Friday, September 26, 1997

The Impending NC Revolution

So Steve Jobs will finally have the last laugh. He co-founded Apple, got booted out by the Board of Directors, started a new hardware company - NEXT - (that never caught on so they changed to a software company), and had enough money from his Apple holdings to buy Pixar. What a "visionary"... NOT!

But, like the unwanted guest in the movie Poltergiest, "...heeeeee'ssss baaaaaack.." but only as "interim CEO" a job he "never wanted."

Guess what? We don't want him EITHER. In the past few months, he's managed to fire (or in Applespeak, "..cause to excercise options..") of all the best and brightest Apple directors - Eileen Hancock, Guerino De Luca, and scads of others. I have it on good authority, from a person who works in highest levels at Apple, that Steve was actually seen walking down the halls in a fit saying to random people in the halls "You're fired! You're fired! You're all fired!".

Yeah, that's mature.

Better yet, he's ousted or "..caused to excercise options..." of almost all of the Board of Directors and replaced them with his own long-time, apple-bashing friends. The most distasteful of these has to be Larry Ellison (CEO and founder of Oracle - a kick-ass company with kick-ass products). Larry has had a "hunkering" for a new type of PC, called an NC (Network Computer) that has no internal hard drive. This type of computer would have a Java operating system, and would link to a powerful server computer to run all the applications.

Old Larry has been hyping his vision in the press, but as yet, no one has actually bought a NC computer, because they don't exist (in mass quantities). Now this makes really, really good demos at computer shows, but that's about it.

Now Larry has convinced Steve that NC's would be a good direction for Apple.

Danger! Danger! Danger Will Robinson!

What in the hell can Steve actually be thinking? I mean do we really want to return to the era of bell bottoms, tie dye, afros, and platform shoes? In the 70's and early 80's NC's (or "dumb terminals" as they were called) was the ONLY way of networked computing. The theory was that you have monitor and keyboard for all the lowly "users" and that all the applications and "cool stuff" to make it all work was housed in a big computer room under the watchful (and often tyrannical control) of the "MIS" department.

Then came the "desktop revolution" that de-centralized the control of the "dumb terminals" with the advent of the "personal" computer. Now every user had the ability to save, copy and open their own files, upgrade their hardware and software, and add new features to their computers without having to wait the 4 to 6 weeks for some MIS guy to "get around to it."

People liked it. Lots of folks sold lots of computers. Bill Gates became a billionaire (for the first time). It was good.

Now we're supposed to buy this NC thing? It's a simple return to the "good ol days" of centralized computing. It takes all the power from the user and re-instills it to the MIS department. Don't get me wrong, some of the MIS people I know aren't maniacle, power-hungry, tyrannical despots who lord their "keeper of the keys" mentality over every "lowly user"... but some are.

Do we really want to return to those days? As for me and mine - the answer is a resounding NO! Hell no, we won't go (NC).. hell no we won't go.. echos from the hallways as I write this.

Maybe I'm too cynical. I long for the kind of Apple that produced the in-your-face-IBM commercial in 1984. I wish for the Apple "evangelists" that would beg, cajole, and actually LISTEN to developers. Was it all for naught? Some say yes (i.e. ALL the PC press), some say no (like me, for now) and some are doing something about it.

If you REALLY want to recapture the passion of empowered computing check out this little company called Be Computing... I know I'll be watching them closely as the replacement for what the Mac COULD have been.

Tuesday, September 02, 1997

Clone Home

Rumors have been flying fast and furious over the last few weeks as to the future of Power Computing. For those of you who don't know (or care) - PowerComputing is (has been) the #1 clone Macintosh manufacturer and the industry leader in Mac OS technology for the past two years. Reported price: $100 million.

It is reported that Apple will purchase Power's assets. Power will retain its name and logo, and continue operating through the end of the year.

Apple's clone market slogan from the beginning has been: "Expand the market, don't cannibalize it." Read: "Don't do anything better than us - like marketing, sales, delivering on-time, offering customers lifetime support, creating cool technology, etc. because it will 'cannibalize' OUR crappy sales efforts, lame products, late delivery, no support and general mis-management."

It looks like Steve Jobs got far more for the $150+ million that Bill Gates recently "invested" in Apple - he picked up on Bill's "if you can't beat them, buy them and beat them up" strategy.

As if taken from the Official Microsoft Play book - Apple is effectively "buying off" the competition. Loud competition. Real in-your-face competition. Competition with a REAL marketing department. Competition with a REAL management team.

Who'll lose? Us. PowerComputing is now going to be making Wintel machines (including notebooks). Just what the world needs - another hardware manufacturer. Hopefully, the folks at Power will be able to pull it off, and provide the same quality/feature to price ratio as they had in the Mac OS market. If so they'll succeed. If not, they'll fail.

What about the future of clones and cloning? Well, Motorola still remains the most viable cloner (as do the companies such as PowerTools which buy its OEM equipment from Motorola). You see, Moto is a licensor of Apple's OS, not a licensee. Not even Steve's buddy Bill Gates has enough money to buy THEM - and even if they did, Bill doesn't want another Justice Department proctology exam.

While other clone makers have voiced their continued support for the Mac OS clone market (i.e. UMAX, et al), it looks like Moto is going to be, by default, the big winner. It's not going to "bet the clone farm" on just the boring PowerPC boxes, but has recently inked a deal with Apple to build and market CHRP (Common Hardware Reference Platform) machines. These machines will run ANY OL' OS - not just the Mac OS. It seems that even THEY are hedging their bets...

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