Summer is a time to relax, a time to take a vacation, a time to do things you can’t do during the work year. However, I’m not sure any time is a good time to send your brain on vacation, and I’m starting to wonder if the leaders at Google and Apple have done just that. Granted, Steve Jobs has a good excuse. He should be taking it easy, and I think he also should take a vacation from his vegan diet — have you seen this picture? He and I both have this obsessive/compulsive thing, and man is he ever an example of that getting out of control.
These last two weeks, after I first flagged these companies, it seems they’ve been doing their level best to screw up what, so far, has actually been rather impressive work in a bad year. The only really good news on either one was a report you could weaponize an iPod touch. Even I think that’s cool.
It seems like Google, not Microsoft, is doing its level best to kill both Android and the Chrome OS, while Apple is doing a decent job torpedoing the iPhone. While it’s nice to put a smile on the Microsoft CEO’s face, I’m not sure either Apple or Google should make a grinning Steve Ballmer their highest priority. That will be my focus this week, and I’ll close with my product of the week, something that could form the basis for a Video Twitter.
Out of Control CEOs
Here in Silicon Valley, the stories about CEOs who let fame go to their heads and spin out of control are legend. We have CEOs who seem to measure their success by the number of women they sleep with every night. We had one who liked to chase pizza delivery boys in his yard — big yard — with his restored Sherman tank. He also liked to pick up men while dressed up as a nun — he wasn’t gay, and he was Jewish. We’ve had the race for the biggest house (one has his US$100M house on the market — good luck with that), biggest yacht, biggest flying palace and most-expensive car collection. The house next to mine was built for the mistress of a major software company’s CEO about 20 years ago. This is hardly a new problem.
Google is a hit. The nice thing about having a hit company that is dominant in an industry is that you really only have to make sure you don’t screw anything up. This includes prompting the government to investigate you for collusion or restraint of trade, which is what happens if a CEO takes a seat on the board of a competing company.
Eric Schmidt has been, like a lot of his predecessors, starting to drift off the reservation. So far, there have been no incredibly wild stories — but that may simply mean he hasn’t been caught yet. He clearly felt being on the Apple board was his right, which not only caused a government investigation, but also led to Steve Jobs announcing his departure. This is at a time when Google is clearly flailing.
For instance, Google had a bunch of manufacturers in a race to bring out the first Android-powered high-profile smartbooks, a product class that could have been huge. This hasn’t happened since the OS/2 days and was thought to be impossible. Instead they, Google blindsided these same vendors with the Chrome OS, which now has delayed many of these projects or put them on hold, while embarrassing the folks in the companies that backed them. Surprises like this suck.
Baidu and Bing are apparently stealing share from Google Search, and Google is rapidly passing Microsoft in the “evil” category, which kind of goes against its “don’t be evil” tag line. I think Google needs a CEO who will do the CEO job, and Schmidt needs to take his exit from Apple’s board as a sign of what is to come if he doesn’t go back to doing the job he was hired for.
I’ll bet if we regularly took screw-up CEOs and put them in a room — no holds barred — with their investors and employees, we could fix this problem. Schmidt wouldn’t get my first vote, but if he doesn’t start to focus, that likely will change by the end of next year.
The Apple Security Oxymoron
Apple should watch its own Mac vs. PC commercials. There is such a thing as false advertising, and if you are going to claim that your products are more secure than a competitor’s products, then you should work to ensure that it really is the case. Considering the reports that Apple is actively covering up problems with exploding iPods, it may be time for the company to shift from funding commercials to actually fixing real problems.
At Black Hat last month, it was a tough love fest. Evidently, there are security problems unique to Apple. The only reason Apple seems to be more secure, goes one argument, is that security professionals haven’t focused on its products — and the problems are different. For instance, you can’t use a keyboard on a Windows PC as a keylogger; you’d have to build a special keyboard to do this. Well, evidently, Apple’s standard keyboard is that special. Keyloggers are used to capture passwords.
That was just the beginning. Other problems for Apple range from how it does encryption (the keys are exposed), to how it handles SMS (evidently the iPhone could be hacked to bring down the AT&T network), to how it responds to security problems like this (Apple doesn’t return calls and evidently sics its fans on anyone who goes public about them). Apple’s practice appears to be to stonewall and have its agents disparage the reports and those who write them.
Apple’s antics with the iPhone App Store have the local paper calling it names and developers flocking to other platforms.
Apple even seems to be channeling the least popular U.S. President in my lifetime by suggesting that jailbreaking an iPhone helps terrorists and drug dealers in a bid to prevent the U.S. government from making it legal to do so (maybe Apple shouldn’t have Dick Cheney as a consultant). Some are now writing that the iPhone may be a threat to national security. Now that will certainly sell a lot of phones.
After all this, don’t you think it actually should be the Mac guy in the biohazard suit in this Mac vs. PC ad?
All this is making me wonder if Microsoft has some magic charm that turns companies that choose to compete with it into self-destructive morons.
All Apple and Google have to do is not screw up; yet, suddenly, that is all they seem able to do. Kind of makes you wonder if these people sent their brains on summer vacation. If they did, let’s hope they come back really soon.
Product of the Week: Dyyno Video Twitter?
Every once in a while, I see a product that has the potential to be great. Twitter is generally used to report on what people are doing. Well, what if everyone could simply broadcast a video feed of what they were doing in real-time and it could scale to any level needed? Right now, video doesn’t scale well, because if a lot folks want it at once you need a massive delivery system to provide it.Dyyno uses a torrent-like peer-to-peer rebroadcasting method to scale up so that everyone watching — but only those watching — can participate in the rebroadcast. As each audience member comes online, the virtual system expands. In theory, this allows infinite scalability, because just as with Twitter, folks could have one or thousands of followers. It is actually in use by Xfire for folks who want to watch others — mostly experts — play games like “World of Warcraft” live. Some gamers have massive numbers of followers, and it’s kind of fun to watch some of these things.
Now, as it stands, Dyyno isn’t the video Twitter product that it could become. For one, it is far from free — but it could be used by someone who wanted to create a video Twitter. The other necessary component is cheap wireless broadband, so folks can send high-quality video from their cellphones. The really cool stuff probably will come from folks who are doing the citizen journalism thing — but now with video — reporting live events happening in real-time all over the world.
Dyyno could transform TV news as we know it — and, yes, the porn industry will likely love this as well. Yet it is the foundation that could create a Twitter-like revolution, as we likely kiss any remaining privacy goodbye. That’s why Dyyno is my product of the week.
Rob Enderle is a TechNewsWorld columnist and the principal analyst for the Enderle Group, a consultancy that focuses on personal technology products and trends.