The U.S. Software Industry and Software Quality: Another Detroit in the Making?

Will software makers follow the U.S. auto industry of old down the road of glitzware?
What Can You Do?

First, buy ten copies of Mark Minasi's exceptionally fine book, The Software Conspiracy: Why Software Companies Put Out Faulty Products, How They Can Hurt You, and What You Can Do About It (McGraw-Hill, 2000) and give a copy to everyone you know who's in a position to influence software purchasing decisions. Mail them a copy of this article, too. My major criticism of Mark's book is that he doesn't weave open-source software in general, and Linux in particular, into the picture. I believe Linux is exposing the need and the thirst for high-quality software, and that the high quality of Linux and other open-source programs is in large measure responsible for its rapid growth and acceptance.

Second, get the word out about UCITA. Visit and the Consumer Project on Technology home page ( If you're in a U.S. state where UCITA next comes up for ratification, organize street protests, write letters to legislators, get the word out, and fight it! There's still time to defeat this monster, but we have got to get organized NOW!

Third, join the battle to promote software engineering, high-quality software, and responsible behavior by software vendors. Read Watts Humphrey's comments on software quality at and then visit the Software Engineering Institute (SEI) at Carnegie-Mellon University, with which Humphreys is affiliated.

Fourth, convince any organization with which you are affiliated - your school, your company, the non-profit organizations where you volunteer - that purchasing commercial vendors' products is aiding and abetting a process that is exposing the public to unwarranted risk, generating legislation that is harmful to public welfare, and retarding the progress of technology. Show them Linux, help them install it, and invite them to consider what people are slowly but surely learning: you don't have to put up with shoddy software.

Bryan Pfaffenberger is a professor in the new Media Studies program at the University of Virginia, where he will teach two courses next fall (Media Studies 317: Intellectual Property and Digital Media, and Media Studies 110: Information Technology and Digital Media). He lives in Charlottesville, Virginia.



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Jim Nddie's picture

If we talk about designing Absolute Source are a full service Orange County Web design, online marketing and web development company. They integrated line of services extends well beyond web design. Since 2001, Absolute Source and its subsidiaries has strategically designed and implemented each project to build our client’s customer base and increase revenues.

Car Softwares

Chris.john's picture

Now they must have to work on Automobiles industry as well if they want to capture the whole market as the Automobiles are having completely computerized functions and also electric cars are available with computer generated functions ford motors

I also see it. Decades ago,

Ninna's picture

I also see it. Decades ago, there were only few major car manufacturers who possessed over two third of the market. Now things change a lot. Now they really have to apply continuous improvement/innovation is market share is to be retained.

Auto Insurance

That's why a little

allan's picture

That's why a little competition is so good for the clients sake. It's the same for the auto insurance industry, as well as the software industry. The stronger the competition the better for the clients, they are more likely to get better quality services and products. It's unbelievable how the auto makers had been so irresponsible in the past, they were too greedy to realize their own families were put in danger...

Software for cars are now

willis's picture

Software for cars are now being high in demand, as more busy people want to take it easy when managing their vehicles. I personally use the AndiCar software for car manager. it's great so far ;)

Will - Fox Rent A Car

And how is the US Software Industry now?

J. Novak Zaballa's picture

As a technician, I really like Linux and I think it is a solid operating system and an excelent choice for a lot of needings. But Mr. Gates still the richest man on the earth, even now in tough times, why?

I don't think the people have been simply fool and thats would be the reason why they bought those kind of software, I am sure they would leave windows and pick easy to use reliable free software, if something like that exists. But it seems like only us, some of the lovers of "the computer science", we think that linux is in fact "THE" alternative, but sadly, common people does not, and I believe they don't have to.

Could be ours the guilt?, sorry, I am giving myself too much credit, I mean, IMHO, the responsibles for making windows the first choice of common users, are the developers of free software, particulary Linux, because, while Mr. Gates and his team are focused on the satisfaction of the expectatives of common people, some computer science lovers are focused on satisfying our selves. The whole concept is "quality", it is not precisely the satisfaction of the final custumer?

The hope is that some IT Business already are visualizing Linux as probably the only alternative to compete in the industry and they are starting to support Linux and the whole aim of free software and open source.

Whereas it's true that, year to year fewer students are choosing engineering as a career in US, it is mainly because of the globalization of the job market, but that issue is not so simple and I am not sure if I want to write about it.

Novak Zaballa
SIESIS SRL - Bolivia

FOSS too has quality issues that are not clearly addressed

Anonymous's picture

Thats all very good and interesting reading, but FOSS/Linux has just as many problems as you claim commercial software has.

You say commercial software are trying to change the laws, so is FOSS but they want the laws chanced so they can steal IP and patents.

Quality of software, Hmm, its clear most FOSS applications look rought and fury around the edges, from the kernel to applications like open office.

Ubuntu, 47,000 bugs on its bug site !!! thats not quality, how many lines of code is required for fit those 47,000 bugs in.

the GPL, GLARING WARNING, NO WARRANTIE on this code, DO NOT TRUST IT, we take no responsibility whatsoever if this code should melt your computer and set your house on fire.

The one main issue with commercial software is just that, it has to reach a level of quality and finish for it to be a commercial success.

As much as the FOSS community hate to believe it, this has been acheive with huge success by MS. Their quality is certainly good enough and its clear that the vast majority of clients (users) see that.

They understant the "maintenance halo" concept of FOSS, and like the car industry, if you want to make your money repairing cars, dont make them to reliable in the first place.

same with software, if you want your software to make you money by a "maintenance halo" then make your code buggy enough and complex enough that you get maintenance contracts to support it.

IE, no commercial incentive to create a quality product, and lots of incentive to create and less than A1 (ISO9001) quality product.

Does FOSS have a QA system in place, whats it's quality statement, whats its CONC value.
How is FOSS's QA system managed, and by who ?

Do FOSS have regular quality Assurance meetings to guage the success of their work,

DO they enforce quality ? hold up releases because of quality issues, or do they release distro's with 47,000 registered bugs.

IF you were designing a bridge or a jet aircraft your number of bugs would be basically ZERO, or you may just end up in prison.

Why is it that software industry seems to think programming is not an engineering disipline ?