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Sybase CEO: U.S. software in peril

Making U.S. customers continually buy new software recalls the auto industry strategy of the '60s, Mitchell Kertzman says.

SAN DIEGO--The American software industry is showing many of the troubling signs of the U.S. auto industry in the '50s and '60s, a top industry executive told developers today.

"We in the industry have strategies basically designed to induce our customers to throw away everything they have and replace it every few years in the name of innovation and platform shift," Mitchell Kertzman, CEO of database software firm Sybase (SYBS) told attendees of the Software Publishers Association conference here. (Kertzman sits on the board of directors of CNET: The Computer Network.)

In enterprise software, Kertzman said, client-server is dominant, but the push for network computers represents an effort by companies like Oracle, a Sybase rival, to promote a paradigm shift to topple Microsoft as the strongest force in computer software.

"There is no shortage of dictators who'd like to take us back into centralized computing," said Kertzman, who used a metaphor of geopolitical warfare to describe today's software landscape. "Warfare is happening not just because of distributed computing, but because Microsoft is in control. To recentralize is to dethrone Microsoft."

In the '50s and '60s, U.S. auto makers wanted people to buy a new car every three years, hence the cars' frequent redesigns, Kertzman said.