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Soviet Microsoft: How Resistance to Free Markets and Open Ideas Will the Unravel the Software Superpower

Soviet Microsoft
Daniel Eran Dilger
Somewhat ironically, one of the most financially successful capitalist companies of the 90s has positioned itself as a modern counterpart to the old communist Soviet Union. Microsoft’s ideological contempt for and resistance to free markets and the open expression and propagation of fresh ideas and technologies is not only a close parallel of the old USSR, but also a clear reflection of why Microsoft is currently failing and why its troubles have only just begun. Here’s a comprehensive look at why this is the case.


Talk to the Hand.
The free market is hailed for its powers as a magical omniscient hand that sorts winners and losers objectively based on merit. It also sets prices with accuracy and precision, rewarding excellent products with premium prices and rewarding efficient production with higher sales volumes.

In the last century, passionate intellectuals fought against the powerful, all knowing hand of the market and lost. They hoped to solve the frequently brutally and indiscriminate actions of the capitalist free market, which set prices that bankrupted the weak and rewarded the rich without regard for grandmothers and children, wars and disease, fraud and treachery, and various other side effects of humanity.

The Communists hoped to replace the free market with a planned economy, where growth would only proceed orderly in one direction. Anyone in the way of such progress could be carefully removed by the appropriate bureau and reassigned to a different role that served everyone else collectively in the best possible way.

In the same way, Microsoft ushered in Windows as a common platform for all computers in the 90s. Windows promised to replace the risk and uncertainty of a world splintered by different platforms under just one operating system. Anyone who didn’t play along with the official party line was ostracized to a Siberian gulag, or at least ridiculed as an enemy of compatibility and a threat to low Total Cost of Ownership. Pundits warned of the risks of associating with alternative platforms, and expressed fear, uncertainty, and doubt concerning the future prospects of anything independent of the Microsoft Mother.

The Problem with Communism.
The problem with the ideas from the left edge of reason is that nobody on Earth is smart enough to plan such an economy, and everyone else is smart enough to be wary of anyone ready to accept the challenge. The only way to usher in communism is to remove alternative thought by convincing the populace that the only good choice is no choice, overturn the establishment, and then prop up the centrally planned system with misinformation campaigns that assure everyone they’re better off not wanting to experiment with dangerous outside ideas.

On the other hand, the best way to prevent anyone from trying to take over and establish such a centrally planned system that insists on making all the decisions is to marginalize power in an informed democracy, so that any political change based on unworkable ideas is at best glacial and difficult.

The less forced political change can occur, the more the invisible hand of the market can make decisions that benefit individuals. Socialist ideas about insuring the health of the populace, educating children, transporting people and goods effectively, and looking after the welfare of the weak and less fortunate can be addressed by the market with minor changes that don’t demand misinformation, removal of choice, or violent political upheaval to enact.

The Power of the Invisible Hand is People.
That’s because the free market isn’t really an invisible hand, but a collective of individual human actions that involve conscience. The market is both the world’s democracy and its commune. Every dollar spent is a vote, and every dollar earned is political capital to carry out plans. Once the hippie generation realized that the free market was actually the ultimate commune, the most competent members sprang into action and changed the world in a way that really changed the world.

Apple’s Steve Jobs was a long haired dropout experimenting with Eastern philosophy and LSD. However, he saw the potential in personal computer toys and teamed up with hardware genius Steve Wozniak to develop and market them. He then saw the potential in technology being developed by Xerox and worked to make it affordable and relevant to consumers. He then saw the potential of object oriented development and the leveraging of open source code at NeXT, and later returned to Apple in 1997 to turn around a dead corporation and give it a new vitality and productivity that no Ten Year Plan could have have ever decreed in a state sponsored program.

Apple founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak

Silicon Valley is full of old liberals who once thought that human nature could be shed along with the trappings of the past to usher in an Age of Aquarius where everyone was just cool and everything just worked out. They discovered that their parents had been right in a manner of speaking; you can’t change everything about yourself even if you do change everything about yourself.

Individuals with a humanity large enough to share were attracted to the rebellion against old thinking in the 60s, but the 70s began to slowly teach us that rebellion has its own problems. Our ancestors have amassed too much knowledge to ignore, and at least some of the solutions they created for dealing with the problems of life are far too valuable to simply throw out. Ignoring the wisdom of the past is as dangerous as ignoring fresh ideas for the future.

Bridging The Gap.
That leaves humanity stuck with no easy answers. How much of the old ways of thinking are worth holding onto, and how quickly should new ideas be adopted? Over the last thousands of years of recorded history, it seems clear and predictable that the old will demand an end to change and the young will always push for complete revolution. The only way to allow anything to get done is to balance things out so that the old can push their efforts to stop progress and the young can force efforts toward change without either side winning all of the time.

Of course, being old or young politically isn’t just a product of age and experience. There are conservative youth groups just as there are plenty of progressive older people, some of whom have done the most to affect positive change because of their experience and wisdom. In fact, while the youth culture has made the most light and noise, it has rarely done as much to actually introduce real change without also ushering in disastrous consequences on the side.

The power for political and social change has to be orchestrated with the same objectivity as the overall economy, leveraging the same hyper-intelligent collective of thought that sets prices and sorts out competitors. Politics and culture need a free market.

Hacking the Market.
The biggest problem with free markets is that most aren’t really free. Free markets represent the needs and demands of consumers. The collective buying decisions of millions of people statistically reveal the collective reasoning of the masses. The problem is that this virtual network of human supercomputers is easy to pollute with viral misinformation, and like any system, can only return garbage output when it is fed false information.

When vendors manipulate the market to limit the availability of competing products or dump bad products on the market to overflow its buffers in an attempt to hack control in the future, the market no longer reflects the composite intelligence of a huge audience, and instead inherits all the problems of a communist planned economy where a few people making decisions simply can’t outthink the needs of millions, despite their best intentions.

This is what Microsoft did in erecting artificial barriers to competition to Windows and Office in the 90s, and what Microsoft and both NBC Universal and Paramount/Dreamworks are doing in media, and what Microsoft is doing in opposition to free and open source software: reigning in on the free market in efforts to instead establish a politburo where Microsoft remains the only game in town.

Universal vs Apple in the iTunes Store Contracts

The New Soviet Union.
Microsoft isn’t evil for being Microsoft, but because its leadership values control above delivering good products or advancing the state of the art. Rather than competing in the market, Microsoft’s leadership has pursued a strategy of repeatedly deceiving the market. The result has been decades of productivity losses that negatively impact the rest of the world’s economy and distract humanity away from technical achievement to instead fiddle with shoddy software that is weak because it was developed outside of competitive pressure.

The other result is that one of the richest companies in the world is falling apart for the same reason the Soviet Union did: both attempted to develop power and influence by restricting ideas and forcing adoption. Those restrictions worked in the short term; the USSR roughly maintained and sometimes exceeded the technological capacity of the West across three decades, just as Microsoft briefly eclipsed independent development in a variety of areas.

However, the iron fist of resistance to outside ideas was as destructive to the USSR as the inbreeding of royalty was to Europe’s empire nations before it. Microsoft is facing the same failure by arrogantly pushing old strategies and ignoring the potential of open source. Microsoft’s anti-open rhetoric even sounds a lot like the Soviet’s view of free markets, laced with fear-based propaganda that promises dire consequences for experimenting with the open source ideas that are already proven to work outside of the Red Square of Redmond.

The Hot New Cold War.
As the USSR’s failure to maintain parity with the West became increasingly obvious, a conservative American movement launched in the early 80s alongside President Ronald Regan increasingly claimed credit for winning the Cold War. It fought battles of little consequence in Nicaragua and invested billions in Star Wars technologies theoretically intended to shoot down incoming missiles. Neither did anything to really accelerate the demise of the USSR and its network of satellite nations behind the Iron Curtain.

In the same way, companies such as Netscape and Sun launched ineffectual wars of rhetoric against Microsoft’s monopoly, but ended up doing very little to actually challenge its dominance.

What really destroyed the USSR was the rapid advancement of technology developed within the fires of cooperative competition among Western nations. The Soviets had brilliant scientists and researchers, but they couldn’t outmaneuver the efforts of thousands of individual companies, whose efforts were being selected by merit in a free market by millions of consumers.

Individual Western companies would have found it extremely difficult to compete against the vast resources of the Soviet Bloc. Similarly, many of the individual companies that launched into direct competition with Microsoft failed. Working collectively and in competition however, Western companies exponentially outpaced development of the USSR. This type of collective competition will also be the undoing of Microsoft.

After the failed ashes of Netscape were formed into the Mozilla open source project, it grew under the support of a number of companies to become Firefox and rival Microsoft’s domination of the web browser market. Parallel efforts by Opera and KHTML/Safari have cooperated and competed with Firefox to offer an even stronger standards-based challenge to Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. That threat induced Microsoft to ship IE7 after years of leaving the web browser to stagnate, and has more recently forced it to exempt users from installing its Windows Genuine Advantage compliance/spyware system in order to download it.

Apple in the Web Browser Wars: Netscape vs Internet Explorer
The Web Browser Renaissance: Firefox and Safari
The Future of the Web: Safari, Firefox and Internet Explorer

Winning By Merit.
Throughout the first half of the 90s, Apple offered ineffectual competition against Microsoft because it was developing all of its own technology just like Microsoft, while lacking the same access to resources that Microsoft had. When Apple began incorporating an infusion of open source technologies in the second half of the 90s, it broadened its ability to compete by leveraging the work already done elsewhere.

Microsoft’s refusal to participate in open development and its vilification of open source signal that the company still doesn’t understand what is happening in the world around it. Having established itself as an enemy of open development, it now faces the embarrassing prospect of being beaten by open companies while being unable to open itself to change, its only real recourse.

At some point, Microsoft will have to reorganize itself in a way that opens the door to open development and exposes itself to competition. Doing so will require the company to give up its buffer zone of comfort provided by its satellite bloc of competitive barriers, to disband its astroturf misinformation and propaganda ministries that underhandedly function like the KGB, and to participate in the global economy by dialing down its doomsday clock and ambitions to rule the world using the technology from previous decades.

iPod vs Zune: Microsoft’s Slippery Astroturf

Microsoft’s May Day Parade.
Instead, what Microsoft is actually doing is falsely proclaiming victory across its failing businesses in a way that looks a lot like a Soviet May Day parade: lots of impressive tanks that rumble past the harsh reality of a starving populace.

Just within this year, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer proclaimed in January that his Zune music player had grabbed 20 to 25% of the market within a few months of being on sale, despite knowing that the company hadn’t sold any significant amount. The Soviet looking player got shipped to 30,000 stores, but nobody bought any until the price was dropped in a fire sale clearance sale ten months later. Microsoft then tried to stoke the story that its bargain bin sales were indicative of high demand for its Zune products.

Facing the conundrum of selling PlaysForSure DRM that doesn’t play on its own Zune product, and vice versa, Microsoft has now rebranded PlaysForSure DRM as “Certified for Windows Vista,” using the same logo it uses for Zune DRM content. This muddies the waters to confuse customers so they lose sight of the fact that Microsoft is selling two artificially incompatible DRM formats, and further suggests Vista as a solution, when nothing in Vista helps sort this problem out at all.

Why Microsoft’s Zune is Still Failing
Winter 2007 Buyer’s Guide: Microsoft Zune 8 vs iPod Nano
Microsoft Re-Brands PlaysForSure — DRM — InformationWeek

Ballmer also mocked the iPhone for being the “most expensive phone in the world” while in reality, his own Windows Mobile phones all cost significantly more to own. He also suggested that Microsoft had or would soon claim 60 to 80% of the market for smartphones but that Apple would be lucky to get 2%. In reality, Windows Mobile had a worldwide market share close to 6% at the time. After just one full quarter of sales in the US, Apple has already outpaced Microsoft in US mobile market share, which is the largest regional market for Windows Mobile by far. As Apple rolls out the iPhone globally, Microsoft’s efforts will look increasingly weak.

10 FAS: 1 - iPhone Price and Profits vs Nokia, LG, HTC, RIM, Palm

iPhone Price and Profits vs Nokia, LG, HTC, RIM, Palm
iPhone Grabs 27% of US Smartphone Market

Microsoft has also laughed off competition from Apple on Windows desktops, but the Mac maker has since surpassed Dell and HP in valuation because Apple’s sales are growing several times faster than its PC rivals. Apple’s laptops scored a major jump among consumers throughout the year, but Mac desktops are now seeing similar growth. Changewave is also pointing to forward looking plans by both consumers and corporate buyers that indicate a significant rise in plans to buy new Apple hardware.

Among consumers, Changewave found that expectations to buy new Apple systems had interest in both HP (21%) and Dell (28%) in laptops and beat HP (24%) and approached Dell (31%) in desktops. Just a year ago, Dell exceeded 40% of the vote in both categories, while Apple lagged at 11 to 16%. Apple is also up significantly in corporate purchasing plans, jumping from 2% to a 6 to 7% share of future plans, but still lags behind Dell and HP. Following its blockbuster year of 2007, those plans suggest that Apple is just getting started in its market share expansion.

 Assets Alliance Reports Pc 20071203 Chart1

Apple Macs: Dominant PC Story of 2008 – ChangeWave

Fueling that growth in part is Apple’s strong showing with Mac OS X, recently upgraded to the Leopard reference release. Reviews of Leopard have been stellar. Despite the usual efforts needed to migrate to a new system, the new update has suffered none of the show stopping problems of the year old Windows Vista, which has been plagued with poor sales and consumer resistance. Pundit’s efforts to tar and feather Leopard with Vista’s problems have been vigilant, but ineffectual.

 Wp-Content Uploads 2007 11 Leopard.Vs.Vista.016

Ten Myths of Leopard: 10 Leopard is a Vista Knockoff!

In desktop applications, Microsoft has tight control over Office, but this year was forced to announce a reduction in the entry price on the Mac side from $300 to $150 in order to compete against Apple’s new $79 iWork 08. Within just weeks of being on sale, iWork 08 has captured 16% of the Mac market. On the Windows side, the lack of any strong competition has kept Office 2007 expensive and unrivaled in overwhelming market share. That lack of competition has also resulted in no new updates for Office for a three to four year period.

Microsoft’s Outrageous Office Profits

Microsoft also likes to talk about its position in digital media. It is vigorously pushing its Windows Media/VC-1 in HD-DVD and its Xbox Live online video download store. However, the reality is that HD-DVD only has any support because Microsoft and Toshiba are propping the failure up by paying one studio to exclusively support it: Paramount (which also owns Dreamworks). The agreement excluded Steven Spielberg films, but not those by director Michael Bay, who has expressed fervent disapproval of the ploy, because it will result in putting a damper on HD sales of his blockbuster CGI movies such as “Transformers.”

Blu-ray vs HD-DVD in Next Generation Game Consoles

Among downloads, Microsoft’s online TV and movie business with Xbox Live isn’t significant enough to be counted among the top 99% of sales. That comes despite the fact that Microsoft maintains monopoly control over the PC market and can ship its media player software on all new PCs. When free market choice is involved, Microsoft frequently can’t win even with a huge head start.

Apple TV Digital Disruption at Work: iTunes Takes 91% of Video Download Market
Should Apple TV Copy Tivo and Media Center?

The Xbox 360 entered the market with a year long lead over rival new consoles from Sony and Nintendo. Despite using a strategy that flooded the market with unsold inventory and then advertised a huge margin in its installed base, Nintendo outsold the 360 within months, and Sony has outsold the 360 in every market outside the US. Even in the US, Sony’s Playstation 3 has achieved first year sales that compare to Microsoft’s.

In its rush to create the appearance that it controlled the gaming market, Microsoft ended up rolling out hardware with significant heat issues that resulted in a billion dollar Red Ring of Death recall. Gamers also complain about the noise of its disc player and its penchant for scratching up media.

Nintendo Wii vs Sony PlayStation 3 vs Microsoft Xbox 360: Q2 2007
PlayStation 3 vs. Xbox 360 vs. Nintendo Wii

The consumer market is voting against Microsoft’s products everywhere it has a choice. The result is that stock market is also voting against Microsoft’s future, leaving its stock flat over the last half decade. The conservative Dow Jones Index has outpaced Microsoft’s stock by a factor of two; Apple has outpaced Microsoft’s valuation increase by a factor of 100 over the same period. (click to expand)

MSFT APPL Dow Jones

The Floodgates of Competition.
While the USSR struggled to maintain the appearance of parity with the West in terms of flashy technology, it left its citizens unsupported and unfed. Similarly, while Microsoft can throw out clever impersonations of the Apple iPod, Google search, Adobe Flash and PDF, MPEG video, the Apache web server, and other leading products, it’s sticking its core customer base with old software, high prices, and unsolved problems such as security concerns, malware, and instability.

Once the people of the former Soviet Union gained access to Western goods refined by a competitive marketplace, they increasingly sought more independence and more competition. Microsoft still has yet to suffer the full brunt of competitive efforts currently tearing down its walls.

For example, Apple’s Mac desktops are competing against Windows hegemony and challenging the idea that homogeneous desktop solidarity is the only way to deliver software to the people. As Apple pioneers successful independence from Windows, other competitors with less marketing clout will also be able to make inroads to compete against Windows.

Once the competitive barrier cracks, alternative desktops and appliances running Linux or BSD will rapidly eat into the volume of Microsoft’s Windows PC empire, offering far lower prices for basic computers that browse the web and email. That will in turn destroy the market for Office for Windows, replacing it with a common office document format that can be read by any vendor’s software, just as the web and emails can be accessed by any browser and mail client.

Like the old Soviet hard line, Microsoft will initially respond with tanks and more barbed wire to contain its losses, as it did when attempting to stifle development of the XO laptop for children in developing countries, or in threatening open source developers with patent lawsuits, or its attempts to pad standards committees with paid votes to declare its ambiguous and interoperability-resistant OOXML Office format as the lingua franca of business for the next decade.

At some point however, Microsoft will be forced to face the reality that it can’t contain its citizens behind its walls forever, and that resistance to free and open markets is futile. The process will be painful for Microsoft’s users, who will face coping with a rapid upgrade of technology. For independent spectators, watching Microsoft’s hard liners fall will be a mixture of long awaited celebration and a new era of optimism in the future of free and open technology markets.

Microsoft's Unwinnable War on Linux and Open Source

Microsoft’s Unwinnable War on Linux and Open Source

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90 comments

1 Windows Vista News { 12.13.07 at 6:00 am }

Soviet Microsoft: How Resistance to Free Markets and Open Ideas ……

Did you see the post at http://www.roughlydrafted.com...

2 Michael Vasovski { 12.13.07 at 6:28 am }

An excellent article that ‘just makes sense’, kinda like my guy, Ron Paul!

I really enjoyed the insight. It doesn’t take a lot of foresight to know that this future is screaming, like a freight train, toward the Voles. *I’m also an Inq reader, as I’m sure you can tell.

Painful as it may be, there’s a beauty in watching the market evolve into its ever-different forms. Maybe jobs will be lost. But that talent will find new homes, in whoever comes along to replace their former boss. Who knows? They may even become bosses themselves. And that’s the amazing thing about. You make your own choices. No one decides for you.

Keep up the good work.

3 Rich { 12.13.07 at 7:58 am }

I think attacking Microsoft for not being open is a very dangerous game. Let’s look at Apple:

Software: OS X comes bundled with as many apps as Microsoft Windows. Apparently bundling Windows Media Player is monopolistic but bundling iTunes is not. The same goes for Internet Explorer/Safari. If Apple enjoyed 90%+ desktop OS market share then it would have been hit with just as much anti-monopoly legal action as Microsoft.

Hardware: PCs have fallen in price because of the competition between hardware vendors. It’s one of the main reasons why Apple moved to Intel. Yet Apple still refuses to license OS X to other hardware manufacturers.

iPod: A recent iPod firmware update broke the iPod’s compatibility with the Xbox 360. There is also the issue of Apple not licensing its DRM technology to 3rd parties, thus keeping users locked into the iTunes/iPod combination. Games and third party software are also tightly restricted.

iPhone: The iPhone is locked down to one carrier and Apple keep breaking people’s attempts to unlock it. There’s currently no SDK and the up-coming SDK is likely to be very restricted.

Yet despite this lack of openness, I still own a lot of Apple hardware. Going down the open route is not always the best solution. Being closed sometimes gives a better user experience.

You’re spot on about Internet Explorer though. It was shelfware until Firefox gave it some real competition. A lack of competition leads to a lack of innovation.

However, your tirade against the Xbox 360 is misplaced. Let’s remember that the PS2 constantly outsold the Xbox 6:1 through-out its lifetime. Now the PS3 is struggling to match the Xbox 360′s figures. That’s a pretty remarkable turn-around that no-one would have predicted three years ago. In terms of games sold (a good indication of whether a console is actually be used), the Xbox 360 is way ahead of the Wii and PS3. 12 million people have bought an Xbox 360 and it’s obvious that Xbox 360 users keep coming back for more.

4 John Muir { 12.13.07 at 8:51 am }

A great article, tying together many threads into a cohesive and surprisingly apt narrative. I was expecting a section on the enterprise being Microsoft’s core, where literally millions of sales are chosen right over their users heads by a handful of people: just like in the Soviet Union. It’s that nut which will be the toughest to crack, and very likely Microsoft’s last stand in the years ahead.

@ Rich

You must be new here. Have a read at the articles on “iPod / iTunes vendor lock” and the like. You might even want to read Steve Jobs’ own essay on why Apple doesn’t “share” its DRM, and is in fact openly campaigning to kill it when the record labels agree!

5 Steve Nagel { 12.13.07 at 10:41 am }

Rich, I agree with John. Take a look at the articles Daniel has developed over the last couple years. You might be in for a shock.

6 Les { 12.13.07 at 11:08 am }

IMO free markets, like democracy, are the least bad of all the current bad alternatives. They’re by no means perfect and will in most cases lead to a short term focus and a lot of waste.

As for open source, it’s pretty damn close to communist (or socialist) ideals. Rather more than the perverted party dictatorship in the Soviet Union ever was.

7 Jetpack { 12.13.07 at 11:52 am }

@Rich

“Apparently bundling Windows Media Player is monopolistic but bundling iTunes is not. The same goes for Internet Explorer/Safari. If Apple enjoyed 90%+ desktop OS market share then it would have been hit with just as much anti-monopoly legal action as Microsoft.”

You’ve made the point and counter point in the same paragraph. If Apple had 90% market share they’d be hit with anti-trust suits just like MS. Since they don’t there’s no argument here.

“Hardware: PCs have fallen in price because of the competition between hardware vendors. It’s one of the main reasons why Apple moved to Intel. Yet Apple still refuses to license OS X to other hardware manufacturers.”

Actually Apple moved to Intel because Intel outpaced PPC advancements. Prior to the switch, PPC was ahead of Intel processors for a long time. Prior to PPC, Motorola was kicking Intel’s ass in processors. Then Apple, IBM, and Motorola developed PPC which kicked Intel’s ass for another decade, until Apple’s partners decided it wasn’t worth developing PPC at the same pace that Intel began advancing.

“iPod: A recent iPod firmware update broke the iPod’s compatibility with the Xbox 360.”

Don’t know anything about that. I’d expect Microsoft to want to break compatibility more than Apple though (buy our Zunes!!!). :-)

“There is also the issue of Apple not licensing its DRM technology to 3rd parties, thus keeping users locked into the iTunes/iPod combination. Games and third party software are also tightly restricted.”

Read about the DRM issue. From what I remember it’s the labels that don’t want to license the DRM, not Apple (Apple doesn’t even want to have DRM). I think Daniel covered everything you’re saying (up to the iPhone) in other articles.

The X-Box is an interesting issue. It has been losing money until the 360 came out, at which point I believe they made a small profit during one quarter (compared to what they lost on the whole ordeal over the years). It’s probably the first MS product in the last decade (other than Windows/Office) to be profitable at all.

8 Jetpack { 12.13.07 at 12:01 pm }

Oh and I forgot one more thing:

“Yet Apple still refuses to license OS X to other hardware manufacturers”

There’s no reason at all for Apple to do this. It would literally kill the company. The business model of licensing an OS to a hardware company is dying. Operating Systems are going to become a commodity in the future (if it hasn’t already happened). Linux is free (and low end PC makers are taking advantage of that, look up the $200 gOS computer), OS X costs a negligible amount compared to Windows.

There are also other reasons why Apple shouldn’t license OS X to other companies. For instance, one of the main selling points of Macs is OS X and the tight integration between the OS and the hardware. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but one of the biggest issues in Vista has been the huge amount of hardware incompatibility problems. Drivers that don’t work or aren’t compatible. That’s one reason people are staying with XP.

Finally, not licensing OS X doesn’t mean Apple isn’t open. Darwin — the core of OS X that’s based on NeXT/BSD is open source.

9 Robb { 12.13.07 at 12:33 pm }

Good points, except the attack on the Xbox 360 seems to be used with only half the story. Sony has been struggling to sell the PS3 everywhere (the 360 even outsold the PS3 for one month in Japan this year) and had to prop us sales by re-issuing the PS2 and to slash prices to compete with the Wii.

It’s not terribly different from the story with the Zune, but we have no problem saying that’s astroturfing.

10 tmay { 12.13.07 at 1:04 pm }

You are no Paul Krugman.

The problem with free markets, if there are any, is that they are prone to instability, and even minimally regulated markets can and do bust and require a and government bailout (witness the housing crisis).

Microsoft grew fat on a monopolistic market, and have been minimally punished for it. But in protecting that market, they have let a more agile adversary develop and exploit the more profitable niches.

I would argue that Apple’s success is directly tied to DRM. Were it not for DRM, Apple would not have been in a position to exploit their particular instance of an mp3 player. They did, putting together all of the pieces including itunes and the itunes store.

MP3 players are now in a mature phase of the market, and Apple is exploiting additional functionality in the iPhone. This time around though, I see that the telecoms have responded much earlier, and Apple will undoubtedly see less success than in the MP3 market.

I would as well assume that Apple will ultimately have a lesser impact on the video download market as the barrier to entry is fairly minimal and individual studios still have control of the content. They now see Apple as a threat, and will make plans accordingly.

I recall that Dell was a behemoth based on their instance of a business model and a supply chain. Recently, that business model has become the standard for all of the players, and Dell lost considerable market share. Now Dell has added retail to its business model, hoping to revive its fortunes with innovation, and their own exploitation of the game market (Alienware).

Apple’s business model is as well being copied, and innovation and industrial design are now standard practices in consumer products. Apple’s continued innovation is no quarantee of future success, but lack thereof will surely lead to its decline, and all its competitors are aware of this.

One should note that Vladimir Putin was reelected, probably not transparently, with votes of a people that were grossly abused by Capitalism’s worst in the 90′s. I would argue that these same people are quite a bit happier to have a little authoritarianism on top of their little “c” capitalism. Distribution of newly found oil wealth probably doesn’t hurt.

11 Rich { 12.13.07 at 1:17 pm }

@most people :)
I read the articles on *why* Apple have gone down a closed path and I don’t disagree with any of the conclusions. I’m just pointing out that Apple are just as closed as Microsoft, if not more-so. It seems silly to berate one company for being closed whilst praising/excusing another company for the same thing.

Don’t you agree?

12 gus2000 { 12.13.07 at 1:21 pm }

Great article, Dan. Remember when Regan said “Mr. Gates, tear down that wall!” Or something like that.

It looks like this article has attracted the kooks (“happier to have a little authoritarianism”??!?) so the next article should be “Why Apple ISN’T A Communist Bloc Company”.

13 tmay { 12.13.07 at 2:05 pm }

Gus,

It’s “Reagan” not “Regan” though there was a Donald “Regan” who was chosen by “Reagan” for his Treasury Secretary.

Don’t think that I merit “kook” status for basically stating the current case in Russia. You might want to read a bit on current events. Maybe a bit on history as well.

I would make the same argument that the people of the United States are quite willing to put up with a bit of an authoritarian goverment (you know, the war on terra’, blacklisting, witch hunts) in the (mistaken) believe that it will enhance their security. Kind of a common theme throughout world history, so nothing new there.

Funny how the eminent Sovietologist Condileesa Rice missed predicting that whole Berlin Wall thing. But, hey, look at her track record since!

As for Apple, they have and should continue to be agile, much the press will be unforgiving of failure.

14 tmay { 12.13.07 at 2:27 pm }

Gus,

BTW, I forgot to mention that Putin leads the United Russia Party, not the Communist Party. His had something in the neighborhood of 65% of the vote versus 11% for the Communist Party.

from MSNBC:

“In Berlin, government spokesman Thomas Steg said Germany considered Russia’s vote neither fair nor free, adding that the country could not be considered a democracy.

The Bush administration and Britain’s Foreign Office urged Russian authorities to probe alleged voting irregularities.

“In the run-up to election day, we expressed our concern regarding the use of state administrative resources in support of United Russia, the bias of the state-owned or -influenced media in favor of United Russia, intimidation of political opposition, and the lack of equal opportunity encountered by opposition candidates and parties,” said Gordon Johndroe, spokesman for the U.S. National Security Council.”

Definition of Irony: see above.

15 John Muir { 12.13.07 at 2:29 pm }

@ tmay

On your Putin point: I strongly recommend the recent documentary “The Trap” by Adam Curtis which covers the parallels in rushed free market creation in Russia in the 90′s and Iraq since 2003, and might lend an alternate light on your view that Russians just like an iron fist. Alas, since it was made for the (tax subsidised) BBC it may well be nigh on impossible for you to find it!

I do love the BBC really: for their documentaries and news. But whenever they touch technology, they seem to have the most appalling instincts. PERL on Rails??? Yes, that’s one of theirs. As is tje Windows Media DRM powered “iPlayer” experiment.

@ Rich (again)

Right, let’s just have a quick run through the DRM differences between MS and Apple…

MS: Windows Genuine Advantage “anti-piracy” (yet ineffective) spyware / nagware which went down at the server side recently … inconveniencing millions.

Apple: OS X doesn’t even have a serial number when you install it. (Though OS X Server does, but still no WGA and just check out how much cheaper it is per client.)

MS: exploding Windows Media DRM, in TWO ENTIRELY INCOMPATIBLE versions to differentiate the Zune, thrown on your own content when you “squirt” it at other Zune users whether you like it or not … pretty galling

Apple: one single DRM system, no exploding content, absent from the VAST majority of most iTunes users files, and the CEO is openly critical of DRM’s future prospects

There’s a meme out there that the iPod and iTunes only exist to “tie” people into Apple’s FairPlay DRM system, but Daniel’s already taken that one out to the trash numerous times. Apple have DRM now because of the record major’s insistence and the need to market content which IS NOT Windows Media restricted. CD’s make the overwhelming majority of everyone’s libraries and still top the sales, but Apple essentially made the safe choice in countering a problem which was long in the making and could have gone the other way.

Hell, if I were a greedy Label CEO I’d have met with the other three chiefs of the cartel and made DRM-free CD’s history by now! It was just that Windows Media DRM future Apple was reacting against. Phase two comes when more labels join in with EMI and go DRM free, which it’s increasingly clear is the inevitable future.

That so many go on about Apple being closed, as a way to justify Microsoft’s many dodgy steps, is one of the principal themes of RoughlyDrafted. Don’t mistake your choice between Dell / HP and homebrew labels on your Vista box as true freedom!

16 danieleran { 12.13.07 at 3:14 pm }

@Rich

You are right that “OS X comes bundled with as many apps as Microsoft Windows.” The reason why “bundling Windows Media Player is monopolistic but bundling iTunes is not. The same goes for Internet Explorer/Safari” is not just that Microsoft owns +90% of the desktop but primarily because Microsoft has exclusive licensing deals with every PC hardware maker that prevent any sort of competition within the PC market.

The market in “PC market” suggests there is a market, not a monopoly. There is no similar “market” among Apple’s Mac hardware, among BMWs, among the Sony Walkman, or within any other brand of something. Sony had overwhelming market share in the 80s, but nobody said it had a monopoly on cassette players. Anyone could choose a Panasonic cassette tape player or one of any other of lots of brands that were easy to buy. Sony could add Bass Boost or any other feature to its Walkman with impunity, even if it had 99% market share, because it had no control over competition.

Microsoft does exert control over any competitors. If it sold MS PCs, and owned a 99% share of the market because they were the desirable brand everyone wanted, but Dell and HP and Apple could compete against them, there would not really be a monopoly. But Microsoft set up a collusion of agreements that prevent competitive markets from developing. Windows isn’t the hot brand to buy, its a default non-choice that prevents further choice and competition in the market.

There is no other reason why Linux isn’t being sold on any significant number of PCs. If Dell sells and advertises Linux PCs outside of the very narrow “hobbyist” guidelines Microsoft has decreed, it has to pay millions more to license Windows on its other PCs, which would eat away its razor thin profit margins and prevent it from competing against HP. The high retail price of Windows, which as only ever gone up, from $99 to now ~$400 for Ultimate, is exactly what could be expected of a market with no competition.

I didn’t really address examples of Microsoft not opening up or giving away its technology, but rather focused on being closed to outside ideas. Those two ideas are different. Microsoft, like the Soviets, was closed to certain outside ideas. Of course, both readily stole outside ideas, but the point I was making was that both decreed that open markets and free speech were the enemy of their core system, and were then faced with the problem of being unable to benefit from the kinds of freedoms that promoted new ideas and innovation in the West.

The West did not give away all of its technology, nor does Apple, nor does the GPL. In fact, unless you violate its license, the GPL does not allow you to do a variety of things. I’m not arguing that Microsoft give up its proprietary tech, I’m saying it will fall for being resistant to change and due to being soft from a lack of competition.

As for the Xbox, remember that Sony’s PS2 flopped its first year, not due to disinterest, but because Sony had supply problems. The Xbox wasn’t around then, and didn’t come out until the PS2 had recovered. The PS2 continued to outsell the Xbox and even outsold the 360 all of its first year (2005-2006), making more money all the while. The PS3 has sold better out of the gate than the PS2 did in its first year (PS2: 6m in 1 year; PS3 6m in ~5 months).

Apple has closed tech just like every other company; however, it has–particularly since the NeXT infusion–embraced OSS development in both directions. Safari is open and contributing greatly toward making KHTML the best mobile browser (which is why Nokia uses it too); Calendar Server is a big new and valuable project Apple gave away as an Apache project (that is huge); iTunes/QuickTime migrated away from proprietary codecs like Sorensen to align behind openly interoperable MPEG standards; I could keep going.

@Les
Microsoft calls Open Source a cancer and communist, but only when it is competing against the company. Microsoft happily took its network code for NT from BSD. It is now dialing up the rhetoric against FOSS into an argument that is silly and hypocritical. For the record, Bill Gates made the same turn around on software patents, proclaiming in 1991 that they prevented progress, while now that he has patents, saying that Linux is infringing and threatening to sue developers who don’t pay extortion money for patented concepts. As Richard Stallman noted:

http://www.news.com/Bill-Gates-and-other-communists/2010-1071_3-5576230.html

For the record, I wasn’t calling Microsoft communist (because it really isn’t of course) but rather comparing it with the Soviets, because it does mimic the same type of closed, resistant system based on misinformation. It can’t deliver, and a bit of a crack opening things up, and the whole system will fall apart. Microsoft’s 2000s have been the Soviet’s 80s, so the 2010s should look like the USSR’s 90s.

There is really nothing “communist” about cooperative efforts within an open economy. Shared ideas are the foundation of technical and industrial progress of the West, and the original intended goal of copyright: ie, granting a limited period of exclusive use IN ORDER TO get investors to publicly share and document their inventions. Intellectual Property has since turned into a river with too many robber barrons to support effective trade and competition.

The idea of communal sharing is also a part of Christianity and other Western ideas, it’s just that forcing it to function as a replacement to an open economy as part of a political experiment has been repeatedly proven to be unworkable.

17 gothgod { 12.13.07 at 5:20 pm }

Oh, you are so far off the mark this time! I like these articles and I have read most of them, sometimes they are intelligent, sometimes fun and sometimes both. This time however you simply don’t know what you’re talking about. The parts about computers are fine I guess, but the connections to politics are definitely not.

First there is no free market. There never has been, never will be. Stop talking about it. If it were, corporations like microsoft could never exist in the first place (and its plain that you know this very well). The markets that exists are closed, either in regard of information (the consumers can’t know anything to make an informed choice) or it is simply owned by a few companies dividing the market among itself. Sometimes the market is given to certain companies by law (as in the soviet union), there are several options to a market but not any free ones.

Secondly there is no market that could be “insuring the health of the populace, educating children, transporting people and goods effectively, and looking after the welfare of the weak and less fortunate”. If you have one single example of this, and not resorting to american indoctrination, I would really want to know about it. There have been several attempts of this, that all has failed miserably. Maintenance, in all its forms, simply isn’t handled well by the market, and thus must be stately funded. Look at the healthcare systems and maintenance of roads in the worlds as two good examples. (I know few people agree with me here, but it would take too much of both your and my time to try to explain and get into details, but this stuff is not hard to find out about if you want to)
Now I dont say that the healthcare system of the USSR was a shiny example, just that the free market won’t solve all your problems (well, perhaps it would. If it existed.)

Thirdly what exactly do you mean by “battles of little consequence in Nicaragua”? It spread a lot of serious FUD in a lot of US citizens (in the real sense of the words, and not Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt regarding some consumer product as usually used by this site). Without these constant “wars of little consequence” that the US are committing, do you think that the US would look the same today? Do you think that if US citizens were not afraid of everything else they would allow their country to start wars? Would they allow attacks on Irak and the upcoming one on Iran? And a lot of innocent people were killed just because reagan liked killing (or why was it that the war was started)? Is that of no consequence?

Number four. “What really destroyed the USSR”… Are you serious with this? I feel so far away from you right now that I don’t know what to say. But let me give you a hint. They did not feel like “oh, their companies are better than ours. Let’s just abandon hope!” It was a power struggle were the people started a revolution against its oppressive, violent and totalitarian government. Totalitarians usually don’t give up if they don’t have to.

Five. “Once the people of the former Soviet Union gained access to Western goods refined by a competitive marketplace, they increasingly sought more independence and more competition” -I just hope you don’t mean that seriously.

Conclusion. Stick to the computers (for now at least), that’s something you know a great deal about and that you write well about. If you want to get into politics… Take a look at onebigtorrent.org they have a lot of good stuff, mostly things I disagree on but a lot of good stuff.

18 nat { 12.13.07 at 7:09 pm }

gothgod said:
“[Daniel] you simply don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Perhaps you simply don’t know what he’s talking about. Why make personal attacks like that against people you don’t even know?

gothgod said:
“First there is no free market. There never has been, never will be. Stop talking about it.”
So, all iPods are being bought by people with guns to their heads? Those people driving those…cars…are doing so because someone (or worse, something) is forcing them to? The reason a company like Microsoft exists is because of an initial lack of competition (the stagnating Apple of the past) and then their use of anti-competitive OEM licensing deals with PC vendors, and then their current assault on open standards/creation of MS “standards” that tie users to Windows, which holds a monopolistic position. There IS a free market.

gothgod said:
“Thirdly what exactly do you mean by “battles of little consequence in Nicaragua”? It spread a lot of serious FUD in a lot of US citizens (in the real sense of the words, and not Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt regarding some consumer product as usually used by this site). Without these constant “wars of little consequence” that the US are committing, do you think that the US would look the same today? Do you think that if US citizens were not afraid of everything else they would allow their country to start wars? Would they allow attacks on Irak and the upcoming one on Iran? And a lot of innocent people were killed just because reagan liked killing (or why was it that the war was started)? Is that of no consequence?”
You’re taking this too emotionally. What Daniel meant was that these wars had no affect on the downfall of the USSR. Reagan (and his fans) loved the idea that he brought down the Iron Curtain, but it was those people oppressed there and the anti-open USSR that ended cut the Curtain.

gothgod said:
“Number four. “What really destroyed the USSR”… Are you serious with this? I feel so far away from you right now that I don’t know what to say. But let me give you a hint. They did not feel like “oh, their companies are better than ours. Let’s just abandon hope!” It was a power struggle were the people started a revolution against its oppressive, violent and totalitarian government. Totalitarians usually don’t give up if they don’t have to.”
What was the point of your third question? You answered it yourself in your fourth?

You felt “so far away” from Daniel? I’m guessing the feeling’s mutual.

19 John Muir { 12.13.07 at 7:56 pm }

@ gothgod

While reading your post, first I thought you were an insulted communist, then a libertarian, then I just wondered what the hell you were on about. But that’s politics!

1. What effect do you think the internet is having? It is HUGE. Compare the publically visible wobbles MS is suffering while trying to hold on to its 1980′s monopoly while under assault from *free speech* instead of the easily bought tech media of the trade mags of old. And guess what: we ain’t seen nothing yet.

2. Do many families starve on the street where you live? I know it’s a bit more harsh in America, but in Europe we have this thing called social democracy which although some of us aren’t completely enamoured with it (myself included) does a fairly good job of balancing the greater good with personal freedom. It’s not communism and it’s not the hypothetical pristine cut throat capitalism you may well be on about. And in actual fact it’s variations on this
theme which exist in every democracy, everywhere.

3. Daniel was making sure not to stumble into the conservative cliche that Reagan personally defeated the USSR. Contra and Afghanistan were certainly not what did for Moscow, and I think you agree there.

4. A coup d’état killed the USSR. Remember the little putsch when the generals held Gorbachev hostage in his summer home while Boris Yeltsin seized the opening their ineptitude had created in Moscow? It was certainly a chaotic moment but “revolution”. The events in Poland, Czechoslovakia and Berlin came a lot closer to that but only because of the wobble Daniel wrote about, in large part thanks to Gorbachev being too optimistic about just what reform could do while the Soviet Union still existed.

5. Back when Yeltsin’s administration hadn’t privatised everything in site to his drinking buddies and proven themselves ludicrously incompetent *quite yet*, there certainly was a lot of optimism and astonishment with the new wealth exposed in the west. This was a lasting effect outside of Yeltsin’s Russia: observe Havel’s Czech Republic and the fact that so much of the Warsaw Pact is now in the very bourgeois European Union, enthusiastic, and out competing western Europe in many ways. Russia’s particular problems after 1991 are not a valid argument against the end of communism, just look further west.

Conclusion: maybe we should all stick to tech writing!

20 UrbanBard { 12.13.07 at 8:50 pm }

Too much, Daniel. That is too much to prove. It would take me a dozen pages to unwind all the contentions. Even so, I found myself nodding along until about a third way through the article. Then, you started repeating the arguments of Leftist academics and wordsmiths designed to deny Conservatives credit for the fall of the Soviet Union.

Gorbachev disagrees with you, by the way. He gives a great deal of credit to President Reagan. But, it was also true that the internal contradictions of the Soviet Union caught up with it. The people had lost faith in the promised paradise to come and had stopped working. The Joke that went around was, “We pretend to work and the government pretends to pay us.” Everyone got their real money from stealing and selling on the black market. The Soviet Union was “eating the Seed Corn.”

The other part you nailed. After President Carter’s “Stagflation,” the business market changed. Both business and labor were forced to be competitive. The Soviets could not compete.

The worst part of your article, Daniel, was that you had no moral of the story. So, let me give you one. Markets are not perfect; they are often chaotic. They are only free when there is competition. There can be temporary dislocations, such as monopolies, which if the company holding the monopoly exacts monopoly rents will set forces into motion which will undercut the monopoly.

The principle here is that if you do not act in accord with reality; reality will eventually bite you on the ass.

Microsoft did not set up the conditions which gave it a monopoly. The IBM clone manufacturers found MS/Dos, and later Windows, an advantage when competing against other manufacturers. Then, Microsoft tricked everyone into supporting OS/2 before sabotaging it. Microsoft Office became the only business office package that would run reliably on Windows.

Ever since that coup, Microsoft has been fighting a holding action. It’s internal contradictions have been catching up with it. The development of Longhorn and Vista was an embarrassment.

Does Microsoft have a sufficient foundation to improve Vista? I don’t think so. I suspect that hardware developments will catch Microsoft off guard. I believe that Microsoft has become sclerotic. It has not the flexibility to adapt to changing conditions.

Microsoft is backing into its niche market: the Enterprise market. That is a huge market, but a finite one. If Apple can grow the consumer market world wide, then the business market will, eventually, be forced to follow along. Microsoft will be forced into an ever smaller niche.

21 John E { 12.13.07 at 8:52 pm }

well, it’s fun to pose soviet communism as a metaphor for Microsoft. their are some good insights there to riff off of. but honestly, world/economic history of the Cold War Era was a lot more complicated than that, and taking the metaphor dead seriously is going way too far with it.

instead i’d boil it all down to:

Microsoft business strategy is predatory – to destroy viable competition and maintain monopoly any time and any way it can.

Microsoft business goal is control – to dominate users via DRM and OS controls, and maximize what they must pay for everything they do.

whereas i would like to think:

Apple business strategy is seduction – to capture market share via product style and quality.

Apple business goal is empowerment – to enable users to use Apple products as many ways as possible and as a result buy more of them.

of course everyone notes the fundamental difference in their business plans of making money from selling software versus making money from selling hardware.

and being #2 Apple does have to say “we try harder.”

22 kruiningen { 12.13.07 at 9:45 pm }

Thanks for the interesting article, some interesting insights into the mindset of the old guard in Redmond.

@gothgod, I think Daniel can relate his area of speciality (technology) to another (politics) in order to shed some light on the former. It is called analogy. As anyone that does any significant amount of reading can tell you, “analogies only go so far.”

@UrbanBard, JohnE
same thing, it’s an analogy (not a metaphor). As such the similarities are more pertinent to discussion and only insofar as they shed light on the subject; not an exhaustive handling of the mirror, because there will always be areas that grow a little thin around the edges, no matter how good the writer’s imagination and readers will always disagree. Therefore there is much less to prove. I got the point that “markets are only free when there is competition” straightaway from the memorable article and was not helped, but rather confused, by both of your “helpful” explanations. Perhaps it is with good reason that I remain unconvinced from the article about the exact causes of the downfall of the Soviet Union. Sure it doesn’t tell the whole human story, but it isn’t incompatible with it. Once people in the USSR gained access to goods, they could not fail to see the deception and bankruptcy (both economic and ideological) perpetrated by their leaders. I can see the analogy to MS and PC users. Point made. Of course political realities are a little more complex — what’s your point? That if Daniel had added “of course on the Soviet side it’s a little more complex than that” that would have redeemed the whole article?

conclusion for all: a little less deconstruction and reader-centric reading; watch the desire to censure the creative expression of a writer on his own blog for using literary devices to shed light on the technology industry. and don’t be too quick to jump on every phrase and weigh every nuance — unless they come from MS shills who show no imagination with their talking point propaganda ;).

23 Forget the Apple Death Watch! How About a Microsoft Death Watch? | The Mac Night Owl { 12.13.07 at 10:35 pm }

[...] this week I read a fascinating commentary from my friend Daniel Eran Dilger at his RoughlyDrafted site, comparing Microsoft’s efforts at operating system and browser hegemony to the old [...]

24 lightstab { 12.13.07 at 11:12 pm }

I think those of you who are steadily picking apart Daniel’s great thesis are missing the point. You’re taking something that’s supposed to be broad and making it specific and in doing so, you’re missing the big picture.

The analogy to the Soviet Union may not be perfect, but it has loads of similarities that strike at the heart of what’s wrong at Microsoft.

For example, in much the same way that Microsoft stole Windows from Apple, the Soviet Union stole nuclear weapons technology from the United States and rocket technology from Germany. As a result, they became the world leader in space exploration and a threatening superpower. But like Microsoft, they stagnated, steadily losing the space race to the United States.

As a result, the Soviet Union was eventually copying American innovations instead of innovating. So why did this happen? Why did their technology stagnate?

For a very simple reason: The Soviet Union vied for world domination and power instead of satisfying their native population. In contrast, Western private enterprise vied for useful technology and often incorporated many of the technologies that the United States was using to contain communism at every turn. Technology like satellites, which was used for dual purposes such as astronomy, meteorology, map-making and navigation. Nuclear power, which was used for energy. The Arpanet that would become the internet.

As a result, the people of the Soviet Union or the ones that could break through the Soviet propaganda by tuning into freedom radio signal blasting out of Western Europe, they longed for what Westerners had, until their dissatisfaction was enough to erode the Soviet System from the inside.

So in this sense, Microsoft has stagnated much like the Soviet Union stagnated. Why? Because, like the Soviet Union, Microsoft’s innovations evolved from its need to monetize the PC market for its own ends, to grab POWER, rather from the kind of true innovation that springs forth from satisfying consumer need.

25 Stravaign { 12.14.07 at 12:35 am }

Definitely a Zune award to you this time Daniel.

I hardly know where to begin to respond to this inanity. But…

If you stopped thinking of ‘Capitalism’ as the ‘Free Market’ you might start to get your analysis right. As someone else pointed out, there is no such thing as a ‘Free Market’ economy. I really don’t have to explain that.

In your article you make the most bizarre analogy between products such as Microsoft Windows and the Mac OS and other products and two so called different ideological concepts i.e.. the ‘Free Market’ (Capitalism) and so called Soviet style ‘Communism’ i.e.. (State Capitalism).

I have enjoyed your tech writing for over a year now but this article is so fundamentally misinformed that I couldn’t believe the depth of your ignorance, and some of the contributors to the comments page.

This invisible hand of Capitalism, the ‘Free Market’ that you on the one hand champion and then simplistically re-define “a collective of individual human actions that involve conscience. The market is both the world’s democracy and its commune.” is the system that has managed a world in which absolute poverty has grown, not declined, in the last 25 years. 1.3 billion people, more than a fifth of the human race, live in absolute poverty, lacking access to basic necessities such as food and clean drinking water. One-third of the world’s children are undernourished, and 12.2 million of them die before the age of five every year, 95 percent of them from poverty-related illnesses.

Over 400 armed conflicts have occurred since the end of the Second World War. These have caused the deaths of over 20 million people directly and an estimated one and a half million indirectly. Total world military spending stands at around $750 billion a year – equivalent to the annual incomes of the poorest half of the world’s people. And I could go on and on. (I can refer you to the source of this info if you want) but I really shouldn’t need to.

You extol the idea of competition as a virtue. The idea of competition is drummed into us at school. From sports days to quizzes to exams, it’s a matter of competing against others. Not just a question of doing your best but of doing better than other pupils. It’s all good for us, we’re told, it gives us an incentive to improve and it fits us for the wider world of work.

But most of the time we don’t compete with other people; instead, we co-operate with them, working together to achieve our aims. So people may take it in turns to drive on a long car journey, may combine their efforts to tidy up a garden, may share out various household chores etc. Paid employment too would be impossible without co-operating with our work colleagues.

Simply, competition is the carrot that the so called Free Market system encourages, so you and others who buy into it can produce more and make bigger profits.

If you don’t, you get the Stick. And please, for the time being stick to the Tech.

26 Will { 12.14.07 at 5:10 am }

Rich –

‘Yet despite this lack of openness, I still own a lot of Apple hardware. Going down the open route is not always the best solution. Being closed sometimes gives a better user experience.’

Splendid contradiction and I agree heartily!

27 Ephilei { 12.14.07 at 9:57 am }

I agree that the Soviet-Microsoft is appropriate, even if simplified a bit. However, let Mac fans realize that Apple would do no better. Call it Evil or call it Smart, Apple loves the closed system.

28 UrbanBard { 12.14.07 at 1:02 pm }

kruiningen said:
“@UrbanBard, JohnE
As such the similarities are more pertinent to discussion and only insofar as they shed light on the subject; ”

Yes, that was my problem, too. An analogy or a metaphor only works when you compare the known and settled to the unknown. I agreed with Daniel with much of this.

I didn’t think it was an apt metaphor, though.

Daniel thinks that his Liberal politics are proved and settled, when bringing them up merely confuses an issue. If he had been less partisan, so would I.

” I got the point that “markets are only free when there is competition” straightaway from the memorable article and was not helped, but rather confused, by both of your “helpful” explanations. ”

The reason I brought the competition issue up is that Daniel implied that “Free Markets” should be perfect. They are not and don’t have to be. Eventually, corrections set in.

The only way to maintain a monopoly is to NOT exact monopoly rents. Alcoa Aluminum kept over 90% of the market from the 1890′s to World War II when the US government wanted a second source and spent $100 million to set up Reynolds Aluminum. Alcoa kept its market share by dropping aluminum prices as soon as technical improvements warranted it.

Microsoft got its high market share by underhanded methods, but there were strong motives among Microsoft’s Enterprise customers to maintain that monopoly. The reasons for Microsoft’s success are slowly crumbling, but Apple is not engaged in a frontal attack.

“Perhaps it is with good reason that I remain unconvinced from the article about the exact causes of the downfall of the Soviet Union. ”

Success has a thousand fathers; failure is an orphan. It’s hard to define the exact causes of the Soviet Union’s demise, because both internal and external forces were at work. The breakup took the CIA by surprise, but I read about the coming break up several years before from Conservative sources. But, I took them with a grain of salt.

“Once people in the USSR gained access to goods, they could not fail to see the deception and bankruptcy (both economic and ideological) perpetrated by their leaders. ”

I see this more in terms of information flow, rather than goods. The Soviets in the early ’80′s produced a propaganda film showing the poverty of the poor, especially the Blacks, in America.

The problem was that the Russian people saw that even the poor in America had relatively good clothes, uncrowded living conditions, refrigerators, cars and that the poor were fat.

Once doubt was introduced, it was hard to keep information out.

Of course similarly, information is flowing to PC buyers about how good Apple products are. This is overcoming decades of FUD.

” a little less deconstruction and reader-centric reading; watch the desire to censure the creative expression of a writer on his own blog for using literary devices to shed light on the technology industry.”

I agreed where I could. I cast doubt where I could not. I tried to deliver clarity where Daniel muddled things. The point is that these threads are designed to provoke discussion.

Perhaps, I was too sparing in my praise. Daniel, this was an ambitious article. There were parts that I could completely agree with.

29 UrbanBard { 12.14.07 at 1:13 pm }

lightstab, I can agree with most of what you said.

My point was that the Soviet Union failed because it was false. Microsoft will fail for the same reason. That is a much easier metaphor to prove than Daniel’s.

The problem is that Daniel was caught in a bind. He had to confuse the issue. The ideologies which led to the Soviet Union’s demise are also in Daniel’s Liberalism.

30 harrywolf { 12.14.07 at 3:11 pm }

@ GOTHGOD:

sorry, you are quite wrong in your odd Marxist-style revolutionaries-bring-down-Marxist-USSR rap. (?)

The USSR fell because the people of East Germany were artificially trapped by the Soviets, and they just had enough, as they saw their German countrymen in the West living well while they starved.
Ethnicity proved stronger than politics, as usual.

Once that wall had literally collapsed, then the rest of the satellite states saw no reason to prop up the Soviet any longer and old tribal and ethnic alliances came to the fore and Yugoslavia, Hungary, Poland, Czechoslovakia and all the rest said ‘Enough!’.
The power of the EEC had a part to play, too.
Russia should not be confused with the USSR – they are/were two distinct entities.

The analogy that underpins Dan’s superb article (IMHO!) was not strained – its easy to see a connection between M$ and the USSR.
There is no need to try to analyse that connection to the point of absurdity – if we did that with written works, then discussion and debate would disintegrate, and the fun would be lost!

Its not a LITERAL thing – its an analogy, a metaphor. It is flexible in its very nature.

To other points raised:

Is Apple open source? – Well, no, but they are to a small extent, and that small extent has attracted a large number of Unix fans.
M$ is NOT at all. There is a difference.

Perhaps the point is that M$ is without doubt an illegal monopoly (proven in various courts around the world), whereas Apple is a small company that challenges M$ monopoly.

If Apple and various market forces/other co.’s destroyed M$, it is possible that Apple could become an evil Empire too – but that is the free market doing its work – its a wave, it goes up and down.

Is the market truly free? NO, of course not, but for the purposes of writing about it, we have to call it ‘free’. in the sense that it is free, but with all kinds of strange restrictions.
Nothing exists in a vacuum, and even this article and the comments that follow have changed the universe in a small way.

The point is that M$ is NOT innovating, it is protecting its turf – thats natural but not good, like an Ice Storm.

The challenge to its turf will be successful while M$ continues to defend and stifle rather than attack and innovate.
Its a FREE market, so they do have a choice of behaviour!

DAN – if you continue to write such great stuff, you are going to have to list your sources, bibliography etc!
Well done!

31 harrywolf { 12.14.07 at 3:18 pm }

@ URBAN BARD – smart comment – all good.

Didnt see your posts as I am rushing to get to work (in the free market -aaaargh!)

Some good writing and good insight here today.

Most enjoyable!

@ GOTHGOD – thanks for getting the row going – good post, very interesting perspective – got me thinking.

32 Canalys, Symbian: Apple iPhone Already Leads Windows Mobile in US Market Share, Q3 2007 — RoughlyDrafted Magazine { 12.14.07 at 8:00 pm }

[...] ← Soviet Microsoft: How Resistance to Free Markets and Open Ideas Will the Unravel the Software Superp… [...]

33 Morris { 12.14.07 at 9:26 pm }

@John Muir
“I was expecting a section on the enterprise being Microsoft’s core, where literally millions of sales are chosen right over their users heads by a handful of people: just like in the Soviet Union. It’s that nut which will be the toughest to crack, and very likely Microsoft’s last stand in the years ahead.”

I think it’s more likely that these companies will wake up and realize that in buying in cheaper IT staff, they’ve ended up with a load of “me too” morons who only know Microsoft products, and have cost them far far more in the longer term. Enterprises have no commitment to propping up Microsoft, and will jump as soon as they can. (I love Google’s advert – “You don’t get a computer science degree to patch someone else’s software.”)

@All the responses here from people who clearly only know Windows : You were part of the barbed wire fence – brush up on your plumbing, decorating, bricklaying skills, you’re gonna need ‘em – it’s our turn* to feed again ;-)

*The people who are in IT for the love of IT, not for the money.

34 UrbanBard { 12.14.07 at 10:36 pm }

Thanks for the kind words, Harrywolf.

Free versus controlled in markets deals with how much governmental intrusion is involved. Monopolies are short-lived where the government does not interfere to protect them.

Consider this, Microsoft has only had its monopoly since 1995. Most of that time, that was said to be a good thing. It was touted as a reason for why there would be no contender for Microsoft’s reign. “Microsoft is too big to be taken down. People want compatibility, too much,” it was said. Windows was “good enough.”

Now, the Enterprise websites bemoan that Apple doesn’t care about them. Or they make defenses that the Mac operating system isn’t “good enough” for IT.

We insiders can now ask, “how long will this travesty continue?” We can see Microsoft shoot itself in the foot with Vista. We can see potential contenders, such as Linux and Apple, warming up on the sidelines. We can ask why do IT personnel dislike Apple so much.

Once these questions are being asked, the power and influence of a company or political entity is diminished.

There is the Mind-share versus Market-share issue, too. Apple has traditionally had good Mind-share. You would see a disproportionate percentage of Macintosh computers in the movies. You would see the Mac’s desktop placed on the advertisements of competing products, such as Dells or HP’s.

But, there were sufficient reasons to dissuade people from buying though. Buyers would say, “The Mac’s look pretty, but…” Apple has been overcoming that “but” with the move to Intel hardware and BootCamp. Apple’s prices are not much different from other name brands. The “Get a Mac” advertisements may rile the dedicated PC advocates, but the public thinks they are cute and funny.

The borders of Microsoft’s “Evil Empire” are crumbling. Its commissars are in denial or desperate. But the “Berlin Wall” has not been smashed. The “captive peoples” are not in movement, yet.

35 John Muir { 12.15.07 at 9:31 am }

@ Morris

The Enterprise has had plenty of alternatives to Windows available over the years, but has still proven a tough old nut to crack. I fear what really drives that side of the industry is inertia: assumptions, good money after bad, and the old adage “no one ever got fired for choosing IBM”. (Replace with Microsoft where necessary!)

As far as I see it, Windows in the home as well as in the enterprise and everywhere else has one thing going for it: it’s the Default. “You can’t go wrong with Windows.” Everyone else’s stuff will work with you because even on the rare occasion they’re not running it too, you’d better believe the onus of interoperability is on them! So what if viruses and malware plague your systems? That’s just computers for you. So what if no one at any level actually knows what’s going on or can ever fix anything? That’s why we were better off in the old days before all this newfangled flaky nonsense!

Ugh.

Mac users overwhelmingly enjoy their computers and stick with the platform once they’ve arrived. So things are moving in the right direction there. But Apple only choose to compete in any real sense in certain zones of the battle, and Microsoft’s main rival is the chaotic field of Linux when it comes to where Apple doesn’t reach.

Even Microsoft powered web servers are still doing well against the Linux and Apache alternative which should by right have buried them. Which returns me to my central point: the enterprise is not a free market. This is so whenever the people who choose to buy things are not the same as those who will have to use them.

36 Soviet Microsoft: Stockholm Syndrome Among Unswitchable Windows Users — RoughlyDrafted Magazine { 12.15.07 at 12:08 pm }

[...] Soviet Microsoft: How Resistance to Free Markets and Open Ideas Will the Unravel the Software Superp… [...]

37 UrbanBard { 12.15.07 at 12:27 pm }

Hi John Muir,

Where many people go wrong is that they obsess about the trends of the past. Microsoft’s domain, the Enterprise and Government markets, is huge and has been the major driver of computer sales, but that is about over. The Enterprise market is mostly a replacement market now. That it why it is necessary for Microsoft to obsessively maintain compatibility. This is true even when Vista demands much higher hardware requirements to run the full Areo features. Microsoft has taken legacy to ridiculous ends, because it can’t afford to lose any of its current customers. What this means is that it is all downhill for Microsoft.

Apple has been active in pruning its computers that are older than five years. Oh! The old computers still work and are often useful, but they don’t get the latest OS. Apple, in five to six years, is likely to chop off all the 32 bit hardware which means the PowerPC processors and the Carbon API’s go away. We won’t notice this much because Steve Jobs has promised that Apple will be upgrading its OS at 12 to 18 month increments. So, during the next three to four “big Cat” OS’s, 64 bit Cocoa will become everything.

Then, there will be the hardware issues. Computer-on-a-chip systems will become ubiquitous. Cheap. What this means that our peripherals will become specialized computers in themselves. They will multiply endlessly and wirelessly.

You might be tempted to believe that this will make the operating system irrelevant, but I don’t think so. Interoperability will be the big thing. The system that delivers the best user experience will win the consumer market.

Much of this will bypass the Enterprise market because their bases are covered now. They have invested huge amounts of money in maintaining past technologies. It is tempting for them to proceed down a path they have already taken. Microsoft, to lock them in, will do its best to encourage them to do so.

Apple will grow the consumer market by making computers and electronic devises which non technical and anti-technological people will be tempted to buy. The IT personnel will laugh at such devises until they become aware that these have become the majority of computers sold. And that, while individually each devise cannot compete with the Enterprise’s model, together they are less expensive, more flexible and can do more.

This will not strictly be Apple’s doing, either. Embedded Linux will take over many business applications. Much of Microsoft’s market share is in Cash registers and front ends for other computers or the web which don’t need a full operating system to function. As the old Microsoft based computers break, it will be cheaper to replace them with specialized Linux computers. Hence, Microsoft will be squeezed from top and bottom.

Microsoft will cut itself off from innovation, because it will be catering to the most hidebound of computer buyers.

Apple will continue to ignore the Enterprise market. It will not change its current system for a few extra sales. Not, when to gain those sales, it must throw away the future to grasp the past.

Besides, small to medium sized businesses comprise 58% of the economy. And the majority of new employees added to the economy are by companies with less than 200 employees. Such companies are less likely to have oppressive IT departments. The user is more likely to have input to the computer they will use. Those users are likely to bring their personal computer or devise into work and demand to have it integrated into the business system.

Since Apple does satisfy the users better and saves companies money, the word will get around. The small businesses will be more inclined to take advantage of Apple’s lower Total Cost of Ownership and higher user satisfaction and productivity.

Many things are in the works to expand that advantage in ways we cannot imagine now. Why?Because they aren’t invented yet.

38 humann { 12.15.07 at 2:08 pm }

Well, I enjoyed MS being described as analogous to the CCCP. It was even fun reading in the comments how almost every political stripe was against this analogy, often for diametrically opposed reasons. It reminded me again why I love this country. I was actually at my Vietnamese mechanic’s shop the other night where he was watching Al-Jazeera and I brought up what a Russian ex-pat had recently asked me.

“In Soviet Union, we all knew that Pravda was a pack of lies. Please, tovaritch,” he said, gesturing to the TV showing Fox News above the bar,”Tell me that you Americans know this too is a pack of lies.”

“Maybe half do by now,” I replied. But it made me think. Much like Daniel’s excellent articles and even some of the commentary.

And I still want to read some of UrbanBard’s poetry.

39 Conversas do Bruno | As semelhanças entre a Microsoft e a URSS e o repetir da história { 12.15.07 at 2:33 pm }

[...] Eran Dilger, do blog RoughlyDrafted Magazine, encontrou e explanou-as num longo e extremamente interessante texto que é, basicamente, uma visão bastante semelhante à minha no que toca ao futuro da [...]

40 John Muir { 12.15.07 at 2:37 pm }

@ UrbanBard

I doubt the operating system will ever be irrelevant. Certainly, Apple have gambled everything against it. The iPhone is the supreme example we have right now of how much can be achieved so quickly by such a portable strategy. I expect we’ll see a lot more of this kind of move from them into the future.

My qualm with Linux inheriting the earth, so to speak, is the chaotic and often self-detrimental way the open source community actually operates. The same fundamental principles of human nature which ensured Marxism’s continual failure are also to be observed in this movement. I have nothing against the concept of open source and free software, but I do have an eye for good design and value all the time I can spend outside of the command line highly enough to be a Mac user.

41 UrbanBard { 12.15.07 at 5:25 pm }

Hi John,

The Free and Open Source Community are the hobbyists’ hobbyist. They are part of the past too; they are a remnant of the Homebrew Computer club.

The question is whether the FOSC have a business model they can survive on. Since they are volunteers, they serve their own needs or idealized community needs, not the specific interests of customers. If they start trying to serve customer’s needs, then they become craftsmen, not hobbyists. Craftsmen want to be paid. The GPL license does not encourage that.

Computers started off being hard to use and underpowered. It took enormous amounts of ingenuity to accomplish anything. Computers were very human labor intensive. Only a tiny percentage of humanity would bother with them. As software and hardware improved, the intent was to make computers easier to use and more machine intensive. Ways had to be found for computers to appeal to ever wider groups of people with different motivations.

The people who do not use computers in the US now are probably anti-technological. Computing devices need to be made for them if the market is to expand. Is Microsoft ready to do that? I don’t think so. Is the FOSC? No.

That is why I see Microsoft and Linux having niches that they will defend. I see Apple going after the 40 to 50 percent of humanity who do not like computers, maybe even hate them. I expect Apple to grow the market rather than try to steal from Microsoft or Linux. That is much easier than fighting on someone else’s turf.

The point is that Apple has vision. It isn’t perfect, but is crafting devises to serve the consumer’s needs. It is moving its devises away from being technological so that more people can use them. I watched a one year old baby on YouTube using an iPhone. That’s how anti-technological Apple devices must become.

Microsoft, the IT personnel, the Enterprise market and FOSC have a vested interest in keeping computers be mysterious and hard to use. That is what will keep them in their niche.

42 UrbanBard { 12.15.07 at 6:29 pm }

@humann
“And I still want to read some of UrbanBard’s poetry.”

Gosh, It’s been decades since I wrote poetry. Most of my writings are prose. I sing in choir, but haven’t composed much. All those would require me to specialize to get good at them, when I tend to generalize.

Mostly, I have tried to clear my head of the rubbish that I learned in school, to test the conventional wisdom or discard the residue of an unhappy childhood. I no longer have any anxiety, fears or needs, so I have little reason to write.

I’m pretty laid back, so I don’t need to push my views or values on people. I have no need to remake the world or set it on fire. The world can go to hell in its own way. It always has–and somehow, it has survived. I may make some comments about that, though. People my age often do.

So, take my comments with a grain of salt.

I enjoy an interesting discussion. I like having people challenge me, because I tend to get intellectually lazy, otherwise. I read widely but have a dilettante’s interests. I resist that by becoming an expert on some issue before moving on.

I have plenty of lumber built up in my head; I don’t know what edifice I would build from that. Perhaps, just a lookout tower.

I’m retired from a life as an electronics engineer. I do picture puzzles now. I have an exceptional memory for colors, shapes and patterns.

Some of that bleeds over into my other passions: computers, history, politics, science fiction and public speaking. Make of that what you will.

43 Semejanzas entre Microsoft y la URSS « Kushelmex Open Blog { 12.15.07 at 9:26 pm }

[...] entre Microsoft y la URSS 16 12 2007 Me encontre con este topico bastante interesante, esta algo largo pero vale la pena darle una [...]

44 Boycott Novell » Novell and Microsoft versus VMWare, Red Hat { 12.15.07 at 10:49 pm }

[...] is also the element of monopoly abuse here.“In this industry of no fair competition you still find a great deal of quiet manipulation. Some of the bits above align fully with out [...]

45 kunduz { 12.15.07 at 11:46 pm }

apple uses the same business practices microsoft uses …both will lock you in as much as they can get away with it ..

..the only difference is that microsoft is big enough for their business methods to matter to governments and apple isnt

the only person who can credibly compare microsoft with USSR is a user of free software, not apple user/fanboy/fangirl

if you are using apple product and you enjoy the apple world, you are as locked down as those poor USSR citizen ..

if you are honest with youself, you will acknowledge it

46 UrbanBard { 12.16.07 at 2:25 am }

I must respectfully disagree, kunduz. I suggest that the anti-captailist mentality of the Free and Open Software Community is biasing your viewpoint. Apple and FOSC are not antagonistic to each other, but they are going in different directions. They are serving different groups of people.

I seriously doubt that you understand Apple’s history, how it lost its way while Steve jobs was off with NeXT and Pixar and why Apple is recovering now.

Apple was always about producing excellence, not about making money. The best companies are like that. Microsoft would deliver junk and be unashamed of that, Apple would not.

But, I suspect that I am wasting my time on you. You don’t seem to understand Apple’s goals. Or why Microsoft is becoming obsolescent while Apple is not.

Those of us who use and enjoy the Apple world have different personalities from you Linux geeks. We want to be served by a company. You may be less locked down that we, but we don’t want to be you. We have different aims and goals. We don’t want to have to write our own software. We are not tinkerers.

It’s a big world, kunduz. There is room enough for all of us. There is even a place for Microsoft.

47 Morris { 12.16.07 at 7:56 am }

@UrbanBard
“I suggest that the anti-captailist mentality of the Free and Open Software Community”
That’s a ridiculous opinion. FOSS is used by capitalist companies. GPL is to stop the self-interest clowns taking over peoples right to create.

“We want to be served by a company.”
Good for you if you need a “mother brand figure”.
Extreme capitalism needs people like you to keep feeding it.

Widespread Linux adoption will create much healthier economies. It’s really just about how fluidly money moves around. Software doesn’t need to be part of the mother ship model, in fact it’s just a bottleneck to development.

Capitalism should be about moving money around to nurture new markets, unfortunately too many of you are blinded by “big names” and don’t care that you sustain the self-interest groups.

Microsoft is living proof of what’s wrong with America. Pro-capitalists just need to accept that the world working together will do a far better job.

48 John Muir { 12.16.07 at 9:13 am }

@ Morris

I’d love to see Linux become the default operating system for generic hardware, just as Windows is now. It would be a tremendous achievement and a great period to be a Mac user too: as we benefit from open standards and open source on our side of the computing fence as well. All the more so once they are finally truly ubiquitous!

However: I do have serious reservations about the Linux desktop usability, right down to its GUI core.

There’s a feeling in the open source world that the interface to your software is a gloss, to be added at the last moment. People forever talk about “wrapping” some presumably more important and more interesting deeper technology. But how come even the best efforts in open source wind up retro and tacky (and the worst just down right unusable) compared to indie software and full blown commercial alternatives?

In fact I realise that Gruber beat me to this argument again and I wholeheartedly recommend any Linux proponent read this:

http://daringfireball.net/2004/04/spray_on_usability

I must emphasise that I have nothing against the core beliefs and principles behind free and open development. But there’s a gulf between the ideals and the output which is clear for all to observe.

49 Morris { 12.16.07 at 9:39 am }

@John Muir
You seem to me to be making yesterdays argument with regard to the desktop. It is important to stay up to date because the rate of development in the FOSS world is quite something. I concede to surprise that there aren’t some really “wow” defaults for how the desktop looks. It’s only a case of people/companies putting some really pretty themes together.

Staying bang up to date is not necessarily at the expense of reliability – I currently use Ubuntu on my work machine (I’m a SaaS developer) and run with the latest alpha releases to provide feedback to the development teams – without any problems worthy of mention, even though it’s alpha code.

The GUI, on any O/S, always will be “a gloss” – it doesn’t actually do any of the work per say – so I’m not sure what you’re getting at there. Having it run as a process in its own right is invaluable.

There is a key point to remember – SaaS, tons more FOSS developers, more readily available broadband – all of these things are helping the Linux cause. Microsoft continuing to shove alpha software out to consumers as product helps too.

As a Mac user you may agree with the idea that people who care about computers don’t use Microsoft?

Do you have any thoughts or predictions on the (new) low cost Linux PC market? I’d be interested to hear your take on that.

50 Morris { 12.16.07 at 9:59 am }

@John Muir
I have a feeling that you haven’t really used an up to date Linux in a while.

The link (from 2004) you placed is very much out of date. The ending however :
“It’s easy to ridicule the estimated 2006-or-2007 ship date for Longhorn, the next major release of Windows. But do you doubt for a moment that Longhorn will provide more improvements from Windows XP than desktop Linux will gain during the same period?
More often than not, you get what you pay for.”

..certainly made me smile. I wonder if the author is claiming that he has a flawless installation of Vista these days?

51 kunduz { 12.16.07 at 11:08 am }

people seem to confuse what FOSS is all about, let me give an example ..

lets say you want to study calculus, you can do that is many way including the following:
1. you can go to your local library, borrow a book, go home and study by yourself.
2. do as one above but hiring a tutor
3. go to your local community college and pay a bit of money
4. go to your local university and pay a bit more
5. go to one of those expensive school and get the same education.

if you go first two route, you can go and get some sort of exam somewhere to get certification.

why is the above possible? because the knowledge in itself is free, you dont pay for it, you pay for the service ..just because because you can get something for free it doesnt mean everybody will go the free route ..this is why universities get a lot of money giving something that is already out there

FOSS is about open standard and openness ..its about not being forced to anybody way of doing things …foss views software as knowledge, something that should freely available and publicly shareable ..

FOSS is not anti-capitalism or anti-business ..it is anti-secrecy and pro standard ..

FOSS is about having the basic knowledge freely open and publicly shareble ..capitalistic empires can be built on public knowledge

to make an arguments that business will go bankrupt is FOSS takes over the world is the same as making an arguments that universities should go out of business because the knowlege they give is already publicly available..

when was the last time society as a whole and in a long run benefited from anybody keeping secrets? abd use non standard tools?

this is the basic idea about FOSS ..money can be made in FOSS ..same as money can be made in propietary software world

if FOSS is communism, is the world’s sharing of basic knowledge and goverments and private institutions contribution to it communism?

dont confuse linux is FOSS ..linux is a part of FOSS as apple and microsoft a part of proprietary world ..

people are afraid of change and fear what they dont understand ..FOSS is here to stay call it anti-capitalism all you want but its not going anywhere ..if linux fails, something else will take its place .. the idea will survive

..at the end of the day ..everybody wants to be free..and what is freely available knowledge is what will survice in the long run ..

case in point, UNIX

[I agree with most of what you say, but ideals behind FOSS aren't shared by all of its users the same way. It's a bit like talking to communists who insist that the USSR, China, and every other expression of communism as a political experiment "wasn't really communism." That may be very true, but it doesn't account for the fact that what we know about how communism really works is based on the experiments that actually happened, as they happened.

Idealistically, one could say that Apple's software is about "just working," which is true despite the fact that somethings don't just work perfectly. The GPL is about ensuring FOSS ideals through enforcement. That's very different that BSD, which is about reusing technology that works in any way possible. Same idea, very different intent, very different licensing, very different outcome, both FOSS.

That makes it important not to look at things as they are, not as they should ideally be. The two are rarely ever the same.

Also, I might be reading your comment wrong, but I want to clarify that I'm not saying that Linux/FOSS/GPL is a communist cancer eating away at companies like Microsoft. My comparison of Microsoft to the Soviets was more about resistance to outside ideas, purging of any heterogeneous interaction (one platform), and the systematic use of misinformation campaigns to prevent dissent. I made that comparison in part because a contrast between Microsoft and USSR is at first strikingly unnatural given that I think most people would recognize Microsoft to be economically capitalist/conservative and likely socially liberal/progressive.

One can compare two elements of any number of groups and find similarities; I was trying to make an interesting, thought provoking contrast, not repeat a common tired idea. Incidentally, I agree with your comments that FOSS is not a threat to business, but an opportunity. Apple isn't in the business of marketing or supporting FOSS sales, but instead integrates and contributes toward a variety of open projects - Dan]

52 UrbanBard { 12.16.07 at 11:56 am }

Morris, I am not opposed to the FOSC. They have a place in the computer world. As I said– it’s a big world. There are many interests in it. The FOSC simply do not have a marketing plan that appeals to me.

I’m a customer. I’m the one with the money. If the government keeps out of things, I’m the one who decides. But, my choices may be limited by what is offered. I do not choose what either Linux or Microsoft offers. Perhaps one day, Linux will be mature enough to change my mind, but not yet. A dismissive attitude will not persuade me, though.

kunduz seemed to look down his nose at us in the Apple world and he was certainly off topic. Perhaps, I should have let it slide. I’m sorry if I stepped on any toes.

53 Steve Nagel { 12.16.07 at 12:35 pm }

I’ve owned Apple products since the early eighties, and even I don’t believe that Apple has always been about excellence rather than money.

In the eighties, Apple was arrogant as hell and put profits well ahead of product. It was definitely not the computer “for the rest of us” in terms of price.

In the nineties, Apple lost its mind and much of its hardware excellence. It was hard times for Apple product owners.

Fortunately, Jobs returned and it’s his savvy and perhaps trust of Ives’s genius, that’s given Apple its renewed engineering and design excellence.

Even now, however, Apple does a great job of playing Wall Street; its new excellence extends to money, including delivering high profitability.

In other words, Apple grew up and learned that corporations are like cows: Cows need grass to make milk, but even with grass, cows that stop making milk are soon hamburger.

And Apple got really lucky. Does anyone think that Apple was cagily waiting to make its big move for the music industry to fail, for flash drives, for the internet, and for Microsoft to rise to its level of incompetence—all at once?

“Corporations offer love to get money; consumers offer money to get love.”

54 UrbanBard { 12.16.07 at 2:40 pm }

The story line gets muddled, Steve Nagel; a lot of early mistakes were made.

Steve jobs invited into Apple’s management an old line business type, John Sculley from Pepsi, who showed that he didn’t understand the computer business. Sculley thought he was selling a commodity, like soda pop, not a complex mixture of products and services. The clone fiasco was the result. Apple needed its own business plan. It could not simply copy Microsoft and its Wintel partners.

The goals of a company and the actions of its management are often derived from the character of the company’s founders. It takes time and effort to turn a company from the path it was taking. It is much easier to follow along.

What is the character of Microsoft’s founders? Paul White seems like a good guy who did most of the early work. Bill Gates is a sharp dealer who brought in Ballmer who has the ethics of a used car dealer.

Microsoft’s character was to underpay and cheat its employees while grasping for whatever advantage, money, power and influence it could. It developed a reputation for shoddy goods which, after a low initial price, locked you into their system where they could exploit you. They borrowed from IBM their disinformation campaign against their competitors. They used industrial espionage to steal Apple’s ideas. They rushed flawed copies of Apple’s programs to the market to steal Apple’s thunder.

Dealing with Microsoft was like dealing with the Devil. Many of Microsoft’s partners found out that to their dismay.

Steve Wozniac and Steve Jobs were hobbyists who wanted computers developed and found that the major companies did not see the opportunity. They made a lot of mistakes along the way as they learned the business. Steve Jobs was obsessive about maintaining control. A number of his decisions on the Macintosh were stupid, selfish and self defeating.

I see Steve Jobs now as a craftsman of fine equipment who is dismayed by Microsoft’s shoddy, third rate work and puzzled by its success.

Steve is still a control freak who occasionally makes wrong steps. But, Apple is in a market it does not control.

Apple found that openness led to it being copied, so Apple is secretive. It has long term plans at work. This makes them look arrogant. Little of what Apple does is impulsive.

Apple patiently places its ducks in a row, one at a time, in a deceptive manner. We can look back and see those ducks and how they interrelated: Quicktime, the iPod, the iTunes Music Store, the Apple retail stores , etc.

Was all that planned to happen this way? Yes. Was Apple’s success a surprise to Steve Jobs? I don’t think so.

Steve Jobs is taking advantage of the gaps in services between Microsoft and the Wintel manufacturers who pull in different directions. He is offering unified hardware and software products which work better than the competition. He is taking advantage of flaws in the Wintel system. He has turned the tables on Microsoft. The fact that Microsoft is acting incompetent is just icing on the cake.

55 John Muir { 12.16.07 at 5:00 pm }

@ Morris

John Gruber, the author of Daring Fireball, runs Leopard so I don’t think he’s much disappointed by Vista. Indeed I just delved into the archive and found this from October (2007 for a change!):

“Microsoft hasn’t done anything interesting with Windows since XP. Windows-vs.-Mac arguments tend to be inflammatory, but there’s nothing in Vista — nothing — that would tempt a Mac user to switch. And given Microsoft’s pace of Windows development, it seems obvious that Vista is it for this decade: that come 2010, Vista, with a few subsequent service packs, is going to be all Microsoft will have to show for the 2000s. It was a long wait for Vista and it didn’t seem worth it.”

http://daringfireball.net/2007/10/milhouse

I was already a full-time Mac user myself by the time Longhorn was branded Vista, and most of the long promised features were jettisoned along with any idea that it was much more than Server 2003 in lipstick. If I’d been asked back in 2004 though — when my first Mac was but a year old — I’d have said much the same thing and presumed that Longhorn would be much better than it turned out to be. I ran Windows 3.1 to XP and saw what seems in retrospect to be Microsoft’s golden era as a regular desktop user. It took a while, but their stagnation since 2001 has grown to the point of universal ridicule.

I just linked that article because I remembered his skinning analogy, and comparison with Firefox.

As for contemporary Linux experience, I’ve spent a few days running from LiveCD’s just to try them out … Ubuntu from Breezy Badger to Gutsy Gibbon, a spot of Xubuntu to try to restore an old laptop (but even Xfce was beyond it really), and Fedora and Suse in Parallels when I was new to it and eager to play around. (My old PC found itself on what was to be a long trial of Feisty Fawn but its drive died.)

I found the distros to be fairly good on desktop machines: as wi-fi configuration (especially out on the road in environments where you are not the network admin) and sleep were longstanding sore points. But I can’t say I’m a fan of Open Office or indeed really any of the software they came with besides for Firefox. (I use Firefox on the Mac as my second browser for anything Safari still doesn’t like: including the heinously over ad-laden! It’s a true quality open source app.) And issues like adjusting mouse pointer movement and acceleration were over-complex compared to what I’m used to elsewhere. However, what really kept me away was the lack of Photoshop and my typical bafflement at just what on Earth is the great GIMP! At least Maya’s there though.

I will gladly concede that Linux — Ubuntu especially — is pretty much at the level it needs to be to suffice for web browsing and email; but it seems further off for laptops, which are the increasingly dominant choice in the home. Let me refine that however…

Apple’s marketing is, as always, a great example of how to target the home user. Leopard is being pushed as the biggest advancement in civilisation since sliced bread, is the rave of reviews, and promises a slick and refined experience which — most important of all — is presented as friendly and non-frightening to the vast untechnical majority out there. Most users aren’t likely to do much outside of Safari, Mail, iChat, iPhoto and iTunes; but that’s not the vision they’re after and so it’s not what Apple tries to push on them. The appeal of a Mac to unsure, Vista-doubting, average users is this great yet intangible promise of being able to do more with their computer; even if they won’t. Sure, kissing spyware goodbye is a big step up, but note that Apple always make more of the creative possibilities than that.

Low end Linux PC’s are in a sense the opposite. I like in Britain so they’re still almost unheard of here, but I expect they’re marketed on one thing: price. Although there are open source alternatives to almost everything if you look and learn, that level of commitment is worrying to most people. Those of us who are tech geeks don’t think twice about trying competing solutions and finding fixes for the hurdles in our way, but we are the perennial minority. A Linux system comes loaded with complex connotations as far as consumers are concerned. I’d like to see them do well, don’t get me wrong, as they go after the market section Apple never tries to swipe. But I can’t see the enthusiasm yet, where the tipping point must lie. Most people see switching to a Mac as a big shot in the dark, despite all the good things they’re forever hearing about it. Linux has an uphill fight all of its own.

I don’t think there’s anything absolutely unique about Apple. In fact something I’d really love to see is another major manufacturer give up on Windows, and do what Apple has done with Darwin but with Linux instead. I’d like to see someone else out there “make the whole widget”, and enjoy the advantages they too would receive when they have a platform in their pocket and their customers interests at heart instead of pushing middleware. Linux is strong at its core, but the GNU front end is where the most work is required. Work which needs singleminded and in my opinion commercial *design*. Gnome and KDE are workable alternatives to the ugly Windows desktop but neither wow me as a Mac user … nor does the underlying techie need to know about Xfree86 or the precise version number of every single thing you’re using. Try out installing apps by drag and drop (for real) and Apple’s software update mechanism (and Sparkle for 3rd parties), to see what I mean. Some may well love apt-get but there’s a lot more people who can understand the Mac way on first sight with no explanation. There lies the difference in development strategies.

Imagine for a moment a big maker unveiling their own new platform, with Google and others in tow, where you buy their computers pre-installed, can download pre-compiled apps from good places everywhere, manage everything by drag and drop, and have outstanding compatibility with open standards. Make sure its desktop looks good and makes sense, and that the developer tools are free, and hey: we’re talking something big here. Make it a commercial product that can be licensed by other makers and you have many pundits alternate-to-Microsoft panacea. I wonder if anyone in those companies are thinking about this long and hard? Apple’s budget for OS X is far from astronomical, and look at how nimble they are now as to be able to put the best bits right in a phone.

Anyway, I’ll believe Linux is taking off on the desktop when I see some figures. Figures like page views — just like the iPhone is beginning to pick up, already eclipsing its combined mobile rivals — and of course systems sold pre-installed. I’ll be happy if and when it does. But I’ve been following this one since before I switched to the Mac, and so far all the momentum I’ve been aware of is with the big cats.

56 John Muir { 12.16.07 at 5:15 pm }

Addenda:

1. I”live” in Britain, whether I like it or not is irrelevant!

2. There are of course reasons why breaking into the PC operating system market is a massive challenge. Reasons Daniel mentions readily enough, and largely courtesy of Redmond. OpenStep was a failure before Apple bought the golden goose, and BeOS vanished into senseless oblivion as though cursed. Why? Lock in, anti-competitive Windows licensing contracts, fear, uncertainty and doubt. The same all still applies today, whether it’s Google delivering the product or (sigh) a “consortium”. Android is something else I’d like to see do well as I think it and the iPhone’s offspring could devour the opposite ends of the market. But it’s Apple’s position I consider the stronger, in phones as well as computers. Being the hardware and software integration outfit has benefits which can be measured in the interface of everything they make.

57 Steve Nagel { 12.16.07 at 6:00 pm }

@ UrbanBard

I once asked my brother who has worked in Silicon Valley forever, if I should just quit Macs at work and home. It was the nineties and things were tough for Mac owners. It looked like Apple was going to fold up its tent. His response: Hang in there. Apple has so much technology in its portfolio, it will never die. If that’s what you mean by Apple’s long term strategy, fine with me.

Yet, as you say, Apple made mistakes early on. Which to me was the eighties. And its biggest mistakes were due to greed. And mistakes were made later on too. The nineties. As you noted. And they were often due to stupidity. So lots of mistakes were made.

On the other side of the ledger, consider the iPod: No one at Apple thought up music players. Music players were already out; even the iPod software wasn’t Apple’s to begin with.

“Was all that planned to happen this way?”

I don’t think so. The iPod was smart, quick, opportunistic thinking—a year to market—but the it certainly wasn’t an example of Quicktime to the rescue. Or any other long-term technology or strategy.

Granted Apple took it home: hooked it up with iTunes and music content and DMR. And the rest was history. But did Apple see all this integration from the start? Doubt it. Wikipedia says the iPod began with the idea of selling Macs with some kind of music gizmo (my summary).

But where Apple would be today without the iPod success? Out of luck, I’d say.

58 John Muir { 12.16.07 at 6:45 pm }

@ Steve Nagel

The Mac was making profits all that time. No argument that AAPL would be a whole lot lower right now without the iPod, but the idea that the iPod defines Apple as a whole is well worn and flawed all the same.

Mac OS X is Apple’s crown jewels. Vista would still suck, independently of the iPod, and the Mac was always still there to pick up at Microsoft’s expense. The iPod helped boost Apple’s finances, but they were never particularly short of cash in the first place.

59 Steve Nagel { 12.16.07 at 7:16 pm }

@ John

The fact that Apple was making money all through the eighties and nineties makes my point: it was never about excellence instead of money. Apple isn’t just about excellence. That’s my point. Too often I hear that it’s money comes from some kind of mystical commitment, rather than the smart use of opportunities as they arise.

Maybe the iPod took Apple out of the wilderness. Maybe not. I won’t argue alternative histories. I just remember how bad it really got in the nineties. Apple isn’t all that prescient. That’s my other point.

60 UrbanBard { 12.16.07 at 7:28 pm }

Hi Steve Nagle,

I think most of the mistakes that Apple made were a failure of focus. The management forgot their vision. The biggest mistakes they made were in trying to adopt Microsoft’s business plan. Stupid, Stupid, Stupid.

I just think that there are different philosophies inside Microsoft and Apple. Sometimes, that spun Apple off into never-never land were they were designing applications which would never make them money. Steve Jobs, when he came back, stopped that cold.

Perhaps, you have better insider info than me. From the outside, it doesn’t look like purely opportunistic thinking. It looks like that they had these technologies that they could leverage. Then there was a confluence of events: the right hardware coming along at the right time. I’d say that Apple was prepared to succeed. Opportunity presents itself to the prepared and Apple was prepared.

The MP-3 players, for instance, were a cold market. RIAA and excessive DRM had killed it, mostly. Quicktime was necessary for the next step to the iTunes Music store. That was when iPod sales took off.

The Mac was coming back without the iPod to spur it, though. The way it was doing it was through its consumer and professional software. Daniel make a big deal about the phrase” Software sells systems.”

It was a hard slog for Apple in the late ’90′s and early 00′s. It was overcoming a decade of FUD. The iPod helped popularize Apple, but Apple needed to get good enough first.

61 UrbanBard { 12.16.07 at 7:41 pm }

Steve, I’m not saying that Apple had any detailed five year plans. It more like they had this star they were aiming for and had no way of getting there. But, they could start aiming their technologies in that direction, just on spec.

Perhaps, they bought Final Cut and Shake to keep them from being buried at other companies. Then when those application became popular, they bought more. There is luck. But, a lot of luck is making the best of a good thing.

62 John Muir { 12.16.07 at 8:57 pm }

@ Steve and UrbanBard

It’s common to think of Apple’s tale so far as a story in three acts.

Act I: 1976-1984. Garage to Macintosh. (The first age of Steve Jobs.)
Act II: 1985-1996. Costly Irrelevance. (Sculley to Amelio.)
Act III: 1997-present. iMac, iPod and iPhone. (The second coming.)

Steve Jobs removal from the company in 1985 was a big deal and shouldn’t be overlooked when delving into the past. The bad image Apple has among those who hate it seems to come from the wilderness years in the middle when Sculley milked the Mac for profits over sustainability, and every new thing they ever brought out (Newton) was at once ingenious yet fatally flawed. Apple was this snooty purveyor of premium priced but often downright clunky kit, whose operating system was as stagnant as Windows is today. This all changed in the late 90′s with the NeXT merger, yet it is still remembered and colours commentary to this day.

As for just what they were thinking when the iPod was under development, I refer you to this (really long … good for a coffee!) insider’s tale … to Audion. It was the leading mp3 app on the Mac during the period Apple first woke up to the idea. Steve Jobs talked to these guys about buying their product, and their team, but the story didn’t work out that way. Instead, Apple bought out SoundJam — Audion’s chief rival — and soon unveiled their work as a little thing called iTunes.

http://www.panic.com/extras/audionstory/

Here’s a good quote:

Jobs wanted to know how big we were, and how long we’ve been doing this. He wanted to know a few more things that I can’t even really remember. I remember he asked, “Do you have any other ideas for apps you want to work on?” I replied, genuinely, “Well, we’ve got an idea for a digital photo management program…” and he replied with a simple, “Yeah. Don’t do that one.” Everyone in the room laughed but I had no idea why — remember, my head was still exploding — so Steven Frank had to explain to me that he meant, basically, it was already being made and, of course, it would be called iPhoto. Oh. I get it now.

So I think they really did have a digital hub strategy. iTunes and iPhoto would soon become the first (and still most important) blocks of iLife, while the pro apps were also being tended to. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the idea for the strategy came together from luck just as much as wisdom, but that’s technology for you.

Daniel has mentioned this before, with that ancient yet always prescient slogan “software sells systems”. When you’re agile enough, you can pick up that software the moment before everyone else suddenly realise just how important it is destined to be.

63 Steve Nagel { 12.16.07 at 11:13 pm }

@ UrbanBard and John

Good comments. And I’m all for Apple success on whatever basis. No argument there.

I might extend Daniel’s adage to “solutions sell software and systems.” The iPod/iMac/iTunes music solution, including the DRM agreements, was a huge step out of the muck.

I look forward to our TV/video quandaries being resolved as successfully by Apple

To include a universal remote perhaps. The holy grail of technology.

64 UrbanBard { 12.16.07 at 11:25 pm }

Haven’t you figured out that universal remote thing, yet, Steve? It’s an iPhone, silly. LOL

65 Jesse { 12.17.07 at 6:26 am }

What I think most everybody fails to understand on this forum and most others–even pro-Apple people–is that consumers don’t actually want choice. It’s a complete myth that people love choice. Choosing is confusing and time-consuming. What people want is to find something that works and never have to think about it again.

Get it, Linuxo-philes? The only way for Linux to succeed is for it to scrap almost every single thing you love about it.

Even if Apple users by and large fail to grasp this, Apple clearly does. They try to remove as much choice as possible–from their hardware configurations to their software designs to the freakin’ buttons on their freakin’ remote controls.

It’s heresy because so much of our culture is built around the idea that freedom of choice is what makes people happy. If you actually look at human behavior, people avoid choice whenever possible.

Even Linux users are deceiving themselves. You know what makes people happy? Close-knit communities and a sense of a higher purpose. And think about it–that’s what the heart of Linux really is.

66 Jon T { 12.17.07 at 7:34 am }

Congratulations Dan. This page tells me you are finally achieving what you set to have happen – an intelligent blog, that attracts intelligent and sometimes controversial comment. My hat off to you sir, and long may it continue. I also re-issue my assurance that if you ever write a book about this stuff, I will be up for 10 copies!

And on topic, Microsoft IS the Soviet Union. You only have to look at Ballmers brainwashing speeches to rally the MS troops… It’s not business, its totalitarianism.

67 Morris { 12.17.07 at 11:59 am }

@Jesse
The Linux/Windows argument is not so dissimilar to people who look after their carbon footprint putting up with lone morons in SUV’s blasting up and down the road. The money from the purchasing of the SUV’s goes on adverts pointing out that at 18mpg they’re the most economical SUV’s yet. You can’t stop these people from living in blissful ignorance and believing the adverts.

Big industry can’t cut off/control the supply lines for Linux. If they could, they’d have done it well before now.
So they are left with their last resort, FUD. And that falls on deaf ears or gets laughed at in the Linux world.

At one point some Microsoft exec even tried the “Open Source could be the end of capitalism itself” noise, presumably to try and keep industry rallied behind them.

Understand that Linux is what it is without big budgets.
Understand that Vista is what it is with big budgets. It’s not hard to see where it will end up.

68 UrbanBard { 12.17.07 at 1:40 pm }

@Jesse
“What I think most everybody fails to understand on this forum and most others–even pro-Apple people–is that consumers don’t actually want choice.
…. Choosing is confusing and time-consuming. What people want is to find something that works and never have to think about it again.”"

I think it’s a bit more complex than that. People love choices, but not forced choices. Or irritating choices like Vista’s “accept or deny” dialog boxes.

The Apple people are more of the “set it once and forget it” crowd. Or the “find someone you can trust to do it for you” crowd.

That brings up the “intelligent servant” thing. Convenience, security and ease of use vie with each other.

The wider the group of consumers you have, the more likely it is that they will be technically incapable. So, it becomes a matter of finding servants you can trust. Servants know all your secrets. The only way to keep secrets is not to have servants. Linux people don’t seem to trust servants; they must do everything themselves.

“Even if Apple users by and large fail to grasp this, Apple clearly does. They try to remove as much choice as possible–from their hardware configurations to their software designs to the freakin’ buttons on their freakin’ remote controls.”

Many choices are mundane, so we want an intelligent servant to make them for us. The question is, “Do these choices aid us in getting what we want done?” Also, “Are these decisions sufficiently important that I must decide them?” If all an activity does is to occasionally save us a few seconds, is it worth our while to spend the effort and intelligence on them?

“It’s heresy because so much of our culture is built around the idea that freedom of choice is what makes people happy. If you actually look at human behavior, people avoid choice whenever possible.”

It’s not the choices that make us free, it’s that we get to make them. We still have to accept the consequences of our decisions. If we decide stupidly or carelessly, we get bad results. If we allow someone or something else to decide for us, then we can wind up behind an “iron curtain.” Those servants may decide to take over our lives. The Soviet leadership tended to think that they owned people.

“You know what makes people happy? Close-knit communities and a sense of a higher purpose. And think about it–that’s what the heart of Linux really is.”

Different things make people happy. Some people are individualists who cannot stand communal living. The way to resolve this is to allow people to choose the groups that they want to belong to. If they want to sign themselves into a monastery of ridged rules, let them.

If they find themselves exploited there , then let them escape. Let there be competition among the groups to please the customers. There is a place in this world for masochists, but I’m not one of them.

69 Steve Nagel { 12.17.07 at 2:35 pm }

I like the bits above about the importance of choosing and belonging. Cynically put, it’s about market segments:

* 10 percent of buyers are both loners and choosers. They like choice and they like doing stuff themselves. Think male; think Linux.

* 30 percent are choosers and not loners. They like trusted “intelligent servants” to narrow the choices to relevant, significant ones. Think Mac fans.

* 60 percent are not choosers and not loners. Mostly they like to belong, so they like their choices narrowed down to those that the media proclaims to be great choices. Think iPods.

The key to consumer marketing is to dup the sixty percenters into thinking that they are making choices that maybe one percent of the world can make because they are that rich or smart. Think Republicans.

Please excuse that last bit. Just slipped out.

70 UrbanBard { 12.17.07 at 3:04 pm }

I caution you that I used to be a “Scoop” Jackson type Democrat who was forced out of the Democratic party by the “New Left” and wandered in the Libertarian wastelands for decades before turning Republican in 2002. What associations I will have after this war is over, who knows?

I suspect that the rich and/or smart are trapped by their possessions or by their professional associations. That is why scientific and technological innovation is resisted. New ideas would gore their oxen.

There are plenty of smart people in the humanities departments of our universities who dare not have a contrary opinion because of the fear that they will be shunned. Mind control was a part of the Soviet Empire–the Microsoft Empire as well.

But, politics is so divisive. Let us, instead, speak of consumer choices. The point about freedom is that you are allowed to change your mind, not what decisions you make. A certain percentage of your decisions will be errors, anyway.

The part that I like about choice, personally or in an economy, is that you can correct mistakes.

The problem with coercive systems is that they try to hang onto a position long after it is obviously flawed. They have disinformation mechanisms who never get the word that their efforts are unnecessary. It’s like the people on the Wintel side who bring up the “one button” mouse issue. They are unaware that the Mighty Mouse is over four years old.

71 Morris { 12.17.07 at 4:15 pm }

If you ask anyone with an IQ higher than “I gonna blow your f***ing brains out muther f***a” which they prefer :
a) The idea that everybody works together for the greater good of all
b) To rule the world
the answers will be the same.

Maybe there should be a ban on the idea of career politics?

72 UrbanBard { 12.17.07 at 4:50 pm }

@Morris
“Maybe there should be a ban on the idea of career politics?”

You mean “line them up against the wall?” How messy.

Or is ridicule enough of a correction? Public shame hasn’t kept Hillary from doing anything she ever wanted.

America was an attempt at avoiding career politicians–kings and such. It was supposed to be a government by the Common Man.

It hasn’t worked perfectly because of “Free rider” and “Rent-seeking” issues. There will always be people who prefer to seek money and power from politics than from working for a living. There will always be people ready to sell their votes for a mess of pottage.

That is why Thomas Jefferson suggested a revolution every generation. “The price of freedom is constant vigil.” “The tree of liberty requires the blood of patriots.”

73 Steve Nagel { 12.17.07 at 7:08 pm }

OK, I am going to retract my “Think Republicans” phrase out of courtesy to the readership here. I can think of lots of ways the Democrats have pandered.

Think demagogues.

74 UrbanBard { 12.17.07 at 7:42 pm }

There are plenty of people who want to control other people’s minds and actions. It’s not limited to Mother’s-in-law.

The point is to find out what they want you to do. Sometimes, you can agree with the demagogue’s goals, if not his methods.

One issue that you have to be careful about is that demagogues, once they hold power, will try to limit your access to contrary information. You would be surprised at the list of the “state controlled press” in the world.

What Political Parties do is present you with a buffet of ideas and assumptions. There is much on the table in both parties that you cannot stomach.

I am an individualist and that made me leave the Democratic party. But, I am a proponent of the Common Man, so I feel uncomfortable in the Republican Party. I distrust dictatorial power, thus, I mistrust governmental actions. I value pragmatism, so I want to continue what works. I love American society and culture, so I don’t want them discarded. Consequently, I feel uneasy, wherever I lay my head.

75 johnnyapple { 12.17.07 at 10:22 pm }

I can’t believe no one posted this…

Today, we celebrate the first glorious anniversary of the Information Purification Directives. We have created, for the first time in all history, a garden of pure ideology, where each worker may bloom, secure from the pests purveying contradictory thoughts. Our Unification of Thought is more powerful a weapon than any fleet or army on earth. We are one people, with one will, one resolve, one cause. Our enemies shall talk themselves to death and we will bury them with their own confusion. We shall prevail!

76 Morris { 12.17.07 at 10:35 pm }

@JohnnyApple
Interesting Johnny.

Yes after FOSS is the prevalent norm I see people turning their attentions to building wonderful ways of improving equality, efficiency and so forth.

Of course, there’ll still be the little Mafia’s trying to embed themselves somewhere within the framework.

With our governments so obsessed with business, I do wonder why it is still legal to teach our children to share.

77 UrbanBard { 12.17.07 at 11:51 pm }

Jean-Jacques Rousseau would be proud of both of you.

I hope that neither of you has Robespierre in his pocket.

78 Morris { 12.18.07 at 8:02 pm }

not @UrbanBard

When discussing with elders over a few ales, it is always, in their minds, the ultimate argument to recite some Shakespeare, or some awkwardly English muddlings of thoughts from some century ago.

“History always repeats itself” they cry, and so forth.

Global communication and collaboration is not repeating itself.

We are entering unchartered territory where the elders are mere buffoons.

79 Morris { 12.18.07 at 8:12 pm }

There are things apparent about “democratic governments”.
a) Why is choice only a or b?
b) Why do they merely follow us around, as opposed to innovating and lead as they pretend to do?

80 UrbanBard { 12.18.07 at 9:19 pm }

No, Morris, this is not about elders–or Shakespeare. It is about pragmatism. The world has its own ways. What failed in the past, often fails when tried again. “Those who don’t know the lessons of history are condemned to repeat them.”

As I said, I do not see a good marketing plan for FOSC. As I learned in my Economics classes, Co-op establishments do not compete well, long term, against commercial establishments.

But, I have nothing against any non-coercive method or system. Free Enterprise means that people can experiment with new marketing methods. Have at it.

Perhaps, I am wrong in this instance. We’ll see. I still have a few years left in me. Microsoft should be marginalized in ten to fifteen years. I’ll last that long.

I see FOSC as a defense mechanism to confront Microsoft’s tyranny and power. Any profit seeking entity would be marginalized, bought out by MS or run over. There was no way to do that with Linux.

When Microsoft loses its ability to sabotage the competition, will FOSC be necessary? I don’t know.

Your post #79 makes no sense to me. Could you expand your thoughts for us mentally feeble oldsters?

My point in #77 was that the writing in that manifesto reminded me of high flown Leftist proclamations. They are either ineffectual or misleading. They gave to the power hungry a chance to take control.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau was directly tied to Robespierre’s reign of terror during the French Revolution. Rousseau wanted to overturn all traditional, religious, legal or customary restraints on society or government action. He wanted to return to a “state of nature.” This lead to Robespierre’s absolute tyranny and the Guillotine. The French Revolution is the model for every succeeding Totalitarian State.

Some of the people in FOSC seem to want to overturn capitalism. At least, they seem hostile to it. You have to be careful what you ask for. You might get it.

81 Soviet Microsoft: How Resistance to Free Markets and Open Ideas Will the Unravel the Software Superpower. « VistaSucks.WordPress.Com { 12.20.07 at 4:07 pm }

[...] Soviet Microsoft: How Resistance to Free Markets and Open Ideas Will the Unravel the Software Superpower. “…Somewhat ironically, one of the most financially successful capitalist companies of the 90s has positioned itself as a modern counterpart to the old communist Soviet Union. Microsoft’s ideological contempt for and resistance to free markets and the open expression and propagation of fresh ideas and technologies is not only a close parallel of the old USSR, but also a clear reflection of why Microsoft is currently failing and why its troubles have only just begun. Here’s a comprehensive look at why this is the case.” Read the full article on RoughlyDrafted.Com [...]

82 Web Browsers in the Internet Age « Limulus { 12.22.07 at 9:22 am }

[...] because Microsoft wants to do its ten-year-plans and support the “custom web applications” I can’t see IE 8 breaking the mold. The [...]

83 avocade { 12.26.07 at 4:19 pm }

Brilliant. Perhaps a new sub-headline to the article that sums up the gist of it: “Microsoft Corporate Practice = Stalinist Communism.” That should turn some heads.

84 From Vista to Zune: Why Microsoft Can’t Sell to Consumers — RoughlyDrafted Magazine { 05.12.08 at 2:39 am }

[...] Soviet Microsoft: How Resistance to Free Markets and Open Ideas Will the Unravel the Software Superp… The Microsoft Invincibility Myth Video Game Consoles 2007: Wii, PS3 and the Death of Microsoft’s Xbox 360 [...]

85 Ten Striking Parallels Between Microsoft and John McCain — RoughlyDrafted Magazine { 09.15.08 at 12:52 am }

[...] Microsoft’s Unwinnable War on Linux and Open Source Soviet Microsoft: How Resistance to Free Markets and Open Ideas Will Unravel the Software Superpower [...]

86 Boycott Novell » IRC: #boycottnovell @ FreeNode: December 27th, 2008 { 12.28.08 at 3:53 am }

[...] Good essay: http://www.roughlydrafted.com/20… [...]

87 Carpadium Blog » Blog Archive » Competing from 3rd Place { 02.17.09 at 1:48 am }

[...] I find this fascinating, because it highlights a really interesting schism in Microsoft. On the one hand, you have the outrageously successful Windows and Office franchises, not to mention their development and tools platforms, where Microsoft’s ability to generate cash is well documented. Then on the other hand, you have the XBox, Zune and Windows Mobile. [...]

88 Boycott Novell » IRC: #boycottnovell @ FreeNode: February 24th, 2009 { 02.25.09 at 12:15 am }
89 Blackmoor Vituperative » Soviet Microsoft { 05.14.09 at 2:25 pm }

[...] Check this out: Soviet Microsoft: How Resistance to Free Markets and Open Ideas Will the Unravel the Software Superp…. [...]

90 Microsoft as Communism, Revisited | Boycott Novell { 12.12.09 at 4:06 pm }

[...] THIS is not yet another post reminding people that Microsoft — not Free software — resembles communism. We have done that several times before and so have others. [...]

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