Can a day without DSL be too far off?

Plus, a compelling read about what lurks behind the ceaseless consolidation of software vendors

YouTube.com was down last night, and I couldn’t believe it. My brother was visiting from the East Coast, and I wanted to show him this cool Internet video, Judson Laipply’s The Evolution of Dance, which I’ve gotten addicted to this summer for some reason.

Anyhow, we go to the site and get a screen saying, “We’ll be back shortly, we’re making some changes.” I was shocked, and upset, because it was only 10 p.m. and I thought I could rely on YouTube like the U.S. military — to always be there. Maybe take a short break at 3 a.m. for an upgrade, but prime time on a Thursday night? I know it was just a video, but it felt mission-critical.

My great-grandparents came from a little European town with dirt roads, outhouses, and well water, firmly rooted in the 1800s. I don’t know what happened in those two generations, but I’ve clearly morphed into a wuss who gets riled when my DSL gets flaky — or if YouTube goes down. What SLAs will the next generation demand? Who will define mission-critical? I don’t envy the IT professionals of the future who’ll have to deal with an even more detached-from-reality version of me — but I wish you luck.

Speaking of DSL, did I mention that I hate companies that make you fight to do business with them? My one-year contract on DSL expired this month, and the company promptly jacked the rate from $19 to $34 a month (for the slowest and the only-available service they offer on my block — I think its 2,400 baud). I know you have to wait until your contract expires and call to negotiate, which I did, only to reach a literal-minded sales rep who said there was no way I could keep the $19 rate. Only after 10 minutes of huffing and puffing and insisting on talking to a supervisor was I put on hold and told, OK, $19.

Memo to Ed Whitacre, CEO of the new AT&T: I know about yield management and harvesting and contribution margins and all that, but making me fight every time is just bad customer relations, and as soon as I can bolt, I will (hello, WiMax). So will millions of others if you don’t figure out that customer satisfaction is important (like Verizon Wireless has). End of memo.

Hidden agenda dept.: AMR Research is out with a thought-provoking article, “Who Really Owns Your Software Vendor?” Behind some of the consolidation in the software vendors market, AMR warns, lurk private equity investors with a financial, rather than technology or customer-driven, agenda. Although nobody should be surprised that technology investors want to make money, AMR does an interesting riff on the “buy and flip” rap on private equity investors, explaining the economics of aggregating customer bases to milk the maintenance revenue streams. The article also names names, listing several IT serial acquirers that have private equity backers — among them Attachmate, Ecometry, GXS, Infor Global Solutions, JDA, Made2Manage, and RedPrairie.

Although the article’s a good read, its main premise is a bit too cynical for my taste: That what’s really being bought and sold in all these deals is locked-in customer bases. Yes, enterprise software is sticky, with large switching costs, but at the end of the day enterprises have more choices than ever and will switch to something better if they don’t get treated well. Just like me with my DSL.

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