Obama’s Vaporware

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Filed Under General on Feb 24 

Over the course of my professional career, I have been on both sides of the buying and selling table for a wide variety of stuff – mostly computer software and related material. This type of presentation and related conversation can be angst ridden (for the seller) and entertaining (for the shrewd buyer).

The smart software salesman does not come to the table selling a software package – he comes selling a “solution”. His answer to every question posed by the potential client is “yes” – followed by very carefully nuanced conditions which avoid – at all costs – the mention of the ultimate cost to the client.

This is how your CFO purchased a piece of database software which you are required to use as a word processing program. It has a spell-checker, therefore it fits the requirements.

During this conversation, a demonstration is usually made where software bugs and other unsightly features are glossed over and made to seem less harmful than they actually are. Promises are made that patches will be developed by the boys in the back room – the code zombies with nine-inch foreheads – which will enable the software to function as promised. Noticeably absent from these promised patches is any hint of the date by which they will be released.

Sometimes in the course of selling this “solution”, the potential client gets sucked into buying what some in the business refer to as “Vaporware”.


Vaporware is the functions promised in “future versions” or “upgrades” of the original software package. These promised functions may – or mostly likely may not – exist outside of the software developers waking dreams. It’s called vaporware for a reason – the promised benefits are nebulous at best and very difficult to quantify.

Tonight President Obama will address a joint session of the United States Congress where he will attempt to make the case that the American people must purchase yet another batch of vaporware from his administration in order to right America’s ship and avoid a disaster beyond our collective imagination. We have already purchased nearly $800 billion of vaporware and Congress is poised to send up another $400+ billion of vaporware packaged as “omnibus spending”.

My guess is Obama will try to instill confidence in his vaporware and steer clear of his Eeyore like gloom and doom predictions that all will be lost if we don’t get behind his plan. He’ll probably deliver a speech full of sound and fury that, in the end, signifies not a whole lot. It’s hard to sell vaporware, but Barry does as good a job of it as I’ve ever seen. For someone who used to make a living selling software and thus has seen plenty of vaporware, that’s as high a compliment as I care to pay the current occupant of the Oval.

Eventually, the American people are going to ask themselves the same question anyone asks after they’ve spent a chunk of change on a new gadget. To help you understand this process, I’ve included this handy little Problem Solving Flow Chart. (I must confess that in order to comply with PD posting guidelines, this chart has been (heavily) edited)

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So what will the answer to the number one question be? So far, the pundit jury is still out. As for the market jury…well, it doesn’t take a big brained economist to interpret this chart.

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Markets look to the future, and the only thing Obama has promised to do in the future is raise all sorts of taxes on all sorts of people.

Vaporware does not instill confidence in a nation or its markets. Not even the best salesman can pull that one off.

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