I Don’t Love The 90s…Well Not Like That

Remember the Web 1.0 era? More to the point, remember the rise of Internet Explorer, and MSN, and how Microsoft bought everything from Hotmail to Claris Emailer en route to world domination? How everything was bundled, internally API’d and basically made into an inexorable juggernaut? Hell, we’re still paying for the integration of IE into the operating system – a trick pulled to sandbag Netscape in 1996 has been providing us with security nightmares for a decade. But I digress…

It shouldn’t be lost on anyone that as soon as the Droid rolled out today, with the new Navigation package built free of charge into Android 2.0, the shares of Garmin and Tom Tom both plunged 20% almost immediately. All of a sudden, they’re stuck with a hardware premium, competing against a bundled product that’s free of charge. Sound familiar? Seriously, look at the list. Google Search (whether web, toolbar, desktop or whatever), GMail, Blogger, Google Maps, Google Chrome, GTalk, Google Reader, YouTube, iGoogle portal…and that’s just the stuff I use on a routine basis, not counting things like Google Earth, Google Wave (more on that in a minute), Google Docs, Google Voice, Picasa, Google Calendar…seriously, every time I do the list, I think of something else hanging out there that I hadn’t considered.

We had three rules in DC: we didn’t drink fruit-flavored liquor, we didn’t smoke machine-rolled cigars, and we didn’t put mission-critical work on Microsoft products. That was ten years ago. Now look at the list above, and think: if tomorrow morning all Google services vanished, completely, 1) how screwed would you be, and 2) what alternatives would you fall back on?

Put it like this: it is now very nearly possible to have a pure Google ecosystem. You can have a Google OS on your phone from two different carriers (and more on the way no doubt). Google can be your mail, calendar, contact number, voicemail, productivity suite, GPS system, web browser – pretty soon possibly even your OS, depending on how the Chrome OS for netbooks works out. And while you have to pay for your cellphone and its service, for now the rest of it is all free at the point of use. As far as you can see, it’s not costing you a thing.

That’s where the trouble starts. No matter how good a product Garmin or Tom Tom might make, how are they going to compete against a product that is a) good enough and b) visibly free? Microsoft ran up something like a 95% market share in web browsers that way, and still has a majority – the only thing that made a dent was the rise of Firefox, aided and abetted by Microsoft’s utter failure to innovate in the browser space and by the security nightmares engendered by the aforementioned browser integration. Or put another way: if Microsoft had taken viruses seriously and given half a thought to tabbed browsing and privacy mode in, say, 2000, Firefox would be a side project for neckbeard Linux hippies.

As I may have mentioned before, Google has your data. In a lot of ways, though, it also has your inertia. When’s the last time you used anything else for search, or for maps or directions? I was looking at my own usage, and in addition to Maps being right there in the iPhone’s home screen, it occurs to me that almost every single iPhone RSS app relies on Google Reader as its backbone service. I could ditch GMail and GTalk tomorrow, especially now that my employer runs its own in-house (encrypted!) IM service, I’ve got Safari and Firefox for browsers, I don’t really need a portal anymore but Yahoo could do that, I’ve already paid up for .Mac to cover mail and calendaring and some web service there…

I guess the point is: monoculture is dangerous. If you put all your eggs in the Google basket, then the first time it breaks – they get hacked, they decide to start charging an arm and a leg, they start strip-mining your personal info and selling to Russian pharmaceutical companies, it doesn’t matter, whatever – when the bough breaks, your cradle is going to get fucked right up. But for whatever reason, that hasn’t yet occurred to people. Maybe it was just slow – Google didn’t really displace Altavista as my go-to search until 2000 sometime, GMail dropped in 2004, the mass conversion to Reader only seems to have come along in the last 6 months, Blogger and YouTube were acquired at diverse times in the past. Maybe people buy into “Don’t Be Evil.” Maybe people just can’t resist free stuff. And maybe the cult of Google has just gotten to the point where they can roll out any old shit and people will break their neck for invitations, only to find themselves wondering “what the hell is this FOR” when they get there (I still don’t have one single real-world use case for Google Wave, and I’m a NERD).

But by whatever means, Google has quietly got a better grip on our collective nuts than Microsoft has – after all, they just have an OS. Google has your data – hell, Google has a non-trivial chunk of your life. And others could have that, too – but only Google has come right out and said they’re building their business on your data. And if I’m in the information business, in any fashion, I’m not going to sleep well for a long, long time. And even if I’m just a user, I’m starting to get a little uneasy about how tight the grip from Mountain View is.

Especially as I’m posting this via Google Wi-Fi.

Well, it’s out…

…and the Droid looks like it might just punch equal weight with the iPhone 3GS, based on the features and demos seen today. But three things spring to mind:

1) We still don’t know what the battery life is like. I want to see that thing survive all day in the real world, speaking as somebody who routinely pummels an iPhone 3G to the tune of 6+ hours live use in a day (and that with virtually no actual voice usage).

2) We still don’t know what the data plans are like and whether Verizon can fight off the urge to squeak every last nickel out of its users. Still want to see how app sales, etc. play out.

And most important:

3) We don’t know how long it will take before Moto/Google pops out a GSM Droid so they can play in, oh, EVERY OTHER COUNTRY ON EARTH besides South Korea. Verizon better have those exclusivity deals locked up for a while.

I don’t think Apple has anything to worry about here, although this will definitely light a fire under them (not to mention make me glad I’ve passed on the 3GS – whatever comes next will have to be even better now). But if I’m Palm, or Microsoft, I’m shitting myself right now. And RIM has to be FRISBEE pissed that on the day they release the Storm 2, all the oxygen in the room got sucked up by the Droid. I think the Blackberry has got to do some serious shaking up if they’re going to compete with Apple and Google in the consumer-smartphone space.


So Lane Kiffin vaporlocked in the last minute of the game – his quarterback has finally found the range, Alabama is suddenly unable to stop the short slant passes, and his kicker has had one miss and one block from roughly the same area of the field where Tennessee has the ball with 40 seconds to play, first down, and no time-outs.

So what does he do? Do they spike the ball to stop the clock and then take a couple of deep shots down the sideline? Do they at least attempt to get closer and make things easier on the kicker, if not try to end it outright with a second touchdown in as many minutes?

Nope. Lane Kiffin runs the clock down to four seconds, attempts the field goal, gets it swatted back in his kicker’s face, goes to the locker room, pees sitting down, and blames the refs.

Does the SEC have a crisis in officiating? Absolutely, and if you don’t believe me, check out last Saturday’s game at Mississippi State. Did the refs put a gun to Lane Kiffin’s head and tell him to wuss out after his offense got its head out of its collective rectum for the first time all day? If they did, CBS sure didn’t get it.

Memo to Hello Kiffy: this is not the Big 12, and you’re not Mack Brown. You don’t get to whine your way into anything in the SEC. If you don’t have the sack to go all in, don’t come crying when you flop a deuce.

Whoop, there it is

So WIndows 7 is officially in the wild. No OS survives contact with the user base, so I’ll be curious to see how this works out. The biggest problem will be the lack of a direct upgrade path from XP – which means you’re basically wiping your machine, installing 7 clean, and then hoping that your restored/reinstalled apps and data work out fine. I think that, like always, most people will get 7 by just saying “to hell with it” and buying a new machine, and Apple – with their refresh of the least expensive items in their hardware lineup – is counting on at least some folks going their way.

This points up a big issue – for all their Mac envy (which is plain to see if you look at the opening of the Microsoft Store in Scottsdale), Microsoft’s number-one competition for Windows 7 is…WIndows XP. There has to be a compelling value proposition to make it worth moving up. Apple’s not immune to this, either – the biggest competitor to the iPod is the iPod you already have, not the Zune or Sensa or Archos or whatever piece of shit washed up from Shenzen this week.

Thing is, though, Apple’s never been afraid to shoot the golden goose – the iPod mini was their most successful product since the Apple II, and at the height of its success, they killed it dead – in favor of the nano, which quickly became more successful than the mini. The successor to the iPhone was the 3G, which added some more stuff to the mix – but the successor to THAT was the iPhone 3GS, which adds a truly compelling value proposition over the original iPhone (video camera, 3G, GPS, voice control, ridiculous improvements in speed and storage, etc) just in time for that first 2-year contract to expire – and for an initial outlay that’s probably half what was paid for that first iPhone anyway.

I haven’t done that much with Windows 7 – I’ve used the RC1 version in a virtualization environment, so I can’t say for sure how well it works running right on the metal or configuring the networking. It certainly looks prettier than XP, and it was definitely less of a PITA to get up and running than Vista under similar circumstances, but I wonder how much of the improvement in 7 comes from the fact that three years on, the median computer is faster and has more RAM and hard drive than when Vista shipped. But the really compelling thing is that despite being long in the tooth (pushing what, 8 or 9 years now?) Windows XP is actually not terrible – it’s certainly inferior to Leopard (you could not fathom how much it kills me not to be able to SSH into a Windows box and run top or kill) but in all this time, most of the hard corners have been rubbed down and it’s got a lot of the bugs worked out. The measure of Windows 7 is whether it will be worth the hassle for those who don’t just throw up their hands and buy new hardware.

As it is, I wouldn’t say no if somebody threw a WIn7 netbook into my hands, just to get to know the thing. Like I say with the iPhone – if you can give me something better, I’ll take it with no complaints. But in the words of St. Ric Flair, if you wanna BE the man, you gotta BEAT the man…


This team is officially beyond help. There will be no success in Washington football until:

1) Daniel Snyder either sells the team or completely recuses himself from its operations;

2) An actual general manager is installed with carte blanche to turn over the roster;

3) An actual head coach is hired and allowed to install his own staff;

4) The offensive line is completely replaced with younger, fresher talent; and

5) The rest of the roster is repopulated as necessary with fewer big-name free agents and more well-chosen spot performers.

Even if the team were forcibly sold tomorrow to some 21st-century Jack Kent Cooke, who hired some 21st century Bobby Beatherd, who in turn brought in the 21st century Joe Gibbs, Joe Bugel and Richie Petitbone, the whole player-personnel situation is untenable and will probably take a good two or three years to clean up.


Right now, if there is no new collective bargaining agreement with the players’ association by next year, the 2010 season will be played without a salary cap – and if that happens, you can almost certainly count on the owners locking out the players in 2011. This will basically put the entire salary cap, roster, contract situation in a blender and possibly give the Skins a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to massively disrupt and reconstruct the team, possibly shortening the time needed to make the turnaround. IF you have the right guys in place, smart enough to take maximum advantage of the situation.

But as long as Snyder’s running this team, they’re going to be the Raiders. Or Clippers. Or worse. In perpetuity.

Um…Geaux Saints?

Nobody worries about upsetting a droid.

So Verizon’s got a superphone coming. Hah.

Let’s take a moment to consider Verizon. This is a company that for years has been touting their network – a network that until recently was still relying on analog to fill out their coverage map – while downplaying the fact that their CDMA-based network meant a worse selection of handsets than any major mobile carrier on Earth. Handsets that had worse battery life than their rivals, thanks to the limitations of CDMA. Handsets on which they forced their own custom user interface and own custom application type. (BREW? Really?) Handsets on which they regularly locked out or removed features like Bluetooth, e-mail support, GPS.

And now, they want us to forget all that, because they have a new phone coming real soon that will put the smack down on the iPhone and show Apple what’s what.

The obvious question is why a carrier thinks it’s in competition with a handset maker. But setting that aside…what are they pushing? “Doesn’t run multiple apps at once.” (Technically true but largely irrelevant.) “No open development.” (Verizon can suck it – they have less than zero room to talk about “open” anything. Do you think Mary Sue Enduser gives a shit about the developer options?) “Doesn’t run widgets.” (Huh? I assume they mean some sort of idle-screen display.) “No removable battery.” Well, two years and three models later, I don’t think the battery thing is killing the iPhone too bad, do you?* “No physical keyboard.” Again, doesn’t seem to be making that much trouble, especially considering that the current flagship Android phone (HTC myTouch 3G on T-Mobile) doesn’t have one either. The 5 megapixel camera is a possible get – but then, there are plenty of other phones with 5 megapixel cameras and none of them seem to be putting a dent in the growth rate of the iPhone.

The bigger story, to me, is that Verizon has pretty much punted on the iPhone on LTE in a couple of years. I have a sneaking suspicion that there is a guy whose name rhymes with Sleeve Knobs who was never going to deal with the red V again after they wanted UI input. Now Verizon has found an open source phone OS that they can presumably trick out how they want…the question is, will they have the sense to let Motorola design a MOTOBLUR-type look for it or are they going to go with the same block-red abortion of an interface they slapped on everything from cheap-shit LG freebies to Blackberries?

The lesson here: Verizon is shitting themselves because the iPhone is eating their lunch. Not AT&T – AT&T sucks and most iPhone owners will tell you the same. But despite that, they’re still going for the phone – and that’s why Verizon has to try to knock down the iPhone.

The truly interesting thing, though, is that of all the stuff Verizon says is terrible about the iPhone, almost every bit of it is something that could be changed in OS 4.0. Not the camera or the battery, obviously, but don’t forget that everyone was touting the advantages the Pre had over the iPhone – and by launch day, most of those were minimized at best. So they could well be setting themselves up to get lapped sooner rather than later – and if you don’t think the iPhone is Apple’s #1 platform these days, wait until you see sales numbers Monday.

Verizon’s gone out and bought themselves somebody else’s hardware and somebody else’s OS and thinks they’re going to give Apple the beatdown? COME TRY IT IF YOU’VE GOT THE BALLS.

* The obvious gimmick is that with CDMA, you NEED to be able to swap batteries, because you’ll never get through a full day on one charge. Try running multiple apps at once on a CDMA network; your worktime will be measurable in minutes.

Well, at least they mixed it up.

This time, it was missing white BOY as cable news went batshit loonball. When I heard the balloon had come down empty, my first thought was “he was never in that thing. He is hiding out somewhere because he knows damn well he is going to get the living evangelical foot-washing Baptist HELL beat out of him directly.” As I told somebody else, if I had scared the hell out of my parents, burned a million taxpayer dollars’ worth of emergency responders, and then put my parents on blast as UFO wackadoos, my dad would still be beating me, and he’s been dead since 1998. Seriously, I would have been wore out with a belt until I reached Heaven and Jesus looked at me and said “I reckon you had THAT coming.”

The fact that every news channel went the full OJ on this story, I think, speaks to something deeper in the American condition in 2009: people are scared shitless. They’ve been scared shitless for eight years, ever since the real world snuck in and bitch-smacked us all out of an idyllic world of intern scandals and Britney bullshit, and they’re still scared shitless, to the point where they need an ever-growing spiral of distraction (thus the horseshit that passes for news on the morning shows and cable channels) and an occasional outlet for all this inner fright, which is why people flip out on something like this that they can vicariously panic through.

We as a nation need a good long bout of therapy and probably some mild drugs – little Paxil in the water supply for a year, maybe – but at some point, if we want to continue functioning as a society, we have to stop freaking out all the time about everything.

Quick hitter re: Sidekick

The only thing you can blame T-Mobile for is putting all their eggs in the cloud basket and letting Danger/Microsoft keep all the device data. They’re making up for it by allowing users to cancel their contracts without penalty – a ballsy move – and also offering discounts for people who feel like moving to a G1 – a smart move.

Meanwhile, it’s not enough that Windows Mobile 6.5 is basically Windows Moble 6.1 with extra Shinola applied – Microsoft just basically killed every Sidekick phone in America. How is it even possible to not have a backup of that kind of thing? Anyway, the old rules of DC are still true: don’t trust anything to a Microsoft product that you couldn’t live with being destroyed without notice. Anybody who would rely on a cloud product from Microsoft at this point may have a legitimate mental defect.