The Blob

Sunday, November 14, 2004

They're wrong this time

The New York Times has an interesting story titled Gates vs. Jobs: The Rematch. It discusses the new battlefront between Apple and Microsoft, pitting Apple's fabulous iPod versus Microsoft's Windows Media Center, and the two companies' respective music stores. It's a classic battle of the platforms.

But I see a flaw in the article, and with too many pundits' assertions of the eventual outcome. Conventional wisdom posits that the overwhelming platform dominance of Windows , combined with the fact that their Windows Media Player software is being used by a number of MP3 player manufacturers, means that the devices will eventually become a commodity, and Microsoft will run Apple off the road. Again.

This time might be different, however.

For one thing, Microsoft won the PC wars because their operating system became the standard for business. But when you're talking about music instead of operating systems, you can toss out that equation. Then there is the fact that the iPod works equally well on both Macs and PCs. In fact, iPod sales to PC users are at least as strong as they are to Mac users, if not more so, rendering the classic anti-Mac arguments to worthlessness. Then there is the little issue that despite all the efforts by Microsoft and its army of collaborating businesses, that they have failed to even dent Apple's iPod market share.

It might be time to look at this in a new way.

Microsoft is betting that a PC will be the centerpiece of every living room, and that the PC will become your TV. Steve Jobs thinks the opposite way, and believes that the TV is well refined. Why would you have to log into your TV? And looking at the Microsoft Portable Media Player, why would anyone want to lug around a player too big to fit in your pocket, and too small to really see the action? I think Mr. Jobs is on to something.

At the end of the day, in the Microsoft world, everything revolves around defending the franchise of Windows. That might explain why Microsoft's forays into other markets, from Microsoft Bob, to Sidewalk, to Expedia, even MSN, have not been really profitable. It's not to say that Microsoft isn't a successful company; only a fool would claim otherwise. But when large corporations veer too far from what they're good at, it usually shows.

I'd love to fast-forward a year or two from now. Microsoft has the most formidable PR machine in business today. They can crush rivals merely with a press release announcement about vaporware. But sometimes, all their hype falls flat. And in this case, despite the assertions of the New York Times article, the outcome is hardly a sure thing for Bill Gates. For someone who has spent much of his adult life defying gravity in some respects, he might find that physics are inevitable.

My worst nightmare

For all our mania to protect the US from another devastating al Queda attack, what I cannot understand is our complete reticence to defend our borders with Canada and especially Mexico. If you live in California, like I do, you may share my frustration with the literal invasion from the south. Please let me make this clear: I'm not prejudiced against latinos. But I am deeply concerned with the complacency by the federal government (and that means both Republican and Democratic politicians alike, including the Bush administration) to let millions of illegal aliens continue to stream into the US. It not only saps our economy and makes a mockery of our laws, it poses a much more dangerous problem: nuclear terrorism.

Want proof? Then you'll want to read a chilling story in Time Magazine about new accounts from al-Qaeda to attack the U.S. with weapons of mass destruction, by smuggling a nuclear weapon into the United States via the porous Mexican border. Intelligence from captured al-Qaeda operatives show that this is a key objective of Osama bin Laden. I also read an account that the CIA found that bin Laden had sought, and received, blessing by Islamic religious authorities to use nuclear weapons against America.

When are we going to wake up? After it's too late? Our borders are poorly defended. A dark future is inevitable only if we allow it to be. And seemingly opposing forces, from Mexican la Mecha extremists, to laissez-faire liberals, all the way to Wall Street big business interests on the other end of the spectrum, are influencing the government to do little or nothing. I pray we can thwart a nightmare. But if we fail, we may be as much to blame in some respects for our own selfishness as the unthinkably evil muslim extremists who are trying as I write this to make such a nightmare a reality.

I do hope I'm wrong.

The Presinator

Arnold Schwarzenegger in Tokyo (Courtesy

MSNBC is running a story of a new ad campaign seeking support to change the US Constitution to allow a foreign born, naturalized US citizen to run for president. It's being paid for by a group of supporters of California Govenator Arnold Schwarzenegger, and frankly, the thought has my attention. Positively.

After the recent election, I sat back and thought, "is this the best we can do?" If you're reading this, you were probably passionate about the election one way or another, but I was frankly disappointed in both candidates. We live in too important a time to settle for mediocrity and tired ideas. Frankly, I find the Democrats have veered way too far to the left, and conversely, the Republicans have drifted way too far to the right. For someone in the middle, it's a pretty lonely place to be.

Enter Arnold. He has qualities and beliefs sure to piss off both parties. And that's exactly why I like him. I like this idea because both the parties are so bound by their respective dogmas and hardened beliefs that I feel they're both out of touch with reality. If the presidency is the next job to get outsourced to a foreigner, it's one job I'll bless.

Time will tell.