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The return of the small software house
Small and medium size businesses are the engines of the economy. They provide the bulk of employment opportunities in free economies and in some cases lead large enterprises in innovation. The need for ever-increasing efficiency in a highly competitive environment compelled small business to embrace desktop computing in the 80s and 90s. This scramble for automation created a new sector in the IT industry and led to the emergence of independent IT contractors and small software houses. Millions of individuals and small groups learned programming and leveraged their intimate knowledge of their respective industries in developing a bewildering array of business applications for small businesses. The emergence of professional IDEs and visual programming in the early 90s played a major role in the expansion of this sector of IT.
As the internet grew in popularity, it became obvious that few businesses would survive without at least a minimal presence on the net. The challenge was taken up by graphic artists while application developers took a back seat. The solutions, while imaginative, were hardly innovative and even today the bulk of small businesses have only a token presence on the web and most of their websites are merely unimaginative e-brochures.
IT evangelists and gurus predicted the rise of e-commerce, business to business (B2B), business to consumer (B2C) and even consumer to consumer (C2C) computing. Many of the predictions have come to pass yet most small businesses remain stuck in their e-brochures.
The focus of innovation has been on the consumer. Facebook, Twitter, Blogging, MySpace, YouTube, eBay, internet banking, travel reservation systems, and many more services command the total attention of consumers while the small business remains a spectator standing on the sideline.
Nevertheless, small business remains the engine of the economy and an untapped market for web business applications. To reclaim territory from graphic designers, independent software developers and small software houses must think outside the square and come up with original concepts in employing the web for the benefit, and profit, of the small business. These ideas must go beyond ordering books, CDs and pizzas online and be truly original and inventive. Fortune awaits those who crack this tough nut.