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article imageOp-Ed: Hey Apple, Microsoft, Google and Adobe- Enough déjà vu, already

By Paul Wallis     Mar 19, 2010 in Technology
It's like a soap opera. HTML 5 is about to try to overrun Flash while Adobe is trying to put a face on Creative Suite 5, and what it will and won’t do. Steve Jobs is mad with Google, Eric isn't speaking to Steve, and presumably they won't marry.
This is a little selection of the various footsie-stamping issues currently blessing the computer using world:
1. Windows 7 now has about 5% of the market. Big deal.
2. Windows 7 still has the clean install/virtual machine problem for XP users.
3. IE 8 has vanished without trace.
4. Vista is no longer a subject for discussion.
5. IE9 won’t run on XP.
1. Mr. Jobs doesn’t like Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt, and Apple has been generally badmouthing Google.
2. HTML5, the inevitable upgrade and soon to be new internet standard, was developed by Google and Apple.
3. Google’s Android phone is now such an irritation to Apple that Apple are threatening to drop Google as a default search, and use Microsoft’s Bing. That’s not entirely out of the ballpark, because Bing is the default search on Chrome, but it’s hardly in the same league as Google.
The bitching session between Google and Apple is mutual. There’s so much acidity in this situation that it’s best to read The New York Times four page story than to dwell on it. Keep some Mylanta handy, you may need it.
Tim Bray, one of Apple’s senior developers, is calling Apple’s iPOD restrictions “Disneyfied”, which isn’t even polite in these circles.
Adobe’s new Creative Suite 5 may have a problem in that it doesn’t appear to comply with Apple’s rules for developers. HTML may supersede Flash online. Thankfully, Adobe isn’t totally anti the Open Web concept.
There in a picturesque few hundred words, is the general tone of the major league in consumer information technology market. One gigantic bitching session in four basic directions. Despite the tone of this piece, which is about to become much less tolerant, I don’t think Jobs or Schmidt have declared war on the world. The story seems more like two very ticked off people not looking for common ground.
Unfortunately, that’s part of the problem. This is where the déjà vu starts. The lack of common ground is now translating into lack of functions, like the old “compatibility” problems of 1995. And that, folks, is the real bottom line. The Not So Good Old Days of ‘compatibility’ issues were considered idiotic, even in 1995. Having arbitrary situations where users have to jump through hoops on the basis of companies being compatible with each other is arguably a lot worse. There's not even the excuse of technical issues.
The commercial culture isn’t what it was in the early days of the internet. The Get It Right angle is gone. It’s looking more like Wall Street. The industry has an image problem, and it’s creating massive sales resistance. Microsoft was seen as a much nicer, and far more highly respected, company, with the original cast of misfits. Jobs is still highly respected, but the business side looks pretty mean these days. Adobe is rightly respected for its ability to market good product with a universal reach, even if the prices are painful to most people. Apps and snaps, OK, but that’s about as far as the market wants to go. Google has managed to remain credible, despite its rise to stardom, mainly because of the amount of open space it’s created for users. There’s nothing wrong with Google Docs, for example, very useful, very practical.
Which is fine, but there's a new element in the equation. Times have changed, and Back to the Past isn't going to be tolerated.
Back when Windows 95 was a baby and Internet Explorer was the big new browser, there was a big, largely uninformed, market trying to learn how to use online functions. iPOD was a glint in someone’s eye. Everybody was impressed, nay, awestruck, by the technology and its marketing logic.
Now there’s a hugely unimpressed, commercially committed, global internet market turning over trillions of dollars a day. The mysteries have given way to hard nosed business issues. The various tantrums and tribulations of the operating systems/apps/software giants are getting on people’s nerves. Nobody wants to think about having to shell out for new stuff purely on the basis of some sort of design tantrum. There's the biggest recession since 1929 still happening, remember?
Worse, these trips down Multicore Memory Lane are costing money people don't have. If things can’t run, people can’t do business. They may even need to retool to do existing business. That’s a very expensive, not to say utterly useless, proposition. It doesn’t even make sense. Why should people have to buy new proprietary cross-platform things to do what they can already do?
Proprietary hardware, apps and software have always been crocks. Microsoft’s much-unappreciated insistence on introducing new hardware whether anyone wants it or not is a bit like saying “You must own a Ferrari to drive on the freeway”. Apple’s proprietary approach is looking more like a knee jerk reaction, but it’s also making them look like the jerks, whatever the facts of the matters. Rather sad, given the fanatical support of many Apple customers.
Google is winning some brownie points for opening up the market and competing, but if there’s any suggestion of doing the same thing as the others, it’s not about to go down well. More imponderable difficulties in running anything are not popular, and becoming steadily more unpopular.
Now- Can the other 7 billion people on the planet get a word in, for once?
Let’s get a few basics straight:
1. The world needs running systems.
2. The fewer uses an app, operating system or software has, the more irritating they become.
3. People are paying a lot of money for this stuff.
4. This is anti-competitive in theory, but there’s a real risk of it becoming anti-competitive in practice, and that’s not good for anyone.
5. The big guys should know that market reach means functional, not dysfunctional.
6. Expecting the world to retool every time some new set of developments is born is ridiculous.
7. For commercial systems, the chop and change approach isn’t viable.
8. Replacing a system every few years is only grudgingly accepted, and if the replacement doesn’t deliver a lot more useful functions than the predecessor, it’s not considered much of an achievement. (Vista, for example, was strong on graphics, but nothing much else.)
9. Consumers need “click and go there”, not “click and wonder what happens next”. There should be no obstacles to people using whatever to access whatever.
10. Hardware, schmardware. If it's that much of an obstacle course-creating expense to run new software, wouldn't the smart thing to do be to go around the hardware situations?
Cases in point:
A. There’s nothing particularly difficult about accommodating old operating systems. Never has been. They use a fraction of the processing power of the new stuff. The requirement to make them operable is no more than a basic “read and run” function. There are still people running Win 98, NT versions, 2000 etc. They’re known parameters, no major technical issue. XP can read all its predecessors, why can’t Vista or Windows 7?
B. The iPOD isn’t about to go out of business on the basis of a thousand different versions of Androids. It’s an extremely popular, highly credible system. What’s the problem?
For God’s sake, how hard can it be to get something to run across platforms using binary? Simpler is usually safer, and it’s always less expensive for development and production.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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