Happy New Year (Sort Of)

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Happy New Year! I hope all is well with you and yours. Before I begin this year's technical enlightenment, I thought I would expose my frustration with IBM.

Since 1981, I've been on this platform—learning, teaching, writing, programming, consulting, editing, publishing, lecturing—always covering the various generations or incarnations of the System/38, AS/400, iSeries, and i5 box.

To this day, IBM continues to be blind to the fact that it has the best computer system in the world in the iSeries. With each new release, IBM digs another shovel full of dirt in the grave of this box. For starters, Java runs slower, email doesn't configure as easily as on other platforms, the Web server runs slower, customers are reaching their limitation in the OS itself, and RPG IV is release-fragmented to the point that it is nearly impossible to teach an "RPG IV" course. You have to teach "RPG IV at V5Rx" (insert your release for the "x").

And now, the biggest frustration. Think about this: I can buy a $500,000 house or a $50,000 automobile or $50,000 in Dell servers in anywhere from an hour (for the servers) to a day or two (for the house or car) and have basically one piece of paper to sign and process. Sure, when you buy a house, there's a ton of paperwork to prepare and sign since the government has to justify its existence, but you pay a lawyer $250, and then a clerk does it all behind closed doors. And of course, buying a car requires your signature and seemingly endless documents, but nobody cares about or reads those. And that's all you have to do: Just sign the documents and pay.

Why is it that IBM makes the most compelling and sophisticated computer system on the planet, yet IBM is the only major computer manufacturer that makes customers jump through hoops just to purchase a system? Doesn't IBM want their money?

Give me a freaking button on the Web site that says "Add to Cart" and another one that says "Buy Now." If I have to do more than that to buy an iSeries, somebody needs to get fired. (And IBM, buy www.eserver.com and www.iseries.com so that I don't have to drill for oil when I'm on your Web sites; that's what all other successful companies do.)

Who are these people that IBM is listening to? IBM, please stop listening to them, whoever they are. They're killing the best box on the planet.

This box needs to be one quarter of the current selling price. It needs to become a system that supports but does not encourage upgrades—buy a new box instead. If you still think buying a system once every 7 to 12 years is standard operating procedure, then the current iSeries box is right for you. However, today, the package hardware is pretty much throwaway technology. "On demand" was almost the dumbest idea IBM ever came up with, second only to SAA. Why would I buy a machine today and then pay today's prices for resource on demand in two or three years? Hell, I can probably buy a faster and cheaper system that suits my needs for about the same price as the on demand price. Who thinks up these crazy ideas?

If IBM's goal is to slowly kill the platform, I think that goal is being accomplished. What IBM should do is sell off the iSeries unit to a company that cares about the platform. Better yet, spin off the iSeries unit as an independent company and let those of us who want to use this platform as a competitive advantage for our companies do so.

Maybe that IBM antitrust lawsuit back in the 1970s would have been good if it were successful, but we'll never know. But it sure did wonders for the telephone industry. If IBM got broken up today, the iSeries/pSeries unit would probably be the only one to be profitable.

Bob Cozzi is a programmer/consultant, writer/author, and software developer of the RPG xTools, a popular add-on subprocedure library for RPG IV. His book The Modern RPG Language has been the most widely used RPG programming book for nearly two decades. He, along with others, speaks at and runs the highly-popular RPG World conference for RPG programmers.

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