Particle Debris (wk. ending 3/4) Delusions and Disruption

| Particle Debris

How does a last century technology deal with a major disruption? By making incremental changes, hoping that the disruption can be managed? Or not be as bad as feared? If we’ve learned anything from modern technology, we’ve learned that major disruptions must be met with a major change. Regrettably, many companies don’t have the cash reserves to totally remake themselves. So they slowly die away while new competitors build a new business from scratch. Along these lines, take a look at: “Memo to Newspapers: Incremental Change is Not Helping.

I’ve been telling people who want to interview me that while Steve Jobs is an irreplaceable national treasure, Apple can carry on without him based on the talent they have. It’ll just take a lot of teamwork. It warmed the cockles of my heart when I saw this story about another former Apple exec who has said the same thing: “Only A Troika Could Replace Steve Jobs.

And teamwork really is the key. If any one person on the current executive team or the new CEO thinks he can replace Mr. Jobs in every way, Apple is going to have a problem. My theory is that a lot of humility and grace will be required for Tim Cook, the front runner CEO replacement, to stay behind the scenes, do what he does best, and let other people be the public face of Apple. If they can all get along and aggregate their strengths instead of fighting for control, Apple will prosper for years if/when Mr. Jobs retires.  That could be along ways away, based on what we saw at the iPad 2 unveiling.

Horace Dediu continues to be critical of Nokia — and with good reason. This time around, Mr. Dediu questions Nokia’s irrational faith in its brand and its hardware and the company’s belief that customers, largely uninformed, will continues to remain blindly loyal. He lays out his case in one of those article titles that suggests a stand by a company, but doesn’t really quote them: “Nokia: We depend on uninformed customers, deception preserves brand value and uncompetitive software will keep us competitive.

When you think of Al-Qa’eda, you usually think of guys in the mountains with beards and AK-47’s. But what if they developed some software expertise? These days, you can acquire all kinds of malware “kits” that you can custom tailor to your needs, in this case, DDoS attack. Scary stuff.

I wouldn’t normally link to an article like this, except that the tone of the article, expressing current realities, is more important than the technical content. A significant shift in corporate culture is revealed here, namely that modern IT managers aren’t being as successful in dictating what employees must do. I attribue that to the fact that we’ve expanded our technology beyond desktop PCs and into smartphones, netbooks and tablets. Employees are going to use these things come hell or high water, and IT managers have had to get on board. That, in turn, has opened the door to Macs. That’s what I found between the lines at: “Macs in a PC world: Integrating Apple into the workplace.”

We know that Rob Enderle has been a consultant deep into PC and Microsoft technologies. For a long time, the dominance of Microsoft in the enterprise and its overwhelming market share allowed him to be confident in his advice to clients. That, in turn, put blinders on him that, to be polite, amused the Apple community. Now, the iPad has shown the Windows market for what it really is, a creaky remnant of the 20th century. The integration of the hardware, OS, and apps is something Steve Jobs points out is fundamental to the new wave of tablets. And so, it was startling to see that Mr. Enderle now understands, to some extent, the change sin the market place. Go ahead, have some fun. “Can anyone challenge the iPad 2?

Not many people recall that Bob Cringely, before he changed his name, and before he wrote for Infoworld, was an Apple employee for a time. He was involved in the user interface (UI) design of Apple’s Lisa. So when I read his story this week, “Fear of flying — Why the iPad 2 isn’t even better,” I wondered about his comments that there’s something amiss with the iPad implementation of cut and paste. Consider this staggering thought. What if there were a fabulous, previously nerver-before-thought-of idea for cut/copy/paste on the iPad that would put it on even ground with the ease we take for granted on the MacBook Air? Bob leads up to the idea that there’s something missing on the iPad, but he didn’t provide details. After I contacted him, he told me about it privately. And it’s good. Really good. But it was a private communication, so we’ll just have to hope Bob has Scott Forstall’s e-mail address. Maybe we’ll see it some day in iOS.

Finally, one of the things I like about Horace Didiu is that he loves to do research, collect information, and then provide illuminating analysis. Just as he cataloged the debris left over from Microsoft partnering with various companies, here’s his catalog of the initial reactions to the Apple iPad. This one is required viewing for my loyal readers: “Flummoxed, again.” It just goes to show us why none of those writers are current candidates to replace Steve Jobs as CEO of Apple in the future.



<<Comment removed by author so as to not spoil the joke for others>>

You got me.

John Martellaro

Yep, it reeks.


John, while there may have been a real Bob Cringely who once worked at Apple, he bears absolutely no relation to the team that puts together the “I, Cringely” column.  Please see Wikipedia on Cringely among other sources.  Of course if you can provide other sources that confirm that Bob Cringely wrote that article, I’d be happy to retract the above.

John Martellaro

daddy: There is a lot of confusion about Mark Stephens aka Robert X. Cringely. The Wikipedia article generally explains it: Under the pen name of Bob Cringely, he now writes the I, Cringely column. In addition, Infoworld’s editorial team continues to write a gossip column also under that name - part of the legal settlement that allows them both to use that name. That column is ONLY found at This mess throws a lot of people.

Mark worked for Apple in the 80s.

I’ve known him for 11 years. After writing for PBS, he moved to the east coast and is writing the column I linked to above, and that’s really his photo on the home page. If you need more details, contact me directly.


John, thanks for the response; I consider it a nice bit of late evening education.  It just proves that Wikipedia isn’t the last word on everything (or anything!).



I think Horace Dediu’s analysis is correct; Nokia are betting on uninformed customers ensnared in a conspiracy of stupidity. But it gets worse. It is stupidity aided and abetted by market inequality and inertia, particularly for low and middle income countries that find themselves the perennial commodity sinks of all the does not sell upstream, as well as wide spread illiteracy and lack of exposure. The latter should not be confused with stupidity, it is not, but is a manifestation of unequal resource, including educational, access. I am writing from a part of the world where Nokia is synonymous with mobile handset (a better one at that), and where the term ‘smart phone’ has not infiltrated the lay lexicon, let alone mindset. Nokia have nothing to fear in these regions for a long time yet.

I respect, indeed applaud, Rob Enderle’s capacity to let his thinking evolve and admit, even if tacitly, that his previous position was wrong, or at least incomplete. It takes courage and a healthy self esteem to do so. Like so many others, he was blind-sided. I have little doubt that we have yet to see where Apple are headed with the iPad, and how they will leverage this new platform into a fully fledged new paradigm (it already is a new paradigm, even if nascent). No one really saw the ‘tablet takeover’ coming until it had ‘taken over’. Recall BG’s “meh” iPad1 dismissal at its launch. MS can only wish they had a time machine and could port what they now know of tablet tech back to the 1990s - or even 2009.

Those quotes compiled by Dediu only draws into stark relief how genius, and being well ahead of the curve, is lonely until the masses catch up; except that, more often than not, when they do, they attribute their advance to ‘anybody but’ the genius who got them there, at which point genius and being ahead of the curve is both lonely and thankless. One has to hope for future historians to be thorough and set the record straight, though that provides little solace in the here and now.


Newspapers do need radical change to adapt to the digital age, but their problems are much more ones of law than of business models.  In devising and promulgating the Copyright Act, Congress addressed the concerns of protecting an author and, in the case of newspapers, a publisher’s value in its/his (author) work in an age prior to the Internet.  Before the Internet, protecting against infringement of an author’s exclusive right to make reproductions of his work, while being a legally enforceable rights, was protected not so much by law as the prohibitively high costs, transaction costs, of making copies.  The federal courts were there to mostly protect an author’s right in the rarer instances where transaction costs weren’t enough or where an infringer tried to get cute by making a derivative work that he would try to pass off as his original work.  Before the Internet, the Copyright Act, as interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court (the Court) and its subordinate courts, worked pretty well to protect an author’s rights and thus, the value of his licensed copyright.

A word about newspapers, which are a special case.  For fully creative, usually meaning invented works of expression, the Court and the Congress grant the full protection of copyright.  However, with news reporting the Congress, in an effort to avoid giving anyone a monopoly on the news, abrigded the rights of news publisher, who did original reporting and others who did re-reporting, by eliminating certain rights to relief, and the Court reinforced that lessening the protection the news publishers have under the Copyright Act.  To wit:  Congress deprive everyone, including news publisher, of any claim sounding in the law of equity, and the Court held that anything other than virtually verbatim reproduction would not be an infringement of copyright in the sole context of news reporting.  And, of course, there are Fair USE exception, but FAIR USE arguably wouldn’t apply to defeat a claim in equity, at least where re-reporters are generating revenue by re-reporting the news of news organization that do the original reporting.

Then along comes the Internet, and it greatly impaired, if not destroyed, a news publishers rights in and ability to profit from its work.  The Internet lowered the costs reproduction, the costs of copying, to nearly zero and made it much more difficult to identify and punish infringers, even where a publisher would have a claim of infringement, which, under current law, it/he probably doesn’t.  The Internet also dramatically lowered the cost of distribution for copiers.  Combined those facts with the Court’s precedent on copyright for publishing news, and publishers are screwed:  They originally report news at great expense and sometimes at great personal risks to their reporters (e.g. Laura Logan), yet others can now take their original reporting, make easily done changes in wording, and sell it for ad revenue without paying the publisher, who originally reported the news, anything.

The proposed changes in businesses models that so many in new media, especially those, like the Huffington Post, that get most, if not all, of their ad-revenue-generating content by misappropriating others’ original reporting, won’t, indeed can’t, work.  While digital publishing lowers costs, printing all the news that is fit to print and/or all the news that citizens of a democracy need to manage their affairs, sensibly pursue their legitimate interests, and discharge their civic duties is a vastly expensive enterprise, which can’t be supported by any new media business model, as long as the work of original reporters can be had pretty much for free, and with those original reporters having no effective remedy in the courts.

Therefore, the radical change that publishers of news need is a radical change in the Copyright Act so that they can protect at least the value of their work, while not depriving others of the right to discuss and re-report the news for free.  Congress can do that by repealing Section 301 of the Copyright Act so that publisher of original reporting will at least have equitable claims against others who re-report for profit.  The Court and its subordinate courts can and will protect against anyone, e.g., Rupert Murdoch, acquiring a monopoly in the news.


Newspapers do need radical change to adapt to the digital age, but their problems are much more ones of law than of business models.? In devising and promulgating the Copyright Act


Many thanks for a thoughtful explanation. Serious food for thought.


An IT consultant (not me) once said - “the bad news is that you’ve always got to be in front of the competition; the good news is that you don’t need to be miles in front - half an inch will usually do.”

That came to mind as I read about how little the IPad has improved.


John, Preston Gralla, PC World states that netbooks will far outstip iPad/tablet sales.  Just out of curiosity, how many netbooks were sold last year? 

Clear skies,

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