Scobleizer Weblog

Daily Permalink Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Peter Torr, who works at Microsoft, looks at Apple's and Microsoft's web site and finds Microsoft's wanting. I agree with that. But it's deeper than just a web site. We need a rethink on our product marketing.

Want a heretical thought for one of the last posts I'll make in 2003? Here it is:

The next version of Microsoft's operating system should NOT be called Windows.

Longhorn is different. It has an all new UI. It will bring us into a new world -- the service oriented world. Where RSS syndication is just the start. Where BitTorrent-style applications are the norm of the day. You've all seen that Longhorn has a new UI, a file system, a new set of APIs that'll make programmers more productive, and a bunch more.

The time has come for a bold new marketing approach. Not "more of the same old same old."

Actually, I'm just ripping a playbook out of the Intel playbook of the early 1990s. Remember when they renamed the "i586" to the "Pentium?" That set them apart marketing wise and kept AMD on the defensive ever since. After all, AMD couldn't make a "Pentium" so AMD had to come up with its own brand name (and couldn't keep up with Intel's advertising budget).

Some other reasons to change the name?

Apps designed for Longhorn won't work on XP. So, that creates market confusion. If you rename Longhorn to something else, it'll make it clear that a major change has occured. Obviously the box/CD/Web pages would make it clear that Longhorn "runs Windows XP software."

Yeah, I know we have a certain competitor who is suing us over the Windows trademark. I have no idea whether we'll win that suit or not. It really shouldn't matter. Which is why I'm writing this before the suit gets settled. If we win we should still change the name of the next OS to something else.

Changing the name of Longhorn will tell the market that "yes, indeed, this is the real deal and it's different and better than Windows XP." This is important, because I believe that XP has had a slow adoption curve because people didn't see it as any different from Windows 2000.

OK, so, what kind of name would I pick? That is a $64,000 question. Actually, didn't Intel pay millions for the name "Pentium?" Getting a name that accurately reflects the changes in Longhorn, while pleasing all the execs, passing the focus groups, getting past the Trademark lawyers, and, finally, getting a good review from folks here on the weblogs, will be a major project.

But, I think it's worth it. Longhorn is different. It's time to tell the market that.

Now, why shouldn't we change the name? There will be many that will argue that I'm nuts. And it's not just the pistachios I'm eating.

There is a HUGE reason not to change the name. It is, well, brand recognition. Ask someone around the world what "Windows" is, and they'll answer "the computer system from Microsoft." Or something like that.

For better or worse, that's a powerful brand identity that won't easily be rebuilt. It'll take billions of dollars worth of advertising and other activities to get people to identify the new name as readily as they identify "Windows."

Yes, I'm telling our execs that we should spend the billions. Longhorn is worth it.

So, what name would I pick? I don't know. Names are hard. If I were good at it, I'd be in a marketing agency somewhere. Think of all the names that you hear every day. Lexus. Corvette. Macintosh. Play Station. Nike. Starbucks.

I don't know what name to go with. But, I do think the name should be something new. What do you think?

Leo Laporte is back on the radio starting this weekend, this time on a station down in Los Angeles. He'll also be available via streaming audio too.

For those who've never listened to Leo, he's one of those guys who knows a lot about Macs, Windows, and Linux (I don't know how he does it) and loves to help people learn computers. Not exactly for the developer crowd, but I liked him a lot more back when he was on radio. The format seemed to suit him best there.

Matt Berther has a new version of MoveablePoster, a tool for Moveable Type users up.

I'm still playing around with my designs and such. One thing you might not know is that my blog is actually published in two places at the same time:

Something is wrong, though, cause one site isn't publishing my weblog's titles. I'll work on that tonight.

Sometimes your parents tell interesting stories. On the way down to Paramount Farms I asked my dad (William Scoble) about his work history. He spent more than 25 years at Lockheed Missles and Space in Sunnyvale. One of the most guarded workplaces in the valley. He told me the story of how Silicon Valley won the cold war (well, played a major role anyway).

My dad spent most of his work life fighting the cold war. When he was in the Army he learned how to debug and fix nuclear weapons. That was 1959-61. After spending next decade getting his PHd from Rutgers University in New Jersey in Materials Engineering and a short stint at Ampex near San Francisco designing recording heads (they were the folks who first invented the VCR) he got a job at Lockheed Missles and Space in Sunnyvale.

This is one of the least discussed places to work in Silicon Valley. My dad, even though he retired more than five years ago, still can't tell me about the projects he worked on. I knew he worked on Milstar, but he says that even though many of his projects can be read about on the Web, or in technical journals, he's still under orders not to reveal top secret information.

But, in generalities, he was one of thousands of engineers who were preparing our nation's systems for a nuclear war.

Our government was expecting a nuclear attack on our satellites in space. Why would someone want to set off a nuke in space? Easy: one nuke could paralyze a nation's economy without killing any people. Set off a nuke and you'd release an Electromagnetic Pulse that would destroy many, if not all, commercial satellites.

The team he was on designed ways that satellites would survive a nuclear attack. Something that seems remote today, but certainly wasn't a remote thought in the time before the Berlin Wall came down.

He told me a bit about how materials would react when hit with radiation from a nuke. And lots of other stories. Maybe I'll write about them more someday.

But one thing he said was real interesting. They knew that Russian satellites, even into the 80s, would only last three months or so. Why? Because they didn't have a microelectronics industry. "They didn't have Silicon Valley," my dad said. Their satellites used tubes until the 80s. Our satellites were lasting years. An interesting artifact of this is that the Russians had better rocket technology than we did. "They had to because they needed to put a lot more satellites up."

In the end, as Silicon Valley got better and better at creating micro-electronics we simply outspent Russia, my dad said. Ronald Reagan just took advantage of our manufacturing capability and pushed them to a point where they weren't willing to spend to keep up.

He also told me why we did so much nuclear testing. We needed to learn the effects of nuclear blasts on materials. Not here on ground, but in space. That's where the specs came from for birds like Milstar. Note the specs for Milstar 2 changed after the Cold War ended. No longer are we worried about a nuclear war in space. So, now our military doesn't need satellites that'll survive every scenario. What does that mean? The birds are far cheaper. That's money that'll stay in our economy rather than be wasted.

Is peace a good thing economically? Yes. Too bad we still haven't learned that here on ground.

Richard wrote a bit more about the technology they use to control the Pistachio plant. They use WonderWare running on a Tablet PC to control all three plants.

eWeek's Steve Gillmor: Best and worst tech of 2003.

Thanks to "nuts over .NET" Rich Caetano and Rob Fahrni of Paramount Farms for giving us a great tour (I dragged my son and dad along). I didn't realize just how big that place is. 25,000+ acres of orchards. 400+ semi-truck loads of Pistachios per day during the height of the harvest. Millions of pounds of pistachios in storage silos.

It took three hours to drive from Silicon Valley to the farm/plant. One thing people who live overseas might not realize is just how big California is and how important agriculture is to the economy here. Paramount's nuts are sent all over the world (in their waiting area they had a display with packages from all over the world). Silicon Valley gets most of the business headlines, but the "other valley" (San Joaquin) is far bigger in size than Silicon Valley and runs almost the entire length of the state. You probably have eaten something that was grown in this valley.

It's the first time I've seen a food processing plant. How has work changed over the past decade? Well, you can see it in the plant. Far more machines doing things like checking quality (they have a lazer scanner that'll pick a bad nut out a stream of thousands of nuts -- a computer will kick out the bad nut with a jet of air).

Every machine has a PLC from Allen Bradley (Programmable Logic Controller). These are mini computers that interface with the machines. Rob and Richard build apps that both control the PLCs as well as gather data from them -- they have built dozens of .NET apps that do all sorts of things, from tracking a truck at the front gate to building HMIs (Human-Machine Interfaces) that let workers control machines in their areas.

The plant's information system is run with a Windows Server 2003 running SQL Server. Richard says he loves the relibility of the new Windows Server -- it's never been down, he said, other than when he needed to load new software on it.

Actually, we only saw one of the three processing centers that Paramount (a private company) runs. The other two are miles from the main plant (and are connected via microwave). They were walking around with a Panasonic Toughbook and showed how they could watch and control all the machines in all three separate plants.

When software companies talk about "agile enterprises" this is what they are talking about. After all, how much more agile can you get than having one computer that can debug and run all the machines in three separate sizeable factories? (Actually, Richard and Rob think they can get even better with Longhorn -- one of the things they are working on now is making it easier for the owner to see the efficiencies of the plant, which will help him make buying decisions -- some of the machinery they have is custom made for the plant and costs millions of dollars).

Does IT matter? Well, judge for yourself. Paramount's Web site says they are the world’s largest vertically integrated supplier of pistachios and almonds. And they are the only one that has ISO 9001 certification. Congrats guys and thanks for giving me some .NET nuts.

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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; 3:31:32 AM.