2008.11.30 prev next
ABOUT four years ago it was very popular to think that Microsoft was going to take over Apple’s iPod and iTunes Store businesses the same (supposed) way that it took the GUI OS away from Apple twenty years prior: by licensing its system to many different companies, and thus isolating Apple into a niche status.
Typical of this thinking was Russell Beattie’s early-2005 piece, “Microsoft’s Consumer Electronics Endgame,” which detailed Microsoft’s impending victory over iPod so convincingly that if you didn’t spot the flaw, you probably traded in your iPod for a PlaysForSure device that very day. Beattie described how the vicious-virtuous cycle was bound once again viciously to drive Apple out of the market, and virtuously to lock-in Microsoft as the dominant player. The importance of getting people to think this way wasn’t lost on Microsoft — they named their system “PlaysForSure” in an attempt to make people think of players that use Microsoft’s sytems as a large set of mutually interactive, cooperative units, and anything else as a shaky, proprietary gamble. Beattie ends his article with advice for Apple: Start licencing your DRM and store technologies to lots of other companies, now.
So here we are with four-year hindsight and we know that Beattie and others like him were completely wrong. Why did their argument seem so good at the time? What was the “flaw” I mentioned in the previous paragraph? Simple: The virtuous-vicious cycle is very real and very powerful, but it doesn’t care how many companies are using each system — it cares how many consumers are. As early as 2005, Apple had dominant consumer share in this market, and so the virtuous-vicious cycle was working strongly for Apple and against Microsoft.
Of course, not everybody bought into the Beattie line of thinking. I know I didn’t. Pro-Apple blogger John Gruber famously didn’t. So why did Beattie, and many others, predict this path? The answer, I suspect, is that they wanted Apple to lose. Pretending that virtuous-vicious cycles work by number-of-companies, not number-of-consumers, was a convenient way to sell the story of Microsoft’s certain victory to the public, and in so doing, hopefully convince that public to switch to PlaysForSure products.
Choice quotes from Beattie’s piece:
It doesn’t matter that Microsoft doesn’t lead in music downloads right now...
Yes, it did matter. A lot.
What’s important is that Microsoft owns the alternative to Apple...
No, it was important whether Microsoft’s alternative to Apple had any way to upset Apple’s dominant position in the market.
It’s amazing to see history repeating itself, no?
It was when I bought my Creative Labs MuVo 100 that I realized how far Microsoft has gone to penetrate the CE market.
It was when you decided to buy a MuVo, when most people were buying iPods, that you realized how badly you wanted to avoid Apple.
[I]t wasn’t until I was shopping for an audio player that I grokked what was going on.
As soon as you grok that PlaysForSure logo...
Whenever I see someone saying “grok” as if it’s a normal part of English speech, I know I’m dealing with a certain type of person. The type I talked about here. The type that wishes Apple would just go away.
Then I notice all the other sites that use Windows Media including CinemaNow, Napster, MusicNow, MLB, Atom Films and Wal-Mart Music.
Hindsight is indeed 20/20, so I guess I can’t blame you for not knowing how that list of sites would stand in late 2008. But again, why does the number of sites matter? Websites aren’t like retail stores where proximity to your house is important. You can visit Apple’s site just as easily as any other. If number-of-sites really mattered, why didn’t Apple make twenty different websites all selling its product under twenty different names? That would have been trivially easy to do.
So while all these competitors mess around with alternatives specs, Microsoft is going to blanket the Earth with PlaysForSure devices.
When Apple has 60-70% of the market, how does it make sense to call their system an “alternative” spec? Some people have just trained themselves to think of Microsoft as the automatic standard and everything else as a strange alternative.
And how does Microsoft just “blanket the Earth” with PlaysForSure devices? How does any company just decide to blanket the Earth with its product? What does that mean, anyway? All any company can do is make its product, then try to get the consumers to buy it. When Apple does that, and achieves market-dominating share doing it, it’s called “messing around?” And when Microsoft does it, without much success, it’s called “blanketing the Earth?!”
Say you’re technologically agnostic (i.e. a “dumb consumer”). First, you immediately notice the Microsoft logo on any consumer product you’re about to buy and since you have a Windows PC at home, you immediately think “ooh, good that’ll work.”
Yeah, consumers who aren’t into nerd-terms like “grok” probably are too technically unsophisticated to know that the majority of iPods are owned by Windows users. Even if somebody told them. Or even if they themselves comprised most of those iPod-plus-Windows users.
Apple needs to license FairPlay soon and as widely as possible. ... Otherwise, I’m afraid the only other option is to become a ever-smaller niche player or generic device manufacturer.
Ever-smaller? Was iPod’s market share small in 2005? Smaller than what?
This solution, however, I doubt is going to happen. And if I can’t start easily playing my personal media on my mobile phone pretty damn quick, it looks like I might actually be buying a Microsoft handset soon myself. Can you imagine?
Imagine this: In 2008 when Apple has its own very popular multimedia phone, and licenses everyone on the planet to write apps for it if they’ll cough up a one-time fee of $99 — you’ll be complaining that most third-party apps are crud.
Update 2009.03.03 — Here’s Microsoft’s CEO Steve Ballmer trying to promote Beattie’s 2005 logic today:
[A]ll the consumer market mojo is with Apple and to a lesser extent BlackBerry. And yet, the real market momentum with operators and the real market momentum with device manufacturers seems to primarily be with Windows Mobile and Android.
In other words, it isn’t how many consumers are buying the product, but rather how many companies are signing up to sell it. Having “consumer market mojo” (i.e. the best-selling system) isn’t real market momentum — that’s to be found only in having a product that’s licensed by fifty companies, irrespective of how weak their combined sales.
It didn’t make sense in 2005, and it doesn’t make sense today.
Update 2009.09.20 — Just found out: It’s not a $99 one-time fee to develop for the iPhone and iPod Touch. It’s $99 per year. Sigh.
Update 2009.10.31 — Resurrected! Joe Wilcox makes essentially the same argument as Beattie, but doesn’t seem to be aware of how the iPod-vs-PlaysForSure battle came out.
See also: Number of Companies — the Idiocy That Never Dies
Features (Regularly Updated)
A Memory of Gateway — news chronology of Apple’s ascendancy to the top of the technology mountain.
iPhone Party-Poopers Redux and Silly iPad Spoilsports— amusing litanies of industry pundits desperately hoping the iPhone and iPad will go away and die.
Embittered Anti-Apple Belligerents — general anger at Apple’s gi-normous success.
Now available on the iBookstore!
Real Solution #9 (Mambo Mania Mix) over stock nuke tests. (OK, somebody made them rip out the music — try this instead.)
Ernie & Bert In Casino
Great Explanation of Star Wars
Best commercials (IMO) from Superbowl 41, 43, 45, 46, and 47
Kirk & Spock get Closer
American football explained.
Sonos and Opalum — awesome sound stuff I saw at CEDIA.
TV: Homeland; Survivor; The Jinx; Breaking Bad; House of Cards; Inside Amy Schumer
Celebrity Death Beeper — news you can use.
Making things for the web.
My vote for best commercial ever. (But this one’s a close second, and I love this one too.)
Best reggae song I’ve discovered in quite a while: Virgin Islands Nice
Pinball Arcade: Unbelievably accurate simulation of classic pinball machines from the late ’70s through the ’90s, with new ones added periodically. Like MAME for pinball — maybe better.
d120 dice: You too (like me) can be the ultimate dice nerd.
WiFi problems? I didn’t know just how bad my WiFi was until I got eero.
Favorite local pad thai: Pho Asian Noodle on Lane Ave. Yes, that place; blame Taco Bell for the amenities. Use the lime, chopsticks, and sriracha. Yummm.
Um, could there something wrong with me if I like this? Or this?
This entire site as a zip file — last updated 2016.11.03
Basic Reproduction Number
iBook Price-Fixing Lawsuit Redux — Apple Won
Delusion Made By Google
Religion Is A Wall
It’s Not A Criticism, It’s A Fact
Michigan Wolverines 2014 Football Season In Review
Why There’s No MagSafe On the New MacBook
Sundar Pichai Says Devices Will Fade Away
The Question Every Apple Naysayer Must Answer
Apple’s Move To TSMC Is Fine For Apple, Bad For Samsung
Method of Implementing A Secure Backdoor In Mobile Devices
How I Clip My Cat’s Nails
Human Life Decades
Fire and the Wheel — Not Good Examples of A Broken Patent System
Nobody Wants Public Transportation
Seasons By Temperature, Not Solstice
Ode To Coffee
FaceBook Messenger — Why I Don’t Use It
Happy Birthday, Anton Leeuwenhoek
Standard Deviation Defined
Simple Guide To Progress Bar Correctness
A Secure Backdoor Is Feasible
Answering the Toughest Question About Disruption Theory
SSD TRIM Command In A Nutshell
The Enderle Grope
Aha! A New Way To Screw Apple
Champagne, By Any Other Maker
iOS Jailbreaking — A Perhaps-Biased Assessment
Embittered Anti-Apple Belligerents
Before 2001, After 2001
What A Difference Six Years Doesn’t Make
Stupefying New Year’s Stupidity
The Innovator’s Victory
The Cult of Free
Fitness — The Ultimate Transparency
Millions of Strange Devotees and Fanatics
Remember the iPod Killers?
Theory As Simulation
What Was Christensen Thinking?
The Grass Is Always Greener — Viewing Angle
Is Using Your Own Patent Still Allowed?
The Upside-Down Tech Future
Motive of the Anti-Apple Pundit
Cheating Like A Human
Security-Through-Obscurity Redux — The Best of Both Worlds
iPhone 2013 Score Card
Dominant and Recessive Traits, Demystified
Yes, You Do Have To Be the Best
The United States of Texas
He’s No Jobs — Fire Him
McEnroe, Not Borg, Had Class
Conflict Fades Away
Four-Color Theorem Analysis — Rules To Limit the Problem
The Unusual Monopolist
Five Times What They Paid For It
Bypassable Security Certificates Are Useless
I’d Give My Right Arm To Go To Mars
Free Advice About Apple’s iOS App Store Guidelines
Understanding IDC’s Tablet Market Share Graph
I Vote Socialist Because...
Product Naming — Google Is the Other Microsoft
Apple Paves the Way For Apple
Why — A Poem
App Anger — the Supersized-Mastodon-In-the-Room That Marco Arment Doesn’t See
Apple’s Graphic Failure
Why Microsoft Copies Apple (and Google)
Coders Code, Bosses Boss
Droidfood For Thought
Investment Is Not A Sure Thing
Exercise is Two Thirds of Everything
Dan “Real Enderle” Lyons
Ignoring the iPod touch
Manual Intervention Should Never Make A Computer Faster
Zeroth — Why the Century Number Is One More Than the Year Number
Longer Than It Seems
Partners: Believe In Apple
Gun Control: Best Arguments
John C. Dvorak — Translation To English
Free Will — The Grand Equivocation
What Windows-vs.-Mac Actually Proved
A Tale of Two Logos
Microsoft’s Three Paths
Amazon Won’t Be A Big Winner In the DOJ’s Price-Fixing Suit
Infinite Sets, Infinite Authority
Strategy Analytics and Long Term Accountability
The Third Stage of Computing
Why 1 Isn’t Prime, 2 Is Prime, and 2 Is the Only Even Prime
Lie Detection and Psychos
Microsoft’s Dim Prospects
Humanity — Just Barely
Hanke-Henry Calendar Won’t Be Adopted
Collatz Conjecture Analysis (But No Proof; Sorry)
Rock-Solid iOS App Stability
Microsoft’s Uncreative Character
Microsoft’s Alternate Reality Bubble
Microsoft’s Three Ruts
Society’s Fascination With Mass Murder
PlaysForSure and Wikipedia — Revisionism At Its Finest
How Many Licks
Microsoft’s Incredible Run
The Size of Things In the Universe
The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy That Wasn’t
Nobody Was In Love With Windows
Apples To Apples — How Anti-Apple Pundits Shoot Themselves In the Foot
No Holds Barred
Betting Against Humanity
Apple’s Premium Features Are Free
Why So Many Computer Guys Hate Apple
3D TV With No Glasses and No Parallax/Focus Issues
Waves With Particle-Like Properties
Gridlock Is Just Fine
Sex Is A Fantasy
Why the iPad Wannabes Will Definitely Flop
Predators and Parasites
Prison Is For Lotto Losers
The False Dichotomy
Wait and See — Windows-vs-Mac Will Repeat Itself
Dishonesty For the Greater Good
Barr Part 2
Zune Is For Apple Haters
Good Open, Bad Open
Beach Bodies — Who’s Really Shallow?
Upgrade? Maybe Not
Eliminating the Impossible
Farewell, Pirate Cachet
The Two Risk-Takers
Number of Companies — the Idiocy That Never Dies
Holding On To the Solution
What You Have To Give Up
The End of Elitism
Good and Evil
How Religion Distorts Science
Laziness and Creativity
Sideloading and the Supersized-Mastodon-In-the-Room That Snell Doesn’t See
App Store Success Won’t Translate To Books, Movies, and Shows
Silly iPad Spoilsports
Five Rational Counterarguments
Reaganomics — Like A Diet — Works
Apple’s On the Right Track
Mountains of Evidence
What We Do
Hope Conquers All
Humans Are Special — Just Not That Special
Life = Survival of the Fittest
Excuse Me, We’re Going To Build On Your Property
No Trademark iWorries
The Fall of Google
The Meaning of Kicking Ass
How To Really Stop Casual Movie Disc Ripping
The Solitary Path of the High-Talent Programmer
Fixing, Not Preaching
Why Blackmail Is Still Illegal
Designers Cannot Do Anything Imaginable
Wise Dr. Drew
Rats In A Too-Small Cage
Coming To Reason
Everything Isn’t Moving To the Web
Pragmatics, Not Rights
The Purpose of Language
The Punishment Defines the Crime
Two Many Cooks
One Last Splurge
What Heaven and Hell Are Really About
America — The Last Suburb
What the Cloud Isn’t For
What You’re Seeing
What My Life Needs To Be
Taking An Early Retirement
A, B, C, D, Pointless Relativity
Stephen Meyer and Michael Medved — Where Is ID Going?
If You Didn’t Vote — Complain Away
iPhone Party-Poopers Redux
What Free Will Is Really About
PTED — The P Is Silent
Out of Sync
Security Through Normalcy
The Case For Corporate Bonuses
Movie Copyrights Are Forever
Permitted By Whom?
Quantum Cognition and Other Hogwash
The Problem With Message Theory
Bell’s Boring Inequality and the Insanity of the Gaps
Paying the Rent At the 6 Park Avenue Apartments
Primary + Reviewer — An Alternative IT Plan For Corporations
Yes Yes Yes
Hey Hey Whine Whine
Microsoft About Microsoft Visual Microsoft Studio Microsoft
Hidden Purple Tiger
Forest Fair Mall and the Second Lamborghini
Intelligent Design — The Straight Dope
Maxwell’s Demon — Two Real-World Examples
Einstein’s Error — The Confusion of Laws With Their Effects
The Museum Is the Art
Polly Sooth the Air Rage
Morality = STDs?
Fulfilling the Moral Duty To Disdain
The Two Rules of Great Programming
The End of the Nerds
Poverty — Humanity’s Damage Control
Berners-Lee’s Rating System = Google
The Secret Anti-MP3 Trick In “Independent Women” and “You Sang To Me”
ID and the Large Hadron Collider Scare
Not A Bluff
The Fall of Microsoft
Life Sucks When You’re Not Winning
The Old-Fashioned Way
The Old People Who Pop Into Existence
Theodicy — A Big Stack of Papers
The Designed, Cause-and-Effect Brain
The Capitalist’s Imaginary Line
Education Isn’t Everything
I Don’t Know
Funny iPhone Party-Poopers
Avoiding Conflict At All Costs
Behavior and Free Will, Unconfused
“Reduced To” Absurdum
Suzie and Bubba Redneck — the Carriers of Intelligence
Everything You Need To Know About Haldane’s Dilemma
Darwin + Hitler = Baloney
Designed For Combat
Speed Racer R Us
Bold — Uh-huh
Conscious of Consciousness
Where Real and Yahoo Went Wrong
The Purpose of Surface
Eradicating Religion Won’t Eradicate War
A Tale of Two Movies
The Changing Face of Sam Adams
Dinesh D’Souza On ID
Why Quintic (and Higher) Polynomials Have No Algebraic Solution
Translation of Paul Graham’s Footnote To Plain English
What Happened To Moore’s Law?
Goldston On ID
The End of Martial Law
The Two Faces of Evolution
A Fine Recommendation
Free Will and Population Statistics
Dennett/D’Souza Debate — D’Souza
Dennett/D’Souza Debate — Dennett
The Non-Euclidean Geometry That Wasn’t There
Defective Attitude Towards Suburbia
The Twin Deficit Phantoms
Sleep Sync and Vertical Hold
More FUD In Your Eye
The Myth of Rubbernecking
Keeping Intelligent Design Honest
Failure of the Amiga — Not Just Mismanagement
Maxwell’s Silver Hammer = Be My Honey Do?
End Unsecured Debt
The Digits of Pi Cannot Be Sequentially Generated By A Computer Program
Faster Is Better
Goals Can’t Be Avoided
Ignoring ID Won’t Work
The Crabs and the Bucket
Communism As A Side Effect of the Transition To Capitalism
Google and Wikipedia, Revisited
National Geographic’s Obesity BS
Theodicy Is For Losers
A Memory of Gateway
Is Apple’s Font Rendering Really Non-Pixel-Aware?
Humans Are Complexity, Not Choice
A Subtle Shift
Moralism — The Emperor’s New Success
Code Is Our Friend
The Edge of Religion
The Dark Side of Pixel-Aware Font Rendering
The Futility of DVD Encryption
ID Isn’t About Size or Speed
ID Venn Diagram
Rich and Good-Looking? Why Libertarianism Goes Nowhere
FUV — Fear, Uncertainty, and Vista
Malware Isn’t About Total Control
Howard = Second Coming?
Doomsday? Or Just Another Sunday
The Real Function of Wikipedia In A Google World
Clarity From Cisco
2007 Macworld Keynote Prediction
FUZ — Fear, Uncertainty, and Zune
No Fear — The Most Important Thing About Intelligent Design
How About A Rational Theodicy
Napster and the Subscription Model
Intelligent Design — Introduction
The One Feature I Want To See In Apple’s Safari.