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by: Bernard Teo

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Copyright © 2003-2012
Bernard Teo
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Thu 19 May 2005

Connections and Inflection Points

Category : Commentary/inflectionPoint.txt

Okay, now that the dust has settled from the Tiger 10.4.1 release (I hope I'm not speaking too soon), I'm tracing the origins of the new LaunchDaemons mechanism in Tiger.

A good place to start is, I think, John Siracusa's Ars Technica article. But mid-way through the reading I was struck by this single line :

"If I were working on a Unix-based operating system, I'd be borrowing ideas and code from Apple like there's no tomorrow."

Just last week I was reading this straight from Robert X Cringely's pulpit :

"Bill Gates deliberately blabbed some details about the next xBox game system, which is to be officially announced this week ... that xBox 360 will perform many functions that currently require a home computer ... What message does this send to Microsoft's hardware OEM customers that make home computers? What is Microsoft saying to Dell, HP, Gateway, and others? For all the customer bullying we saw proof of in the Department of Justice's anti- trust case against Microsoft, one thing the kids in Redmond never did was propose to undercut their hardware OEMs by building a Microsoft PC. But now that's precisely what Gates has proposed, and it is coming in time for this Christmas.

Then, there's the usual doom and gloom about Apple, "iTunes to lose its market dominance - report" :

"Apple is about to make the same mistake that they made in the PC world. They also lost their lead they had with computers in the 70s and 80s."

And, to keep you wondering where all this is heading, I've been thinking a lot lately about why it may not be a bad idea to go work in China.

But, bear with me, I think I can link all these together.

It's commonly believed that there were two ways towards market dominance in the Computer Wars - Microsoft's Way and Apple's Way - and Apple lost.

Apple's Way was about building the whole widget. Microsft's Way was about building the platform so that other people (the whole wide world) could come and build their own widgets. Microsoft won, Apple lost, game over, and ever shall be.

But wait a minute. Mac users (overwhelmingly) love their Macs. PC users (generally) barely tolerate their PCs. So, what's wrong with this picture?

I think there's another way to look at this and that is to consider the possibility that Apple had the right idea and the better way. But they lost because of poor execution.

The Microsoft Way did not have a divine right to win.

Wired : "How did Windows become ubiquitous?"

Steve Jobs (in the Wired Interview) : "A force of self-interest throughout the industry made Windows ubiquitous. Compaq and all these different vendors made Windows ubiquitous. They didn't know how to spell software, but they wanted to put something on their machines. That made Windows ubiquitous."

Now what's going on at iTunes is really a re-match - Microsoft's Way vs Apple's Way, again. But this time, I don't think Microsoft's going to win. One significant ally that Microsft had in the force of self-interest - the world's IT departments - is not going to get a jersey to play this time round. The more the machines shrink and the cheaper they become, the less relevance IT departments have as a force for deciding what's acceptable and what's not.

I believe that Microsoft's way, which sounds good in MBA-theory but works shoddily in practice, doesn't really serve the consumer's interest. The key thing about Apple's way is not that they build the whole widget, but that they take responsibility for the whole widget. That's the key to the whole Mac experience.

In the world according to Microsoft, only one company can hold the ring to rule them all, while it's universally agreed that Apple, in the face of all the other players' self-interest, will never be able to rule the whole market.

But whose side are we on, anyway? As consumers, we should only be concerned that the products we buy work as best as they can be crafted. Apple's way doesn't preclude other people going along the same route and drinking from the same well.

If Apple succeed, by having so many of us throwing money their way, that will force the other players to consider that it makes good business sense to take responsibility for building the whole widget, after all.

Especially as they can drink from the same Open Source well.

So, if Microsoft cave in and build their own Microsoft PC, shouldn't Lenovo and all the others think about using Linux rather than Windows to build their own. After all, Apple had shown the way - i.e., "copy like mad from what Apple is doing" - use all these Open Source stuff but add the critical value by thinking through hardware and software design.

Taiwanese companies like Asustek "spit out iPods and Mini Macs for Apple" from their factories in China. There may come a time, soon, when they realise that they ought to design, build, and sell the whole widget on their own. After all, walking the streets of Shanghai, you can see that the Chinese are believing that they're good enough to sell the shoes and jackets they make for Timberland and all, under their own brand name.

Much of what we have in the Mac today are Open Source stuff - Unix, Postfix, Apache, PHP, OpenSSL, and on and on. Even Objective-C. And there's a GNUStep Project. Like Cocoa? You can build on it. Or at least starting from the Foundation Classes. The Chinese companies can "do an Apple", at least theoretically. What's hard is to have the same genius for innovation, for hardware and software integration, and the sheer guts to be able to hold on to a dream. That's the hard part. But you don't get paid good money for doing the easy things.

Posted at 11:17AM UTC | permalink

World Time

Category : Commentary/WorldTime.txt

This is usually the quietest time of the day, in terms of the mail coming through my mail box.

Is it because it's going to be evening in Japan and Australia, still too early in Europe, people are sleeping in the Americas, and nobody uses Macs in India, Kazakhstan, and Iran?

Posted at 7:45AM UTC | permalink

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