Chapter 4
Information Systems Software
Soware Concepts
System Soware
Application Soware
Soware Licensing
Embedded Soware
Without soware—instructions that tell hardware what it should do—a computer is an
expensive paperweight. You know this, of course.
Most of the information systems−related decisions youll face as a manager will involve
soware. ey may be entirely about soware: should we get package A or package B?
Should we hire programmers to write a program that will be exactly what we need, or
accept the limitations of a commercial package that will cost a lot less and is available right
away? Should we upgrade the application we’re using now, or replace it with something
better? Making these decisions requires you to know more about soware than you have
learned by using it for the past several years.
Other decisions may seem to be about something else but will turn out to involve so-
ware as well. You may be considering computer A versus computer B, but the key issue in
that choice may be what soware they can run or how well they can run it. You may be
concerned with the security of your data, but protecting it is (in part) the job of soware.
A decision about where to host your rm’s website may hinge on the soware that dierent
hosting services use.
is chapter will give you the conceptual and technical background that you will need
to deal with such issues. Youll also use this background later in the book, when we discuss
the types of enterprise applications youll nd on the job, and where those applications
come from.
110 Information Systems: What Every Business Student Needs to Know
As you read this chapter, focus on these key concepts to use on the job:
1. Hardware is useless without soware, since soware tells hardware what to do.
2. Soware can be divided into categories: system/application, proprietary/open
source, and (for applications) horizontal/vertical. Knowing these categories
givesyou a head start on understanding a piece of soware and where it might
3. e most important piece of system soware is the operating system (OS). Its three
functions are managing shared resources, dening the user interface, and providing
shared services.
4. Soware is complex, detail-ridden, and error-prone.
Imagine your first day on the job after graduation. Youre given a desk, paper, pen-
cils, a computer. That’s it. Nobody tells you what your job is, what to do, or anything
like that.
Chances are you’d take initiative, such as asking a manager what you should do. Maybe
you’d hear “e orientation and training program will begin this aernoon. Until then,
read up on the company on our Web site.” Maybe you’d get specic instructions: “Oh, I
didnt know you were here yet. Analyze these sales gures to see if there’s a problem in the
Midwest region.”
A computer is like that new graduate, but with no initiative. It can carry out instructions
that can be combined in millions of ways to carry out useful processes. It has no idea of
which instructions to carry out or how to combine them.
e computer that hosts a shopping website was not built knowing that it should use
two letters in a box labeled STATE, in a U.S. shipping address, to access a table named
TAX_RATES to nd the state sales tax rate for a bill. And it certainly has no idea that, if
the state is MA, there’s no tax on the rst $175 of an item of clothing—or how to tell if item
N-376A-9 is clothing at all. Something has to tell that computer what to do, down to the
tiniest detail. at thing is soware (Box 4.1).
Soware is a collective term for the instructions that tell a computer what to do.
“Software” is an uncountable noun. Like “water,” it has no plural. You cant have two soft-
wares. You can have two programs, two applications, two software packages, or two CDs
with software on them—but not two softwares. If you have one game and buy another, you
have two games. You have more software, but you still dont have two softwares.

Get Information Systems now with O’Reilly online learning.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from 200+ publishers.