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POSTSCRIPT POSTSCRIPT: Now that a new year is under way, we've begun work on our oldest and largest research project, the Soft*letter 100. This ranking of the software industry's 100 largest companies has become an important resource for data about growth rates, employment, and other trends. And, for the companies that make the list, the Soft*letter 100 is often an important benchmark of accomplishment. Though by now there probably aren't many eligible companies we overlook, we're always eager to improve the accuracy of the list. Please give us a call if you have suggestions or leads, or if you'd like a free copy of last year's rankings.

One issue we continue to wrestle with--this year more than ever--is how we define a "software" company. In the past, we've insisted that a company must generate at least 50% of its revenues from "microcomputer" software, but we don't believe that hardware platforms provide an adequate definition any more. So we've redefined our criteria to focus on "personal computer" software. To be eligible now, a company should derive its revenues from software used primarily by individuals rather than by server-based systems that support organizational activity. (A useful test of this rule is perceived ownership: People commonly talk about "my copy" of PageMaker or dBase, but they rarely "own" Interleaf or Oracle.) Admittedly, this is fuzzy rule, but we believe it reflects a distinction that will become increasingly important to product designers, marketing strategists, and channel managers.

At the same time, we've tried to deal with software that runs on special-purpose machines, especially video game players. Clearly, not every microprocessor-based device (a category that includes "programmable" VCRs, microwave ovens, and clock radios) is a computer. So we've tried to define a new rule: We rank only software companies that target general-purpose computers. Again, that's a fuzzier rule than we like, since companies like Nintendo are rapidly enhancing their hardware with keyboards and communications features. But software is an industry that continues to redefine and reinvest itself, so we'll probably never reach a point where our ranking criteria stop evolving.
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Copyright 1990, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Tarter, Jeffrey
Article Type:editorial
Date:Jan 10, 1990
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