I haven’t got a clue (and neither has Sony)

Sony announced yesterday that it was pulling out of the PDA marketplace by stopping making the Clie range. There has been much analysis already of this on all the usual suspect sites online.

The good news is that they are managing the process in such a way that existing customers won’t get shafted. They deserve a HUGE amount of kudos for this, I wouldn’t expect that kind of attitude from Palm, Dell or Apple.

Most of the Sony gear that I do like now like their MDR 7506 and 7509 headphones are professional gear that is hard to get hold of, I am saddened that the business isn’t everything that it could be.

Having in the past been involved with Palm and Sony as consultant and a customer I just wanted to share some observations and unanswered questions that had been brewing about their portable devices for a while:

– Why did the Clie range never support the Mac community? Their overly designed devices were ideally targeted at these non conformist computer users. Palm and Handspring supported them, whereas Sony made their product as Mac unfriendly as an iPaq

– Why has Sony bought into to PalmSource and Symbian?

– Why has it taken them so long to get their act together on iPod type devices and services when they were the first people to have a Palm PDA that could play MP3s

– Why is the new Vaio iPod wannabe so ugly and complicated looking?

– Why is there no joined up thinking going on using content to leverage platforms? Do you think that Microsoft would have sat on their hands for this long with the kind of diversity of resources that Sony Corp could knit together?

– Why did they expect people to buy a 600USD device? This is a known dead price point in tech marketing circles, almost the price of a no make laptop and well over double the price of many competitor devices

– Why were Clies so slow to adopt wireless?

– How long are they going to allow Playstation to carry the rest of the business?

– Will SonyEricsson phones benefit from the Clie product design team?

Redneck comfort food and the letter i is for?

It has been a trialling week so far. I spent much of the bank holiday entertaining my parents, packing my stuff little by little, disassembling flat pack furniture and completing yet more paperwork for my lawyers to progress my move into London.

I called my friend Julez who was having a ‘terrible Tuesday’ after a large weekend. One of our friends had starred in an amateur dramatic production of Stags & Hens and the post-concert revelry was starting to take its toll. In case you’re interested the only thing amateur about the performance was the money that actors and set designers made. West end eat your heart out.

Anyway both of us decided to decamp to Bodeans on the corner of D’Arblay Street and Poland Street (opposite the Phonica record shop). Bodeans is a weird place, a kind of anti foodie ethic. The cooking is pure American redneck – lurid red hot dogs, hickory sauce covered ribs, fries with a pepperika, sugar and salt coating and coca-cola in a proper soda fountain glass.

It is unashamedly a meat eaters paradise artwork around the walls remind you of the animals that go into your hot dog or where your succulent ribs came from.

American collegiate sports play on big screens and people leave you alone to eat this redneck comfort food. Over a hot cup of coffee and jumbo hot dogs we set the world to rights.

On the wider world front, things are pretty weird:

Saudi Arabia seems to have reached a pre-revolutionary phase (if you don’t get what I mean grab a DVD copy of The Battle of Algiers) driving oil prices ever higher. The papers claim that oil has never been that high but they are not making any allowances that inflation would have had on the 1973 oil prices would be in 2004 US dollars…

– On the other hand, the San Jose Mercury News reports that micro-chip sales are up to the highest point since 1990. The more chips sold, the more stuff made, the more trade that is happening, the more life in the economy. Allegedly its all good

– The European elections are upon us and xenophobic isolationists have been given credence by Michael Howard acknowledging the UK Independence Party as a competitive threat to the Conservative Party in the UK

– Top UK festival Glastonbury is headlined by acts designed to appeal to the over 40’s including Paul McCartney and Morrisey. What the hell will happen to youthful rebellion when its the crumblies who are kicking up a storm? Whose on next year the Rolling Stones, Status Quo and Aerosmith?

– Apple has embraced another Microsoft industry standard – crap security updates and computer crashing code changes

On a final note I wanted to point you to this great article in the Village Voice that talks about the way Apple’s iPod poster campaign has become a lightning rod for the zeitgest of New Yorkers with a marker pen. Here at Carroll Towers our best contributions were – i stands for:

– ‘Intellectual property (not mine)’

– inner ear infection (from sharing headphones)

– inconsolable (after being mugged for the tell-tale white ear phones)

– ‘I think, therefore I am’ (just not when I am listening to music)

Before you all write in, I am the proud owner of a mark one iPod and the 700 or so tracks on it is more than enough to allow me to ignore your protestations.

Big Brother Live on Mobiles


The UK version of the ‘reality’ TV show Big Brother is being streamed live on to mobile phones. The video is played using a downloadable Java application. The video is available for Symbian mobile phones with a GPRS connection. You can get hold of the service here.

Microserfs: revolt or just revolting?


Last week Microsoft Corp. announced that it was cutting medical benefits, stock discounts and parent leave for employees. The medical benefits cut amounted to a measure to encourage them to use generic drugs rather than prescription drugs in order to the help the company conserve its 50 billion USD cash pile.

The chosen few, are not happy according to results of an internal poll obtained by Reuters.

This follows on from changing the stock options structure, allegedly to improve corporate governance and had the effect of making it less likely that their hard work would be converted into the status of a burnt out millionaire. In addition, Bill Gates has become one of the largest investors in the pharmaceutical sector.

I must admit I don’t feel that sorry for them:

– In the case of the prescription drugs cut, why pay more for a brand that only does the same or is worse than a non-label product? Agreed, oh but wait a moment, that disrespects investments made by companies in intellectual property and building a brand, rather like the arguments that Microsoft employs against the open source LAMP cabal? (LAMP is geek marketer speak for Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP)

– It shows that Microsoft is becoming a middle aged and mature business. Therefore there is less likely to be a Windows 95 type cancer spreading through technology. The new new thing is likely to happen elsewhere

– Microserfs are likely to be less committed and work less hours, they will no longer feel that they have everything to play for. That means less products launched, products taking a longer time to get to market and less commitment in marketing the products. This provides other companies and start-ups with a better chance of bringing truly innovative products to market, with less chance of suffering a Netscape-like death

– Nothing loosens tongues like dissatisfaction. It is noticeable that that benefits cuts have been brought in after the company made its peace with the US government, Oracle, Sun Microsystems and AOL. However there is still some outstanding court cases like Microsoft v Burst.com, the EU and South Korea that could benefit from some prime time whistle blowing a la Deep Throat’s role in the Watergate Scandal

– It is a bit of a leveller in the Microsoft class structure. Vested staff (full-time employees) were known to lord it over contract employees wearing pin badges with the message “Fuc* You – I’m Vested”. This message kind of rings hollow now. In addition, it lows the still huge challenge facing those workers who would like union recognition. (Microsoft historically has been an anti-union shop, but treated its serfs well)

– Anybody who has seen the blue screen of death, been stymied by a wizard, irritated by a paper clip, or had a corrupt file with two weeks of work in it would be sitting there wondering why the hell Microserfs deserve more than a McDonalds Happy Meal(TM) and sharp kick in the backside. Guys many of your products lack quality, when they’re good they’re cool (Microsoft Word and Excel on the Mac) but the vast majority of time they are like a sprinkling of hundreds and thousands (marketing and candy coloured graphics) used to hide a manure heap. To paraphase Martin Luther – it doesn’t matter what you cover it with a manure heap is still a manure heap

OK before I get pro-Microsoft hate mail, I have enough respect for some of the decent products they’ve made to give the disgruntled Microserfs some words of wisdom:

– Don’t complete another survey on an internal web site, they can trace you from your IP address or other internal network identifiers. They know who you ‘troublemakers’ are. In fact wait until a colleague leaves their PC and do it on theirs instead, now your job is likely to be more secure because guess whose job is more likely to be offshored now? BOGU (a quaint Microsoft phrase that means ‘bend over and grease up’)

– Read Dilbert and Machiavelli’s The Prince diligently to learn how to survive in the Microserf culture

– Get a life, you aren’t going to make dent in the universe, get out meet people, make someone happy and through that hopefully find your own happiness, volunteer at The Samaritans and try to make more of a difference than just screwing over the same poor saps with a new winkle in the licensing agreement

Bank holiday warning

It’s Whitsun bank holiday in the UK, so things won’t be back to normal until Tuesday.

In the meantime you can enjoy this great skit from The Onion about the offshoring phenomena here.