The Occasional Joke

Nurse: Patient's name?

Centurion: Marcus Licinius Crassus

Nurse: And his date of birth?

Centurion: 115 BC.

Nurse: All right. And what is he here for?

Centurion: Cataphract surgery.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Feelin' old ...

Unlike most of you whippersnappers, I can remember when this paragraph, taken from a piece by Jared Spurbeck in Yahoo's contributor network, would have had the xxxs replaced by the word "Microsoft" or even "IBM."

xxx has almost $60 billion just sitting in the bank. Consider that, before voting for politicians who offer tax cuts for the wealthy so that companies like it will "create jobs." But also consider the effect that this has on less well-funded companies, which struggle to get hardware suppliers to notice them when xxx can make down payments on everything. Or to defend themselves in legal battles, against a much more powerful company.

I'm a fan of xxx's products, but I don't think they're right for everyone. And I'd rather that they didn't become everyone's only option.

The rest of the article is similar in tone and content. I remember when we railed against MS and its practices, cast Bill -- what's his name?, oh yeah, Gates -- as a combination of Shylock and Mephistopheles, and demonized his products right, left, and center. Before we had MS to kick around, IBM was the great Satan; I have a comic book from the late Seventies, crudely drawn, obviously by an Engineer. It's a parody of Star Wars, with IBM as the Empire and DEC (remember DEC?) with its hip, rebellious mini-computers as the bold opposition.

Thing is, Mr. Spurbeck's article isn't about Microsoft. It's about Apple. And except for his somewhat naive take on the economics of 60 millon cash and job creation, he has a point or two. Apple, so long the technical poster child of the unthinkingly rebellious (do you know that people actually have Apple bumper stickers on their cars, still?) has gradually become evil.

Surprised? Nah. There needs to be a revised version of the old "power corrupts" tag, dealing with EBIT. But I bet there are still people out there who are surprised at the sort of nonsense Apple does and gets away with. What do you suppose the tea baggers would say to a federal law that required all documents written in English to be approved by a committee before they could be sold? But nobody's all that upset about Apple's proprietary operating systems and their control over, if not in fact outright censorship of applications written for them.

Oh, well. It seems to be the case that somehow, open operating systems keep creeping up on the exposed flanks of the monoliths. Android offers a possible avenue of escape (I haven't taken the plunge yet -- I'm still cursing at a Windows Mobile-based piece of poorly-assembled gear from HTC.) But it all contributes to a sense of aging, both on my part and on the part of the industry. It all sounds so familiar.

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