Friday, October 13, 2006

Choices, Choices

I've been in the market for a different car. There are lots of choices out there... too many!

There is a LOT of competition out there for things that do basically the same thing - with basically the same purpose: to get you from one place to another.

They all even have the same basic parts: chassis, body, doors, windows, engine, wheels, seats, steering wheel, lights, etc.

So - from a purely practical point of view - they all do the same thing - and they all have the same basic features (at the core). Why, then, are there so many different manufacturers and so many model types within those different brands?

I think it all comes down to this: Different strokes for different folks with different budgets and needs.

Car manufacturers are very, very good at creating different models that appeal to different types of drivers. Once they identify a wide niche (or a best-selling trend by a competitor) - they create a full-fledged vehicle to try to appeal to that demographic. This is a huge investment. Often in the hundreds of millions of dollars. It often takes anywhere between 18 months and 36 months to bring those cars into production (if they ever see the light of day in the first place).

When they sit down to design a car for a particular segment of driver - they make sure that everything about the design will appeal to that segment. For example, If you pick a brand and model - say "BMW 760Li" that car is designed for a very specific buyer/driver and that is much different than a "Toyota Corolla". Both do the same thing. Both are made from basically the same parts. One is $118,000 - the other is $14,000.

In the end it depends on what you need, what you want, and what you can afford.

If you're driving a old, beat-up '69 bug that you bought new, and is still "good transportation" and you're happy with it - then there's no need to change. On the other hand, if you just bought a new Toyota Corolla and it's not meeting your needs - it's not like they come with 30 day money back guarantee. You would have to trade in that car to get a new one - and you would find out that it has lost value based on the number of miles, etc. so you won't get what you paid for it. Of course, this varies by model and how desirable it is, and how many people want to buy it used. The dealer of the new car would take your old (new) car, figure out what they could sell it for (plus a profit) and credit that against the price of the car (or truck) you "really" want.

There is a period of transition as you get "used to" the new (new) car. Things work differently. You have re-input all your favorite radio stations. You have to set up the automatic garage door opener. You have to set up the seat adjustment, the mirror positions to fit you. You probably will want to customize it in some way - personalized license plates, an evergreen deodorizer, custom wheels, etc.

It's the same will ALL cars. Same with trucks. Same with SUV's.

Same with software.

There are lots of choices for storing and retrieving your data. There are desktop databases that are inexpensive and easy-to-use, there are high-end RDBMS (Relational Database Management System) systems, and Open-Source databases, and free databases, and proprietary databases. There are also many, many different tools for getting your information in and out of those databases - client software, HTML-based CGI programs, dumb terminal software, etc.

Once you get software you think you want, you have to configure it and customize it for your own needs. Once you have it customized and working - chances are good that it will continue to work well (with regular maintenance) for a long time.

NOTHING lasts forever.

At some point, you'll have to upgrade your car, I mean database. There are different circumstances - but it really all comes down to the same issues that you have when you're thinking about trading in your car: reliability, fitness for purpose and scalability.

Reliability - are you spending more time and money "fixing" and "patching" what you have than you are actually using it?

Fitness For Purpose - have you "outgrown" it. A two-seater convertible was awesome when you were single - but does it meet the needs of your growing family?

Scalability - does it meet not only your needs - but your anticipated needs. After all, if you're going to get a new car (or software) - it should not only meet your current needs but your needs for the next few years (at least) as well.

If you're using some stone-age 4GL and you're in a place where you have 50 or more users - and you're "old clunker" of a system is ready for a replacement - then check out Servoy - you'll be glad you did.

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