Scripting News for 1/9/2007

NY Times: “Ramen noodles are a dish of effortless purity.” 

The company also changed its name, it’s now just “Apple, Inc.” Playing Beatles music during the show indicates they have their approval? Will Beatles songs be on iTunes? 

Greenspun: “What I want is a phone that won’t make calls from inside my pocket.” 

Gizmodo reports that Apple also (quietly) announced (but didn’t ship) a new Pre-N wireless router. 

PS: Thanks to the Gawker guys who snuck me a bogus pass to the Showstoppers event last night, where I shot Renee blowing kisses (one more time). Bouncers who don’t recognize the self-proclaimed co-inventor of RSS should be hung from the nearest tree. In the meantime it’s good to have friends watching your back. :-) 

Paul Andrews says I should be in San Francisco instead of Las Vegas. I am. I quietly returned to the Bay Area this morning. I’m going to dinner with a bunch of friends in the city this evening and should have a lot more data on what Apple announced. And while I am of course interested in the phone (like everyone else) I expect I’ll be able to shed more light on the TV box. (Don’t expect me to gush, I think it’s the wrong way to go, and not because of its resolution.) 

Michael Gartenberg fills in an important blank about the iPhone — it’s a closed box? Really. How could that be since it runs Mac OS and wifi and it’s a phone for crying out loud. Confused and disappointed. BTW, we still need an iPod that can have its personality enhanced by developers. 

Engadget report on Apple’s phone. But of course it’s also a Mac, which is what makes it interesting.  

AP has a lot more details.  

Lance Knobel on the opening of Davos. 

Fascinating report on the internal view of developers at Microsoft, circa 1996. I knew James Plamondon, he was one of the good guys, relatively speaking. I overheard a worse conversation on a bus at Microsoft in the same period, and wrote it up in a DaveNet story. Of course this didn’t win me many friends at Microsoft, but it cemented my relationship with the few people who worked there then who really wanted to do great stuff, which imho, we went on to do. Today, the bad people at Microsoft won, bigtime, leaving them as mediocre as any tech company you can think of. Apple, a much smaller company, is completely, utterly, kicking their ass. Which would be even more gratifying if Apple had a culture of supporting, even celebrating developers.  

Strange Macintosh feature 

I’m typing this post from the Las Vegas airport where they have free wifi that performs pretty well. All you have to do is enter your email address in a form. I said I was dork@mcdork.org.

That’s the good news. Now here’s the strange news.

I happened to have iTunes open, and in the left panel I noticed a new list named “Shared” and under that, the libraries of four nearby people, not sure whether they’re running iTunes or what, but it looks like I’m supposed to be able to access their music, but I can’t. Here’s a screen shot.

Explanation: I missed a few Jobs keynotes before I switched to the Mac late in 2005. :-)

Microsoft used to be smarter 

Used to be when Microsoft wanted to take a market from a successful competitor, they started by seducing their users with something comfortable, a product that worked just like the competitor’s, and was better in some major way.

My first experience with that was with the IBM PC in the early 80s. I was a developer for the Apple II and III, and was very familiar with the limits of these machines. The Apple II was the juggernaut, it was the machine that ran Visicalc, but it was limited by CPU, screen, memory and disk; and the Apple III, which corrected those limits, was unreliable, and incompatible with the Apple II.

Enter Microsoft, with its partner IBM and their PC. A big blank machine. More than 10 times the memory. Blazing fast. But a very similar architecture to the Apple II. It took less than a month to port my software. For users, the switch was even faster. And once we switched, we never looked back. Apple was stuck, IBM and Microsoft was the way out of their mess, for users and developers.

One more example. When IE came on the market, it worked keystroke for keystroke the same as Netscape. You could switch in a couple of hours. And it was faster, prettier, just nicer in every way. Even though it was the dreaded monopoly slaying the smart but arrogant upstart, IE had enough for users that you actually felt good about using it. Finally someone cared about users. Netscape, which had forgotten about the browser, obviously didn’t.

On Sunday, after waiting for hours to hear Bill Gates talk, I sat through the first half hour of the talk, and was amazed that they had nothing new to offer users. Just more empty words about how great Vista was. Gates even said we should care how much time and money they put into it. Why? I had left them between XP and Vista because they left their users to fend for themselves against all kinds of malware.

I walked out after they put up a slide showing their mediocre line of Windows cell phones, with a parenthetical afterthought in the title. “Outsells Blackberry.” I am a Blackberry user. In the old days, when Microsoft was smarter, they would have embraced Blackberry users. There would be something special in the connection between the Blackberry and Vista, that made Vista irresistable to a Blackberry user. Today’s Microsoft can only offer that, when added together, all the different Windows cell phones sell more. But are their users happier? We love our Blackberries, the same way we loved Apple and Netscape, before they sold us something better. Today’s Microsoft doesn’t seduce. The old one did.

Zune is another perfect example. It seems that as an iPod user, I should be able to pick up a Zune and begin to use it. Not so. Yesterday I had my first chance to try one. The controls don’t work. How should I hold the thing? Sometimes the display is horizontal, and other times, it switches to vertical. I don’t seem to have any control over this. The scroll wheel, which is shaped exactly like the one on the iPod, doesn’t scroll. It’s as if the PageDown key on the IBM PC didn’t do more or less the same thing as the one on the Apple II. As if the Back button in IE didn’t do the same thing as the Back button in Netscape. The scroll wheel is that central to the use of the iPod.

Will Microsoft be able to fix the broken controls on the Zune? Not without breaking their users. They’ve painted themselves into a corner, there’s no way to win. The iPod people at Apple must be laughing. Microsoft could have easily found way to embrace and extend, the old Microsoft surely would have.

Later… Continuing the story — Microsoft is behaving now like their foes of the 80s and 90s. Consider that when Apple asked Microsoft to make Mac software, they didn’t say “We’re coming out with something better called Windows, and rather than support a competitive platform, we’ll focus all our effort on Windows so we can make sure the Mac is weak, so we can win.” Instead, they went gung-ho into the Mac, won the spreadsheet market with Excel, and Lotus was stuck with the character-based PC market.

Then, in the late 80s, when IBM split with Microsoft, and was planning to erase Windows with their OS/2 Presentation Manager, the same Lotus decided not to develop a spreadsheet for Windows, instead they focused all their effort on the Presentation Manager, so they could make sure WIndows was weak, so they could win. It backfired, Windows won, and Lotus is now a forgotten division of IBM and their chief architect is now Microsoft’s chief architect.

Moral of the story: If you’re big, or aspire to be big, cover all the bets you can, and never assume your lack of support will hurt your competitor. Get in bed with the guy whose lunch you want to eat.

25 responses to this post.

  1. A couple of minor things…
    ———-
    “Enter Microsoft, with its partner IBM”
    Uhhh…at the time wasn’t it the other way around ;-)
    —–
    “IE…it was faster, prettier, just nicer in every way.”
    And it was bundled on every machine. Can you say monopoly.
    ———-
    But, I get your drift and agree.

    Reply

  2. Spot on about Microsoft. Cisco will only start to decline when they stop seducing too.

    Reply

  3. Posted by Hieronymous Coward on January 9, 2007 at 7:36 am

    This is what 80%+ market share does to you. They’ve basically stopped wowing the user and figured they can make more money cutting deals with OEMs (note Home Server is an OEM-only product).

    And they still wonder why Apple/Google gets so much more positive coverage than they do.

    Reply

  4. Posted by Dork McDork on January 9, 2007 at 8:57 am

    Thanks a lot! Now I’m sure to receive Las Vegas Airport spam! :)

    But Re. iTunes libraries — the shared libraries you see do mean that their owners have iTunes running. You should be able to play their files, too. I wonder if the wireless is being filtered some way that doesn’t give iTunes sharing its full functionality.

    Reply

  5. Posted by Dork McDork on January 9, 2007 at 8:58 am

    Oh. I see that the iTunes error message confirms my suggestion. (The screen shot link was missing at the time I posted my comment.)

    Reply

  6. Posted by Michael on January 9, 2007 at 9:09 am

    Re: the shared music thing,

    That’s bonjour music sharing. it lets you listen to the music of other people on your internal network. It’s only when iTunes is open, and works with windows versions too.

    Reply

  7. Dave, why are you wasting your time in Vegas when you could be in SF vetting Macworld for us? Hard to tell from demos but they’re dancing in the streets, check out Engadget’s blog-by-blog account. It’d be great to have someone with your wireless home chops giving us real-world perspective instead of just cheerleading, although it looks like Jobs really nailed it this time. If Apple delivers on the demos of Apple TV and the iPhone, I’m there. Been waiting a looonnnnggg time for someone to crack the usability nut on smart phones and Internet TV…

    Reply

  8. WRT iTunes Sharing – you can share (on your local network using Bonjour/ZeroConf)
    iTunes tunes
    iPhoto photos
    NetNewsWire subscriptions (if I recall correctly)
    soon AddressBook data

    etc.

    Kind of nice when you have a Big Honker for services and storage. You can use your stuff on portable devices remarkably easily.

    8)

    Reply

  9. Posted by John on January 9, 2007 at 1:47 pm

    Re. the Ramen noodles — effortless, sure. Purity? Not with all that MSG in them. That’s what ruins them for me.

    Reply

  10. Posted by Mitchel Tyrell on January 9, 2007 at 3:00 pm

    Its fairly obvious now that you are happy with you Mac, but this line:
    “because they left their users to fend for themselves against all kinds of malware”

    Why is it that Microsoft doesn’t get any credit for purchancing, developing, and destributing Windows Defender for free as well as there other security efforts. This notion that Microsoft has turned a blind eye to their users is a bit native.

    Reply

  11. Posted by Donald on January 9, 2007 at 4:38 pm

    Wrong place at the wrong time. Poor Dave. :-)

    Reply

  12. Thanks for the “closed box” iPhone discussion. That’s my number one question. Bottom line, if it’s an open box, I’ll most likely buy one, if it’s not, I most likely won’t. Why would they tout it as an OSX machine if it can only run Apple stuff? Maybe because their marketing is in overdrive, which I could believe, but I am hoping that’s not the case.

    (The number one reason I care, btw, is because I want to run an outliner on the macPhone, specifically OmniOutliner. Right now I run an outliner called ShadowPlan on my Palm device, which only opens on the Mac in OmniOutliner via a translation AppleScript I have to run twice each day minimum. If I could run OmniOutliner — a truly nice outliner — on the iPhone, I would be thrilled.)

    Reply

  13. Posted by Larry Bouchie on January 9, 2007 at 5:10 pm

    Hey Dave, you read my mind. No one else seems to have picked up on the Beatles use. I also noticed a photo of the Sgt. Pepper album cover on an iPhone screen. Might this mean Beatles tunes will be available on iTunes?

    Reply

  14. Posted by Walt Ritscher on January 9, 2007 at 6:32 pm

    Tom Evslin say that the same old telecom lockin, just with a prettier Apple face
    http://blog.tomevslin.com/2007/01/apple_fails_to_.html

    “According to the AP Story carried in the NY Times Online, Steve Jobs claims that iPhone will “reinvent” the telecommunications sector. Wish it were so but it ain’t!
    The design of the phone – no hard buttons, all touch on screen, sounds like everything we expect from Steve and from Apple: it’s all about the GUI and that part’ll be fun. But the business relationship is as old school as it can get: exclusive US distributorship through Cingular (which will soon be exclusively owned by at&t).

    Come to think of it, iPod and iTunes aren’t very open models either.

    The telecommunications sector (or at least the mobile part of it) WOULD have been reinvented if Apple said that the WiFi connection on the phone could be used to make voice calls without going through the Cingular network. But they didn’t.

    The telecommunications sector (or at least the mobile part of it) WOULD have been reinvented if Apple had announced a phone which is network agnostic and let the carriers rush to announce their support for it. But they didn’t.”

    Reply

  15. “This is what 80%+ market share does to you. They’ve basically stopped wowing the user and figured they can make more money cutting deals with OEMs”

    Hey, what was that about the iPhone being a closed box?

    Reply

  16. Gartenberg isn’t quite right when he said the iPhone won’t have rss capabilities – ever heard of bloglines or google reader? If it has wifi, then it has rss.

    Reply

  17. Seems they left out USB. How will I sync my camera to this? Oh yes, drag my powerbook along too. Useless.

    Reply

  18. Posted by Eric Kidd on January 10, 2007 at 2:12 am

    The fact that the iPhone is closed platform is almost enough to make me cry. The things I could do with this platform, the applications I could write…

    It’s as if Apple released the original Macintosh, in 1984, but they limited it to a half-dozen applications. There never would have been a PageMaker. How much other beautiful software would have been stillborn?

    The iPhone does, however, appear to run Dashboard widgets. These are actually just HTML and Javascript, but with better graphics APIs. (You could write an outliner or an RSS reader, with a bit of work.) Surely Steve Jobs isn’t so controlling as to lock down that layer, too? Has he just given up on all us noisy developers?

    At this rate, we’ll probably have to buy our ringtones from the iTunes music store.

    Reply

  19. Hey Dave… I think there’s a fortune to be made on bumperstickers with your closing line: “Get in bed with the guy whose lunch you want to eat.” And maybe a follow-up market for stickers with extended mixed metaphors about watching out for crumbs… and bedbugs.

    Reply

  20. Posted by Jim Armstrong on January 10, 2007 at 6:56 am

    Dave,

    As I see it, you need to work closely with Apple, Inc., Google, and Yahoo to make sure OPML and RSS work easily with the iPhone, because this thing really is an outliner platform. That way you will get one of the first available units.

    I don’t think a lot of people really grasp the significance of this new platform. It is like a Newton for half the price and 10 times the features. It is a Mac Mini with a screen, that will fit in your pocket. It is a WiFi iPod that really works. It is a podcasters dream machine with a Bluetooth microphone,camera, and the internet built in.

    And yes, USB is available through the dock. That is how it connects to your computer.

    When you take Moore’s law into affect, the price will drop at $100 per year, while the power and capacity will increase every year.

    The mind boggles at the though of it.

    Reply

  21. Rahul Dave — it’s got the usual 30-pin iPod docking connector, so I imagine you just need the iPod camera connector.

    Reply

  22. Dave,

    I appreciate your referring to me as “one of the good guys” at Microsoft, back in the 1990′s — although I must say that all of us in Microsoft’s Developer Relations Group (DRG) thought of ourselves that way. It was a great team.

    You can find my response to ComputerWorld’s article here (towards the bottom):
    http://channel9.msdn.com/ShowPost.aspx?PostID=271057

    I refer to this version of my response, rather than the one on ComputerWorld’s SharkBait, because this version contains URLs to relevant definitions and other resources.

    Inevitably, Microsoft’s PR people are distancing Microsoft from my 1996 presentation, saying that the approach to evangelism that it describes was not then, and is not now, Microsoft’s policy. This overlooks the fact that my presentation was such a hit with DRG’s management that I gave it in three subsequent internal training sessions at (roughly) six-month intervals. DRG’s management REQUIRED the attendance of all newly-hired evangelists at these presentations, and the attendance & participation of all other evangelists was recommended. The pace of hiring new evangelists then slowed, so it was not necessary to give such internal training sessions thereafter. Microsoft had not previously had any formal training seminars for newly-hired evangelists, so far as I know (between 1992 and 1996). If you read the transcript of the “offending” presentation, you’ll see that Marshall Goldberg — a senior evangelist who had frequent meetings with Microsoft’s senior executives, including Bill Gates — refers to me as being Microsoft’s “evangelism theoretician.”

    The point being that Microsoft recognized that my presentations on evangelism theory, strategy, and tactics — of which only one has been entered into the public record, the others still being massively confidential — were, in fact, the best embodiment of Microsoft’s evangelism “policy” that existed at the time. Else, they would have used some other materials and presenter for new-evangelist training, would they not?

    Another portion of the old “pawns” methaphor said “We can only win the allegiance of the pawns by understanding what they need, and supplying it; what they fear, and alleviating it; what they believe, and reinforcing it; where they want to go tomorrow, and taking them there. Set things up so that they get what they want by helping you get what you want – then just get out of their way.”

    Hardly a prescription for abuse, is it?

    That said, the “pawns” metaphor was stretched well beyond the breaking point, and should not have been used.

    The “first-date” analogy was puerile, stupid, and wrong. In one of the other training presentations, I emphasize that the first rule of evangelism is, simply, “Never lie; always tell the truth” — a point contradicted by my stupid “first-date” ramblings. I was usually slated as the “after lunch” speaker because I was recognized for my ability to wake up a sleepy audience — and in my search for spicy, vivid, exciting analogies, I went too far, for which I am truly sorry.

    Fair enough?

    Thanks! :-)

    James Plamondon
    CEO, Thumtronics
    The New Shape of Music(tm)
    http://www.thummer.com

    P.S.: Once I’m done revolutionizing the music-technology world, I really should finish my book on the theory and practice of technology evangelism.

    Reply

  23. Posted by Joel on January 12, 2007 at 3:46 pm

    It’s great to hear from James, albeit under these circumstances. However James was always at his best when rising to a challenge. I do hope it wasn’t his move to Australia which caused that old lecture to boomerang!

    (I guess you had to be there or be an equilateral orthogonal quadralateral.)

    Joel

    Reply

  24. Posted by Frank on February 16, 2007 at 8:49 am

    “Get in bed with the guy whose lunch you want to eat. ” That’s one of the most beautiful mixed metaphors I’ve read all week!

    Reply

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