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Technocredulous – Not Me

It’s called technocredulity and it’s the new curse of the 21st century. Defined as ‘The mental acceptance of and conviction in the truth, actuality, strength or validity of one technology over another’, it describes what happens when subjectivity becomes mixed-up with or confused with technology and produces the worst kind of kind of digital fundamentalism.

In reality, human nature remains the same as it has always been. Football replaced chariot racing and bear-baiting and where Windows quickly replaced IBM’s OS/2, Linux looks set to make 2004 its watershed year with both Microsoft and UNIX suffering as a consequence.

The challenge, if you happen to live in the decision-making world of IT is cutting through the expensive marketing fog that surrounds any platform in 2004, from the simple X-Box into the largest Datacenter. The computing world is neatly dividing itself into two camps where spin and propaganda have become as important as White Papers and column inches in shaping opinions.

One problem for us all in the industry today lies in recognising what is impartial and accurate reporting and what is not. The most immediate example surrounds the Windows vs. Linux debate, which is both complex, emotional and frequently misleading, in need of the industry equivalent of the Hutton inquiry to separate fantasy from fact.

Newham Council’s decision to reject Linux because it would pose "unacceptable levels of risk" to council services may be considered a ‘small victory’ for Microsoft in an increasingly fast moving and global struggle between the two computing ideologies but why should countries such as Germany, China, Israel and Thailand be taking an opposite view?

It’s a long story and invariably a question of cost, with Microsoft downplaying potential savings from Linux, arguing that while it may have lower initial licensing fees, in the longer term, its overall costs to businesses in the form of training, support and integration are higher than Windows. Look deeply into the TCO and performance issue however and for each example offered by Microsoft, you’ll find equally compelling arguments from IBM, Sun Microsystems and Hewlett Packard. This leaves what counts for truth occupying a shrinking grey area between the many different strategic marketing interests, an increasingly relative commodity in the struggle between Open Source and proprietary software.

This will, I suspect, be the year that the industry like government, invests in managing expectations and shaping our perceptions, having decided that very few of us have the time or the inclination to wade through the technical arguments.

Watch out for a different style of marketing as the big names experiment with their messages. You see, in 2003 being a customer was good enough but from 2004 you may have to choose sides and become a believer too.


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