The United States has been called the Land of Opportunity, and
when it comes to software, it's been true.
You can see it in the statistics. During the past decade,
computer software has been the fastest-growing major industry in
the United States, expanding nearly 10 times faster than the rest
of the economy.
Three-quarters of world sales of prepackaged software, such as
word processors and PC games, come from the U.S.
But there is no guarantee that this lead will last.
Software companies everywhere have the opportunity to close
much of the gap with the United States as the market becomes more
The personal-computer software revolution is a tribute to the
free-market system. It was sparked initially by the American
North America's success in software was not the fruit of
superior talent. Excellence is found everywhere. American
engineers, for example, aren't better than engineers from other
U.S. success was not sparked by huge corporate investments.
The microcomputer software industry wasn't a spinoff of the space
program or the defense industry. Frankly, no one thought software
was all that important.
U.S. success in software didn't result from deliberate
government policies. There weren't special tax credits. There
weren't regulations aimed at managing competition or imposing
standards. This proved to be fortunate. Committees and regulators
can't make decisions as effectively as a truly competitive
What the U.S. government did is the thing that mattered most:
protect intellectual property rights. The PC software industry
never could have emerged from a country that tolerated the
widespread theft of copyrighted material.
Everything the nascent software industry needed to get started
was available in the fabric of American values and institutions.
Americans are gamblers. Venture capitalists lay down millions
of dollars on long shots. My friend Craig McCaw created a notion
in the financial markets that signing up a cellular subscriber
was worth a certain amount of money. McCaw Cellular lost money
year after year on an accounting basis, but as the number of
subscribers soared Craig attracted huge investments and in the
end sold the company for billions of dollars to AT T.
Americans also gamble with their careers. Talented people quit
secure jobs to pursue visions or join tiny companies with big
ideas. American culture celebrates effort even when it ends in
defeat. The attitude toward failure is, "Try again."
Gutsy attitudes like these helped ignite the market for
personal computer software. A growing community of really
demanding consumers fanned the flames. …