Christmas week, 1996, I sat at Cafe Du Monde in the French Quarter, sipping on an au lait and nomming a beignet and looking at the USA Today. And on the front page of the business section: Apple Acquires Next; Steve Jobs Returns. And I thought to myself, well, that’s that – we will live or die with this one.

At the time, Apple was worth $16 billion, and Microsoft $556 billion.

Cut to today.

Market cap – debt = AAPL worth more as a company than MSFT.

I feel a little lightheaded just thinking about that.

If you weren’t an Apple aficionado in the mid-90s, I don’t think you can appreciate just how much Cupertino Hexachrome Fruit was hanging on by a fingernail. The PowerPC-based systems had failed to change the world. A whole litany of projects – CHRP, OpenDoc, GeoPort, PowerTalk – had utterly failed to catch fire. Copland – the mythical System 8 – was a year late and a GNP short. Michael “The Diesel” Spindler had given way as CEO to Gil Amelio, who seemed bound and determined to run Apple off the rails – the January 1997 MacWorld Expo keynote rivaled only Labour’s 1983 election manifesto for the title of “longest suicide note in history”. And after doing what everybody had insisted Apple needed to do – open its hardware to clone manufacturers – other companies were making better (or at least sufficient) hardware for less money, digging away at Apple’s most reliable profit margin. And to add insult to injury, Power Computing was outmarketing the Mac OS in almost every conceivable fashion.

It wasn’t Apple Computer, it was “beleaguered Apple Computer.” Press speculation ran rampant that Apple would be bought by Sun. Or Disney. Or Microsoft, who had launched Windows 95 and brought a sorta-Mac-like interface to PCs that was good enough for the vast majority of buyers, and undercut a big part of Apple’s usability advantage. That was the worst part – Microsoft was selling a shitty operating system, on cheap-ass screwdriver-job PCs, and devastating Apple in the marketplace despite superior technology at every level from Cupertino. Maddening.

That’s why there was almost a religious angle to Steve coming back. (I’m not making this up – Wired magazine even had the controversial “sacred heart of Apple” cover in summer ’97 with the simple headline “Pray.”) And then, at the summer MacWorld, there on that big screen – Bill Gates. Because Apple had to do something to ensure Microsoft Office would continue for the Mac, because without it the last finger would slip off the cliff. Fortunately, Microsoft had every incentive to stave off the antitrust regulators circling them, and keeping Apple from going under was an insurance policy – and cheap, at only $150M.

People still rolled their eyes. No point to Apple, they said. When Microsoft put the 95 interface on NT, that was the end, they said. No future. No future.

Well, the future’s here.

Microsoft missed the boat on digital music. Then they missed the boat on consumer smartphones. Then they missed the boat on social networking. And while they sat on a near-monopoly in operating systems and office suites, letting that river of cash fund everything else, Apple pared their line of goods down and decided that they would only sell the best products out there – no more competing at the discount end any more than Dior sells at Wal-Mart or Mercedes makes econoboxes. And then, in 2001, Apple (and at this point, make no mistake, that meant Steve) decided to sell people something they didn’t even know they wanted. Six years later, when the iPod ruled digital music, they decided to sell something else people didn’t know they wanted, and the iPhone revolutionized consumer smartphones in a way that Danger or Blackberry or Symbian never had.

And around 2007, as Vista flopped, Microsoft looked up and realized they essentially hadn’t budged in six years. And they suddenly realized the meaning of Stagger Lee’s Tenth Law: “In the 21st century, if your Next Big Thing runs on a PC, it’s not the Next Big Thing.” Of all the hottest things going – iPhone, Android, Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare – none of them relies on a PC running a Microsoft product.

Not to say that the race is over. It’s never over, and like the man says, in the end it’s only with yourself. But to look out on an Apple whose stock has gone up about 5000% since the old days, and to see the head of one of Microsoft’s most forward-looking groups resigning, and watching the world hold its breath for June 7…

I’m not gonna lie. It feels like a win. So I’ma call it a win.

Meanwhile, we wait for the fate of “beleaguered Microsoft”…

Well, this ought to be fun…

After eight tries, the GOP has finally won a special election since Obama was nominated in August 2008. This time in Hawaii-1, which is an uncommonly blue district and Obama’s old home district. So how did the GOP win?

Easy: two Democratic candidates. Neither would drop out, the DCCC washed their hands of it all, and the Honolulu City Councilman won the seat with a whopping 39.4% of the vote. The two Democrats wound up with 59% of the vote…which strongly suggests that the Republican had better rent rather than buy.

Naturally, the GOP is taking this as the latest omen of ultimate victory. But if Michael Steele wants to take this as proof that he can do the same thing nationwide – well, giddy up. If I’m running the D-triple-C, I’m more than happy to play on that field the rest of the way…

And another thing…

…people are saying that Android 2.2 will allow you to tether your phone and use it as a hotspot, thus leapfrogging the iPhone.

Setting aside how frequently these slobber-jobs use the word “will”, here’s the deal: the iPhone OS, version 3, has supported tethering from the day it shipped.  In fact, it was a working feature with 29 of the 30 carriers from day one, and people are tethering away with iPhones like there’s no tomorrow.

Except in the United States, where AT&T still hasn’t worked up the bandwidth to allow it.

Phones don’t exist in a vacuum.  In the United States, your phone exists at the sufferance of your carrier.   And if you think that AT&T’s going to blithely allow Android phones they sell to do this sort of wireless hotspot tethering, you are probably legally insane and should be given very hard drugs.


Well, it’s here.  Sort of.  If you have a Nexus One, it looks like before very long at all you’ll be able to update to Android 2.2, and with it (chorus of angels) run Flash beta.

Time to unpack this:

1) IF YOU HAVE A NEXUS ONE.  Apparently, HTC is not going to be drawn on how long before other phones support Android 2.2 – though “if you bought a phone this year,” you should be OK.  Assuming your carrier supports the update.  And if you don’t have to wait for an upgrade to MotoBLUR or Sense.

This is now the 5th version of Android in under 2 years.  The HTC G1, the first Android phone, was released in the United States in October of 2008.  If you bought one, you’re probably still under contract – and the odds that your phone will run the new hotness are practically nil.  More to the point, if you bought a MyTouch 3G or a Motorola CLIQ, you have the same hardware and it’s probably under a year old, so your upgrade path doesn’t look too hot either.  Sure, Apple is doing a partial cutoff at 2 years, it seems (and an absolute cutoff at 3) but that at least sort of dovetails with the typical contract period.  But to say that anything over six months old is not on the list – that’s a sign of engineer thinking instead of, you know, human logic.

2) BEFORE VERY LONG.  Has to be said again, my Ninth Law: “you ain’t shit ’til you ship.”  (Which is why I’m not even commenting on Google TV, except to say that GOOG has done a great job of getting Apple-level attention for Microsoft-caliber vaporware.  How long for that Courier tablet?  Huh?  Never mind.)  See #1 – even if your hardware supports Froyo, I wouldn’t plan on running out and having this installed in time for your Memorial Day minibreak.

3) FLASH BETA.  Yes, it exists, and so far the early returns, running it on Google’s flagship phone, are: it kind of sort of works, not very well, chews through battery at a ridiculous rate, and the phone runs hot as a New Orleans whorehouse on nickel night anytime you spend more than a few seconds running Flash. I don’t know how often I have to repeat it, but I will: there is nothing about Flash as currently constituted that makes it suitable for mobile phone use.

All in all, it still looks like Android 2.2 is still the best thing going if you don’t want to go the iPhone route, but until the rubber hits the road, let’s not go assuming that this is the thing that’s going to give Apple the beatdown once and for all.  For some reason, ever since the iPhone 4 leak, the Intarwebs have decided that Apple is the new Great Satan and somebody has to rise up and stop them – except when Facebook is the Great Satan and somebody has to stop them.  And I have actually heard Google Buzz pitched as the Facebook alternative – presumably by people with no short term memory whatsoever.

There are no good guys out there, people.  You pick the level of intrusion you’re willing to live with.  And right now, I’m still willing to take “just works” at the expense of “I can’t make it run Duke Nukem Forever in a shell” – not to mention “cash on the freakin’ barrelhead” rather than “barter away information in exchange for free at point of use.”  Depending on what Apple is doing with MobileMe, though, all bets are off…

Libertopia and its Discontents, part 2

So Rand Paul, newly minted Republican candidate for Senate from Kentucky, is currently the object of a firestorm around his comments that he didn’t approve of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  His logic is lifted straight from the Goldwater-era opposition to the law, which is to say: racism is bad, but so is government telling people who they should or shouldn’t do business with.  Civil rights law to prohibit discrimination in institutions, good; law to prevent private discrimination, bad, which is “the hard part of believing in freedom.”

There’s ideological consistency there, and it’s not a position that’s in and of itself grounded in racism.  I don’t think you could say with a clear conscience that Rand Paul is a racist, because he’s not making an argument grounded in racism or white supremacy.  I’m trying to unwind the logic here, which seems to be: there shouldn’t be any laws permitting discrimination, but there shouldn’t be any laws prohibiting discrimination either.  Be that as it may.  It’s the standard true-believer libertarian line: if you have problems like this, the free market will resolve them, because it’s not in your economic interest to discriminate against customers or to do things that will alienate your customers; therefore any business person who wants to turn a profit will certainly serve one and all on equal footing.

Which, simply put, is horseshit.

There was every economic incentive to discriminate in the Jim Crow era, law aside.  Look at the logic:

1) Majority population hates minority population, or at the very least wants them segregated.

2) Business could make money serving minority population, but would alienate majority.

3) Business could make MORE money serving majority population and foregoing minority trade.

4) Business segregates, leaving minority-run business to handle minority trade.

5) PROFIT!!!

The Deep South had a hundred years for the invisible hand of the market to punch Jim Crow in the nuts.  It didn’t happen.  It will never happen, because this is a fact and it is indisputable: nobody, but NOBODY, responds only to purely economic incentives.  It may be cheaper for you to send your kids to the public school, but if you’re sufficiently bigoted, you’ll pay extra out of your own pocket to send them to the local white-flight academy for an education substantively no better.  Hell, I pay more just to have Doc Martens that are made in Northumberland instead of some Chinese sweatshop, even though the marginal quality is largely indistinguishable and I could save a huge chunk of change by doing otherwise.  Any economist would tell you I’m not rational, and I would reply by saying that I don’t live in economics, I live in reality.

Rand Paul and his fanboys would have you believe that government can’t change people’s minds.  That the right thing to do is sit and wait until people come to their own realization that they should change their beliefs.  But most of all, what it boils down to is this: racism is less of a threat to society than government intervention against racism. It’s the libertarian ethos in its purest form: I got mine, so fuck you.

Is Rand Paul racist?  No.  Is Rand Paul’s articulated belief compatible with the real world? Hell no.  Is this the sort of person who belongs in the Senate?  Not my call.

Your move, Bluegrass State…


Damn my superstition!

I just thought of something for the US-England match on June 12, a chant for Sam’s Army that might very well be the absolute most provocative, ugly-American, guaranteed-to-start-a-war-with-Britain thing we could sing from the terraces if we find ourselves nursing a lead with 15 minutes to play…but I don’t dare post it for fear of a jinx.

Still, cock an ear toward Frankfurt on the 12th, and if you hear me howling, you’ll know what it is…


Well, it looks like the official excuse is going to be “you shouldn’t be running so many third-party apps.”

At this point, it’s largely a philosophical dispute about whether users should be allowed to drive their car into a ditch or not.  Google, being a company run by engineers, sees no problem with this.  Apple, being a company run by marketers, insists on protecting you from yourself – even against your will – because people might think the device sucks if the battery comes up short.

You can make an argument either way – I think the iPhone would have been dead on arrival if they had enabled that sort of multitasking, or 3G, or GPS, because terrible battery life would have strangled the baby in the crib – but you can’t really repeal physics.  And the fact is, if you put a bigger load on the processor by multi-tasking, it will consume more power, and the battery will not last as long.  Period, paragraph.  Buy the ticket, take the ride, and no amount of magic pixie-dust will solve that.


ETA: try this link, the first one was gobsmacked.

Testing again

Back to the iPad, borrowed for a couple of days to test the efficacy of blogging right from the website. I think if somebody were willing to carry the physical Bluetooth keyboard, it would be simple to use this for anything I’d do on a laptop or even a net book traveling. Maybe not video Skype, but try doing that on an Atom processor anyway.
I’m not taking eier the pad or the netbook to Europe – not worthwhile given that I’ll be limited to whatever wifi I can find or steal, and best to just stick with the iPhone in permanent airplane mode for that. It sort of worked last time around – I don’t think we set foot in one single cybercafe, unlike the honeymoon where the easyInternet on the Strand across from Charing Cross was our home away from home four days of our first married week. Don’t look at me like that, it was her idea as much as mine…
More and more, too, it looks like there won’t be a change in my phone arrangements. Having work reimburse me for my phone ultimately costs half out of pocket what it would cost to have a work phone and pay the extra rate for personal use. It also doesn’t look like the new iPhone is going to offer the T-Mobile band for 3G, which makes unlocking kind of pointless. So we’re right back where we always were, paying the upgrade on a new iPhone when it comes out and sitting through another two year indenturement to AT and fucking T. Not that I blame Apple – I’ve explained repeatedly how Cingular was the only game in town, being the only dual band carrier, and the fact that we essentially have hardware lock-in even without subsidy locks is just more proof that we are the most backward country on Earth for phones. It still sucks out loud, though…
Ok, the ipad just went to sleep in my lap. Obviously i don’t have that much to say tonight so i will try to hit send…

Here we go

Gordon Brown is resigning as Prime Minister, which means that the Tories and the Lib Dems must have an agreement in place by which David Cameron can form a government.  So the Sturdy Golden Bear Party (blue + gold SEE WHAT I DID THERE) is ready to ride.

This is a huge, huge, HUGE gamble by Nick Clegg.  The Lib Dems have a far stronger left-libertarian streak than Labour, especially since LibDem and Labor come to the left from two different-ish traditions.  There might be common ground for the LibDems and the Conservatives on some topics, but not on a lot of things that matter – and matter a LOT to LibDem voters.  Nick is going all in with Old Nick, so to speak, because this is the best chance the LibDems will ever have to force electoral reforms that could get them a more permanent place in government with an elected party commensurate with their percentage of the electorate.


If the deal is for a referendum, they are screwed – Labour voters will not want to support a party that sold out to the Thatcherites, and Conservative voters will never support any mechanism that would make the Tories a permanent minority in Parliament (as any real proportional voting system will inevitably force).  What they need to have is a commitment from a Cameron government to implement some sort of reform right up front, whether Instant Runoff (as seems most likely) or something else.

So yeah.  This is a bet – that the future of the LibDem party can be staked on a deal with a Conservative government eager to push in the opposite direction of almost everything the LibDems hold dear.  I stand by my prediction that we’ll have another election by Christmas – and that by then, Clegg and the Liberal Democrats may well wish they’d forced the Tories to govern as a minority government and held their cards until the next round.