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Open letter: the Academy Awards of software.

TO: Ken Wasch, executive director, SoftwarePublishers Association

Dear Ken,

By now, it's clear that your vision of an "Academy Awards of Software" has become a reality. Three years ago, the skeptics thought the SPA's Excellence in software Awards would probably turn out to be a rinky-dink merit badge ceremony; instead, you've given us a class act--a genuinely important forum for honoring the industry's best and brightest.

But there's a worm in the apple: politics. To satisfy its three core constituencies--consumer, education, and business publishers--the SPA has created a promotional pork barrel. Each group has to get the same number of awards as its rivals; as a result, irrelevant and meaningless categories are proliferating (e.g., "Best Product for managers," "Best Creativity Program for an Educational Product") and the nomination and selection process is becoming increasingly confusing and unworkable.

Before you get too far along in planning for next year, therefore, we'd like to offer a few simple suggestions:

Trim the fat. This year, the SPA handed out awards in almost 50 different categories (including the press and Fluegelman awards). That's wretched excess. In fact, the situation is so out of hand that you couldn't even squeeze all the awards into one evening; some presentations had to be made at an earlier lunch ceremony. We suggest you cut the number of categories back to about 25--and limit nominations to no more than three categories for any one title. You won't have as many winners, but the awards you do hand out will be a lot more prestigious.

Add more general categories. instead of emphasizing so many niche-specific business, consumer, and education awards, we'd like to see the SPA focus on general, industry-wide categories-such as interface design, good graphics and sound, imaginative product concepts, technical achievement, documentation, etc. After all, this is supposed to be one industry--not three subcultures that don't talk to each other.

Exclude upgrades from general competition. This year, upgrades swept the field, pushing aside many newer titles that were less familiar to most SPA members. There used to be a "Best Upgrade" award; we suggest you revive that category and then invent a new rule that allows only the first release of a product to be nominated for major awards. After all, when was the last time a re-run won an Oscar at the real Academy Awards?

* ASHTON-TATE chairman Ed Esber on his company's overstuffed distribution channel: "A substantial part of our sales were going out in the last month in the quarter. Last year, sell-in was way ahead of sell through." (Quoted in Computer & Software News, 4/24/89)

* KENFIL DISTRIBUTION senior vice president Alex Papas on claims by vendors that they've given up channel-stuffing strategies: "We are being offered, on a daily basis, large quantities of Ashton-Tate product at embarrassingly low prices. We're being offered the product at prices we literally cannot turn down." (Quoted in Computer Reseller News, 5/15/89)

* BORLAND vice-president of product management Rob Dickerson on the competition between his company and Microsoft in programming languages: "People have this image of languages as being techno-dweebie, but the reality is that it's cut-throat competitive. it makes word processing look like a picnic." (Quoted in Computerworld, 5/1/89)

* POSTSCRIPT: We're leased to report that our small trophy collection recently gained a couple of important additions. For the second year, soft-letter was cited by the Software Publishers Association for "Best Industry Analysis," an award we find especially meaningful because software publishers and developers are ultimately the best judges of what we're trying to accomplish here. Meanwhile, the junior soccer team we sponsor (one of whose 10-year-old players, Jonathan Tarter, is related to Soft-letter's publisher) won its sectional title, after demolishing rival teams from ten nearby towns. if this keeps up, we might even have to install a bigger display shelf.
COPYRIGHT 1989 Soft-letter
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Copyright 1989, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Software Publishers Association's Excellence in Software Awards
Author:Wasch, Ken
Date:May 1, 1989
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