Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Jobs or Gates? It is no contest.

The Smerconish' Program has a daily poll question.  Go to his site, vote, and he’ll usually talk about it the next day.

Wednesday’s question was simple.  Job or Gates.  Two giants of the tech field.  Apple or Microsoft.  Steve Jobs, I think, will get the lions’ share of the vote on this, primarily because of the consumer products that Apple keeps rolling out.  He’s the active face of Apple.

Bill Gates, on the other hand, is the “retired” head of Microsoft.  I do the quotes thing because no one seriously believes that he isn’t being contacted when something big is happening in Redmond, Washington.  People love to complain with what they got.  Most of us have PC’s and that is the face of what we have, the really big nerd with the glasses.

I would easily pick Gates.  Why?  At the birth of the PC field you had the smartest of the smart working in technology.  Mainframes from IBM, CDC, or Unisys stepped down to superminis from DEC, DataGeneral and Wang.  Xerox was so far ahead of the curve it wasn’t funny.  The Department of Defense was still developing the internet Infrastructure.  PCs weren’t serious competition.  Radio Shack had the distribution channel.  All of these outfits had wildly innovative and imaginative people.

Running these firms were the Bomar Brains of the highest intellectual power and the egos to match.

Gates conquerored all of these concerns.  Microsoft was so big that at one point he had to prop up Apple so there would not be anti-trust legislation against Microsoft.

In the business world, no one could touch his company.  Yes, they have been sued for business practices, but that is part of the game.  They have written the rules of the road (Gates has paved “The Road Ahead”).

If it were not for the business acumen of Bill Gates the PC revolution would never have been born.  Each of these companies mentioned above had different views of the world related to tech.  Gates’ view of the world and the ability of know when to fight and when to sit out allowed him to win this high tech version of a cat rodeo.  No one is seriously left standing.

Turn and take a look back at that road.  It is strewn with the business corpses and carcasses of those who fell.  Remember The Commodore 64, Atari, Visicalc, Lotus 123, Boralnd Pascal, Netware – all products by players that got outplayed by the master.

The tech world needed a stable platform and rules on which to build upon.  It needed to be open enough to develop what was needed organically, and flexibly.  The rules needed to be structured enough to play nice with others.  Microsoft did a lot of research into ergonomics.  How are we going to interact quickly with the computer.  If you look closely at a Microsoft based PC there are certain rules all your programs follow.  Microsoft was big enough to impose those rules.  No one else was.

At a certain level we are not programming computers, but programming people – Gates got the really early and implemented.

I won’t downplay Apple’s ergonomic features, but on the other hand it is a closed system.  Applications are centralized.  At a certain level it stifles competition and creativity.  Even this week Apple has made news because they want to prevent explicit material and apps from the iPhone.  I cannot imagine Microsoft stifling anything as long as what you do isn’t messing with somebody else’s programs or doing something blatantly illegal (like stealing Microsoft software).

Being in the industry for about 30 years, I realize that when you buy a Microsoft product a couple of things are true.  On operating systems, wait for a couple of weeks after the first service pack is released before really recommending.  When Microsoft moves into a new market or system you need to give them until about version 2 or 3 before the product is really good.  By the time version 4 of whatever program we are talking about hits the market – it is unbeatable.  It will generally be a mature offering and wipe out the competition.  (By the way, you can get a free version of what was essentially Word Perfect as part of Open Office.)

For those of you in Steve Jobs corner, can you run a program from the Lisa on the latest Mac Notebook?  I can still run a program from the era of the 286 machines (20 years or so) , generally without a lot of tuning, on a Windows 7 box.

I’ll take Bill Gates any day.  While all the brainiacs were playing chess – he was beating their brains out playing the “Business” game.

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