web Edition looks to be the best, and perhaps only, product to appropriately meet customer demands, due to its ability to keep source code private.

I'm currently focusing on changing the web market for this type of software. But, as an independent developer, and despite the RAD process of RS, given the size and complexity of the software product, I see this as being a 3 year project. So I'm hoping my competitors (who have a habit of only doing what they are comfortable with) don't beat me to the punch.

Unknown said...

Geoff, good blog

I'm using RB since v2 or v3 not sure. And it's good IDE for many tasks I've used in my own team.

Revolution, may be call features that I always wish from RB is...

- MVC framework for web dev, mobile dev. Like ASP.NET MVC or many Java MVC frameworks.

It's good to see what RB for Web can do today. But many people that need web app that feel like web, not app, will go for others. Place for web that look like app from RB may be not big enough to make it grow. Look at revolution of jQuery, take their advantages to RB. Or why not choose ExtJS framework as your front end UI for web?

Also MVC is everything that good web developers do today. RB for Web need something like this to make it attractive (yeah, buzz word, the good one).

- Mobile
Don't have to say much. Tablet + Mobile are the future. Don't compare RB to Objective-C. I'd like you to see Anscamobile's Corona SDK and Appcelerator's TItanium. That's tools that we're using right now.

Copy some model of them if you can. They're the success cases of Multiplatform mobile development tool for sure.

Quaten said...

You're way behind, the first iPhone appeared in 2007 ... 4 years ago and now you are writing an article about important changes.

There are new players who offer a lot ... What do you offer now ... web app development :)

You are not microsoft, you are rally too late.

Max said...

I think Real Software it's already too late for the mobile platform. The same is for web (remember Swordfish) and Cocoa.

Ten years passed since the introduction of Mac OS X and Cocoa, and still RealStudio has the Cocoa target in beta. Now Mac OS X Lion will be released soon and seriously we can't compile in Cocoa target for a production environment. Have you ever seen how is a Carbon application under Lion?

So, when RealStudio will be ready for iOS, there are good chances it will be already obsolete.

So, you are talking about evolution.

Good luck with that!

Geoff Perlman said...

@ Max - When Apple introduced Mac OS X, they said that Carbon and Cocoa would be peers. It wasn't until about four years ago when it became clear that was no longer the case. Since then, we have been working furiously to support Cocoa and it has taken far longer than we ever thought because it's such an enormous job but we are very close now. It was only last September that Apple changed their minds and now allow 3rd party development tools to support mobile.

Tahoe2000 said...

No. It is not too late. If RB does a good job supporting web and mobile, our company will buy it.

Rick said...

Four years in computer industry time means around 10 years in human time. If you wait 4 years for a move, you are 10 years behind.
Cocoa in RB I just gave up. Web in RB needs something I forgot, pearl? Perl? Something like that.
I feel sorry, I wished to keep my eyes on your site and seed EVERY month new notices about new accomplishes. But I see just comments. I would like to see "version X.3 is out! Now even faster, new installer and without pearl. Next month Version X.4 is out! Now with Cocoa! Version X.5 is out the 4 known bugs were corrected and 3 new features. and So on. You guys are too slow for the market. Soon we will see the Lazarus project becoming something serious, when they get Cocoa working, make it cross-compile, make a real installer, they will be a menace.

Geoff Perlman said...

@ Rick - Perl is required only for IIS support. It's not required when using Apache which is 99% of the web servers out there. As for Cocoa, our Cocoa support is close to finished while the project you mentioned still indicates that Cocoa is a work in progress. Once they are done then you can compare how long it took them compared to how long it has taken us. And we do ship releases every 90 days each with 50 to 100 bug fixes. And we have been cross-compiling since 1999.