Drewloid's Blog

Archive for January 2011

I’m pretty amazed at all this talk of tablets and the tablet business, how Google Android will end up owning the tablet business, Acer is phasing out netbooks in favor of tablets, etc., etc., etc.  Wow.

http://daringfireball.net/linked/2011/01/21/ovum-tablets.  I don’t want to say this is the stupidest thing I’ve ever read (the analyst report, not daring fireball), but wow, it is pretty silly.  I want to jump up and down and ask, “What tablet market?”  Ok, Ok, yes, there is a tablet market, and for now and probably the forseeable future, it belongs to Microsoft.  My physician and everyone in his office uses tablet PC’s for their medical note taking, and I know there are a bunch of other vertical applications where people are using tablet PC’s.  That won’t change, and that market is not going to grow to 150 MM units in the next few years.

Oh, wait, I’m sorry, they are referring to the iPad market.  I don’t think Google or anyone else is going to take any of that away from Apple.  Because as near as I can tell, the analysts and others seem to think that a tablet computer running Android is the same thing as an iPad, which it is not.  The iPad is an information appliance.  Apparently a bunch of these folks forgot that Apple was pretty big on the whole information appliance thing back in the 90’s.  They had Alan Kay as an Apple Fellow with his DynaBook concept, anyone remember that?

Anyhooo, I’m really looking forward to seeing what happens when Acer tries to grab a chunk of the iPad business with a tablet computer running Android.  I’m sure I’m going to get a good laugh.  It will be at Acer’s expense, but that is the way things go.

I know everyone is surprised by the vastness of the iPad business, but it quite makes a lot of sense to me.  Not at first, I’m not claiming that, but once I saw an iPad I got it.  I’ve been a pretty big cheerleader for mobile and networked computing for a while now, and when my (then) girlfriend bought me an iPod touch version 2, I was pretty darn excited.  Here was a mobile computer, finally, something I had been dreaming about for a couple of decades.  It came in the form of an information appliance, and that is fine.  It exceeded expectations because it could do so much in such a small form factor.  She and I were in the car driving the day the iPad was announced, and it was a big deal to everyone but I didn’t get it then.  Here was a tablet computer that didn’t have any I/O or anything.  Why would anyone want that? It was just a big iPod Touch, and I already had one, thank you very much.

Then I held one.  It was a big iPod Touch.  Brilliant!  Because as great as the Touch is, it is kind of small for a lot of the things I might use it to do.  Enter the iPad, with optional 3G data service.  Awesome!

The iPad is not a tablet PC and is nothing like a tablet PC, and nothing that calls itself a tablet is going to do terribly well against the iPad.  The iPad is wildly successful because it is simply a big iPod Touch.  It is an appliance, a very versatile appliance, and wonderful for that.  A tablet PC is a computer by any other name, and the vast majority of people who are interested in what an iPad can do for them are not interested in having another computer that they need to manage.

I could go on and on about this, but I think that’s basically it.  There is no tablet business other than the one Microsoft already owns, so Google is not going to have a giant hit on their hands with Android tablets.  And unless Google can duplicate the straightforward simplicity and cohesion of the user experience with the iPad, they won’t take much of the iPad business either.

When I see someone do something that requires this kind of creativity, coordination, and chutzpah with Android, then I’ll believe Android has a real chance of making a significant impact.  Until then, I will hold onto my belief that Android lacks the simplicity, cleanliness, polish, and dare I say, architectural coherence to be anything more than a Chevy to Apple’s combination of Toyota and Honda.


I had an interesting experience the other day when my girlfriend and I went to go see “The Green Hornet.”  I got to find out what Hollywood is extracting from us for the “privilege” of seeing a movie in 3D.  $3.50.  As in, wow.  We had prepaid tickets she had gotten for Christmas, and the theatre wanted an extra $3.50 as the “3D charge.”  Again, wow.

I already knew that Hollywood is soaking us on 3D as a way to keep revenues up in the face of declining movie attendance, as this article as boxofficemojo describes: http://www.boxofficemojo.com/news/?id=3038&p=.htm.

Now I don’t ever mind for paying for something I want, and I especially don’t mind paying for when I get value.  And this is a problem, because I don’t want to see movies in 3D and the 3D experience is not something I value.  Not even a little.  Becuase it sucks, I see blurry spots, I have trouble using my glasses, and the effect fades when I tilt my head.  Mostly because it just sucks.  “The Green Hornet” is apparently available in 2D, but none of the theatres in my area had it.  So I get to pay an extra 37% for something I would rather not have so that Hollywood can cover up the fact that they can’t make very many good movies anymore and the movie theatre experience is losing pace quite quickly with the home theatre experience.

Back in the dark dark dark ages of the 1950’s Hollywood had the same problem, they were losing audience in a big way to the new thing people were getting in their homes – Televisions!  And one of their solutions, get ready for this, was 3D!  It sucked then, and it sucked now, and it went away.

Just to be fair, I have seen more than one 3D movie.  I saw Avatar last year, and it was kind of cool and a bit of a novelty.  Then for a while I lived on the Big Island of Hawaii, and seeing 3D movies (or much of anything movie-wise) wasn’t so much of an option.  Now I’ve moved back to the mainland and lots of movies are 3D.  So I saw Tron Legacy in 3D and now The Green Hornet.  I also saw True Grit.

True Grit did not need 3D to be awesome.  Neither did The Social Network, which I saw on my dark ages 37″ LCD panel at home.  Tron Legacy was basically as amazing as the original Tron, which is to say the CGI was totally state of the art and wonderful and the story was, to be kind, weak.  And then there was The Green Hornet.

Tron Legacy, being CGI, benefitted somewhat from 3D, but not enough for me to feel like I was disappearing into a more immersive experience.  Avatar, since it was showing me a virtual world that was actually trying to look real, did somewhat benefit from the 3D.  But The Green Hornet?  Not even a little.  All through the movie I was wishing I could do without the stupid 3D glasses.

I could go on, but I doubt there are really that many people who need to be convinced of the astounding lameness of 3D in Hollywood movies.  Which brings me to my suggestion.

As long as sheeple continue to pay the extra $3.50 for something they don’t want, Hollywood will continue to pack it on to the movies we see in theatres.  I don’t want 3D in my movies.  It sucks.  Completely.  In “El Superbeasto”, Rob Zombie’s cartoon of his comic book, there is the line “She can suck the gay off a picture of a unicorn.”  That’s almost as much as I think 3D sucks on a movie.  It was a lame and non-functional idea in the 1950’s, and it is a lame and non-functional idea today.  Don’t pay it and Hollywood might get the message.

I personally will not attend a (gratuitously) 3D movie again.  If I want to see the movie, then I’ll wait until I can watch it at home in 2D, and rent it for a buck on redbox or get it from netflix.  In these times of watching our pennies, I think that makes good sense.  $26 to see it now in 3D that I don’t want, or wait a few months and see it for a buck in my pajamas.

Yup, I’m boycotting the 3D in movie theatres.  I invite you to join me.

Viva La Revolucion!

A bit more info.  I was going to say something about how a holographic image might be interesting, and apparently I’m not alone in this thought.  Apparently a well-respected movie editor has some strong opinions and he is happy to share them.  http://blogs.suntimes.com/ebert/2011/01/post_4.html

After a bit of  a hiatus I’m returning to the world of technology, and I’ve been catching up lately.  There is a lot that has been going on in the last few years that I haven’t been paying a lot of attention to, and I find some humor in a variety of things, mostly around the unfulfilled expectations people have about their favorite companies.

More than anything, I think that people are slowly but surely getting the idea that Microsoft was never particularly evil; Google is inexorably going to appear evil; and Apple’s (ok, really Steve Jobs’) long term focus on computers as appliances is paying off big while alienating the Mac faithful.

There are a bunch of side stories I could make around these companies, but that is not the point of this particular blog.  The point, quite succinctly, is regardless of your personal feelings about evil and a particular company and how much you think they care about you, you must look at where their revenues come from and how they make their money when you are making such judgements.  Secondarily, consider their core strengths and what kind of a company they really are.

There is a fundamental rule in business which is that you tend to serve the people who are paying you more than you serve the people who are actually using your product.  These are not always the same people, and as the needs, wants, and desires of these two groups diverge, so does the expectations of the end users need to diverge from their fairy tale fantasies about good and evil and the companies they love or loath.

I’ll start with Microsoft.  Microsoft has a bunch of very diverse businesses and their end users and customers vary from being one in the same to being wildly divergent.  In fact, a pretty small portion of Microsoft’s revenues come directly from end users.  Microsoft started out as a development tools company, and that’s still an important business to the company.  If your platform does not have good tools, it will not do well because there won’t be a lot of developer support.  To a large extent, this is a business where the end users are pretty much the paying customers.  Not completely, but close.  And as a general rule, people who use Microsoft’s development tools like them very much and they are very good.

Then Microsoft became an operating system company, and the end users were the people who bought computers, but the customers were people who made computers (IBM then many many others).  Make no mistake about it, what you want from Windows as an end-user takes a back seat to what the OEM’s like HP and Dell want.  If what you want sells more computers and makes it possible to increase margins, then the OEM’s want what you want.  If not, they don’t care a whit.  Keep that in mind the next time you complain that Windows doesn’t have some feature you want.

Microsoft next became an applications company.  Here the end users are largely the people who use Office, but the customers are the companies big and small that want to deploy standard office software across the company network.  Hopefully you will start to detect the pattern here.  Your employer cares about how much it costs to deploy and manage that software across the network and the productivity and work product results that can be achieved; your personal fulfillment from using the software … not so much.  Also, since Microsoft likes to sell Windows upgrades to big companies with lots of computers, those big companies are potential customers who are more important than end users.

And then there are all the Internet properties Microsoft has been working on developing.  The end users are a broad mix of everyone on the planet, and the customers are … for the ad supported parts it is advertisers, and for Azure and the other cloud based stuff, it is companies that want to run their businesses in the cloud.  And let’s not forget the server business on which a lot of these services are based, but very few end users are server customers so I won’t worry about that too much.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is Apple.  Apple has always been a company that by and large sells to the end users of the product.  Yes, yes, I know there are plenty of businesses that run their businesses on Macs and networks of Macs.  I have even worked for one of them.  But Apple markets to end users on TV, and now that Mac computers are no longer the major driver of Apple’s business, Apple is very much a consumer products company.  What this means is that Apple listens to their customers quite closely.

In the past, with the Mac, since a computer is a fairly diversely used device, Apple cultivated a pretty strong following because their products were different and more end-user focused.  Mac users felt a special relationship existed between the themselves and the company.  They are not feeling that so much anymore as they are discovering that as Apple is producing and becoming increasingly an information appliance company Apple’s customer focus is on comparatively closed boxes for increasingly mass markets.

This is a good thing, it keeps them honest on their vision and Apple is doing a fabulous job holding on to the relationship with end user customers like nobody else.  The ultimate evidence of this is in the cell phone market.  Before the iPhone the idea that manufacturer branding and ecosystem would take precedence over that of the network operator was a simply ridiculous idea.  Then Apple came along and said, “We f**king own the market for digital music players, and we’ll be damned if some *netop* is going to manage our relationship with our customers.”  At which point they got ATT and then netops in the rest of the world to bend over.  And now even Verizon has bent to the will of Apple for the iPhone.  Seriously, Apple totally rewrote the rules on the balance of power in the cell phone marketplace.

Which brings me, finally, to our good friend Google.  To recap, Microsoft has the core strength of being a platform company and selling products to customers who have interests with significant overlap with their end users. If you, as an employee of the company that put that computer on your desk have interests that diverge significantly from your employer, I submit you need to find another job.  Apple has the core strength of being an information appliance company and selling products to end users.  Perhaps you see where this is going already.  Because Microsoft and Apple are not opposites.  Apple is one end of a continuum, Microsoft is somewhere in the middle, and Google is at the other end.  Google has the core strength of being a data mining company and its customers are people who want to sell stuff to their end users.

Allow that concept to sink in a bit as you consider Google’s stated desire of “Don’t be evil”.  I propose that people in the 90’s who complained that Microsoft was evil were simply noticing the effect that Microsoft was a bunch of smart people who were being competitive in serving their customers more than their end users.  Their comparison was Apple, which was significantly more end user focused than Microsoft could be.  Make no mistake about this, Google is way less focused on end users than Microsoft.  Until you start paying for Google search and Gmail then you exist solely as a source of data for mining to serve up advertisements of high value (and price) to the people who do pay Google.  And if the Google search results are of low relevance and you find yourself at content spam sites that are populated by more Google ads for 2 or 3 or 4 extra pages before you find what you actually need, well, then your minor inconvenience just quadrupled Google’s revenue from you and they are probably not terribly motivated to do anything to reduce your inconvenience until they detect you are no longer using Google search.  It’s sort of like those annoying self service checkouts at the store.

Think about that when you go to the mobile store and compare the iPhone to a Windows 7 phone and to an Android phone.  100% of the money you spend on the iPhone, plus the subsidy (and once upon a time, a slice of the data subscription) goes to Apple.  They care a whole lot about how you like your iPhone experience and they control all of your experience of the iPhone other than the service the network operator provides.  Microsoft gets a royalty on the Windows 7 phone and their priorities are the phone manufacturers and you.  Actually, since they are the underdog now, they care a lot about you, because if you don’t want to buy it, the handset manufacturers don’t care about the product at all.  So Microsoft is highly motivated to make you happy with your Windows 7 phone.  So Microsoft has the difficult job of having to make you really happy while making the handset manufacturers happy, and since the network operators still call the shots with the manufacturers other than Apple, Microsoft has to deal with them as well.  Tough job and I wish them well.

0% if the money you spend on an Android phone goes to Google.  Google gives Android away for free to the handset manufacturers.  I presume Google takes a slice of the purchase price of paid apps in their marketplace, but I don’t know.  Google makes their real money, as in their other businesses, from mining data gathered from the phones to serve up high value ads.  I expect they care quite a lot less about you than Microsoft does.  Consider this.  Google came along and filled a void in the smartphone marketplace.  When Microsoft (and everyone else) dropped the ball with smartphones and ceded the market to Apple, all the other handset manufacturers were desperate for a way to compete.  And Google provided it, and gave it away for free.  Android is like a virus and it exists to gather more data about you for Google to mine and sell to others in the form of targeted advertisements.  Nothing more.

This has effects on how you experience the phone.  Similar to search, Google is not going to care too much if you experience a little inconvenience with the phone as long as it doesn’t cause you to smash the phone and switch to a non-Android phone.  And as long as the phone looks shiny enough in the store for you to buy it instead of an iPhone or a Windows 7 phone, then it is good enough.  Google does not particularly care if the phone you buy has the latest version of Android, whether the experience from one Android phone to another is 100% consistent, or whether an app you download (probably for free) from the marketplace actually runs on the phone you buy.  All they care about is that you bought it and use it in a way that provides them with data they can mine to increase their ad revenues.

All the foregoing discussion applies just as equally to the nascent Android tablet market as compared to the iPad and Windows tablet PC’s.

It actually has nothing to do with good and evil, it’s just business and serving the needs of the people who pay you money.  But if you thought Microsoft was evil because they wanted to be the dominant player in the desktop operating system business and office productivity software I’m wondering what their transgression was such that they earned this distinction and Google would not.  After all, depending on how you use Gmail, Gchat, and Google search, Google knows who you last had sex with, as well as when, where, and whatever other particulars can be mined from your communications with your partner and friends.  If you are using Google Voice, then they have a transcript of the last time you used it for phone sex as well.  And Google is using that information to deliver advertisements to you so they can make money.

Like I said, this isn’t evil, but they don’t have your best interests at heart.

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  • Roberta Koral: Hey Drew..Andrew ar Andy, whichever you prefer. I just found your blog. Roberta here.
  • globularity: Sharp analysis. -Davoid
  • Stephanie: What a marvelous article, thanks for writing it "friend."