James O'Neill's Blog

April 8, 2007

Very much alive.

Filed under: Apple,General musings — jamesone111 @ 5:18 pm

It’s been great to spend the holiday weekend out and about with the family, and I spent Saturday evening been playing with the pictures I’d shot – I can’t say much about the software involved but it’s very, very cool. I set my laptop to record Dr Who and the qualifiying for the Malaysian Grand prix (yes I know I’ve still got to write part 2 of moving to ultimate. ).  

I was watching the Motor Racing in a Window while I was playing with pictures and reading blog posts.  One of the them was Darren’s which has a link to a peice in the Grauniad about the Apple’s Ads – here in the UK they star David Mitchell (PC) and Robert Webb (Mac). A favourite bit reads

[Mitchell and Webb] are best known for the television series Peep Show… ..  in which Mitchell plays a repressed, neurotic underdog, and Webb plays a selfish, self-regarding poseur. So when you see the ads, you think, “PCs are a bit rubbish yet ultimately lovable, whereas Macs are just smug, preening tossers.” In other words, it is a devastatingly accurate campaign.

These ads do get under the skin of a few people. Dell have responded in kind; when I was at Tech Ready I reported that someone asked Steve Ballmer about them – his reaction “Given their market share…”   Funny enough that report linked to the same article – or at least to “the wonderful-if risqué Belle de Jour , who has an interesting take on Dr Who using a PC not a Macwhich stemmed from and linked to it. I wonder if Darren reads me, Belle, or if he’s taken to reading the Guardian since he became a marketing luvvie. 

That Tech Ready report focused on the shirts we had with Hugh MacLeod’s Blue Monster on them – the event felt like “Fly in, change the world a little, Fly home”  hence the title Change the world AND go home instead of the original “Change the world OR go home”. It’s interesting to look at Steve Clayton’s peice on the traction this is getting inside Microsoft.  And this Thursday Hugh announced he had a new client in Microsoft. 48 hours later he was telling us Why his client is dead –  which must be some kind of record for the PR industry. I think I know when I see someone giving the pot a stir, and I’m seeing it here (Hugh went back with a bunch of updates for why this is false – which might have been what he was after). He’d picked up on a post by Paul Graham which said Microsoft was dead due to

  1. Google.
  2. Ajax.
  3. Broadband Internet.
  4. Apple

I’m not sure about responding someone who makes it a plank of his argument that he lives in a different world from Microsoft, but lets look at these 4.

There’s no denying Google’s rapid profits growth and that they’re the darlings of the media and of Wall Street. We’ll see if things get harder for them. Google’s growth depends on taking more advertising away from TV and other media. In the UK we used to have a lot of great TV but now a shrinking pot of advertising to pay for more channels means there’s less worth watching. Google may mean the death of quality TV. But not a large scale replacement for desktop applications.

Ajax certainly means you can build decent web applications and Broadband means you can deliver them to consumers. But no one has ever shown me a side by side comparison between an app running in Browser and app running locally where the Browser app was better. Communicator Web Access is an Ajax app. It can’t kick off an e-mail, do voice or video, or remote call control, give you presence data in web page or your mail client, or do search-as-you-type for contacts but in other respects it’s as good as communicator. Apps where you want data off line or need to show legal complaince or meet freedom of information rules, or mine a collection of shared documents accross large teams don’t work so well in an on-line model – so “Road warriers”, Governments and large businesses won’t store their data in the cloud. Small business and small office/home office users might, do but if you need a Mac, Linux or Windows PC to on which to run the browser, the local application is better. Interesting to wonder how those who work in and around IT view a move of everything into to colossal internet data centres: I don’t see the Open-Source community embracing that.

Consumers have grown more demanding than business users. They run games (local processing isn’t negotiable), and music, photos, and Video. Music is geared to downloads. It would be quite possible to host the music you own on a server in the cloud, stream it to your PC, or download to your portable player; it would simplify a lot of DRM issues. The songs on my PC total about 800 MB – I can shoot 5 times that volume of photos in a day, so storing photos in the cloud is a big storage and bandwidth problem issue. But every photographer I’ve ever met wants their own storage. Adobe are dipping a toe in the water with an on-line editor (which presumably will still cost much more in Britain), but it’s rudimentary and designed to show people they need a proper editor on their computer. Since I mentioned recording TV: even at 480 line resolution this uses about 1.8GB per hour – you can do the sums for the storage this would need. Giant, free-to-access libraries of broadcast quality TV would reduce the storage requirement, if they existed (which the don’t) and who’s leading the delivery of TV over IP.

A blinkered desktop-only world is limitting.  So is an only-at-the-server world. The best combination brings together servers – whether local, hosted, or in the cloud – with Personal computing power, graphics and storage.  The best place for the server varies from case to case. There will always be an argument about what form Personal Computing should take. Which brings me to Apple. They’ve dropped computer from their name and are now about selling designer electronics (Phones which cost $500 with a contract for example) – a space traditionally occupied by the likes of Sony and Nokia. Apple punch above their weight, and their success since Steve Jobs came back proves that “Dead” isn’t forever (not a bad theme for Easter). But you can’t cite meeting a lot of Apple users – and then argue that Personal computing is dead, which Paul Graham does. 5 paragraphs in he says he lives in a different world to Microsoft – he’s a venture capitalist who deals with Californian start-ups who need to prove they “think different”. Sometimes the line beween thinking differently and being a “smug, preening tosser” is a fine one.

So here’s a list of 10 things which people thought kill Microsoft and haven’t

  • SCO open Desktop
  • Local Area networks
  • OS/2
  • Client/Server computing.
  • Linux
  • The Internet
  • The Millenium bug
  • Netscape
  • The NC
  • Wishful thinking


Happy easter


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This post originally appeared on my technet blog.


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