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A Quick But Important Point on Mobile Web Apps

clock July 31, 2009 23:32 by author Tom

First, let me apologize for any typos here as I'm about to get on a plane AND using my friend's first generation netbook (a.k.a. the ones with the small keyboards).

But after reading Mike Brophy's post on Apple I had to add one thing.  Though first I want to share a quote.  The whole article's good but this gives you his basic point...

The next obvious challenge is that web apps have been second-class citizens in terms of functionality compared to native iPhone apps. It’s true that web apps on the iPhone previously had limited potential as they couldn’t access location services, the accelerometer, or the core graphics engine, but with the release of iPhone OS 3.0 the situation is improving – geolocation can now be tapped from a web app. Games with the robust graphics of Assasin’s Creed won’t be possible, but games aren’t taking the brunt of the ax-wielding AppStore Reviewers – innovative and useful apps such as the Google Voice app are. The first question a developer should ask before writing a line of code is “can this be done as a web app” and, if so, it should be done as a web app.

(I made a similar point here by the way)

The point I wanted to add  (to his otherwise well made argument) is this.  We live in a world where most tech pundits believe the momentum is shifting from desktop apps to web apps.  The crunchpad from my very last post is a web only machine.  You have Google Apps, Zoho and others making viable replacements for desktop apps while Adobe, Microsoft and others race to make richer development environments for the web space.

So why is everyone pushing the App store on the iPhone (or any other mobile device for that matter)?  Did we not learn our lesson from the desktop? 

Don't get me wrong.  If you're making a game or need to use the camera then you need to look at a native app.  But otherwise you really need to look at creating a web app.  Which, as an added bonus, will open your app to all the Android, Blackberry and Windows Mobile users as well.

(And those who think iPhone Web Apps are dead really need to pull out their iPhone and visit that little link in their favorites)



A Bandwagon I’d Hate to Jump On

clock July 31, 2009 14:15 by author Tom

I think my CrunchPad dreams are fading.

I’m not sure it’s been reflected on this blog but I’ve become more and more enamored with the idea of the Crunchpad.  Not for myself (I’ll probably end up buying Apple’s tablet to be perfectly honest) but for my agency where I saw tons of potential.

You see, when you’re trying to completely digitize a company you run in to a few road blocks.  One of the most notable ones is the idea that documents are “locked in the computer” and can’t be carried to meetings, get togethers, etc…

So your goal here, as an IT person, is to frame the digital documents as being “in a centralized place” and then trying to get staff to sign on by giving them as many portals to that “place” as possible.  In doing this you can (a) discredit the idea that documents are “locked in the computer” and (b) reinforce the idea that digital documents are available everywhere and in fact more  portable than their physical counterparts.

From that perspective the CrunchPad seemed like a dream come true.  A dead cheap, web based tablet that people could carry around with them and access all their documents (not to mention training videos, research on the web, etc…).  I mean, there have always been tablets.  But they’ve always been expensive and that’s a problem for mass rollout.  But at $200 to $300 even if the staff drops the thing it’s no big loss. 

But start getting above that and the dream starts to die.  Honestly the $200 to $300 jump was quite the hit.  But now we’re looking at $400 and that might be a deal breaker.   Combine that with a few of the other limitations (see link above) and a 3g connection that couldn’t be more useless to me and this might be the end of of that dream. 

The jury’s still out and I’ll look forward to seeing what comes from here.  I still have hope.  Just a little less of it now.

Addendum: A few quick e-mails I got after posting this suggested a netbook.  It’s a good suggestion and I’ve actually been trying to push 10” netbooks as desktop replacements to those with lower requirements.  But the netbook is designed around “desktop computer” usage model and that registers with users.  The beauty of a tablet is that it replaces a clipboard that you’d already be carrying in your hand and that makes it register with users as a replacement for paper documents.

Addendum #2: First, let me say thanks to all those who have e-mailed me on this.  As someone who never checks his traffic numbers I find it utterly terrifying that I've areadly gotten 9 e-mails on something I posted 2 hours ago but thanks none the less.  For the record I am aware of existing Internet tablets, most notably the Nokia N800, that are at or around the same price range.  But in my experience tablets that require pens just don't work.  People lose the pens, break the pens, try to (I swear  to God this actually happened) use actual pens on the device, etc...  Touch is the only way this paticular dream happens.



Yahoo and Microsoft: Part #…oh who the heck knows anymore

clock July 30, 2009 01:24 by author Tom

I wanted to comment on the Microsoft-Yahoo deal (where Microsoft will now handle Yahoo’s searches).  But I thought I’d do it through the lens of a post by Jason Calacanis because I think he holds an opinion that many share.  The opinion that Yahoo made a bad deal.  I disagree with that and I want to tell you why.

Here’s the first quote…

Google and a lack of faith in one’s ability to compete in the space they created. To be clear, Yahoo didn’t need to do this deal,  Microsoft did. Ultimately Yahoo will look back at this moment as the second–and perhaps fatal–mistake in their epic history.

Yahoo is not a technology company.  They always made their money off  the use of relatively simple technology in partnership with their massive brand recognition.  So they really didn’t create the current search market in that their search was a pretty basic text search (which pales in comparison to the advanced and secretive algorithms being used today)

In my experience the people and businesses in this world that are successful are ones that realize what they can’t do.  Because that allows them to use all their resources doing what they do well instead of wasting time on what they don’t. 

Search is the most important business of the 21st century and owning a  commanding lead in second place is not insignificant.

Well…Yahoo’s held that position for…a while now.  If they were going to manage a significant profit off it I’d think they would have done it by now.  Eventually you have to cut your losses.

As for the deal, on the merits Yahoo struck a financially profitable deal since they’ll get 88% of the revenue from Search and even the most basic analysis tells you they were spending more than 12% of their revenue on simply maintaining the hardware used to run a massive search engine.

To say it clearly: Microsoft does not enter a market unless it’s  important, huge and on the way to becoming even bigger. Microsoft is the buy sign, not the sell sign. The people at Microsoft are brilliant and not to be underestimated–history has shown this to be true.

I certainly wouldn’t be using Microsoft as my compass at this point.  Especially at a time when they’re busy packing up a bunch of businesses that never took off.  Even in it’s heyday Microsoft was more a “bet on every horse” company than a “pick the winner” one. 

Ask all the people who bought a TabletPC (or its predecessor Windows for Pen Computing)

At this point I’m going to jump way ahead to what Mr. Calacanis thinks is “the lesson” here. 

The lesson for all startups–and BDC’s (big dumb companies)–is that innovation is all you have. Once you stop innovating you lose your talent and you lose the race. Never. Stop. Innovating. Never. Never. Never.

This seems like an obvious lesson but when you really think about it you see it isn’t great advice.  Technology is a hard business because you have to constantly innovate.  Companies like Microsoft have spent decades working out a methodology and corporate culture that will allow them to produce great technology.

Yahoo, as I said above, was never a technology company.  From the start their technology has been fairly straight forward.  If anything, trying to innovate as a technology company has been their real downfall. 

How many Yahoo acquisitions have failed because the acquired company became part of Yahoo and learned they couldn’t function under the corporate structure?

The lesson here, as far as I can see, is when you find yourself in trouble as a company you should step back and ask yourself “what are we good at?”  Yahoo didn’t do that.  They went off trying to do what Google was good at and got their head handed to them. 

Yahoo had/has a great brand and what they are good at is being an aggregator.  Had they realized that they could have stopped pouring good money after bad with their search engine (which was never going to beat Google) and focused on their more promising aggregation acquisitions (flickr for example). 

Not every company has to be a technology innovator to make money. 

History with Jason Calacanis

This last part is a complete aside. 

I think I’ve come to the point where people mis-representing IT history is a pet peeve for me.  I grew up reading trade magazines, books, etc… on the tech industry and it really bothers me that “A-Listers” have such a weak grasp of their industry’s history. 

On that note I wanted to address a few unrelated quotes from the article.  The first quote is regarding Yahoo’s deal with Google in the early 2000s (Where Google had essentially the same deal Microsoft is striking now)

Had Yahoo  not given their search franchise over to Google back then, there is a good chance that the race for the most important business of the 21st  century would be a dead heat. Certainly it would be closer.

Historically that simply isn’t true.  Yahoo wasn’t what we now consider a search engine before Google came along.  It was more of a directory listing with a really lousy text search tacked on.  When Google took over Yahoo’s search business they were already losing share to Alta Vista for just that reason.   So if the logic above is right wouldn’t Alta Vista still be in competition?

In truth the pagerank innovation was a game changer that no one was ready for and that is what killed off the search competition.  

When Microsoft is  interested in a space it is a clear sign that you should be investing in it–not selling it.

Microsoft’s deep dive into a graphical user interface on an operating  system, Windows, was a clear sign to Steve Jobs that his bet was correct. Steve doubled and tripled down and that is why Apple is  Apple. Microsoft’s deep dive into word processors and spreadsheets was the clear sign to WordPerfect and Lotus 1-2-3 that this was a space worth fighting for.

I’ve been over this little piece of history before but it’s worth a repeat.  Microsoft didn’t dive into Windows based on Apple.  In fact, as has been documented in several books on the topic Gates was obsessed with the Mac but still felt the IBM/Microsoft joint venture OS/2 would rule the business world (because IBM always had).

Windows didn’t become a focus for Microsoft until version 3.1 in 1992.  Almost a decade (8 years and 2 months) after the Mac debuted.  Incidentally, 1992 was also 7 years after Steve Jobs had left Apple.

(For the record Windows 3.1 became a focus because of the success of Windows 3.0 which was released in May 1990.  But it’s success was a slow build so the realization by Microsoft really happened over a period spanning the last part of 1990 and the first part of 1991)



Juiced

clock July 28, 2009 12:25 by author Tom

TechCrunch is writing about Juice.  I'm just sayin'

Louis Gray is comparing two products that don't exist as of yet (at least not in the "we have the specs" kind of way).   Really.

So sure, I haven't posted in a week.  But if the A-listers have been reduced to imaginary products and juice what am I supposed to do?  There's simply nothing going on in the tech blogosphere right now.  Notta.

I post this only because every time I take a week off people start e-mailing me asking if I've abandon the blog.  So just to put it out there...I haven't.  There's just not much to write about right now.  I suspect this is the calm before a rather impressive storm coming around September or so.  But until then I think we'll probably see a low trickle of news.

I've got a few "things that are on my mind" posts to bore you with in the meantime which I'll start posting shortly.  None of them are about juice (just for the record). 



It Boggles The Mind

clock July 20, 2009 07:16 by author Tom

For the record this post was written several days ago.  But it was much angrier then and I decided to give myself some cool down time before posting.  Below is a much calmer version of the original post…

I love my iPhone.  More than you could really ever know.  So don’t accuse me of being an “Apple Hater”

But Apple stopping the Palm Pre’s ability to sync with iTunes is reprehensible.  If I’m their customer and I decide to buy a Pre I should be welcome to it.  Apple should be overjoyed to still be making money off the music.  The fact that they aren’t worried about losing that revenue stream shows they’ve become a de facto monopoly in the sector.

But that’s not what really bugged me.

Actually "bugged" is no where near strong enough.  I had to hold this post back because I was just way too angry to put it up (as the post itself indicated).  Not at Apple, but at the blogs covering the story who gave Apple a complete pass.   

Take Mashable for instance

Palm can complain all they want, but even if Palm pushes out an update to allow syncing with iTunes again, you can expect Apple to counter quickly. The lesson? Palm probably shouldn’t have made syncing with iTunes a selling point.

And Gizmodo…

Obviously if you're a Pre user you should not update to the latest iTunes. Not, at least, until Palm strikes back with some kind of firmware update to enable syncing again. It's not like 8.2.1 has all that many new features either, so you don't really need to update.

How about MobileCrunch.com (of the TechCrunch family)

In real people speak, this means “blocks the Palm Pre from syncing with iTunes”. The Palm Pre had been falsely identifying itself as an iPod in order to allow iTunes users to sync with it. Just as we had predicted a month ago, Apple has swung back at Palm for trying to sneak their way into their closed garden.

Both of these moves are understandable, though they seem quite mean-spirited.

Notice not one bit of disapproval for Apple.  The worse you get is “mean spirited but understandable

So, basically companies can be proprietary if they’re companies we like.  Is that what I’m getting? 

It’s ok that all my songs will forever be locked into Apple because Apple’s doing it? 

Really?!?!?

Now some blogs did call Apple on this but the ones that didn’t just amaze me.  Because you KNOW Microsoft would never get away with this. 

Remember when Microsoft abandoned it’s PlayForSure partners to make Zune.  In that case they didn’t shut off everyone’s access to Media Player.  They didn’t take anything away from the initiative they’d been a part of.  They just chose to make a product of their own.

AND THEY WERE VILIFIED FOR IT!!

This is just ridiculous.  Apple is using what is essentially a monopoly in the digital music industry to misbehave in a way that Microsoft never dreamed of.  Even in their hayday. 

AND GETTING AWAY WITH IT!

One of the things you always hear from bloggers is how they need to exist because the mainstream media is bought and paid for.  So what does it say about bloggers when they do t he same thing without even having to be bought?



Research Before You Speak

clock July 14, 2009 06:10 by author Tom

I know I'm on a self imposed Twitter ban for the summer but this is more about doing your homework so I'm making an exception.  That out of the way, Time Magazine says...

In the old days — like, until yesterday — movie studios judged the success of their big pictures by how much they grossed on the opening weekend. But in the age of Twitter, electronic word-of-mouth is immediate, as early moviegoers tweet their opinions on a film to millions of "followers." Instant-messaging can make or break a film within 24 hours. Friday is the new weekend.

That appears to be the lesson from the studio estimates issued on July 13 for the weekend box office. Brüno, the Sacha Baron Cohen docu-comedy in which an Austrian fashion journalist shoves his flamboyant gayness in the faces and other body parts of unsuspecting Americans, won the weekend with $30.4 million, a bit above most industry expectations for an R-rated provocation whose star was unknown to the mass audience until his Borat became a surprise hit in 2006, earning more than $260 million at theaters worldwide on an $18 million budget. Yet Brüno's box-office decline from Friday to Saturday indicates that the film's brand of outrage was not the sort to please most moviegoers — and that their tut-tutting got around fast. Brüno could be the first movie defeated by the Twitter effect.

(The bold above was added by me) 

OK, Bruno did drop 39.2% from Friday (it's first day of release) to Saturday (it's second day of release).  There's no doubt that's a big drop.  But if you do your homework what you'll find is there's another explanation.  Heavily hyped movies tend to get huge sales in their first day and then drop afterwards. 

For example, can you guess what movie dropped 41% from day one to day two?  If you guessed Spider-Man 2 (both critically acclaimed and a box office success) give yourself a pat on the back.

How about a movie that dropped 29.1% from day one to day two?  That would be the billion+ box office hit The Dark Knight.  Oh, and it's predecessor Batman Begins dropped 39.7% from day one to day two and that was in 2005 which is a year before Twitter was even founded.

I could go on and on.  Star Wars: The Phantom Menace featured the return of the Star Wars Franchise after 16 years and was the highest grossing film of 1999 yet it dropped a whopping 56.9% from day one to day two (how old was Twitter in 1999?).  Lord of the Rings: Return of the King was the highest grossing of the LoR trilogy and it dropped 50.6% from day one to day two

In one final irony the article mentions two other films that held up over the weekend...

As Brüno flounced and floundered with audiences, two other behemoths stood sturdy. In its second weekend, the 3-D cartoon Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs is projected to finish right behind Brüno, at $28.5 million, for a worldwide 10-day gross of $312.5 million. And that overblown toy story, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, has earned more than that just in North America.

But Transfomers dropped 53.1% from it's first to second days and Ice Age 3D dropped 18.4%

In Conclusion: If you go into an article wanting to prove a point you'll manage to prove that point even if it's not true.  This article is a testament to that rather embarrassing fact. 

Addendum: Some are claiming Bruno was predicted to make $50 million over the weekend so it's a failure in that sense.  But if you look at the actual quote it refers to the high end (aka the studio's hopes).  Most expected it to be somewhere in the 30s.  As proof I point to boxofficeprophets.com who predicted $36 million.



Internet Radio By The Numbers

clock July 12, 2009 05:27 by author Tom

Not everyone is happy with the radio deal I mentioned in my last post.  Techdirt points to Michael Robertson who tries to make the case that even with this new deal it's impossible for Internet Radio to survive.  His last paragraph concludes...

The economics don't lie. Experienced radio man Bob Bellin says, "No start up webcasting business can give up more than 25% of their revenue and make a profit." Bill Goldsmith of Radio Paradise says that long term viability requires a payment of no more than 10-12% of total revenues for both publishers and record label royalties. The new rates, while lower, are nowhere close to being sustainable. While I've used Pandora as a reference point to illustrate the situation, the same could be written about Slacker, Last.FM, or any webcasting company. Net radio is going to die a slow death in the United States.

Wow.  The CEO of Pandora seemed pretty happy for a guy whose company is going to die a slow death.  But skepticism is only worthwhile if I investigate so I decided to look at the numbers.

To start we need to understand what we're talking about here.  To get there let me quote Rob Pegoraro of the Washington Post who does a nice job of summarizing the new rates.  Here it is...

* Large Webcasters--defined as those who rake in more than $1.25 million in annual revenues--will pay either 25 percent of those revenues or a per-performance rate in the neighborhood of a tenth of a cent, whichever is greater. This deal runs through 2015.

* Small Webcasters--those raking in less than $1.25 million a year in revenues and fewer than 8 to 10 million listener-hours a month of broadcasts, depending on the year--can choose between paying a percentage of their revenues (12 percent of the first $250,000, then 14 percent of everything on top of that) or their expenses (7 percent). These options run through 2014.

And since I've decided to use Pandora as my example case I turned to a 2007 article from PCMAG.com which gives that average listener rate...

Pandora.com is a site that streams music to listeners, based upon their preferences. On average, each Pandora listener there tunes into to Pandora.com around 18 hours a week, listening to an average of 15 stations each. This was a Pandora.com-positive group, to say the least.

Now that we have all those numbers lets take a look at how they come together.  Please remember this is a vast oversimplification.  I'm just trying to prove the song costs aren't enough to sink the company so I'm leaving out all the other business related factors such as IT staff, programmers, sales, etc...

With that said I am assuming an average song length of 3.5 minutes.  Combine that with 18 hours a week of listening per Pandora user you get about 309 songs a week.  If Pandora is then paying $.0014 per song you get $.43 per user per week for Royalties.

Now Internet ad rates are usually measured in CPM (Cost Per Thousand(roman numeral M)) so lets look at a thousand users.  We already know the royalties cost will be about $430 per week and that's on the 309 songs we spoke about.  But Pandora shows an ad about every 3 songs (I'm told, I use Pandora One) meaning that's 103 ads being shown putting their CPM to cover royalties at about $4.17 per Ad ($430 per 1000 users  / 103 ads shown to all 1000 users = $4.17 per ad).  To put those numbers in perspective understand sites like TechCrunch and ReadWriteWeb were charging around $36 per CPM before the downturn and Internet Radio tends to have higher rates (plus Pandora has double the unique visitors of Techcrunch and over four times that of ReadWriteWeb). 

But what about bandwidth?  Bandwidth is an expense other types of Radio don't have to deal with so just to be fair let's look at it.  Pandora streams music at 128Kbps (to non-Pandora One users) or 16KB per second.  That makes the total footprint of an average user around 1,036,800 KB per week (16KB per second *  60 seconds per minute * 60 minutes per hour * 18 hours per week).  Now at work I have a 45 mbps fiber line and we pay about $1,000 per week for.  It delivers 5,625 KB per second at a rate of $.0017 per second.  Multiply that by 184 (1,036,800 KB per week / 5,625 KB per second)and you get around $.31 per user per week for Pandora or $310 per 1,000 users

(Keep in mind these numbers are way high.  An organization buying in bulk could get much better prices for bandwidth not to mention content delivery networks that could knock the price down further)

Again that's on about 309 songs per week making a cost of about $1 per ad or $5.17 total CPM needed to pay for the actual songs being served (Royalties and Bandwidth).   

As I said up front, this isn't meant to represent the money it takes to run Pandora.  For that you'd need to look at all the maintenance costs, employee costs, sales staff, etc...  But what I am trying to do is to debunk the idea that no startup radio station can survive under this royalties pricing structure.  It's simply not true.  The truth is royalties aren't THAT big a piece of the pie anymore.  Certainly not enough to mean the difference between life and death for a service like Pandora.

Which is why both sides seem happy with this new agreement.

Debunking The Other Numbers... It didn't fit in the framework of the above post but I wanted to address one other section of Mr. Robertson's post.  He says...

As an example, Pandora estimates they will do 1 billion hours of streaming in 2009 which requires $17 million in royalties. They estimate they will do $40 million in revenue which equates a payment to the major labels of 42.5% of their total revenues. No business can operate with such an enormous financial obligation.

Has anyone ever worked in a retail business that sells any kind of physical goods?  If so you'd know the manufacturer easily takes more than 42.5% of the revenue from products.  I worked in a computer store as a kid and we'd regularly only get 5% to 10% off hardware like Video Cards, Sound Cards, etc...  To back that up consider Grocery stores which have notoriously thin margins (profit margins that hoover around 3%). 

Also note the 1 billion hours number suggests a much lower average time per listener than what we used above.  Pandora said they had 20 million registered users in Dec. 2008.  1 billion hours of streaming / 20 million users = 50 hours per YEAR.  Compare that to the 936 hours assumption we made above (aka 18 hours a week) and the picture looks even better for Pandora.

Finally, it should be said that I know a lot of web companies that would kill for $23 million in revenues this year. 

Addendum: Putting aside the Pandora example a lot is being said about the $25,000 fee being imposed on all Internet Radio stations.   The argument against it says that fee will kill a lot of small Internet Radio stations.  To that I'd point out two things...

1.   The $25,000 fee is not an additional fee, it's due up front and then applied to the station's royalty payments

2.  The $25,000 equates to only about 1,100 regular listeners.  Let me do the math.  $25,000 per year equals $2,083 per month which in turn equals 1,488,095 song plays (at .0014 per song).  That in turn equals 343,406 song plays per week.  Using the 18 hour per week and the 3.5 minute per song averages that number of songs equates to 1,112 regular listerners. 

(Note that small stations don't even have to pay a per song fee but instead pay only a percentage of their revenue or their expenses)

So basically this $25,000 is more of a "barrier to entry fee" in that it's designed to keep the labels from doing a lot of work on companies who aren't serious enough to have a little funding.  I don't necessarily agree with that strategy but it's a perfectly reasonable one and certainly not one designed to kill Internet Radio



Yeah, I screwed up... (Revised Views On Record Labels and Internet Radio)

clock July 10, 2009 21:20 by author Tom

I...was stupid.  I hate to admit it, but it's true. 

If there's one thing this blog has been about it's the idea that you need to think through your ideas.  When I grab a quote and then list why I think that person is wrong what I'm trying to do is get people to ask themselves "How could I be wrong?" before they make a post. 

A question I failed to ask a year ago when I wrote this post.  The meme at the time was "Pandora is close to death because the record labels are charging unfair amounts for their music"

(If you don't know what Pandora is I'm not going to tell you.  You need to head over to Pandora.com and try it yourself)

I took the bait.  I adopted the faulty premise that Record Labels wanted to kill Internet Radio and I went off in the wrong direction.  But I was off- base and this article, entitled "Pandora Tunes into $35 million", tells you why. 

Online radio network Pandora has raised $35 million in new VC funding, according to multiple sources familiar with the deal.

What’s particularly interesting here is that the new financing was signed while Pandora’s very existence was in jeopardy.

...

All of that changed earlier this week, when Pandora and other webcasters reached a new agreement with the recording industry. Under terms of the new deal, large players like Pandora will pay out either 25% of revenue or a per song fee that will increase each year (whichever is higher). Still sounds onerous compared to terrestrial radio – which pays zilch – but is still considered a big win for Pandora.

You see the record labels don't hate Internet radio, just the opposite in fact.  They realize it's becoming a bigger and bigger market.  Their "attacks" were bargaining chips in an attempt to get a better deal from Internet radio.  Better than they got from terrestrial and satellite at least (deals made before the advent of "purchase by song").  Just as Pandora's "going public with a threat of shutting down" was a counter move.

That's the point I missed (and in doing so forgot the very question I encourage everyone else to ask). 

Yes, the deal Pandora reached with the labels gives the labels a little more money from Internet Radio.  But that's just the Record Labels way of making a profit when Internet Radio rises.  The labels are preparing for a future with only Internet Radio which is why that little bit of money was so important to them. 

Which is why I don't think either side of the Labels/Pandora conflict is eager to kill of the goose laying the golden egg.  Which in turn tells you why Pandora can raise $35 million in a VC market that's otherwise asleep.



Linux Chromed (Though Not Really)

clock July 8, 2009 22:35 by author Tom

In regards to Google's Chrome OS...

I think it’s fair to say there’s never been so much said by so many about something we know practically nothing about. 

What we do know is this.  Yesterday Google announced a new OS based on the design idioms of the Google Chrome browser.  Initially it will only be targeting netbooks but it’s pretty clear Google has the world in it’s sights.

I have essentially nothing to say about this.  They really don’t give many details.  But one they did mention is that it will be built on Linux which is causing some blowback from the Linux community.

Such as in this post titled “No thanks Google, we've got Ubuntu.” 

Google's revelation today that it will create its own operating system will bring just one reaction from operating system enthusiasts worldwide.

"Not another Linux distribution," they'll cry.

and…

Depending on what part of the world you live in, odds are that you (and sometimes the company you work for) have personally switched between different Linux distributions several times over the past decade, as one or the other gained prominence.

He turns this all into a pitch for Ubuntu saying…

The growing dominance of Ubuntu (at least on the desktop, the server room seems to have been won by Red Hat) has delivered the Linux community a serious advantage in its ongoing war against the incumbent Windows and Apple platforms because of its ability to give software developers a single platform to concentrate on, and polish to a degree not seen previously.

Wow, now THAT is how missing the point is done. 

The problem with Mr. LeMay’s piece is that he’s focusing on the irrelevant.  Namely the OS core.  Yes a good OS kernel is important and Linux has a good OS kernel.  But using it does not a Linux distribution make.

Mr. LeMay sees this as “another Linux distribution” only because he is obsessed with Linux.  But one of the few things we do know about the Chrome OS is they’re aiming higher than that.  They don’t want people programming for Linux or any other desktop OS.  They’re saying “program for the web and have it act like a desktop App”

So Linux couldn’t be more irrelevant to the equation.

Whether the Chrome OS turns out great or not it already has one thing over other Linux variations and that is it realizes focusing on Linux is not the way to success.   The fact that it’s Linux only matters to those obsessed with Linux.  Everyone else just wants a working system.  If you somehow magically replaced the Linux kernel with OS X’s Unix based kernel no one would even know.  Or care! 

But here’s the kicker: That’s what Open Source is supposed to be!

Google is using Linux in the way open source was meant to be used: As a means to not repeat work that’s already been done (and done well).  The Linux core is solid, reliable and well tested.  So why wouldn’t they use it? 

Linux shouldn’t be a brand.  The point of Open Source is to share knowledge gained through the creation of software by letting others use it.  So those others can create great products (as well as sell them, support them, etc…) 

But it’s the products built with Open Source that are important. 

Products like the Chrome OS are far more important than the kernel they’re built on.  Linux advocates can’t see this because their obsession with Linux has made them forget why it’s great in the first place.  That’s why they continually try to sell Linux as a brand.   

Making Linux into a brand is counter-productive.

It’s confusing to normal people and it lessens the individual distributions in people’s eyes.  That’s what Google understands.  They get that the Chrome OS will live or die by NOT being another Linux distribution.  That’s why they choose not to brand it as such.

God love ‘em the Linux fans will never give up their focus on Linux.  They’re devoted hobbyists and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.  That is what being a hobbyist is all about.  But in the real world Linux will never gain wide spread success as a brand (largely because of it’s association with hobbyists).

But it can still provide an infrastructure to something that might change the world. 



To All My American Friends...

clock July 1, 2009 05:54 by author Tom

As I head out for a mini-vacation (this will probably be my last post of the week) I just want to put out an un-subtle reminder.  Illegal fireworks are illegal for a reason.  Generally that reason is that they possess the power to separate you from very important parts of your body by means of explosion. 

So please, if you're inclined to purchase and use these high powered fireworks be careful.  Actually, even if you're not be careful.  This blog has very few readers as it is.  I can't afford to lose any ;)

Seriously though I hope everyone has a fun 4th of July and chooses to blow things up responsibly.



About Me

Not really relevant right now. This blog is on hiatus. I really haven't decided if it is an indefinite hiatus yet

For the record if you've tried to e-mail me over the last 4 to 6 months I didn't mean to ignore you. The e-mail forwarding isn't working and I didn't realize that until months worth of e-mails had been deleted on forward. The tom@tomstechblog.com address still won't forward to the postmaster account and I don't know why because it's provided by the webhost. But if you're one of my old blog pen pals I would always welcome an e-mail from you at the postmaster@tomstechblog.com address

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