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Daily Permalink Sunday, June 22, 2003

More from PocketPC Thoughts: "Review of Compaq iPaq 2215." The reviewer was sick, but the iPaq is freaking fast.

PocketPC Thoughts: "New Features of PocketPC 2003 At a Glance." (Adobe Acrobat required).

Scott Watermasysk shows up with a potential "Cold Stone:" Blogert v.01. Oh, OK, not that big a deal, maybe, but what is going on in the .NET weblogging world? Don't these folks realize that they shouldn't be innovating on top of Microsoft technologies? ;-)

Chad Osgood continues the conversation: "The best coffee is served at these unknowns, and many coffee pundits know this; however, does this mean they have beat "the dominant corporation?"

Of course not, but Eric started this asking if there's a place in this industry for folks who don't work at "the dominant corporation." I say there is. Ask Victor if there's a place for him in the coffee industry. Ask him if he's not making a great living and having a great time doing what he does (while thriving in a town with not one, but THREE major coffee chains).

Think he's not? Well, he got invited to Bill and Melinda Gates' wedding and I didn't. Plus, he was paid for it (he made the coffee served there).

Randy Holloway wonders what my reaction is on Microsoft's Longhorn anti-virus strategy.

I don't have a good reaction yet and can't really talk openly about Longhorn until the PDC (as he notes).

I am, however, "eating the dogfood" and am now running Longhorn as my main operating system at work. So, at the weblogger meeting at the PDC, let's talk about this.

Alex Hoffman writes his own answer to Eric Kidd: "he needs to change his focus away from technology, platforms and the development community, to real world end-users and their requirements."

One last thought. My family just went out to dinner. On the way back we passed by our favorite coffee place. Named Victor's. Hey, wait a minute. This is Redmond. Not far from Starbucks' headquarters. In Eric's world, Victor would never be allowed to sell coffee.

Every day Victor reminds me that someone can beat "the dominant corporation" and deliver a better product.

Think that Victor doesn't have a chance? 25 years ago you probably were the one saying "no fast-food franchise has a chance against McDonalds." But, look at the per-store sales of In-N-Out vs. McDonalds and you'll see that In-N-Out is another example of a dominant player getting their lunch eaten.

MSNBC: "Suppose you had asked, say 15 years ago, this question: what American company is most dominant in its global industry? The answer would not have been Microsoft (1988 worldwide sales: $591 million), Dell Computer (founded 1984) or even IBM. It would have been Boeing."

More on wines. Maryam says she learned that most Washington wineries use French oak in their aging barrels. So, even when you drink US wine you're helping out the French economy in some small way. Also, she says, Betz Family winery's founder told her that many of their wine's names are inside jokes about French wines.

Either way, a weekend spent drinking good wine is a good one. Hope yours was good too.

Eric Kidd asks "is there a future for me in a world controlled by Microsoft and Open Source?"

Disclaimer: I work for Microsoft. These are my opinions. Yadda yadda ya.

Eric says "The Microsoft future can only end in two ways: The grey death of total platform monopoly, or the sucking pit of government regulation. I don't want either choice when I'm 55."

I see another future.

I got this vision while eating ice cream with my son Patrick today. See, my first job, back when I was a freshman at Prospect High School, was serving ice cream. I still enjoy the industry's product (despite it being unhealthy for me).

Let's go back 10 years, OK? Remember Baskin Robbins? 10 years ago they owned a near monopoly on ice-cream outlets. At least they did in Silicon Valley. Yeah, they had a few competitors here and there, but they had the majority of the market. I bet if you had told Baskin Robbin's executives 10 years ago "there's gonna be a new chain that's gonna come along that's gonna obliterate your market and change the rules" that their execs would have laughed in your face.

I bet that Baskin Robbins had lots of Eric Kidds back then who said "I sure wish I could make a mint selling ice cream like Baskin Robbins, but these guys have the world all wrapped up."

Enter Cold Stone Creamery.

This upstart chain has completely changed the rules of what an ice cream store should be. In every Cold Stone, the employees are upbeat. Happy, even. Excited. Why? Freaking profits baby!

By all measure, Cold Stone should be a failure. It entered an already-mature market. Ice cream is ice cream, right? You think Software Developers have a tough time coming up with a "new big idea?" Try being an ice cream executive. Go ahead. Stare at the stuff. It's milk fat and sugar and a few other things. There's NO WAY TO INNOVATE, right? Hey, did you realize that Cold Stone charges each of its customers MORE than Baskin Robbins does? For the same frozen milk fat and stuff. And, it entered a market with a near monopoly position.

Oh, and everytime I eat at Cold Stone, I'm stuck sitting in line. Long lines. 13 minutes today. Yes, I count these things. Customers should be pissed. Guess what, they aren't! Instead, they LIKE waiting in line. Don't believe me? Ask some of their customers.

Cold Stone Creameries are popping up faster than Krispy Kreme dealerships. They are kicking Baskin Robbins' ass.

How did they do it? Eric Kidd, please pay attention. They came up with a new concept.

Instead of just serving ice cream, they mix stuff into it. And, they have employees who act like they are a member of a cult. They even sing you a song if you tip them (each store's crew usually knows at least a half dozen songs, by the way).

But, their ice cream is superior to Baskin Robbins and even if it isn't, the experience of getting ice cream there is sublime.

Now, let's get back to Eric, now that we know it's possible to take on "a big evil corporate behemoth who has everything all sewn up." Eric: you'll be here when you're 55. Me too (I hope).

I know that my job at Microsoft depends on customers continuing to buy our software. I don't look at my job at Microsoft as an entitlement. Business just doesn't work that way.

Let's just head on up the street from Microsoft for a good lesson in corporate economics, shall we? Remember Boeing? They nearly own the market for airplane manufacturing. One little problem: the airline industry is in a bit of trouble lately. So is Boeing. Tens of thousands of my new neighbors have been thrown outta work here in the Pacific Northwest. And, Boeing might even make its next plane somewhere else, adding insult to injury.

Boeing had economic strength, but even that strength didn't protect its employees.

What's my lesson? Microsoft's largess ain't gonna protect me for 18 years unless it continues to have customers who love and want to use its products.

For me, as an evangelist of Microsoft's products, I wanna find ways we can both win. How will the next version of Windows be judged? To my mind, it'll only win if there's an interesting group of new products built on top of it.

Let me ask you a question: if Longhorn ships, and there's no new software for it, why will anyone upgrade? And, if no one upgrades Windows, then, what'll happen to my job?

I guarantee you, I'll be out on the street. That's the way business works.

In my mind, my job DEPENDS on having software guys like Eric Kidd developing for Windows.

OK, I can tell I haven't convinced you yet. One more attempt: I'm reading "Rules for Revolutionaries" by Guy Kawasaki. Yeah, he's that fanatical Macintosh evangelist. In many ways, my job at Microsoft was modeled around work he did at Apple.

In the book, Guy talks about the early days of the Macintosh.

Did you realize that in 1985 through 1987 Apple was nearly broke and Mac sales were almost non-existent? I remember those days. Why was Apple broke? Why wasn't the Macintosh selling?

Guy reveals in his book the simple answer: there weren't any "killer apps" for it.

Did you realize that no one at Apple recognized when the killer app developer walked in the door? Ever hear of Paul Brainerd? You ever heard of Aldus? PageMaker?

Wait a second, if the world worked by the rules that Eric Kidd spells out, Aldus and Paul Brainerd wouldn't be able to exist. After all, big companies ruled in the mid-80s just like they rule today. IBM was there. Xerox had the world in its fists, before screwing it all up. Apple was even trying to do its own software. Microsoft was there, too.

Yet, here comes Paul Brainerd. Right through the front door of Apple. And, no one realizes that he would be the guy to save the Macintosh. Literally. Did you realize that Paul didn't work for a big company?

So, my message to Eric is: I'm looking for a killer app for Longhorn. I have no idea what the app will be. I have no idea who the developer will be. But, I do know that I'm looking.

My job at Microsoft depends on it.

Eric, my door is open.

What's my vision? My vision is seeing Eric Kidd coming up with a new concept that makes him freaking rich. I see him coming up with a new concept that proves all of the industry's myths to be incorrect.

I see him coming up with "the Cold Stone" of the software industry.

See, stop looking at the world like it's a zero sum game and that the only way you can win is to be like Baskin Robbins (or unseat them from their market dominance).

One nice thing about software is that you CAN change the world.

Look at the blogging industry. Did you realize that most of the blog companies only have a couple of employees? Geesh, how did Microsoft MISS that category?

Or, look at Instant Messenging software. Let's go back to 1996. Microsoft was just as dominant in the industry then as it is now. So, where the hell did ICQ come from? The three kids who wrote ICQ went on to sell their company in 1998 for something like $290 million in cash. Yeah, maybe the environment today isn't that good for hitting the jackpot like that, but let me tell you, you can still come up with a "Cold Stone."

Think you have a "Cold Stone" concept? You know where to find me.

Glenn Reynolds, over at Instapundit, is talking about wine (mostly about declining French sales). Hey, I've been drinking Washington wine all weekend and it's great! Who needs that French stuff anymore?

Congratulations to Adobe for 10 years of Acrobat (link is to a Mercury News article). I remember being a beta tester in the early days of Acrobat. I reported more bugs than any other tester and won a $1400 laser printer for that effort. I had some advantages, though. I had a library of hundreds of Pagemaker docs (as part of Visual Basic Programmer's Journal) and I had a beta of Windows 95 and Windows NT. I remember ripping new PDFs while riding the train cause I wanted to win the printer and wanted to find every last bug I could. I also remember Alan Cooper telling me he hated the user interface of Acrobat.

Wow, Acrobat is now Adobe's largest profit generator.

Ahh, reports that Ballmer was talking about a release date for the next version of the Xbox were incorrect, says. On Friday, when Patrick and I visited the games division, I asked about when the Xbox 2 would come out. I didn't get an answer either. I think this is one of Microsoft's biggest secrets.

Oh, my, this is the coolest way to run Flight Simulator I've seen. When I die and go to geek heaven, I think this just might be how it looks.

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Robert Scoble works at Microsoft. Everything here, though, is his personal opinion and is not read or approved before it is posted. No warranties or other guarantees will be offered as to the quality of the opinions or anything else offered here.

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© Copyright 2004 Robert Scoble Last updated: 1/3/2004; 2:37:01 AM.