Sunday, October 15, 2006

Book review: Software Ecosystems

Software Ecosystem by Messerschmitt and Szyperski (2003) is a book that was recommended to me about a year ago, a book I bought about 9 months ago, and one I started reading about four months ago.  I’m sorry to say I’ve only made it as far page 77 and I’m putting it on the shelf.

The book is interesting, the book is useful, the book does offer some insights into the software industry, the business of software and how software effects our business.  Yes I have learned things from this book.  The trouble is, the insights and learning don’t come along fast enough.  I feel as though I should read this book, it talks about business, software and the business of software but it idn’t a gripping read.

That I feel this is probably as much of a comment on me than it is on the book.  I’ve been around the IT industry in professionally for 15 years now and I’ve already learned much of what the book has to say.  Unfortunately, I think that is probably true for most of people who have been around the industry for half the time I have.  Certainly, if you’ve spent a few years in ITC and spent some time studying or thinking about the business you won’t find much new in this book.

Which begs the question: who is this book for?

Certainly the book has an academic style, the research style, it doesn’t present new research or long literature reviews, and it isn’t overdosed with references in the way academic research usually is.  So, my first thought is that this is a book for people studying the ITC industry – and software in particular.  It could almost be a text book for a course.

Yet something about the book doesn’t seem aimed at students.  While thinking about the audience I looked at the back cover were one commentor suggests “Marketers, programmers, consultants and lawyers all…” while another says “required reading for any student of the computer industry”.  I think the reviewers are right.

This is a book for people who don’t really understand the software industry and want to.  For such people this is a good book for bridging the divide between the business world they know and the strange world of software.

So, if you are a student who has this book on a course list then read it – or at least dip into it, its probably too long to read in one semester.  If you are a lawyer or a marketer who find they need to work with software people and understand the industry then read it.  But if your have an IT background, and you think about your industry, then there are better books to read.