4 Critical Lessons in Handling Technology Rumors – from Microsoft Silverlight & Digia Qt Case Studies

In most of day to day decisions and choices, we know that the emotions play a strong role. But the technology and engineering should be quite rooted in facts, right?

The answer is – not always. While there is good consideration of technical aspects, the emotional aspects can make or break technology trends. Here is some light on technology rumors and why you need to care.

Preparing the canvas…

Here is the canvas from which I begin. This is not a comprehensive picture of the technologies and forces that are creating. But it is good enough for the discussion.

SilverLight-Technology Management-Rumors-Uncertainties-Trends

  • There is a set of technology vendors such as Microsoft, Google etc.
  • Second set of organizations who solve the actual needs of the society.  They need to use the software tools, languages and infrastructure software. They apply their specialized knowledge in specific domains and create products, solutions and services for the non-technical users.
  • Third group is of course the non-technical end users who are less concerned with technology wars.

When it comes to software tools, languages etc. there are multiple options available from several vendors. During initial days of development, you (as responsible person to create products/solutions) need to make the technology choices. You need to watch out and here are the two case studies.

Here I am talking about two specific examples – Silverlight from Microsoft and Qt from Nokia (now Digia) and how they managed turbulence. And how it affects the users.

My Connection with Case Study Examples:

I had put in lot of energy in Silverlight for my week end garage venture which went down the drain. Have managed SL projects at work.

And with Qt platform, burnt my fingers building case for the demise of Qt.

Case Study #1 – Silverlight:- Sometime back, rumor started that Silver Light will be discontinued by Microsoft. While Microsoft clarified that it will provide the support for 10 years, it did not talk strongly about whether it will continue to be improved. This has created a huge debate / conclusion that the technology is dead. There are several bloggers pointing out the usefulness of the technology. Many are begging for big announcement. But no official management voice stating that the technology is very well alive. There is lot of confusion.

Now many are scared to use the technology. Not many want to learn it. Due to this, it is on “demise curve” and future is not good. The upcoming products are likely to choose other options in stead of Silver Light.

 Case Study#2 – Qt Graphics Package:- It is graphics package which works across operating systems. It was maintained by Nokia earlier. With the troubles of Nokia, its future was considered doomed. Also there are other technical reasons which makes the lives difficult for several stakeholders.

Nokia sold it to company called Digia and the mood was not good. This also could have gone through the path of demise. But looks like it is not so. The new owner is pumping lot of energy and creating enthusiasm in its users. The R&D teams that use Qt seem to stay with this platform and it seems to be growing again.

But Digia seems to be winning its battle to save technology while Microsoft is losing it.

4 Lessons I am taking home:

1. Technology management also is not just about rationality / technical factors. There are strong emotions involved. I can not ignore how these could affect the future of technologies my teams are going to use.

2. Boundaries of Technical and Management Roles: Too many people consider technology and management to be separate. It will not work in many cases. The technology choices have long term implications. Some times plain technical thinking is not good enough. The folks in management need to get into the details.

3. Just by thinking about technical dimensions, I might miss the following:

  • Skill availability (and hence the R&D cost)
  • any future transitions require skills in both the old and new technologies. And another project. i.e. more cost and headache.
  • People willing to get into the technology (,their career aspiration management and staff deployment)
  • Long term maintainability of product (and the cost)

4. If my customers have heard any rumors about my technology, I would fight the PR battle aggressively. My technology being good is not good enough. In any case, never leave the customer in confusion and lose their confidence. I would not take this lightly.

Hope you too draw some lessons, if you are into technology business. If you are not, well, hope you got one of the pains involved in R&D management.

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