Why Eastern Europe Spanks US in Software Development

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in ,, at 6/01/2013 02:31:00 PM
Last Thursday our home computer running Windows XP was infected by a fairly old autorun.inf virus. For, we accidentally brought home an infected USB thumb drive from the workplace, which has computers running unpatched versions of XP. Unfortunately for us, we were also running copies of Microsoft Security Essentials for our antivirus, which I belatedly found out to be a pincushion for viruses that detects next to no threats. It took me hours to find a solution to cleaning up our infected home computers, and one of the programmes I found most useful was Bitdefender's USB Immunizer. Seeing how well it worked, I became curious about their antivirus software and discovered that it was very highly rated. (I guess that shows you how much I knew about antivirus programmes...)

So Bitdefender Free is now our antivirus programme of choice for an XP and a Vista machine we still find useful despite their age. Though I did not know it at the time, it turns out that Bitdefender is a Romanian firm. By coincidence, I too am playing a video game from a Hungarian developer right now, The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing. While rather derivative, it boasts offbeat humour of its own along with class-leading graphics. As with most things, it is no accident that Eastern Europe is becoming a hotbed of software development since these are not isolated examples. Avast! antivirus from the Czech Republic has literally topped Download.com's charts for years and years. Video game enthusiasts should also be familiar with Polish CD Projekt's Witcher 2 from a year and a half ago that won a lot of "Game of the Year" plaudits from critics.

To be sure, Eastern Europe' emergence as a hotbed of software development has been a long time coming. The educational systems there are strong in science, engineering, technology and math (STEM )subjects--partly as a reflection of the Warsaw Pact era (go ask Google's Sergey Brin). As early as 2007, Eastern Europe was already being touted as the next India. As far as Western Europe is concerned, instead of outsourcing to India, some have found it more convenient to "nearshore" to Eastern Europe where both physical and cultural distance are not as great. Indeed,  2013 may be the year Eastern Europe gains the attention it deserves with such outstanding software titles becoming evident to the global community of computer users.
In the past, I've written about the challenges Asians have--China and India especially--in creating homemade brands with global recognition. With all due respect to our Indian colleagues, they haven't developed antivirus software or games of their own recognized in global markets unlike the Eastern Europeans. By contrast, the latter have the chops in incorporating their culture into their products and they know how to market these worldwide. Just as the Chinese are very good at manufacturing goods to others' specifications, the Indians are obviously talented when it comes to programming software tailored to specified needs. However, when it comes to incorporating folk tales into cutting-edge video games alike Witcher 2--or devising tongue-in-cheek Diablo knock-offs like The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing--let's just say us Asians aren't quite there yet in terms of branding and marketing. Nor are we in the running for most downloaded (Avast!) or outright best-performing antivirus software programmes in the world (Bitdefender).

The post title also said something about Eastern Europeans spanking the Yanks in software development. I have already alluded to the incredibly poor performance of Microsoft Software Essentials, but as it turns out, it is the absolute worst at virus detection, bar none. (Yeah, go America!) As for video games, the US er, "boasts" of having the world's largest game publisher, Electronic Arts. For two years in a row, though, it's been named not just America's worst video game company but its absolute worst company, period. Microsoft and Electronic Arts are miniatures of modern-day America: having been innovative firms in the past, they've since grown fat, dumb and happy. Meanwhile, there are dozens of lithe, hungry, and infinitely more deserving software labs in Eastern Europe literally waiting to spank these moribund American giants.

They say competition improves the breed, and I'm certainly glad that our choices are not limited to US crapware. Hopefully, these Eastern European upstarts can show the Americans how fat, dumb and happy they've become before it's too late.

Just imagine how much better Windows 8 would have been if the task of developing it were left to the Eastern Europeans...we can only hope for a better world of computing.

UPDATE: Other antivirus test results are of similar opinion in that Bitdefender is tops, while Microsoft Security Essentials is deemed (gasp!) non-competitive.