OPINION

Elections, Arrogance, Blogs and Passion

Here in the U.S., last week was a big week, where we had a minor revolution and tossed out the arrogant bums who should have seen this change coming. There is avideo that probably speaks to this better than I ever could. Interestingly enough, I found it on Technorati — more on that later.

This upheaval mirrors what often happens inside technology firms and could now apply to OSS (open source software) and Apple as well, so it is a lesson that should be learned from the actions of others.

In addition, I moderated a panel on blogs and how they can be used to effectively connect companies to their customers and as a preventative measure against arrogance. Finally, Nvidia demonstrated a passion we don’t often see in this industry as it embraced its customers, partners and employees to launch the most impressive platform ever from that company, and one that is incredibly well-timed.

Death by Arrogance

For those both inside and outside the U.S., it had to be obvious what the outcome of the recent election would be unless there were changes in the top executive’s office. Yet, shortly before the election, the vice president was quoted as saying that regardless of the election results, there would be no change.

That is like throwing down the gauntlet at voters, and it clearly drove a dramatic response — but that response was 180 degrees from what was intended. This is arrogance, and the technology industry is known for it.

My first best example of arrogance is a chat I had with an IBM executive in the 80s. I was told that IBM didn’t have to change its customer-hostile policies because IBM “sold air” — and the customers had no real choice. Shortly after that conversation, customers demonstrated they did indeed have a choice. IBM, once untouchable, almost went out of business.

Later, in the 90s, I wrote a report saying that if Microsoft didn’t address its arrogance problem — in terms of not listening to customers — it too would experience an IBM-like event. While Microsoft’s problems haven’t been as pronounced as IBM’s, Linux was largely fueled by Microsoft’s own actions. Much of what the company did seems incredibly foolish and arrogant in hindsight.

Sony has been on an arrogant streak — first with the Sony/BMG rootkit problem last year, where it effectively was quoted as saying that customers were stupid. There was a wide call for boycott. More recently, there was the botched battery recall, which may take them out of the battery business, and the PlayStation 3 planning, which seems to favor unique Sony technology to the detriment of more important things, like hitting the proper price.

Apple’s arrogance, often considered legendary, is becoming more pronounced with its success, and major channel partners appear to be rooting for “the other guy” as product after product tries to overcome the iPod.

So far, these attempts have failed, but with each try, the attempt gets a little better. The SanDisk Sensa actually moved into the market very well after its launch and now has the direct support of Best Buy, which favors it over the iPod.

Now, Microsoft’s Zune is entering the mix, and it appears to have the backing of the majority of retailers and a number of the key music labels — all of which appear to be less than happy with Apple.

For OSS, as wementioned last week andthe week before, the Oracle move against Red Hat and the Microsoft-Novell deal might not have occurred had it not been for the incredibly arrogant way Richard Stallman was treating the companies that supported Linux.

I’ve covered companies for years, both inside and out. The real killer often is not a competitor, but arrogance. What just happened to the Republicans in the U.S. can easily happen to any company that forgets a cardinal principle. At the end of the day, it is the people who buy and use the product who get to have the final vote. The good news is that they generally signal their discontent well in advance. The bad news is, the folks that should be listening to those signals are often stone cold deaf.

Blogging for Success and the Defense Against Arrogance

Last week, I had the honor of moderating a Blue Ribbon panel focused on professional blogging. This panel included David Sifry, the founder and CEO of Technorati, Kay Luo, the director of communications for LinkedIn, Robert Scoble, the VP of media development for PotTech.net, and Sam Whitmore, founder and editor of Media Survey.

Technorati is where you go to see what is pulling the most blog interest. At the time of this writing, one of the top blogs appears to be atrailer for the live action version of “Evangelion.” Scoble is known for being the blog face of Microsoft, and you can currently find him atScobleizer, where he is generally commenting on blogging and technology.

LinkedIn is where you go to manage your professional relationships, but it is also where you can go to create an online presence.Media Survey is a service that tracks professional publications and influencers — largely for a corporate client base. This is where you go if you want to find out about the media, new and old.

One thing that came out of the panel discussion was a slew of recommendations on how to create a high-traffic personal blog. Apparently, the more links you have, the higher the ranking you will get. While not intuitive, the more you reference others, the more they will track back to you — and that builds site traffic.

Pictures and graphics typically increase your ranking dramatically as well, so the more visual you are, the better you should do. Finally — carve out a niche and own it. That way, you’ll build an audience. While you may not be able to sell for US$1.6B, you may create marketable value at some point.

For corporations, though, the question of whether you should even attempt a blog was one of the most contentious. Generally, if you are a company that creates an environment of trust and cooperation, a blog can be a good thing. If you are a company that manages largely with fear and high levels of control, a blog can be a disaster.

Strangely enough, the panel agreed that Apple’s blog was a joke, because it is the wrong kind of company — too controlling and too autocratic to do it right.

Microsoft came up as an example of a company being transformed by blogs that are increasingly connecting employees, customers and vendors in an ecosystem of cooperation.

As a result, the company suddenly seems more responsive to customers and is doing things — like the previously mentioned Novell deal and the recent change in Vista licensing — that are uncharacteristic. This may be related to the blog activity providing credible internal influence in the company. One thing is clear: Microsoft’s blogging actually addressed the arrogance problem it was famous for, suggesting there may be similar benefits for others having a problem with arrogance.

Nvidia’s Surprise

One company that is anything but arrogant is Nvidia, and it had a product launch last week that was in line with some of the biggest in the industry. It placed the credit clearly with the engineers who developed the new products and the gamers that drove the company to dominate the graphics market in the first place.

Many of us thought it was done, with the acquisition of ATI by AMD and Intel’s signal that graphics would be a major focus going forward. Nvidia presented the strongest counterargument to date against that prediction with what is clearly the hottest graphics offering in the 4th quarter and a motherboard that sets the bar impossibly high for everyone else.

The first truly Windows Vista-ready offerings — which is why the timing is incredibly good for their release, coming right on top of the announcement that Vista had been released to manufacturing — these products stand out as the only safe high-performance path for anyone planning on Vista next year.

One clearly memorable moment during the launch was AMD taking the stage to support Nvidia. It appeared heartfelt and was in sharp contrast to the expectation that Nvidia and Intel would be closer together at this point. Intel didn’t even get on stage.

In the end, it’s great to see passion like this. If you get a chance to see what the gForce 8800 and nForce 680 can do, be prepared to be impressed and to see what a company that clearly has passion can do when it’s pushed.


Rob Enderle is a TechNewsWorld columnist and the Principal Analyst for the Enderle Group, a consultancy that focuses on personal technology products and trends.


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