Archive for November, 2006

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OS And The Innovator’s Dilemna

The problem with computers, and operating systems, is that they do too much. Of course, that’s also what’s great about them for people who write code and make applications or Web sites. For 95% of users, the computer does much more than they would ever need or use. This seems like a classic market opportunity, but more than one ship has been wrecked on these rocks.

Microsoft and Apple will both have to face this problem. Apple has been better about creating an OS that users want to use — and therefore more of the system gets exercised. But even with a Macintosh, only a small percentage of the capabilities of the machine are used. Apple realized fairly early that people don’t want to do “computer things.” They simply do things like listen to music, watch and make movies, take and store photos, etc. If a computer can make those things better, then it will get used.

The economic question is whether a very low-cost network computer could take the large part of the market that needs very little from a computer. The speculation is that Google will enter the fray with a Webtop, Full Linux Distro, or a Light-Weight Linux Distro. The basic applications are already there. Google Docs is already better than MS Word for most users. And for collaborative document creation it may be the best solution in the market — even better than Wiki-type solutions. The missing piece for Google is the desktop that brings all these apps together. And maybe the interaction metaphor is a desktop, or maybe it’s something new. The landscape is poised for radical change.

The Weight Of The World

Wim Wender’s film “Wings Of Desire” has been transformed for the stage by Ola Mafaalani for the American Repertory Theater. During the film’s first release I saw a matinee performance — I’d taken the day off from work. I was so affected by it, that I went to see it again later that evening. Some of the most beautiful dialogue in the film comes from Peter Handke’s semi-autobiographical book “The Weight of the World.” Mafaalani talks about bringing the work fully into theatrical performance and the difficulty of leaving the greatness of the film behind. Usually I’m skeptical of adaptations of films for the theater. But Handke himself has paved the way for this kind of work with his play “The Hour We Knew Nothing Of Each Other.”


Metafilter is pointing to one of my favorite writers, Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz. I’m not sure why this name has popped up, but there are some others that deserve attention as well. You must read Witold Gombrowicz, Tadeusz Rozewicz, and of course, Czeslaw Milosz.

Calacanis: A Free Radical

The network will benefit from Jason Calacanis’s recent departure from AOL. While it takes a very talented executive to take a closed network and bring it into the open — while transforming the fundamental economics of the business entity — the politics of such an endevour can be soul crushing. The power in this type of situation always resides with the entity that must be changed and ultimately destroyed. Power rarely cooperates with its own destruction.

Jason has two qualities that the current crop of Web companies need to learn. He takes business personally. He wants to compete and win. Defining an opponent can focus creativity and innovation. The second quality is that he believes in paying for value. Paying Netscape Navigators to be editors and gatherers is the beginning of an important new economy. Building platforms where this kind of value can be created and where people can be compensated is the most important building block for the next generation of the commercial Web. We need to put an end to the idea of building for profit companies on the back of free user generated content. If the content has value, there needs to be a mechanism for compensation. The network needs Jason Calacanis to fill this hole.

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