Written by David Tebbutt, MicroScope 05/83 item 02 - scanned

KEEPING AN EYE ON THE FUTURE

I recently went to the launch of PC User Magazine to hear what IBM's PC marketing manager John McIntyre had to say about our industry. John started off by making it clear that what he was about to say was his own personal view and not some IBM party line. He was clearly excited about the industry and sees it as the greatest opportunity in generations for Britain to make its mark again.

I felt sad when John sat down and people started devaluing what he had said. "IBM told him to say that", "Yeah, but what did he actually say?", "What do you expect from a marketing manager?". And so it went on. No-one I spoke to afterwards wanted to admit he had given a good talk. Is it because, as Personal Computer Marketing Manager, he is regarded as so powerful that people seek to demean his efforts? Perhaps by publicly criticising the odd weakness in his talk these people think that they may make themselves appear more credible.

I'm sure a psychologist could come out with some explanation for this behaviour, I can't. What I can do is suggest that it would be in all our interests to remember the positive things people say rather than dwell on the weak points. If this industry is to survive and succeed morale will need to be maintained at a high level. This is impossible if the general thinking trend is negative and cynical.

John covered three aspects of the industry: distribution, technology and journalism. He reminded us that concern for the ultimate user is the bedrock upon which all distribution activities are based. Service, quality and appropriateness of the solutions supplied are the main criteria upon which our reputations and future success rest. These things can be achieved only if we consider education and support as key elements of the distribution activity. He is convinced that Britain has the capability to set worldwide standards for distribution quality. Having seen some of the jokey companies abroad which call themselves distributors. I am entirely inclined to agree.

On technology, he was enthusiastic about Britain's potential, especially in software which he is convinced can put us back on to the world map. He described this country as an innovative fountainhead for ideas, many of which have been exploited abroad due to lack of money or commercial courage. He sees software as the sort of opportunity which doesn't occur in every age or in every generation.

Many previous major opportunities such as railways, cars and planes have required immense amounts of money compared with that needed successfully to develop software products. To do such things properly still costs time, money and the rejection of other opportunities, but such investments are necessary for those companies who are in the business for the long haul.

John recognises the immense power of the media, something which I suspect those of us involved sometimes forget. He sees millions of completely fresh users out there, all in desperate need of an introduction to the world of microcomputing. He sees the magazines as a means of educating these users and of developing the marketplace. He referred to the media's role as a representative of its readers and a guardian of their interests, especially when it comes to warning users about flakey products. To achieve this, most magazines will need to write in a more user-friendly fashion.

His message was enthusiastically delivered. He emphasised the importance of professionalism in all aspects of the business. He dwelt at length on the opportunities which face us especially in software development and in setting a worldwide standard for distribution quality. Overall, the theme was that the user is the person who counts and everything must be geared towards satisfying that person's requirements.

I could pick holes in John's talk just like the cynics did. After all, professionalism is hardly a new theme. Nor is concern for the end user. And I don't know many publishers who would relish the idea of producing a magazine that concentrated on beginner's articles month after month. Such a role is probably best left to books or one-off 'specials' associated with one of the existing magazines.

But I could be more positive and remember his ideas about the wonderful opportunities which are Britain's for the taking. I could congratulate him for restating the vital need for professionalism and more concern for the end user.