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Where USP Networks Began

Although USP Networks has an impressive heritage having been involved in conceiving and designing client projects and businesses that have raised over $100m in venture capital since 1993, you will most likely not have heard of the name before, so here's some background that goes way back before the start of the Internet frenzy, to the distant times when innovation was defined as "finding ways to work around the crazy memory limitations imposed by IBM's original designs for PC DOS".

USP Networks evolved in its own right as a separate division of PS Consultants, where innovation has been a consistent theme throughout the past 25 years that we've been in the IT business. PS began with innovation in software publishing, when Paperback Software (the origins of "PS") broke the mould of £500 PC application software and introduced VP Planner spreadsheet to the UK -VPP was the famous Lotus 1-2-3 workalike that cost just £99, when Lotus 1-2-3 was selling for £495.

Not only was VP Planner cheaper, it was better. But the sad end to that story is that Lotus buried Adam Osborne's US Paperback Software business in huge litigation costs. In a multi-battle court encounter, Lotus eventually lost the war, and the courts agreed that it was not an infringement of copyright to use the Lotus interface as a subset for VP Planner - but by then, Paperback Software was history, and Lotus 1-2-3 had itself been sidelined by the surge for Microsoft Windows and Excel. And Lotus had it's own taste of what it feels like to see a technically inferior product succeed through sheer weight of money, marketing and hype.

PS Consultants went on to fight other innovative battles, bringing Quarterdeck's ground breaking multitasking operating environment for DOS to the UK. DESQview allowed DOS users to run more than one (regular) program at a time, and then DESQview/X proved again that the world of open systems has all the answers for all the problems facing computer users and developers - but not nearly enough of the marketing budget. DESQview/X brought the X Window environment to the DOS PC and was hailed as a marvel.

But once again, we stood helplessly by and watched as the grotesque pastiche of a 16 bit operating system and simply awful user interface managed to sweep all before, thanks only to aggressive marketing tactics - many of which have now been examined and condemned in US and EU courts. But once again, the courts were far too late to save the day for innovations like DESQview/X. However, although the X window system lives on in the UNIX fraternity (which now includes Apple, course), and is presently staging a serious comeback thanks to the simple fact that Internet is UNIX, and would never ever have happened without UNIX - no matter how much Microsoft spin may be applied to try and reinvent the truth. And now almost every "embedded" OS device from a TV set top box to a router or a cellphone, seems to have some flavour unix at its core

Why the internet will prevail
So you can now appreciate why we have found the Internet to be compelling, because it provides a basis on which the little guys with better ideas and products might at long last take on the big guys - and maybe even win occasionally. Successful internet ideas are those that really leverage the power of the network - eBay, Amazon. Facebook and exchanges like BetFair are perfect examples of bringing the two halves of a "transaction" together. Whilst the notable problem businesses of the technology boom have ranged from cash burners to outright disasters - frequently because "olde worlde" business principles were applied without consulting experts like USP: ask Rupert Murdoch!.

Had the entrenched interests of the media business not ganged up on Napster, that too would have been an example of success based on the principle of peer-peer communication. Whereas another dubious exploiter of others' content and copyright - Google - quickly became too big and influential (and frankly, useful) to be taken on like Napster. Instead, the internet has found other and ever more devious ways to satisfy the demand demonstrated by Napster, and no amount of legal bluster seems able to stem the tide without the heavy-handed intervention of draconian legal sanctions. Although there plainly needs to be some sort of international agreement that creates consistency and a fraemwork of law to protect innovators and their intellectual property, do we really think it's a good idea that the FBI can apparently knock on your door at 3am with a US warrant if your kids have been downloading a movie with 70 year-old copyright?

AOL, Amazon, C&W, Marconi, Boo.com, Worldcom and the rest of the high profile losers in the technology business have either been obvious and clumsy errors of judgement by "out of touch" businesspeople - or the unnatural contrivances of marketing, clumsily designed by bankers and marketing people to keep the gravy trains of their big brand customers trundling along. It's too bad that so few noticed that the track ended in a dead end. But we do not doubt that a few remaining steam-driven dinosaurs will continue to struggle in their tar pits, while the surviving oldies have evolved and adapted to the distributed environments and communities that suit the capabilities and efficiencies of the Internet. We are now well past the end of the beginning with the emergence of ubiquitous mobile access, and the battle for online supremacy continues to spin out new opportunities and challenges..

USP Networks doesn't need to "become" a leader in Internet services - we were leading long ago. With sites hosted and managed by us carrying over 500k hits per day, as far back as 1995, we were able to explore and pioneer techniques and ideas for networking, security and management that are still relevant today.