The State of the 3000's Union, 2019
Long-time MPE licensees leave dates in dust

MPE vendors walk wooded path into futures

The HP 3000 world has been active long enough to see death visit the floors of its forests. Death is the great leveler in a crowded forest. Trees that go down provide rich soil for their survivors to flourish in. Software, the trees in the ecosystem of MPE/iX, has been growing and declining for decades now.

The community still ripples with products for development, for management of data, and even some off the shelf applications. There's less rippling today, of course. It's the result of the operating environment's abandonment by its creators. When you tell the world as HP did more than 17 years ago, "We're leaving this market," then products begin to retreat. So does newer and younger talent.

Such a retreat was also a natural event while HP still plied its 3000 trade. A company would shift focus away from the 3000 market, like Aldon Computing did when it embraced the AS/400. In some cases, a vendor would be acquired and the products stripped out of the new owner's list. Infor has retired many a software suite for ERP, although MANMAN has survived that fate that other Infor products have endured. In one case from the earliest days of the NewsWire's sponsors, the owner died and his widow had no succession plan in place. Cosmosoft was a casualty.

A more current event will be the retirements of small and focused companies, operated by a bare handful of experts. It's good work to be serving customers of many years. At some point, though, some of the majordomo managers of software vendors will earn their retirements. A report in Bloomberg News today says that 24 percent of all people 65 and older in the US will continue to work in 2019. Some of them will be software vendors and programmers. A lot fewer, though, than the food service or retail workers in that age group. Check the age of the experts at Home Depot if you disagree.

When a software vendor retires, without much prospect for selling its products to another software company, something's got to be done for the customers using the products. In the past this has been managed with a donation of some kind to a vendor who's friendly enough to keep answering the phones or emails on support issues. Sometimes a product can move into a free status — it's happened in the job scheduling segment, for example.

Expect to see more of this as the market matures. Make a plan, if you're one of the Double Digit MPE managers headed beyond 2027, to see what your software providers have in place. Lots of the software vendors who know MPE/iX are using a workforce in their 60s. A retirement of a key technical resource can trigger new plans for the product's future. Stay in front of this development. These engineers of enterprise are aging. Some can afford to park their products.

This aging of the 3000 marketplace has been the genuine current carrying companies toward migrations. Nothing was permanently wrong with MPE tech when HP pulled out of its futures. The years that have elapsed since then have done nothing to turn back the hands of time. Everything ages. The wetware of the wizards is not replicated easily.