November 21, 2004
Well, there, I said it. I keep hearing over and over that Apple is keeping Napster from the Mac, that Apple is not allowing competition.
The only closed part of the entire Mac music universe is DRM on the iPod. It's FairPlay, and Apple (for now) controls FairPlay as its own exclusive playground. There's nothing preventing anyone from bringing their own music portals/stores/whatever and players to the platform. If Microsoft and the rest think they have the better solution, let's see it. Fully support Windows Media, DRM and all on the Mac. Let me, and ever other Mac user, have the chance to directly compare things and make up our own mind. It's what Apple did on Windows. They created iTunes on Windows, and the iPod runs fine on Windows. You can directly compare the two, and make up your own mind as to how you want to go.
That last part, is what I think really burns the people kvetching about the iPod.
See, if the Napsters, and Creatives, and Microsofts were at all serious, I'd have Windows Media 10 on my Powerbook right now. I'd be using USB 2 or Firewire to synch my Rio to it. I'd be downloading video to my iRiver, (those things are HUGE man, although I like the Jenna Jameson ads for them. Definitely um...eye catching, yeah that's it , EYE catching.). I'd be able to set them right next to my iPod and iTunes and see which one I want.
That's what they don't get about this. They think that because the iPod's DRM is closed to them, that the Mac is closed to them. Or at least that's what they say. Of course, this makes no sense at all for Creative, since they make hardware. It would seem that they would benefit from being able to directly compete against the iPod on the Mac. They are on Windows. Amazing how it doesn't seem to cause them great hardship there. But yet the samesituation on the Mac, and
OOOoooOOOHhh NOOOooooOOhhhh...AAAApppplleeee wooooonnnnn't leeeeeet uuuuuussssss!
You know, if you're going to lie to me, don't insult my intelligence. If you don't think you can make money and succeed on the Mac then be confident enough to say so. Not with the "Well, there's not enough Mac users..." line. Please, with digital music, the Mac users are a nice fat chunk of the market. Just say "Apple has really done a good job on the Mac, and we don't think there's enough of an opening to compete. There's no sense in throwing in millions of dollars for table scraps." At least that would be the brave thing to do. But, it seems that once again, there's only one brave company in the personal computer market, and once again, it's Apple.
They did something no one else thought could succeed and not only are they succeeding, they, (please excuse my descent into hacker vernacular here), they PWN! that market. I wonder just how far that vein in Ballmer's forehead popped up when he realized that Steve Jobs had pimp-slapped him like that? Because right now, the digital music market is the virtual equivalent of Jobs bouncing a basketball off of Ballmer's forehead while taunting him with "Hey crybaby, you gonna cry? C'mon, cry, crybaby, squirt a few, come on, cry crybaby!" Oh sure, things will shake out a bit, and the !iPod market will gain some, the iPod will lose some, (although if anyone thinks the iPod is going to be relegated to 2% of that market, they need to put the crack pipe down), and things will change. That's the only constant in this biz, change.
But really, stop with the crying. You think you have a better solution, bring it over, and let's see. Or admit that you can't compete in the Mac market. But stop blaming Apple, because they aren't stopping you, you are.
So come on, I dare you to compete, heck, I TRIPLE - DOG dare you!! There, now you have to, because no one can ignore a triple - dog dare.| Comments ()
November 16, 2004
If you really COULD change things
November 15, 2004
Uh oh, I appeared to have hurt a feeling
So evidently, my last article,
"I can tell you that from the outside, Microsoft is still a damned pain in the ass."
OK, first of all, he took on FrontPage. Says it writes HTML that only is understood in IE 6. Maybe he thought I wasn't technical enough to call him on this. But, I've been using FrontPage since before it was a Microsoft product. This is TOTALLY untrue. And, even if it was, you could easily fix it by looking at the options a bit and then resaving a page. Feel free to call me on my cell phone if you don't know how to make it save regular old HTML that'll work in any browser. The new version, in particular, writes pretty darn nice HTML code.
Well, I'm not sure where I said I thought Robert wasn't technical. Even if I did, (Actually, I don't have an opinion either way. I don't know Robert well enough to say. But if he wants to impress me, I've a doozy of an OD/AD integration problem that he can come help me solve. Fixing things that vex me is the sure way to show me how technical he is), I'm not quite sure where he got that from. What I said was:
I recently spent three days recoding my son's school's home page into something that I could use, because thanks to the "New Microsoft", Front Page helpfully generated code that was only useable in IE 6 on Windows. Luckily, Adobe and Bare Bones have a more correct definition of what proper HTML is.
Note that I don't say FrontPage can only generate code for IE 6. I said that in this one instance, FrontPage was generating crappy HTML. I'm well aware that once you have set the proper options and settings, you can make FrontPage generate proper code. But most non-technical users are not going to do that. They're going to (wisely) take the defaults, and then, through no fault of their own, follow the wizards, and end up with really crappy code. That's a bad program, since it's all to easy to generate IE only code. The default should be W3C approved code, and you should have to jump through hoops to deviate from that. Again, MS is a pain in the ass here. But in their worldview, IE 6 is the alpha and the omega of web browsing, so if it works there, then it's good code, right?
On to Robert's next rather bizarre point:
Then he continues: "Unlike the amazingly open model of Windows Media 10, which only functions on Windows."
This, too, isn't true. Over at Fry's there's an entire aisle of devices that play WMA (Windows Media files with DRM). NONE OF WHICH run on Windows. For instance, check out the Dell Jukebox. It doesn't run on Windows but plays WMA/DRM files. And, the Windows Media team has a very easy-to-understand licensing agreement to boot. Even has a section where you can see how it compares to MP3.
Oh lordy, he's saying that MP3 Players count. Okay, then in that case, Apple still comes out good, because Fairplay runs on more than just Windows and the Mac OS. This is hair-splitting writ large, and if this is how Robert is used to proving his points, he needs better competition to up his game. The funny thing is, this reminds me of an old joke about a lost helicopter pilot. The punch line is: "You must work for a computer company because you gave me an answer that while correct, is utterly useless".
The last I checked, you aren't going to magically download music files into a Dell Jukebox by plugging a USB cable into a magic jellybean field. You need a computer. And if you want to play Windows Media Files using DRM-10 on a computer, that computer has to be running Windows. Period. You can spin that until the cows come home, but modern WM DRM is a Windows only playground. Which makes Microsoft's oh-so-insincere plea for Apple to open up FairPlay a load of cow droppings. Again, I ask him, and the Windows Media folks at Microsoft, and the Real folks too: Since their media solutions require Windows, in what Universe do they see Steve Jobs excluding Mac users from fully using the iPod? As I've told some commentors, when I can use WiMP on Mac OS X (a Microsoft product mind you) to play WM files that use DRM-10/9/C3-PO, without needing Virtual PC or Citrix, or Remote Desktop, or a Wintel Box, then come tell me you're open. Until then, it's the same standard fecal deluge from the ever-putrid Microsoft Windows PR team.
He then uses the licensing agreement, as if that proves that Windows Media is open. Okay, so Quicktime has those too, and it isn't hobbled to Windows. Hell, I have QTSS and Darwin Streaming Server running on three different operating systems on two different hardware platforms. I can download the non-windows version of Windows Media's Streaming Server, that has the same feature set as the Windows version where?
Now on to the Ballmer comment:
It continues: "The head of Microsoft called everyone who uses an iPod a thief." Um, I've read the transcripts and talked to people who were there. Ballmer didn't say everyone was a thief. Personally, if you filled up a 20GB hard drive with legitimately purchased music it'd cost you several thousand dollars -- honestly, how many people are really paying for all the music on these portable music players? Many people wrote me afterward and said, yes, most of music on their portable media players was, in fact, not paid for music. You also missed a small fact. Steve Ballmer, I've learned, owns an iPod. So, if everyone who owns an iPod is a music thief, well, then, you can draw your own conclusions. :-)
Robert, he said the most common form of music on an iPod is stolen. His words. If he couldn't see how this would piss people off, then he's an idiot. So, you decide, Ballmer: Idiot or Clod? As far as the cost of music, well, gosh, I bought my first record in 1975. It was an Elvis K-Tel collection. So, I've been acquiring music for over thirty years. This includes stuff my dad left to me, etc. You see Robert, many people acquire music over time. A record here. A CD there. Couple of tapes when you're driving from Grand Forks N.D. to Miami Fl. on leave. A "Peaches" crate full of records at $.50 a pop so you could get The Beatles "White Album" on white vinyl. Then, through the magic of cabling, and a spell of amplification, you can connect your turntable, or tape player into a larger unit, then run a cable from that unit to your computer, and...ooooh...look, I just ripped 2000 albums. As well, if you think that I don't believe that Ballmer would call himself a thief, well, my response is that self examination is good for him. He may even find what's left of his soul one day :-)
But then Robert goes on into this long winded essay on how "Evangelists aren't cheerleaders", which is hysterical. Of course evangelists are cheerleaders. They sure as hell aren't fair and balanced analysts of their company's actions and products. They rather exuberantly push their company or product to those who would be able to use it, either as an end user, a partner, a developer, etc. Robert gives these bizarre examples of how technical evangelists are.
Well, yes, evangelists are technical. I didn't say evangelists were acephalic morons, collecting dust behind the dresser. I said they were cheerleaders. That doesn't preclude them from being very smart. Let's take a look at the Encarta definition of cheerleader, from Microsoft Entourage, a product I have loved since before it was called that:
1. any of a group of uniformed performers who encourage the crowd to support a team at sports events
2. an uncritically enthusiastic supporter (disapproving)
Now, since Microsoft is not a sports team, obviously definition 1 doesn't apply. But I'd say that, based on Robert's writings, that definition 2 is reeeeeeeeally close to the mark.
Before he gets his Tablet PC all crooked, I don't think there's anything wrong with Robert being a cheerleader. It's his job, and from what I can tell, he's damned good at it. But when he starts asking "Why all the hostility? Why don't people like Microsoft?", I just laugh. He's either incapable of seeing all the crap Microsoft has pulled over the years, and is still pulling, or he isn't allowed to talk about it in public. Hey, you work for someone, you work for someone. But when he points fingers at others and says "You guys are mean, and encourage this us vs. them mentality", well, I fear for the integrity of electrical devices within 3nm of his current location. If you're going to protest being called a cheerleader, don't do it from the "Big Blog O' ScobleCheering". It just looks silly.| Comments ()
November 13, 2004
Scobleizing on a Saturday Afternoon
So, like a lot of folks, I read Robert Scoble's Blog. Now, before someone feels the need to remind me, yes, he's a Microsoft employee. Specifically, he's a Microsoft evangelist. "Evangelist", in the computer industry sense of the term, is a cheerleader. Not the hot kind that you had bad thoughts about in high school. It's more like a chance for the nebbishy nerds to be cheerleaders. Only without the uniforms. That's a good thing, by the way.
Yes, I read Scoble's posts. I comment on some of them. I'm pretty sure I'm a pain in the ass too, since I tend to be, well, pointed in my comments. This is not to say that I think Robert's a total tool, corporate or otherwise. He's actually a pretty smart guy, although I think he's a complete myna bird about technology, and I have yet to see any sign that the Tablet PC will ever be more than a (very good) vertical market solution. Robert, from what I can tell, is rather shocked that they aren't available in boxes of Tide yet.
But sometimes, he also seems to have an extremely selective memory about his employer. Now, if he were a PR hack, this would be a "No Kidding" kind of thing. But he has these odd rules on his site, and they are at odds with this selectiveness.
As an example, this post. Robert seems to be truly hurt that Microsoft is still viewed with a certain amount of, shall we say, venom. He doesn't get it. Why, after all,
I know you all don't believe my pro-Microsoft hype, but I have seen a TON of changes internally here at Microsoft. We have hundreds of ISV buddies now (I'm helping a group of companies myself). We have Dan'l Lewin, co-founder of NeXT helping partner with companies in Silicon Valley. Among other things. And, even I have gotten a bunch of training on how to deal with our partners, competitors, and customers to avoid both legal trouble, and to make Microsoft a better entity to deal with. More than 1,000 employees are now blogging, and I haven't heard complaints that these employees are hard to deal with. If I'm wrong, please do let us know.
You're right Robert, we don't believe you. I have no doubt that the internal mantra is a Teletubby-ish chant of "Sharing is caring". But that's internal. I can tell you that from the outside, Microsoft is still a damned pain in the ass. I recently spent three days recoding my son's school's home page into something that I could use, because thanks to the "New Microsoft", Front Page helpfully generated code that was only useable in IE 6 on Windows. Luckily, Adobe and Bare Bones have a more correct definition of what proper HTML is.
Of course there's the even more amusing "Plays For Sure" marketing movement. This is fascinating, because it's the perfect example of Microsoft's agenda, which has never changed, no matter what Robert believes. This agenda boils down to, "Everything must run on Windows".
Here's the best example, from Dave Fester, General Manager for Microsoft's Windows Media Division:
Unless Apple decides to make radical changes to their service model, a Windows-based version of iTunes will still remain a closed system, where iPod owners cannot access content from other services.
Unlike the amazingly open model of Windows Media 10, which only functions on Windows. Because according to the new Microsoft, other systems are "closed" and Windows is "open". Windows is "open" because Microsoft says so. Yes Virginia, if Microsoft says it, it's so.
Dave also can't resist the temptation to blatantly hand out false information:
Additionally, users of iTunes are limited to music from Apple's Music Store
Really Dave? So I don't have my free Audible.com downloads in iTunes? So I don't have a bunch of MP3s I ripped from my own CDs in iTunes? I'm not listening to that when I play them on my iPod? Apple magically replaces them with files from the iTMS? That's pretty cool considering that the iTMS doesn't have any Led Zeppelin, and I have more than they ever will anyway. Wow, the iTMS isn't just closed, it's magic.
But as Ron Popeil says, "Wait! There's More!"
Uncle Dave, (no, I'm NOT going after the obvious, this is as close as I'm getting, deal) says:
When I'm paying for music, I want to know that I have choices today and in the future.
Well, that's a valid point. However, is this Apple's fault? Dave, and Microsoft would like you to believe it is. But, the truth points that finger back at Redmond. The fact is, DRM-9 and DRM-10 don't work on any platform other than Windows. Period. No Linux, no Mac OS X, they don't even work on the majorly crippled Windows Media Player 9 for Mac OS X. Windows Media 10 is a Windows only paradise.
See Robert, that's what Microsoft is to the outside world. A mixture of false statements, and misleading half truths. When the most recent IE vulnerability was revealed, what was Microsoft's reaction? Was it "God, we're so sorry. This is simply inexcusable."
Was it "Jesus, we thought we had that one fixed, guess we were wrong, but while we're working on it, please, please install XP SP2, it fixes this."
Was it "We think it's horrid that this vulnerability was released before we could patch our most excellent product, and that's just so irresponsible?"
And Robert wonders why no one trusts Microsoft. It's actually worse than that. We, as an industry, have gotten so used to Microsoft not just spinning the truth, but squatting over it and emptying their corporate bowels upon the truth, that at this point, nothing Microsoft does surprises us, in any way. As a friend of mine said:
If I saw Steve Ballmer dressed in a tutu roasting cheerleaders on a Foreman grill for lunch, I wouldn't bat an eye. I'd have to go home and claw at them until the image of Ballmer in tights was gone, but I wouldn't be surprised in the least..
But then, he has this post, and it just made me laugh. Oh my gosh, Robert is just so saddened by the bunker mentality of people. He doesn't even like to criticize Apple or Linux because of all the vitriol and shouting it causes, and because "People have already made up their minds".
Robert, you're working for the company that raised "We rule, burn the heretics" to an art form. Oh IBM started it, and Apple may have dabbled with it a bit (corporately. The MacMacs are their own world, and if they didn't have Macs, they'd have Fords.), but Microsoft, oh god, Microsoft has made Us vs. Them into their own personal playground. Their disinformation campaign against the iTMS and the iPod is only the latest example. To be a Microsoft evangelist and wonder "Why can't we all just get along" is doublethink writ large. In fact, even recently, your Great Leader, The Ballmer said, in public, and on the record, "The most common format of music on an iPod is 'stolen'". Wow, that's some change Robert. The head of Microsoft called everyone who uses an iPod a thief. Tell me again about the "New Microsoft".
Of course, Robert does try to point out that Steve was probably joking. That may be true, that may not be true. Having seen a couple of Ballmer's better performances over the years, I'm inclined to think it was a non-joke. You know, the really stupid, offensive, untrue statement, but with a chuckle added, so it's all "just a joke.". Kinda like the troll who uses a smiley to make it all better. Sorry Steve, we in the biz have dealt with you for too long. We don't trust a damned thing you say. We all remember your furious spinning on Licensing 6.0, and we aren't buying it anymore.
I don't think Robert is clueless, at least not that clueless. I think he's more like a child with a bad sibling. He knows his sibling does wrong, but to admit the level of wrong is disturbing to him. It bothers him, so he mitigates the sibling's errors, and points out that everyone else does it. Which is true, but not to the degree Microsoft does. However, that's not a pass on Microsoft's behavior.
When Microsoft goes out and spins its PR web of falsehoods and, well, bullshit, it's perpetuating the behavior that disturbs Robert so. Maybe if he got the beam out of his eye, people would point and laugh less when he complained about the mote in someone else's eye.
I like Robert's blog a lot, but damn, that grain of salt I need when I read it is really big, and inconvenient to carry with me. Clean up your house first Robert, then complain about ours.| Comments ()
November 9, 2004
The Xserve RAID has moved beyond the Mac
Well there's another product that is growing past what most folks think it was: The Xserve RAID
I'm not going to go over the specs, they're quite excellent, and the Xserve RAID is a great bargain for storage of that type. It stands up well to almost any other RAID on the market under almost any criteria you care to use.
I'm not thinking about various shootouts, or tests, or anything else. I'm thinking of articles I read in the November 8, 2004 issue of InfoWorld on Virtual Servers. About how in this article, when they mentioned fiber channel RAIDs for SAN usage, it wasn't EMC, or HP, or IBM. It was the Xserve RAID, and in one case, using Apple's Fibre Channel card in a big X86 box with VMware.
This article has nothing to do with Macs or the Mac OS. Apple doesn't have anything remotely close to VMware, or Microsoft Virtual Server 2005. You can't virtualize OS X in anyway that even slightly resembles VMware or MS Virtual Server. Yet there's the Xserve RAID all over the article(s). There's no Macs running the RAID. There's no mention of XSAN. It's just Apple hardware being used in a high end X86 implementation. If that doesn't make Paul Thurroit's head pop, nothing will.
That says something about that product. In a lot of ways, it's like the iPod. Okay, a $13K, 120lb, BIG NOISY version of the iPod, but bear with me. The iPod is a hit outside of the Mac OS. It's used by people who will never use a Mac. The same thing with the Xserve RAID. It's running in all -Windows/Linux shops. No Macs. There may never be a Mac in these shops. Yet there's the Apple logo. However, unlike the iPod, if you're willing to spend over $13K on a RAID, maybe spending $3K on an Xserve isn't such a stretch. The Xserve RAID may not have the volume of the iPod, but you aren't selling software contracts for thousands of dollars on a single iPod either.
The Xserve RAID is, like the iPod, an excellent product, and the fact that it is being used for tasks that have nothing to do with the Mac OS, or Mac hardware, say more about just how good it is than anything else. In the long run, it could be as important to Apple as the iPod.| Comments () | TrackBacks (1)
November 5, 2004
On authority and responsibility
If you are at any company long enough to get in to a leadership/managment position, you will eventually hear the following saying:
That saying, in whatever form you hear it, contains at least half of everything you will ever need to know if you want to be a good leader and manager.
Now, first, like all good pedanticists, we need to define our terms:
- the right or power to enforce rules or give orders
- somebody or something with official power
- power to act on behalf of somebody else or official permission to do something
- somebody who is accepted as a source of reliable information on a subject, or a book in which such information is given
- an official body that is set up by a government to administer an area of activity (often used in the plural)
- a statement that makes somebody believe something is true
- the ability to gain the respect of other people and to influence or control what they do
- knowledge, skill, or experience worthy of respect
- a law or legal decision that is cited as establishing a precedent or a principle
- a form of rule that is seen as legitimate
Looking at this, the first part is obvious: You delegate authority. In other words, when you assign a task to someone, you have to give them the authority to get the job done. That can be everything from the ability to set priorities, to control over a budget. Authority isn't just about being in charge. That's position. To be in charge, you have to have the mandate, the clout to do what needs to be done. To assign a task to someone, but then not let them be able to take any action to complete it without your express approval is the height of stupidity, and a waste. If you're going to require approval for every action, no matter how small, then you should just go ahead and do it yourself.
Now, for the key word in the second half: ...not responsibility:
- the state, fact, or position of being accountable to somebody or for something
- the blame for something that has happened
- somebody or something for which a person or organization is responsible >authority to make decisions independently
You can't delegate responsibility. This part here is where everyone stumbles. When we say "you can't delegate responsibility" that doesn't mean that you allow the person to whom you're delegating authority to run away from any and all responsibility for that task. They have the responsibility, or duty even, to do the task correctly, within the (of course) reasonable parameters you assign. If they do not, then they should expect to be taken out to the woodshed.
However...if you're in charge at a higher level than the person who just screwed up a task you gave them, the overall responsibility to handle that failure is yours and yours alone. If they didn't have the skills to complete the task, you should have made sure they had, and took advantage of training opportunities. If they didn't know how to manage time or other resources correctly, you should have been working with them to fix that long ago. You're in charge, the buck stops with you.
That can be a scary concept. In the end, it's your fault. Unfortunately, that scares some leaders/managers so bad that they invert authority and responsibility, and insist on being the only authority in their domain. Ever worked for someone who would assign projects, give you no way to actually do the work without asking them for help every ten minutes, then upbraid you when the project failed, as it was doomed to from the start? You folks who are nodding know what I am talking about.
However tempting the desire to micromanage everything so your keister stays at it's normal temperature may be, you must resist it. First, because you cannot do everything on your own. Secondly, because it will hurt your career. If you set yourself up to be absolutely indispensable to a department or group, do you think you're ever getting promoted out of that? Not just no, but heck no. You'll be keeping your indispensable butt in that chair until you retire or quit. I bet that empire's not so cool anymore, is it?
As well, people spot that kind of behavior far faster than you think they do, and it becomes really obvious as to the reason no one in your department can get anything done. "Dilbert" even has a character for this: "Bottleneck Bob". The more you do this, the less your people will take any initiative, or try anything new. What's the point? You won't let them have the authority to actually do work without your presence looming over their shoulder.
It's also easy, by the way, to spot the departments and groups that get this saying right. They get things done. They have people who go out of their way to do things. They may not have the most formal reporting structure, but they never have any problems with it either. They know who's in charge, and they have a good symbiotic relationship. They know their boss is there to get them the resources they need and keep problems from interfering with the jobs they are doing, and they know that their job is to get things done well so that their boss doesn't have to catch a lot of flack, and they can keep said good boss for a long time. They know that when their boss gets promoted, (because he's running a tight department), there's an excellent chance that they'll benefit too. In other words, they're a team, and they have high esprit de corps, which may be anachronistic terms, but they are still the best ones out there to describe what I am talking about.
Yes, it's hard and it's scary to have your performance evals rest on the work of others. But if you can't handle that, then get out of management until you can.| Comments ()