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This week: software




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Software technology is getting more complicated. Developers have to cut through a jungle of computer languages, operating environments, and shifting standards to choose how they'll create their software. It's not an easy job. Software purchasers will have to live with the results for years to come. Which advances in software technology will prevail? Which ones will be just a flash in the pan?

Four well-known software developers were chosen and asked to talk about current and future trends in software technology. Their comments reveal some common and diverse themes.

They were asked if they thought that software purchasers are getting what they need. What should developers be doing differently to give purchasers a better product?

Mary Evans‘In general, I think people are getting what they want -there are a lot of creative things being done with paint software, word processing, DTP (desktop publishing) systems, and the like. Do users want more? Of course! Users will always want more. The computer is an incredibly powerful tool, and any software that makes it easier, faster, more creative, or more cost-effective will inevitably be in demand. But I'm generally optimistic about the way things are going at the moment. I think most of the major software manufacturers are able to read the market quite well.’
Gerry Harper‘I'm afraid I completely disagree with Mary. I just don't think that software purchasers are getting the technical support they need. While the products are getting more and more complex, and more and more expensive, it seems that support is starting to be thought of as an additional business opportunity. More generally, I've thought for some time that applications are getting too big and that they're trying to do too much. Yes, they're versatile and powerful, but they're also often overwhelming. I think what we need are simple little programs that are easy to understand and use, and that work together to accomplish more complex tasks.’
Matt Andrews‘I really can't agree with that. To imagine we can just go back to "simple little programs" just ignores the complex needs of many of today's software users. No. I'm sure that you can't stop progress. Suppliers know what their customers want - they just can't supply it quickly enough. I've studied the market very closely, and I've found that purchasers' needs seem always to exceed the capability of the available software by a constant time-frame of about six to twelve months.’
Bob Bolton ‘I think users are getting what they want, their needs fit the off-the-shelf application. Specialized software is usually so specific that it should be written in-house for businesses. Developers should add features that the customer needs, not what they think customers want. Some effort should be made to get feedback from the users before making an upgrade so that the proper features are added.’

Notes:



a flash in the pan - a success that lasts only a short time and is not repeated

off-the-shelf - mass-produced; not made according to the individual needs of the customer

2. Each of the following comments from the text is followed by two paraphrases. Decide which paraphrase (a or b) is closer in meaning to the original comments. Remember to look at the comments in their original context.

1. ‘Developers have to cut through a jungle of computer languages, operating environments, and shifting standards...’ a. The huge number of languages, environments, and standards makes life difficult for software developers. b. Software developers have to act to reduce the number of languages, environments, and standards

which currently exist.



2. ‘Their comments reveal some common and diverse themes.’

a. They talk about ordinary and wide-ranging topics.

b. They agree about some issues, but disagree about others.

3. ‘I think most of the major software manufacturers are able to read the marketquite well.’ a. Most software manufacturers understand what consumers want. b. Most software manufacturers know how to influence users to buy more their products. 4. ‘...it seems that support is starting to be

thought ofas an additional business opportunity.’

a. Increased technical support is a means of making software more attractive to businesses.

b. Software manufacturers are using the fact their products are complex to start selling technical support to their customers.

5. ‘... purchasers' needs seem always to exceed the capability of the available software by a constant time-frame of about six to twelve months.’

a. It takes about six to twelve months for purchasers to understand fully the software they buy.

b. The software customers want now what will only become available in about six to twelve months.


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