Reverse Rip Van Winkleism


Backward time-travel Item #2: When it comes to tech news and punditry, my news in-box (primarily, the RSS newsreader, NetNewsWire), often contains “news” items that make me think I’ve gone to sleep for 20 years. But unlike Rip Van Winkle, I’ve awakened to discover nothing has changed.

For example, there was a weekend item from the former Forbes reporter, former fake Steve Jobs and former blog-basher Dan Lyons, who kicks off his new career as a fake Newsweek writer by lobbing this link-baiting bomb at Apple fan-boys. In essence, the piece suggests that Apple has started appropriating technology and approaches that are first developed and proven successful by little guys. According to Lyons, such a practice is turning Apple into the new Microsoft.

But anyone who has even casually followed Apple since its inception knows the company has always viewed as “fair game” to compete with (translation: rip off) anything in its ecosystem. The examples of what Apple has appropriated over the years is legendary: for example, the notion of “scripting.” Or look at the former Apple channel retailers who have been crushed by Apple Stores — and who developed a class action lawsuit against the company, dispelling Lyons notion that, “In the old days, stuff like this didn’t matter. Apple was such a fringe player that nobody really cared how the company behaved.” Bottomline: Apple has always been a company that develops very cool products, but there have always been controversies swirling around the ideas that did not come to them in some a priori fashion. Even the iPod was inspired by a real guy who didn’t work for Apple.

Almost all of Apple’s features have come from their observation (and occasionally, their acquisition or licensing of) what innovative individuals have hacked together to make their Mac run better or cooler. After that, Microsoft takes Apple’s best and includes them on some future update of their products. Finally, Google takes the best of what Microsoft does (unless it’s search) and turns it into a web-application. It’s what makes the world go around.

What you end up with is a Google web-application adaptation of a Microsoft adaptation of an Apple feature that Apple adapted from an innovative individual.

I don’t like it. But that hasn’t kept me from using Google docs.

Backward time-travel Item #2:

e-Newspapers: The New York Times is a sucker for any story about devices that replicate the way people over 40 think a newspaper should look and that keep alive the notion of an obsolete news distribution channel. I still love the notion that one day we’ll all have flying cars. But I at least understand it’s not the flying car I want but the ability to be transported from anywhere I want to be to another place I want to be. The e-Paper people are so obsessed with trying to create something that “looks like” print, they’ve lost sight that it’s knowledge and information and connectivity and entertainment that people want — not something that “looks like” a newspaper. And unfortunately, the closer we get to the future, the less impressive e-Paper appears. Twenty years ago, e-paper concepts could be folded up and put in our pockets. Where are those devices? I’m waking up 20 years later and the concept technology is less cool than what was predicted back then.