The steep price of good technology

Summary:What was good for the Netflix customer -- a less buggy experience, courtesy of Microsoft's Silverlight -- was bad for the 50 technical specialists laid off when their services were no longer needed.

Netflix says that Silverlight was too good for some technical specialists own good.
If you've been in the technology field for long enough, and (hopefully) survived enough rounds of layoffs, by now you've probably heard every reason in the book that an organization has had to eliminate jobs: They were bought by another company and there were departmental redundancies. They can get the work done in India/China/[Insert Your Outsourcing Destination Here] for half the price. The recession has affected their bottom line and they need to make across-the-board cuts. They've decided to discontinue your project.

[My goodness, that there is a depressing list.]

But today I read a new one: the technology, you see, it is too good. It doesn't break as much. They don't need as many techies to maintain it. In short, they may need less of you.

This was the case with Netflix, which announced in a Dec. 7 blog entry that it would be eliminating the positions of 50 technical specialists. The reason? "We just don’t have the technical specialist work for them to do in Customer Service because of the improvements in our streaming player," said VP of Corporate Communications, Steve Swasey.

Swasey explained that customers watching movies instantly on their PC or Mac might have noticed that their player is easier to install and use since they switched to Microsoft's Silverlight. Yet what is good for the customer -- a less buggy experience -- is bad for technical specialists, which Netflix then felt they had too many of.

Thanks a lot, Microsoft! Just kidding... er, sort of.

Topics: Outsourcing, CXO, Enterprise Software

About

Deb Perelman is a journalist in New York City with a focus on tech and the daily grind. Previously she was a reporter for eWEEK, leading the magazine and Web site's coverage of the issue and trends that affect IT workers.

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