Tech Week in Review

Clueless commentary at BusinessWeek, Microsoft sneakiness, making money from spam, dot-com clowns, silicon real estate, and the stupid computer industry quote of the week.

Clueless at BussinessWeek

Cliff Edwards' latest column at BusinessWeek, Come On, Steve — Think Beyond the Mac, got me thinking because of quotes like this:

"Steve, it's time to admit the Mac-centric strategy can only go so far. To boost its long-term prospects, Apple needs to reexamine its belief that the Macintosh will become the hub in most homes for coordinating digital devices such as cameras, music players, and handhelds."

Cliff, it's time for you to admit that right now the Macintosh is the hub for coordinating all these devices. Windows doesn't offer the same level of integration. It never has, it can't now, and it never will until Microsoft buys what's left of Dell when the rest of the PC makers have priced themselves into oblivion — and even Dubya's DoJ wouldn't let that merger stand. Right now, Apple — by redefining itself as a digital hub company — has the whole market to itself.

"Problem is, all of these products [the iPod, iTunes, iPhoto, etc.] work just with Macs."

Yeah, Cliff. That's the idea. Give people a reason to buy a Mac. After all, isn't that the reason anybody buys one product instead of a competitor — that the product purchased fills a need or has a function that the competing product lacks?

I use iCab because IE and Netscape don't do what I need them to do. If I were buying a new computer and intended to do a lot with MP3s, I would buy a Mac, not only because of its seamless integration with such stellar products as iTunes and the iPod, but because the MP3 file format isn't going to die a slow, lingering death on the Mac platform, thanks to Apple's insistence that it write the new standard for supposedly-copyright-infringement-proof digital audio. (Cough, cough. Microsoft, anyone?)

Apple isn't in business to supply killer peripherals to a bunch of its competitors. You don't see Dell making mice for Micron or handhelds for HP.

"Mac fans have been clamoring for an Apple handheld organizer..."

You forgot the key word there, Cliff: Mac fans, the same 2.9% of the worldwide market you criticize in your next paragraph. Since you work for BusinessWeek, perhaps you're in a position to intelligently comment on the economics of making a handheld device that at best 2.9% of the market really wants to see, especially given that Palm, which has the largest market share, is thrashing about wildly in an attempt to stay afloat.

Why should Apple fight a war on two fronts? Why try to push Palm and Microsoft out of the handheld market while also trying to fend off Microsoft's takeover of the desktop OS market? Don't get me wrong — I think Apple could make a handheld along the lines of the iPod and do it better than anyone else. I just don't think they should, especially not as a last-ditch move to stay afloat. And most postings I've seen on Internet message boards about an Apple handheld have agreed with this. So much for 2.9%.

"Apple has shown time and again that it can break the mold and make computers fun and easy to use. But that hasn't reversed its gradual slide into irrelevance. Now, it needs to break out of its all-Mac, all-the-time rut."

REL•e•vance, n: practical and especially social applicability.

Apple is the only PC maker left that is relevant. Apple is the reason Windows exists. Apple is the only argument Microsoft has against being a monopoly. Apple is the only personal computer company that still innovates anything. Dell? No. Compaq? Ha. HP? Sorry, next? IBM? They got out of the desktop market years ago. Sony? The Memory Stick hardly counts as innovation; it was a way for Sony to make more money by putting a third type of flash memory out there (as if Smart Media and CompactFlash weren't already enough).

Apple is the reason for USB's acceptance in the industry. Apple invented and popularized FireWire as not only a computer interface, but a digital video interface. Apple's slide into irrelevance? That's so 1997.

All-Mac, all-the-time? Of course. You don't see Microsoft saying, "Hey, let's write Windows for the Mac platform!" You don't see Dell wondering what they can do to get the Mac OS running on their boxen. Of course a company is psyched about the products it sells and wants you to buy more. That's business. It's good business.

As I said before, by limiting its killer products to the Mac platform, Apple retains total control over the appearance and user experience and gives people one more reason why a Macintosh is better than a PC.

Yes, Microsoft is Sneaky

As if anyone really needed any more proof, As the Apple Turns offers up this little gem. Apparently those geniuses in the .NET unit* in Redmond have nothing better to do than resort to cheap tricks to promote their strategy for world dom...I mean, uh, Internet commerce.

What's the part I understand the least? Does anyone actually take online polls seriously? If anyone did before this, I think Microsoft has just shown the world why it's nearly impossible, given a concerted effort by ballot-box "e-stuffers," to conduct an honest poll on the Internet.


Really. It requires some real-world legwork and Washington state residency (so far), but you could get paid $500 every time you get spammed. It worked for Bennett Haselton! It worked for Ben Livingston! He made $500 with almost NO WORK! It can work for YOU! All you have to do is send $20 for the GET RICH QUICK ON THE INTERNET BY SUING THE SCUM WHO SEND YOU E-MAIL THAT LOOKS LIKE THIS!!

Say What?

Apparently the dot-com meltdown has affected more than just the online advertising market — all those out-of-work one-time paper millionaires are resorting to, shall we say, more creative ways to showcase their talents. Or lack thereof, as the case may be. I still haven't decided whether I think it's just weird or sort of funny, in a pathetic, unemployed-dot-commer sort of way, but I'm leaning toward weird. Note to anyone considering this at MWNY: don't. Because I might be there. And I don't want to be accosted.

Going Up...

Computer chips, while getting faster and faster all the time, are eventually going to run into physical limits. After all, there's only so far you can spread out the circuitry before you reach serious speed limitations. One idea to fix that is to build 3-D chips. At "real-estate" costs around US $1,000,000,000 per acre, it seems to me like it's high time the "developers" started building some silicon high-rises, so to speak. But Intel, before you get any ideas, keep in mind the surface-to-volume ratio will prevent you from building a cubic Pentium 5 that's a few inches on a side. That is, unless you want to use an integrated heatsink and fluid cooling system with a radiator the size of a small house.

Stupid Computer Industry Quote of the Week

I'm not sure who should get credit for this one, because I can't tell if Jon Swartz came up with this gem by himself or if he's paraphrasing Carly Fiorina, CEO of Hewlett-Packard, in the 14 Jan issue of USA Today. So they share the honor for this sentence about the HP-Compaq merger:

"Together, the two companies would lead many industry sectors."

What industry sectors would those be? Formerly Relevant Companies About to Disappear Forever? Slow, Lumbering Giants that Haven't Innovated a New Product Since 1995? How about Companies That Can't Compete With Dell's Suicidal Pricing?

I'll stop laughing now.

copyright ©2000-2004 by Chris Lawson