:::renaissance chambara:::

Posts on quality, life, culture, the media, news & tech with a twist & a slice of Limey. I moved my blog to http://renaissancehambara.jp in December 2006, go there for the latest content.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

 
Big Ideas

I was reading an article about entrepreneur and Cliff Richard lookalike Michael Robertson's work in trying to set up a more successful and social democratic way to help students pay for a college education in the US. In this article there was a link to the Idea Channel, the Idea Channel is a website where the public can purchase videos and transcripts from some of the brightest thinkers of our time. It was noticable that the smart people were using some older channels to deliver their messages: VHS video cassettes and printed books.

Next, I received an email on the next big idea from Forrester Research - Innovation Networks, there is an interesting PDF to support the concept and the material can be obtained by registerig. Innovation networks are about bridging the gap between invention and commercialisation of the new, new thing. Much of the thinking here is pretty staid, but I do like the way Forrester has packaged it all up. Six barriers to effective innovation include:

- One way customer relationships yield market irrelevant innovations - basically the classic technology development scheme, the provision of WAP services to European mobile phone users

- Organisational silos prevent organisational collaboration - an easy target this one. Basically because much of the IT systems put in place to do knowledge management from intranets to running Autonomy don't work. Email has allowed managers to sandblast peers with electronic memos but still hasn't made the cultural impact to break down the silos

- Ivory-towered R&D labs dampen the rate of innovation - because the goals of R&D are very different to productisation of an invention

- Risk-averse top management eschews radical innovation - what do you expect when managers read about concepts like the innovators dilemma and are tasked with providing shareholder value, not building a dynasty of greatness. Business is ruled the 90-day plan

- Unskilled partners fail to keep pace with innovation - Microsoft has failed to secure computers, failed to be reliable and failed to provide innovations that business wants.

- Limited pool of local talent slow the innovation cycles - you don't know all the smart people. To the more cynical it also allows companies to offshore R&D

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Wednesday, September 29, 2004

 
Quality Spam

Everyone gets afflicted with spam, but this took the biscuit courtesy of the 'Shadow Crew':


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Round the Houses

Charles Arthur, whose tale of TalkNowt featured earlier in the month is back with another PR story featuring my former agency Edelman. Some of my former colleagues are tasked with working on the 1 million GBP plus Microsoft affliction.
Amongst their tasks is to spread the following forms of disinformation:
  • LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) bad, Windows good
  • Microsoft innovates (no seriously it does, here's a link to its research dept)
  • Drink more Microsoft
  • Bill Gates is Blair's friend
Anyway, Charles in his blog details how Edelman have altered a meeting with some Microsoft Borg member, a pet industry analyst and the media from a roundtable to one-on-one briefings.
Edelman made two pretty big mistakes from a PR point of view:
  • Never recommend a course of action to a client without having a contingency plan
  • Never invite a neutral-to-hostile journalist. Charles is a well known user of Apple computers and writes for a left leaning, free thinking newspaper so would not necessarily be sympathetic to a monopolistic global software titan that speaks with a forked tongue
One-on-one briefings
Yes one-on-ones may agitate journalists, but their opinion will have more weight when they start paying PR people for information about clients. Bottom line is the first thing an agency PR person needs to look after is the revenue to pay their rent/mortgage and the rest of expenses to actually have a life outside work; clients and journalists are very important but still a secondary consideration.
When to use them:
  • With clients that don't have the big draw appeal of Apple, Microsoft, IBM, BT, Oracle. Why? With smaller clients if some of your journalists don't turn up, the spaces around the table with look like the missing teeth in a hags mouth. You never remember the teeth she had, only the gaps that were missing. If one or two drop out of one-on-one interviews it isn't perceived as being as bad by the client. Journalists may not come for a work-related reason, may have forgotten or they may not be ar5ed as a PR person its your job to cover yourself against this eventuality
  • Some journalists think bizarrely that their questions are so special that they are likely to get a scoop that no one else would have thought of. I can tell an amusing tale of a former VNU journalist who fits into this category.
  • When you don't have a subject that would benefit from detailed analysis; put it out as a white paper, op eds, letters to editor. Don't compromise your client, if their ego demands that they do media outreach, do one-on-ones as corporate profile stuff or get them in front of business journalists for the more businessy aspects of your story so in this case it may be angles such as - Microsoft embracing safe open source with new Wiki tool, the issue of having 'your innovations' stolen by the open source community is similar to the problems that the film industry suffers from Bit Torrent users and P2P networks
Thanks to Dave Ingle for pointing this one out.


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Tuesday, September 28, 2004

 
Rubber News
I spoke with and had an email from Chris at Team Rubber. He brought me up to speed with some of the things they had been up to and sent through links to some viral work that showcases what they can do in terms of web design and digital marketing.
First off, eurobandits magazine had a bit of a false start a couple of months ago but is now good to launch lookee here.
Viri


 
More on AlwaysOn's Magazine Launch

From Tony Perkins at AO:

We wanted our members to be the first to know that AlwaysOn (along with you!) will launch a new magazine—making it the first "blogozine" to hit the market...or whatever you want to call it.

Checkout all the details in my new post on the site

The cool thing is the new mag will include the most provocative AO member posts throughout the issue, and we will publish the excerpts our readers have viewed the most and rated the highest from the previous quarter.

Open source media is truly a beautiful thing --let's make it happen!


Monday, September 27, 2004

 
Things that make you go hmm, hmm, hmm

First spotted on Lance Armstrong during this years Tour de France bike race, Oakley have now launched their MP3 headphones on their website. Oakley Thumpers come it at a spendy spendy 495USD for a 256MB MP3 player, earphones and glasses. You can read the specification and full details here (Windoze users need Acrobat from those nice people at Adobe Software, Mac OSX users can use Preview, but I would recommend using Acrobat for ease of use).

Hot Gossip

There's an unconfirmed rumour going around that alleges Netflix have recruited three PR / mar.coms people to prepare for an imminent UK launch. Netflix are famous for shaking up the DVD industry by pioneering online DVD rental and returns via post. If the allegation proves to be true, then Blockbuster and all the Netflix wannabies already in the UK market are due for for a huge can of whoopass to be let loose on them. According to coverage of the Video Island / ScreenSelect merger last month Netflix had indicated an intention to move into the UK marketplace. Note to the Netflix peepz, if you need a good PR agency mail me, the same kind of initiative that sniffed out this rumour could be put to good use raising the profile of your business in the UK.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

 
Google Googly

Great web page on the best search engines / web resources to use according to your requirements.

 
Vodafone scooped in local rag

Luton on Sunday columnist, John Ball - a self styled voice of reason and wit scooped a new Vodafone ad campaign this week. Ball wrote about seeing Tony Blackburn and a film crew shooting outside the Vodafone shop in Luton's Arndale Centre. You can delight in Ball's copy here.

Blackburn is an old national radio DJ and national treasure in the UK. He is liked despite his naffness and has been parodied by Harry Enfield.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

 
Barbican Odyssey

I undertook a trip to the Barbican art gallery with fellow culture vulture Stephen. Both of us were interested in seeing Communicate - an exhibition of the best in British graphic design since the 1960s and Stephen also wanted to see Space of Encounter - an exhibition dedicated to the work of architect Daniel Libeskind.

Getting to the Barbican was a bit of a mission because of the signage and the post-modern design of the area.

Space of Encounter was a mix of models, drawings, video and accompanying text which covered Libeskind's portfolio of work from stage design and costumes, representing modern music via demented draftsmans drawings to architecture including work on the replacement of the World Trade Centres in New York.

Years ago I read HG Wells Invisible Man, in it the invisible man explained his condition by describing things being invisible or visible because of their angle to our dimensions of reality. Some of Libeskind's work reminded me of this book because they looked as if they had rudely interrupted into our reality from another dimension, this made me feel uncomfortable about their place in our world.

Communicate was a much easier exhibtion, it featured work from magazines to nightclub posters and record sleeves. I particularly enjoyed the series of covers put out by Penguin books and the seventh birthday poster of the Hacienda by Mark Holt of 8VO and Octavo.

Friday, September 24, 2004

 
The List
Jonathan, amateur jungle MC, self styled ladies man, Raffleseque cad and aspiring accountant who hails from the mean streets of bourgeois Balham sent through this list from GQ magazine entitled How often should I.... courtesy of the style editors.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

 
Free as in Beer
FreeiPods.com is a US marketing company (that is related to Gratis Internet) that drives consumers to sign up to free trials of products and services by bribing consumers with a free iPod. The BBC Newsnight programme covered it last night and Wired News ran a story on the issues that the company was having sending out the iPods.
The big danger I see is if the business folds with a bang, it could harm the Apple iPod's brand reputation as the cool must-have device even though FreeiPods has nothing to do with Apple.

 
The Holy Grail of the Kitchen

A Ged-proof cook book:

Precise wording and instructions
  • Easy to read layout
  • Geek cred
  • No poncy pictures or pukka geezers (sorry Jamie, I just can't cope with those Sainsburys ads, despite the charity work with aspiring catering careerists)
Cooking For Engineers is a no-nonsense guide to fancy food from Crème Brûlée to the best way to cook fish in a pan.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

 
Gliding Along on Mixed Metaphors

Baileys Glide is Baileys Irish Cream with vanilla flavouring in a hotel minature bar sized bottle and aimed at the sophisticated alco pop drinker. Though I haven't come across it prior to seeing some advertising posters, it has sold well over 4.3 million bottles (thats a lot of cholesterol and alcohol poisoning) through supermarkets, offlicences and convenience stores.

Anyway I was standing in Covent Garden tube, waiting for a train when I noticed the advertising poster for this drink. It has the outline of a young woman holding a glass with feathers inside. The feathers make out the shape of her throat and stomach. The visual metaphor was to do with gliding like a feather fluttering down, however the ad got my attention because I confused the visual message with a tickly throat or 'coughing up feathers' (when someone has a persistent cough reminiscent of cats and fur-balls). This confusion in visual language was a classic example to me of appallingly bad visual communications that may be the work of BBH!


Tuesday, September 21, 2004

 
Great Stories

The other day I watched a DVD called Agitator. It is the story of politics and intrigue as one yakusa family seeks to gain leadership of two rival families. In addition to the plot, there is the back story of yakusa members who are changed by age and bitterness. The hero if there is one in the film is Kenzaka, a yakusa of unbending principles. The yakusa are perceived as outsiders, a family for the dispossessed, Kenzaka is a true outsider railing against the world. The IMDB review of this film undersells it. It is criticised as 'slow' in reality speeds up and slows down like Sergio Leone's fistful of dollars trilogy to set moods, create tension and develop characters.

The second story is an online graphic novel, the unholy lovechild of Apocalype Now and Willy Wonkers Chocolate Factory with a bit of food politics thrown in for good measure.

Monday, September 20, 2004

 
Moguls, Superman and Kryptonite

I have been working my way through Michael Wolf's Autumn of the Moguls and found some of it very predictable. Its obsession with disfunctionality amongst business leaders including Eisner and Messier.

One thing that did strike a chord with me was the way technology had moved from saving the record industry from itself to becoming the industry's kryptonite. Around about 1984 or so, the music industry had hit paydirt as Joe Public moved from their analogue recordings on 8-tracks, cassettes and vinyl on to CDs. Artists of the 1960s and 1970s were the money spinners, reputedly there was one CD factory in Germany that did nothing but make copies of Pink Floyd's Dark side of the Moon.

Then the internet came along and the record companies were slow to take advantage of this technology so the consumers did. Instead the industry created a huge knee jerk reaction blaming the customer for their own mistakes. From pages 283 and 284:

File sharing replaced radio as the engine of music culture.

It wasn't just that it was free music - radio offered free music. But whatever you wanted was free, whenever you wanted it. The Internet is music consumerism run amok, resulting not only in billions of dollars in lost sales but in an endless bifurcation of taste. The universe fragmented into subuniverses, and then sub-subuniverses. The music industry, which depends on large numbers of people with similar interests for its profit margins, now had to deal with an ever-growing number of fans with increasingly diverse and eccentric interests.

Not a unique challenge, clothes manufacturers, car companies et cetera all have had to deal with the fragmentation of consumer interests. There is no longer any such thing as the teenager, when do people now get old? These are all similar challenges. The fear isn't piracy, its the ability of these businesses to manage themselves and adjust to a post modern society.

My own take on this is that the music industry has failed:
  • Failed to give customers what they want, more eclectic artists and built a business model about more 'customised' sales. I read somewhere that a Volvo car model can have some 48,000 variants. Customers now have a more eclectic musical taste, artists and record companies should build for a business model of selling 40,000 rather than 400,000 of a given record
  • Failed to take advantage of their back catalogue of deleted recordings and putting them for sale online to make a better return on slowly decaying master tapes
  • Failed to innovate, during the time that record companies may or may not have sold less CDs, depending whose numbers you believe; they signed and supported less acts and off loaded talented but not huge selling artists
  • Failed to realise that a fast buck is not always the best buck. In prostituting their recordings for supermarket soundtracks, films and car advertisements the music industry turned music into musak
  • Failed to grab their own destiny and allowed their product to be dictated to them by the radio stations
  • Failed to recognise that a number of customers still wanted analogue recordings, thus allowing niche players to subvert a reasonable revenue stream. Much of the US and European requirement for vinyl is pressed in state-of-the-art factories based in the Czech Republic as the majors exited the market

This post can be found in an expanded form at the AlwaysOn Network.


Sunday, September 19, 2004

 
The Hacienda must be built

The Hacienda (or Fac51) was one of the most famous and influential clubs of all time, together with London nights like Shoom, Spectrum and Solaris it catapulted house music (at the time, the sound of black and gay Chicago into worldwide exposure). The Hac influenced and was influenced by the Ibizan scene. Even prior to house, the club innovated; hosting the first UK performance by Madonna in the early 1980s. The club was a work of love by designer Peter Saville, Rob Gretton who managed New Order and Tony Wilson TV newsreader and founder of Factory Records. The name itself came from a passage in arty situationist manifesto by Ivan Chtcheglov that culminated in the passage:

And you, forgotten, your memories ravaged by all the consternations of two hemispheres, stranded in the Red Cellars of Pali-Kao, without music and without geography, no longer setting out for the Haçienda where the roots think of the child and where the wine is finished off with fables from an old alamanac. Now that's finished. You'll never see the Hacienda. It doesn't exist. The Hacienda must be built.

Famous art galleries and authors houses get preserved and saved. However night clubs don't get this reward: The Cavern where the Beatles played is a car park, The Warehouse in Chicago has disappeared, The Wigan Casino and Twisted Wheel hubs of the northern soul scene have been redeveloped, The Wag Club which hosted new music throughout the 1980s from the new romantics to Bomb the Bass is part of a tacky mock Irish pub chain on the edge of London's Chinatown.

The Hacienda was demolished in 1997 and auctioned off piece by piece, the site is now a block of overpriced yuppie apartments.

Despite the desecration committed by property developers, its cultural mark still lives on.

This can be seen in the popular Steve Coogan film 24 Hour Party People, the 'classics chart' of Graeme Park hosted at Hard To Find Records online and London event promoters Get Loaded.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

 
Technology Marketing
Silicon.com moves away from its tech roots, editor Tony Hallett takes time out to look at BT's new business marketing campaign, the article is a bit shallow on analysis all truth being told, but quite readable none the less.
Technology visionary and ex BT Labs head honcho Peter Cochrane raise the possiblity of a new dark side to the future of marketing, holding out the possiblity of internet telephony spam calls: nice (not).

Friday, September 17, 2004

 
Belle Adjourned
Belle de Jour, allegedly the diary of a London call girl signed off with an entry on Wednesday. Belle de Jour was the second most read electronic periodical in Londonmeejaland (second only to Popbitch). Belle's sign off can be found here.

mercredi 15 septembre
Sundown is the start of Rosh Hashanah. I'm afraid, darlings, the time has come for me to go.When this blog started it was with no expectations. I've never lived my life to a plan aside from enjoying myself and have (for the most part) enjoyed doing this.All things pass. For instance: Harts the Grocer, I am saddened to note, are now Tesco Metro. But that is the way of things. I'll miss this. The time will never be right to finish the diary - so I am ending it now.Doors have opened and I'd like to see where they go. Other doors close, but as my mother said when I was 10 and tennis conflicted with piano on Thursday afternoons, you can't do everything you want to do. So my plans to be elected to Parliament, win a Nobel Prize and make the finals at Wimbledon are on the back burner for now. As book and telly projects progress, I'll come back to link - and I will let you know if the site is going to be moved.Thank you to everyone who supported me. Thank you to the critics as well. I wish you all a sweet new year.If I could add one thing, it would be this - don't ever turn down pleasure because you were afraid of what other people might say

 
A Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss...
But does interview Gerry Trudeau. Trudeau is not well known, but his work as creator and prime mover behind the Doonesbury cartoon strip is. Rolling Stone magazine has managed to secure a rare interview with Trudeau here. My favourite Doonesbury character is Duke, loosely based on the writer and pioneering gonzo journalist Hunter S Thompson. Incidently Thompson's Fear & Loathing on the Campaign trail is one of my favourite books.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

 
Hair Vests & Frank Quattrone

I was inspired to write this piece after I read this article from BusinessWeekOnline. In it Timothy Mullaney argues that the world is a better and wiser place after the Internet bust and Quattrone was nothing more than colouring. We are all more learned and better people from having our pension funds raped.

I would argue that this attitude is very myopic:
  • Quattrone was a key mover in promoting successful technology IPOs, which contributed to the boom. That in itself makes him a historical agent of change a la Michael Milken
  • Wisdom is not passed from generation to generation. Fund managers got burned with the junk bond and related financial instruments boom which brought about the savings and loans scandal. Biotech in the mid to late 1980s was as hyped and slow to deliver as the dotcoms. I once read an article by a financial journalists who said that The City (what us people in the UK call our financial district in London) has a memory of eight years. By my reckoning we are mid-cycle
  • The article is almost like sack cloth and ashes for a publication that trumpeted the new economy, its heroes like Jean-Marie Messier and follies like Enron, a very Catholic confession of new economy indiscretions for a publication with the Calvinist soul of an old money industrialist

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

 
Free as in Beer

During the dot com boom free SMS was available as part of your Lycos.co.uk account. I used the facility to keep in touch with my team who were out at CeBIT (Hannover Germany) in 2000. I sent SMS messages via my PC, they got them on the phone. It worked a treat. BT experiment Genie went even further giving you an email address and the first 160 characters of the message was sent to you. My American clients loved it as they could page me, unfortunately BT Cellnet (mmo2 as its known now) eventually closed this technological showcase.

It was with a sense of deja vu that I received an invite from my Finnish friend Jonna, to try out a new free service: sms.ac. For those of you who know me you can email to me an SMS via gedcarroll at sms dotac, keep it below 160 characters and in plain text format for it to get through.

Time will tell how useful it is, anything that helps cut down my phone bill from Orange is a bonus.

 
Oprah Product Placement Par Excellence

Pontiac teamed up with Oprah Winfrey, to give 276 people (the whole studio audience of her show) a new car in a deal worth some 7 million USD. Full details in the Chicago Tribune. Pontiac got more than its moneys worth in coverage and Oprah further enhanced her image as every American's favourite celebrity.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

 
Great Ideas Don't Die, They Get Reincarnated

The Dharma Web

At one time Northernlight used to have a website that allowed you to see what payed for content was available under a given search string. It also grouped it for you. Now the company website is brochureware for enterprise search services.

I found out about the 'new' (well new to me) Northernlight by clicking on a advertisement on the New York Times Online (by the way please can you click on the ads on the bottom of this page, thank you).

The mantle instead has been picked up by HighBeam Research, who have an excellent website here. It even picked up some content that LexisNexis had missed. The best thing is you only pay for what you click on making it ideal for job interviews or school projects.

Monday, September 13, 2004

 
R U Xperienced?

I clicked on a link whilst surfing CNet's News.com site reading some of the opinion pieces being written about the new iMac and came across Harvard Business School Working Knowledge a portal containing great articles on business and personal career management.
My favourite part of the site was the very readable business histories here. As you would expect from a website from one of the world's leading business schools the standards of writing is very high, but also easy to read and digest.


Sunday, September 12, 2004

 
Holy Smokes!

Former Red Herring editor and AlwaysOn Network front man Tony Perkins is returning to the print world with a new publication. AlwaysOn magazine will initially be quarterly and circulated to thousands of its 'prosumer' members.

 
Alright Chuck, you smell right nice

After taking Oliver Cheatham's 1982 soul classic Saturday night and making it CHAV (council house & violent) friendly Lynx have made amends with this clever advertisement currently doing the rounds in the cinema and on television.

Cinema is particularly important to help Lynx reach the important 18 - 30 something demographic.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

 
Something for the Christmas list

I noticed the launch of this book on the Irish Emmigrant newsletter. Gaelic Sports by Irish sports writer Eamonn Sweeney is published by O'Brien Press (ISBN 0-86278-854-4).

Gaelic Sports is a concise book about football, hurling, camogie and handball including an account of the history, the rules, the outstanding players and memorable games that have made up the past one hundred and twenty years of the Gaelic Athletic Association, though it must be said that camogie and handball are relegated to two short chapters at the end of the book.

Importantly one section is devoted to Micheál O'Hehir, dubbed "The Voice of the GAA", the excitement and energy of commentators on RTE radio talking about GAA matches fired my imagination as a boy and are still a pleasure to listen to. With no other kids anywhere near by, I used to run imaginary heated commentaries in my head as I punted a football up and down the field behind my uncle Fintan's farm house which became
Croke Park in the dying minutes of the All Ireland final, weaving around cow pats, his excitable dogs and patches of thistles pretending that they were defenders playing for Dublin (I, of course was in the maroon jersey of our native county of Galway!)

The book also covers peripheral items such as the selection of the All-Stars, the colours worn by the different counties and the nicknames bestowed on some of the more famous players.

The book sounds like a fantastic introduction to gaelic sports and would allow the average reader to hold their own in any pub in Kilburn.

On another note, take this
psuedo-psychology test to find out what kind of hurler you are

Friday, September 10, 2004

 
Talk Nowt

Good to see that standards are as high as ever at my former employers Edelman. The Orange team there were forced to send out the following correction after a defective press release:

Further to the Orange release that was sent out this morning, we wish to point out that the header for some of you read as ‘TALK NOWT’, when it should have read ‘TALK NOW’.

The extra ‘T’ appeared due to the trademark ™ sign, not being able to appear in it’s true form when using applications such as Lotus notes.

Rule one of sending out email communications to the media is doing it plain text. This reduces the size of the journalist's email box, which is good netiquette and makes the email universally readable. Hell, I check my home email account on my Nokia phone when I am on the move.

Its a good job that this mistake was not done on the one million GBP plus Microsoft account that Edelman currently holds. The bit I cannot believe is that after they messed up, they had the gall to blame the whole lot on the journalists email application; rather than being an adult about it. I guess its the same lame logic that has Microsoft calling viruses such as Blaster that affect only the Windows platform 'internet' viruses.

It makes me wonder who are the 'specialists' heading up the technology practice and where have the smarts gone?

Incidentially browsing the Edelman website on my Mac using both Safari and Mozilla Firefox brings up the following warning:

"This site has been optimized for all browsers and platforms other than Netscape 6.x on Mac OS. For the best user experience please use Netscape Navigator 4.x or 7.x or Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.0 or later."

Maximum kudos to Independent technology scribe Charles Arthur (you can read his blog entry here).




 
Ya Can't Hate The Game It's Da Player Ya Hate

Years ago, games did not need text books on how to complete them, were not realistic enough to inspire copycat murders and had playerability.

The king of the heap was a bunch of crazy Californians called Atari. Now old code doesn't die, it just get recycled. Many mobile phones have old school games recoded into Java to run on them, also my mate Stephen sent me a copy of Jum52 the Atari 5800 emulator for Mac OS X written by Dubliner Richard Bannister. It looked wonderful, its just the key layout isn't that good for an iBook user like me.

Then I come across this story on my Excite news page. Atari are going to be launching all their golden oldies from the 1980s and further back on one disc for the PS2 and as a 'replica' hardware package of the old Atari consoles called the Atari Flashback with 20 games inside. Cool times indeed, remember street hustlers, its not the game; its the player you hate!

 
Keep it Classy San Diego

I got to see a preview showing of
Anchorman: the legend of Ron Bergundy (Quicktime req'd) courtesy of Popbitch at Vue (the old Warner Village) in Leicester Square earlier on in the week. It is fantastic: the memorable punchlines come thick and fast, Will Ferrells physical humour is great and references to cultural touchstones such as West Side Story are deftly grafted in. I am a big fan of Will Ferrell anyway, but the film had a sterling cast including performances from Luke Wilson, Joe Black, Vince Vaughn, a relatively tolerable Ben Stiller and even cinema hard man Danny Trejo.

My reservations about the film is only that I am sure come Christmas time next year I will get tired of people quoting its dialogue; in the same way that
Ali G from the 11 O'Clock Show and the League of Gentlemen were sucked of their creative marrow by the same fools. So I thought I would get in first with the Ron Bergundy sign-off as the article title.

Plot spoiler: for all you animal lovers out there, the dog comes back.

In conclusion, by Thor's hammer you should go and see this film if its the only one you catch this month. This is the film that Austin Powers trilogy should have been.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

 
The Hidden Manifestos

Much of the media coverage online, in print and broadcast has focused on the razmatazz of the party conventions and the soap opera dramatics surrounding their characters. What has been largely missed out has been a critique of their economic policies. The New Yorker magazine has posted an outline of George Bush's tax policy here. It reads like an unfettered neo-conservative text without any of the social conscience aspect to taxation and government that we have come to expect from the social democratic parties that govern Europe.

In addition to benefiting the very rich and adversely affecting the poor and the elderly, the cuts proposed will hollow out the middle classes. What they gain in tax cuts, they will more than lose in increased health insurance, pension allowances, education fees and social security insurance. As many political analysts will tell you, the health and stability of a country depends on an economically strong, vibrant and numerous middle class.

More than its domestic implications to all strata of society, it will also help increase the cultural and political gap between Europe and the United States.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

 
Breaking News

Quattrone elevated to exclusive club. Following his sentencing to 15 to 21 months jail time (which he will be appealing) Frank Quattrone has joined Michael Milken, Ivan Boesky and Martha Stewart to the big stripey house country club for people that are too greedy.

When Frank isn't working on a chain gang he could put some of that time to good use reading articles from the 2004 Goizeuta Directors Conference on corporate governance. Details are here.

Who the heck is Frank Quattrone anyway?

Frank's bio from the Stanford Business School advisory board (of which he is or maybe was a member)

Frank Quattrone is former managing director and head of CSFB Technology Group. He was a member of the executive board of CSFB and a member of the investment banking global leadership committee. Mr. Quattrone has 22 years of investment banking experience, including 17 years at Morgan Stanley, where he was managing director and head of the firm’s Global Technology Investment Banking Group, which he helped build from its early days in 1981. Prior to joining CSFB, Mr. Quattrone was a managing director at Deutsche Bank, where he was founder and CEO of DMG Technology Group.

Mr. Quattrone has advised on hundreds of IPOs, common stock and convertible offerings, and merger and acquisition transactions for technology companies including 3Com, Adobe, Agilent, Amazon.com, America Online, Apple, Applied Materials, Ascend, Broadcom, Cisco, Corvis, Cypress, E*Trade, Handspring, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Instinet, Intel, Intuit, KLA/Tencor, Linear Technology, Lucent Technologies, Lycos, National Semiconductor, Netscape, Nortel, Oracle, Pacific Century Cyberworks, Phone.com, Quantum, STMicroelectronics, Siemens, Synopsys, Synoptics, Verisign, Veritas, Wind River, Xilinx, and Zhone.

Mr. Quattrone serves on the boards of directors of 4Charity.com, Packet Design, The Tech Museum of Innovation, and Tech Network, and he serves on the board of Castilleja School. He received his BS degree summa cum laude from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and his MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business where he was an Arjay Miller Scholar.

 
If you go out in the woods today....

You're sure of a big surprise. No, not the teddy bears picnic but geeks and other social undesireables playing life-action D&D (Dungeons and Dragons). Shockingly bad costumes and a strange fat man prancing about throwing crumbled paper towels shouting 'lightning ball'. Check this out.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

 
Oh Sh!t, CSC & BAE Systems Scupper UK Nuclear Deterrent
From this morning's edition of online news site The Register. Royal Navy's capability neutered by stealth. What is really scarey about this is that the political parties have not made any comment. Maybe this has something to do with the millions that Microsoft spends on public affairs and bailing Labour out of the potential white elephant of the Commonwealth Games in Manchester, which at the time threatened to be as big a disaster as the Millenium Dome. Orginal article here, interesting bits below

"Almost three years ago the naval systems arm of major UK defence contractor BAE Systems took the decision to standardise future development on Microsoft Windows. an immediate effect was to commit BAE's joint venture CMS subsidiary, AMS, who specialise in naval Combat Management Systems, to implementing a Windows 2000-based CMS system for the new Type 45 Destroyer."

"Acting as spokesman for the concerned engineers Gerald Wilson compiled a 50 page dossier detailing the unsuitability of Windows as a foundation for a naval command system, and arguing that BAE's Unix history and expertise made open source UN*X a logical and viable way forward. The company then made him redundant. In May of this year Wilson reiterated his concerns to the board of BAE Systems at the company's AGM, pointing out that Windows is "proprietary technology owned by a foreign corporation", has "many and continuing security flaws", and is not even warranted by Microsoft itself for safety-related use. Why then, he asked, is AMS "shunning established engineering practice" by developing the Type 45's CMS on Windows."

"AMS supports this with copious documentation on the AMS approach to open systems, which can be summarised as open, so long as it uses Windows. Earlier AMS had announced the deployment of Windows on submarine HMS Torbay, together with plans to retrofit Windows to Vanguard class and other attack submarines."

Vanguard class boats carry Trident nuclear missiles!

"BAE had undergone several structural changes. One consequence was that computer resources were owned and controlled by BAE’s outsourcing partner (Computer Sciences Corporation). CSC’s published policy was to standardise BAE’s computers to use only Microsoft’s proprietary software."
So this decision was based on the fact that the company outsources its PC helpdesks to CSC!

"In April 2002, Bill Gates, acting as Microsoft’s Chief Software Architect, gave extensive testimony under oath to the US Courts. Gates’s testimony included description of the current structure of Microsoft Windows. Snubbing fifty years of progress in computer science, the current structure of Windows abandoned the accepted principles of modular design and reverted instead to the, much deprecated, entangled monolithic approach. Paragraphs 207 to 223 are particularly revealing about Microsoft’s chosen approach (paragraph 216 is difficult to believe!). Anyone with elementary knowledge of computer science can see that Microsoft Windows, as described here by Gates, is inherently insecure by design."
"These continual problems demonstrate how, in practice, Windows proves inherently insecure by design. There are many public descriptions of this issue: but a succinct summary is found here: (Does open source software enhance security? - The Register) Although partisan, Greene's analysis is accurate. Greene distinguishes how the structure of Windows (entangled, monolithic) necessarily compromises its security when compared with the structure of open source UNIX (modular, scaleable). It is simple to infer which structure is preferable for building a safe and secure foundation for an engineered system, such as a naval command system. A more recent example is this recommendation in a recent security advisory from the Computer Emergency Readiness Team, now part of the US Department of Homeland Security. (US-CERT Vulnerability Note VU#713878, 9th June 2004 Microsoft Internet Explorer does not properly validate source of redirected frame)."

Gives the blue screen of death a whole new meaning.

 
Life, Liberty and Political Protest

The Republican National Party
convention has come and gone in New York. While much of the media coverage was devoted to the usual political posturing less attention was paid to the psy-ops between the party and its opponents on the street.

The city of New York went into overdrive arresting protestors. A Manhattan judge ordered
the immediate release of 500 protestors some of whom had been held for three days without charge. Around 2,000 protesters had been arrested in total. Forget the 1960s, the protests were the biggest staged at a US political convention ever (almost three times as many as the famous 1968 Democratic Party Convention in Chicago). Issues of importance to the protestors included the way in which the war on terror was been conducted, in memory of 9/11 relatives dissatified with the government, gay rights, AIDS funding as well as the treatment of the poorest members of society.

In a wrap up report of the convention Chicago Tribune journalist Charlie Madigan compared the Republicans to the Nazis (see
here)

Like a modern military campaign, the protest was supported by a complex 'command and control' communications infrastructure, the protests relied on sophisticated communications technology to direct their actions, the protests were more successful than in those done by previous generations. Protests were by text messages on their cell phones, using the service to establish meeting points to create a 'swarm' rather like a flash mob, warn about police presence and provide an real-time protest update.

"Need protesters at 38th and Park Ave, Bush arriving any sec!" came one message on Thursday morning from a church where the president was to attend a prayer service. Foremost amongst the mobile infrastructure was textmob.com.

Here's their post-convention update to members:

Well, the RNC has come and gone. Many thanks to everyone who used txtmob, and special thanks to those who helped keep it up and running. In particular, props to our partners in New York: the NYC Comms Collective, the A31 collective, Times Up! NY, CounterConvention.org, Openflows, City College radicals, and the 12th Street church crew. Special shout-out to Teleflip.com for letting us piggyback on their service when T-Mobile tried to shut us down.

If you have a minute, it would be extremely helpful if you would provide some feedback on your experience with txtmob. We'd like to know how you used txtmob - for example, are you an RNC protester? a medic? a reporter? If possible, let us know which groups you subscribed to, whether you posted or only received messages, and how useful you found the service. We'd particularly love to hear any stories you might want to share about your experiences as well - for example, was there something specific that txtmob helped you do? Or a time that txtmob was especially memorable? Finally, we'd like to know about ways that txtmob can be improved.

Needless to say, your responses will be kept in the strictest confidence.

This is a continuing project. After a brief and much-needed vacation, we will begin packaging the code for public release. We'll also start on the next revision, which will include many new features and will support international messaging. If you're interested in helping with these efforts, please get in touch.

We're also pleased to announce our friend Tad Hirsch has agreed to coordinate further development efforts. Tad is a Research Assistant at MIT's Media Lab and a longtime associate of the Institute for Applied Autonomy. Effective immediately, you can reach Tad at admin at txtmob.com.

Finally, a note for T-Mobile customers: As many of you are aware, T-Mobile blocked TXTmob messages during a portion of the RNC. While we won't speculate on the reasons for this action, it would be extremely helpful if the hundreds of customers who were unable to receive TXTMob messages called T-Mobile to complain. Be sure to explain that TXTMob is an opt-in service that you have chosen to join, and to encourage their representatives to contact admin at txtmob.com if they have any questions.

Again, thanks for all the support. This has been an exciting project and its only just begun!

Yours,
John Henry / Institute for Applied Autonomy


Monday, September 06, 2004

 
Happy Labour Day

Happy Labour Day to our American readers.

From Smalldog.com Kibble and Bites newsletter a brief explanation of Labour Day for th rest of us:

"Labor Day differs in every essential from the other holidays of the year in any country," said Samuel Gompers, founder and longtime president of the American Federation of Labor. "All other holidays are in a more or less degree connected with conflicts and battles of man's prowess over man of strife and discord for greed and power of glories achieved by one nation over another. Labor Day...is devoted to no man living or dead, to no sect, race or nation."

On September 5, 1882, the first Labor Day parade was held in New York City. Twenty thousand workers marched in a parade up Broadway. They carried banners that read "LABOR CREATES ALL WEALTH" and "EIGHT HOURS FOR WORK EIGHT HOURS FOR REST EIGHT HOURS FOR RECREATION!" After the parade, there were picnics all over the city, with Irish stew, homemade bread, and apple pie. At night, fireworks were set off. Within the next few years the idea spread from coast to coast and all states began to celebrate Labor Day. In 1894, Congress voted to make it a federal holiday.

 
Don't Panic

Netimperative reports that the BBC having an online version of the Hitchhikers Guide the Galaxy adventure game. The game originally appeared on computing dinosaurs such as the Sinclair Spectrum. The move is part of a season of Douglas Adams themed work, including a rerun of the original radio series and the dramatisation of the last part of the story based on scripts that Adams wrote in 1993. Adams work has cult following particularly amongst nerds, geeks and dweebs of a certain age.

BBC radio four has a microsite for the programmes
here.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

 
Point of Inflection

A point of inflection is a mathematic term that describes the point on a curve where the gradient is naught (zero). Its the point at which everything changes, what sociologists and marketers call the tipping poing. Technological progress (and market adoption technology) often moves foward through paradigm shifts which can be shown as a series of bumps on an ever increasing shallow curve. For example, computer use in homes has sky rocketed in just a few years due to the internet.

Just as technology moves forward through these processes so do the companies that sell it. Once there was a company full of over ambitious nerds who wrote developers tools for computers, the bought and modified some software that did really well when IBM licenced it and developed a new breed computer. But things really picked up when they developed useful applications for computer users to help the write and do math. Their business exploded to become one of the worlds biggest when they borrowed a new visual way of relating to your computer without complex commands. That company is Microsoft and the products described were BASIC, DOS, Word, Excel, Windows.

Sony has a history of market innovation and engineering. The company was so successful that some of its product names started to be used to describe generic products, however occasionally it was wrong footed and ended on the losing side in the marketplace. Sony had a video standard called Betamax which was technically second to none and became adopted in a modified form (Betacam) within the broadcast sector, its consumer cousin however withered away to nothing in the marketplace. Sony was determined not to allow this disaster to happen again and was successful in developing new formats that customers loved. The secret sauce was to have a critical mass of content. In doing so the company went from being a respected electronics company to a content bohemoth that also made electrical goods. All this growth and success in the market was not without pain. Whilst the electronics side of the business continued to develop cool products the plants that manufactured them did not move forward. The company became inefficient compared to upstarts from other Asian countries.

A new shift in peoples homes came along on in consumer homes and the company failed to develop a coherent strategy to meet the challenges and opportunities of the internet, including digital downloads. However Sony was not the only one to be wrong footed by the 'net. In Sony's case the problem was that of the innovators dilemma were previous success and infrastructure is a handicap when competing against disruptive technology. Where it could have made a critical error according to some reports in the news (for example here) is not accepting an offer made by Steve Jobs CEO of Apple last April.

By deciding to go their own way rather than joining up with the worlds leader in digital downloads and players Sony may have made the Betamax mistake all over again. April was the point of inflection or (tipping point in marketing terms) and Sony missed the boat. History has been made....

Saturday, September 04, 2004

 
Supa Stylin' on ya Bike

Your ride has just two wheels and no Hemmy under the hood, just you peddling. Ok, your bike might be a Schwinn, but it still says LOSER!! But, it needn't; what if you could your ride could bask in the majestic aura of neon low lighting. Now you can thanks to Fossil Fool and their Down Low Glow you too can be supa stylin'!

Friday, September 03, 2004

 
UBL has his uses
UBL or Usama Bin Laden in civilian speak was called upon by gossip news site Popbitch to rid the world of the alleged comedian Jim Davidson. Jim is a man who makes Jimmy Tarbuck seem talented and makes Bernard Manning seem fun loving and innocent.
From Popbitch:

Take my comedian, please

Muslim extremists, please get this man Blue "comedian" Jim Davidson left Britain and moved to Dubai earlier this year. One of his last acts was to refuse to play a gig because there were too many wheelchair users in the front row. He's now wowing the Dubai expat community with this charm. Last week at a bar a heavily pregnant popbitch reader spotted him and greeted him with, "You're Jim Davidson!" "And you're a whore," the comedian replied. (If any of our readers are members of fundamentalist Islamic terrorist groups, may we suggest Jim for kidnapping and beheading?)

 
The Mouse That Roared

Interesting article on how Walt Disney is dragging its marketing and licencing deals for merchandising into the modern age from the New York Times (August 30, 2004). Despite Disney being a cultural bohemeth, it is amazing how reactive approach they had taken previously.

It also makes you wonder wthether this new commercial reality will prevail in bringing Pixar back into the Disney fold?

A Nike Veteran Adds Some Swoosh to Disney's Tired Mouse
By LAURA M. HOLSON


OLLYWOOD, Calif. Aug. 29 - "Never underestimate the power of a free T-shirt," Andrew P. Mooney, the chairman of the Walt Disney Company's consumer products division, joked as bikini-clad sunbathers dove into a pool at The Standard hotel here last week.

Mr. Mooney was quoting Philip H. Knight, the charismatic founder of Nike, with whom Mr. Mooney worked for 20 years. But he was referring specifically to a promotion he spearheaded in 2001, hoping to get celebrities like Jennifer Garner and Sarah Jessica Parker to wear Mickey Mouse T-shirts and give the character a more contemporary appeal.

It was a hit. Retail sales of the retro T-shirts have doubled annually since their introduction, and Dolce & Gabbana has designed a $1,400 sequined Minnie Mouse T-shirt, to be in stores this fall.

Mr. Mooney shook his head and laughed. "Who would have thought?" he said.

It was the kind of "out of the ordinary" thinking that Disney needed, he said, to revive its consumer products division, which had been eroding since its peak in 1997.

The consumer products division provides only a small part of Disney's overall revenue, about 9 percent. But toys, costumes and backpacks have a life far beyond the movie theater. And Mr. Mooney hopes to turn Mickey and company into the Martha Stewart of bed, books and apparel for children, trading as much on Disney's reputation for quality (a draw for parents) as on its characters' appeal.

In effect, analysts said, he is trying to do for Disney's consumer products business what Mr. Knight did for Nike: turn the Disney name into a lifestyle brand.

Since 1999, when Mr. Mooney joined Disney, the publishing group has inaugurated its first original comic book series - W.I.T.C.H., a collection of stories about teenage girls with supernatural powers. The series sells well worldwide, and is being developed as a television show for Disney's cable networks. Mr. Mooney and his team made being a princess both hip and profitable: the Disney Princess line of costumes and accessories will earn $2 billion this year in retail sales and spawned a series of princess-related events at Disney's theme parks.

"For the first time there seems like there is a coherent plan," said Tom Wolzien, a media analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Company. "We'll see how it works, but so far the results under his tenure are good."

Not every new idea is a hit, of course. A few years ago, Disney tried to market, under the Always Fresh label, women's nightshirts and T-shirts, including one depicting a suggestively posed Snow White and the phrase, "Attracts Strange Little Men." Reminded of the unsuccessful venture, Mr. Mooney groaned. "We were young," he said, adding, "You have to undergo a degree of chance if you want to succeed."

And Mr. Mooney admits he has a long way to go to turn around the division. In its heyday in 1997, the consumer products division had $893 million in operating income and more than 4,200 licensees who sold products related largely to Winnie the Pooh and Mickey Mouse, as well as the company's popular animated movies, like "Snow White" and "The Lion King." The company had 749 Disney Stores worldwide.

But when the retail market declined, so did profits. Disney Stores had expanded into second- and third-tier malls, and those stores quickly showed losses as the economy sputtered. The quality of Disney-branded products was suffering as well; the Disney name could be found on almost anything. By 2000, operating income had dwindled to $386 million and even Mickey Mouse's popularity was showing wear.

Mr. Mooney, 49, had his work cut out for him. First, he halved the number of licensees. Then he began actively pursuing companies Disney wanted to work with, rather than waiting for them to call, as his predecessors had done. He also began selling Disney's underperforming stores and seeking high-end retailers like Fred Segal in Los Angeles to sell specialty products. Most important, he strengthened Disney's relationship with large retailers; the division opened a sales office in Bentonville, Ark., where Wal-Mart, the country's biggest and most influential mass retailer, is based.

Now, four years later, the consumer products division earned $388 million in operating income in the first three quarters of 2004, which already puts it ahead of 2003. Industry analysts predict that operating income could reach $511 million for the fiscal year. Further, Disney has signed a nonbinding letter of intent to sell its more than 300 stores in the United States to The Children's Place retail chain.

"It's kind of been 'show me the money' time," Mr. Mooney said.

One of Mr. Mooney's major initiatives is to expand into clothing and household goods like bed linens that will rely on the Disney reputation, but not Disney characters. Next spring, the company plans to introduce, under the Disney Denim brand, pants and jean jackets that have whimsical elements like pocket fabric inspired by cartoon strips.

Parents who do not want to dress their children in head-to-toe Mickey Mouse can mix and match, Mr. Mooney said. Retailers also receive a break, paying a royalty fee of 5 percent on Disney Denim instead of the 10 percent they usually pay to sell apparel with Disney characters. Mr. Mooney hopes to expand the offering into linens and other household products.

But lifestyle products with an untraditional flair are what seem to excite Mr. Mooney most. At Fred Segal in Los Angeles, Disney recently tested Snap watches, which have interchangeable faces and wristbands and are based on Disney characters but with a hipper, more urban appeal. In his interview at the hotel, Mr. Mooney held up a pink T-shirt from the Disney Cuties line for young girls and teenagers, introduced 15 months ago. The shirt was printed with a blue and white Eeyore outlined in thick black lines, more anime-style than conventional Disney animation.

"This is Japanese anime meets the library," said Mr. Mooney, a grin sliding across his face. "We started in T-shirts and now we're making pillows and cellphone cases. We are always looking for sustainable ideas that cross all lines of business."

Mr. Mooney's strategy is dependent on consumer spending, of course, and teenagers are among the most capricious shoppers. Revenues also come from merchandise based on animated movies created by Disney's joint partner, Pixar Animation Studios, will end, too, if the relationship ends, as expected, in two years.

Mr. Mooney said the shelf life of trend-driven products was six months to two years, and could be tracked through four urban centers: first Tokyo, then London, New York City and Orange County, Calif. At Zakka shops in Tokyo, which sell pop culture items, Mr. Mooney said Winnie the Pooh was a hot seller among teens last year. Since then, Pooh has been replaced by Marie, the mischievous gray kitten from the animated film "The Aristocats," and, more recently, Alice in Wonderland.

Disney's most successful new product to date is the Disney Princess line of dresses, tiaras and dolls. The idea was quite simple: bring together the most popular female animated characters, like Snow White, Jasmine (from "Aladdin") and Cinderella, and sell them as a group with their own costumes and accessories.

Now princess-themed breakfasts at the Disney resorts, which began in 2002, sell out months in advance. The success of the Disney Princess line inspired a new Disney Fairies line (led, of course, by Tinkerbell), which will include books and a direct-to-video movie. And, in Japan, 20,000 mothers and daughters this year paid $150 each to attend seminars where they learned to drink tea like, well, princesses.

"We've opened the creative sandbox," Mr. Mooney said.

He said the consumer products business was growing faster outside the United States, and products were being introduced in Japan or Europe well before they hit American shores. That was the case with Disney's new W.I.T.C.H. books, which chronicle the lives of five teenage girls who spend their days worrying about boys and friends and their nights fighting evil-doers. (The initials stand for their first names.)

The comic books were introduced in Italy in 2001 and now sell a million copies worldwide each month. The first W.I.T.C.H. book was introduced as a graphic novel in the United States in June this year. It has already sold 650,000 copies, Mr. Mooney said.

Next year, Disney plans to air a W.I.T.C.H. animated television show both in Europe and in the United States on the company's cable stations. The company also recently released in Italy its first issue of another comic book, "Kylion," the story of a group of space-traveling children who land on a strange planet and must survive there. While there are no plans yet to develop the property for television, Mr. Mooney said his team had been working with the television group to develop adaptable plot lines.


Thursday, September 02, 2004

 
A source of constant disappointment

As you may have seen over the past few days parts of the American media seem to think that the launch of Microsoft's new operating system is turning into a bigger disaster than the war against terror. They're wrong for two reasons:

- The war against terror is majorly messed up because of
poor leadership which has betrayed the countless men and women who have been serving their countries selflessly

- Even in the unlikely event of Microsoft going bankrupt in the morning and the business and associated 'intellectual' properties disappearing into a puff of smoke (I sooo wish it were true), there are numerous viable alternatives from pirate Windows software (nice price, shame about the code), GNU/Linux, various flavours of Unix (Solaris, Openware, Mac OS X, netBSD, FreeBSD etc)

Let's put Longhorn into perspective:

- Whine number one - its late, duh show me an IT project that isn't late, or over budget. Ever heard the one about the sales man who walks into a client, promises them the earth and then gives the programming team three weeks to build it and is then surprised when it doesn't deliver. Microsoft is bigger than everyone else so does things like this on a bigger scale.

- Whine number two - it won't do what you promise, you've cut out all the good bits. Ok, I'm going to let you into an IT industry dirty secret, marketing people lie. They believe what they tell you when they have told you it, but they lie. I know they lie, because I've taken their lies and written them in an easy to understand format for journalists to write about and jouranlists propagate those lies because they provide content that readers pretend to glance over whilst really checking out the job adverts and feeling aggrieved at the money they are paid. The content is a trojan horse to get those job adverts into their workplace because there are too many more interesting things to do in their own time

- Whine number three - its an omen of doom, Trey (William Gates III to those of us who know him well) has taken his eye off the ball and
Monkey Boy Balmer has royally fcuked up, this would not have happened with Bill in charge. This one needs to be broken down into sections.

First of all, Steve Balmer has done a good job fighting against the rabid autistic children that make up most of his employees, bringing it successfully through a shedload of antitrust lawsuits and helping put a more sympathetic government in the White House. Remember, Bill Gates' video testimony helped with the finding of fact against the company in the first place and condemned Microsoft in the court of public opinion.

Secondly, when Gates was in the hot seat the company made some shocking errors:

  • The Road Ahead (first edition) - ghost writers had to tear this apart and rewrite it replacing up to 30 per cent of the content, Gates had dismissed the Internet and missed the boat. They spent hundreds of millions before they caught back up
  • Cairo - during the development of Windows'95, Microsoft spent a lot of money developing some wicked cool technologies that improved searching for data on a computer amongst other things. Cairo was designed to unify the DOS and NT based products on one state-of-the-art platform (this unification happened much later with Windows XP). Along the way a lot of cool stuff got culled, the market got an inferior product which sold despite being launched with a Rolling Stones live performance of 'Start me up'. Windows'95 went on to be a technological wasteland and an unprecendented commerical success.
Thirdly it takes more than a few penguins and unruly autistic children to take down the house of Microsoft. Why? Because thousands of IT people want to follow each other like lemmings rather than looking at alternatives that may provide their business with competitive advantage? The real compelling reason why Microsoft should not be scared - politico-economics. Below is a quote taken from the I, Cringely column of August 14, 2003:

Why aren't Apple Macintosh computers more popular in large mainstream organizations? Whatever the gigahertz numbers say, Macintoshes are comparable in performance to Windows or Linux machines. Whatever the conventional wisdom or the Microsoft marketing message, Macs aren't dramatically more expensive to buy and on a Total Cost of Ownership basis they are probably cheaper. Nobody would argue that Macs are harder to use. Clearly, they are easier to use, especially on a network. So what's the problem? Why do Macs seem to exist only in media outfits?

Apple is clearly wondering the same thing because the company recently surveyed owners of their xServe 1U boxes asking what Apple could do to make them more attractive? For those who own xServes, they are darned attractive -- small, powerful, energy-efficient, easy to configure and manage, and offering dramatic savings for applications like streaming. Yet, Apple appears to be having a terrible time selling the things.

I used to think it came down to nerd ego. Macs were easy to use, so they didn't get the respect of nerds who measured their testosterone levels by how fluently they could navigate a command line interface. Now, I think differently. Now, I think Macs threaten the livelihood of IT staffs. If you recommend purchasing a computer that requires only half the support of the machine it is replacing, aren't you putting your job in danger? Exactly.

Ideally, the IT department ought to recommend the best computer for the job, but more often than not, they recommend the best computer for the IT department's job.

Now another question: Why are Linux computers gaining in popularity with large organizations while Macs, which are based after all on BSD Unix, aren't? While there is certainly a lot to be said for Linux in competition with various flavors of Windows (Linux is faster, more memory-efficient, more secure, has more sources of supply, supports many more simultaneous users per box in a server environment, and is clearly cheaper to buy), the advantage over Macintosh computers is less clear.

Again, it comes down to the IT Department Full Employment Act. Adopting Linux allows organizations to increase their IT efficiency without requiring the IT department to increase ITS efficiency. It takes just as many nerds to support 100 Linux boxes as 100 Windows boxes, yet Linux boxes are cheaper and can support more users. The organization is better off while the IT department is unscathed and unchallenged.

I am not claiming that every organization should throw out its PCs and replace them with Macs, but the numbers are pretty clear, and the fact that more Macs don't make it into server racks has to be based on something, and I think that something is CIO self-interest.

Macs reduce IT head count while Linux probably increases IT head count, simple as that.

I didn't come up with this very smart idea, it came from a reader. That same reader made the point that every part of an organization ought to be concerned with improving the bottom line, which is to say with being more productive. Yet IT typically doesn't work that way.

All you aspiring
'Neutron' Jack Welch's out there, you have an ideal target to squeeze for efficieny get liquidating staff and taking technological change out of the hands of the IT director (better still fire his ass and buy the mortgage on his property for peanuts). Before you ask, outsourcing just ships the problem out of the country but not out of your life.


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