Thursday, November 12, 2009

Video Interview: Ken Auletta, Author of "Googled: The End of the World as We Know It" | Kara Swisher | BoomTown | AllThingsD

Two things….

Rumors of Microsoft’s death are much exaggerated. If it were a small company, of the sort that the New York Times is getting to be, then yes, we could see the handwriting on the wall. But it’s a big company, with lots of money in the bank, and more importantly an installed base that can’t be easily dislodged.

Suppose Congress/Obama mandated that every vehicle purchased by the US government be from GM. Furthermore, everyone who wanted to visit DC to interact with government had to use a GM vehicle (hey this actually happened!), and everyone corresponding by other means must prove ownership of a GM vehicle. Another company comes along with personal airplanes that fly themselves and, theoretically, obsolete the car, and the government requires that they all be equipped with 4 heavy rubber tires and be shaped like a car. After trying to ignore complaints of unfair GM advantages, the government launches an investigation into companies still making horse drawn carriages (IBM in my little morality play).

That’s the situation that has been in place with Microsoft for years, and even with some Google fans in the White House, I don’t see it changing anytime soon. While our politicians may talk about change, the unelected people who are in Washington don’t care for it at all. The only reason the Feds stopped buying Wang mini computers was that the company stopped selling them. There was gnashing of teeth when bureaucrats had to actually think about what all those machines were doing so that functionality could be transferred to machines running Windows, Oracle, Powerbuilder. Most of those people plan to retire before they ever put themselves through such a thing again.

As to logic versus “emotional intelligence”… I’ve always thought such terms are really intended to describe things that are in fact logic, but which haven’t been described yet in terms of logic. “Intuition” for example. That is, if in fact the actions you take by such means ultimately work out for the good. But what if the results of this intuition can’t be measured, and what if those who propose it as unmeasurable do so intentionally?

Of course there is a lot of that going around these days, with changes being proposed the benefits of which cannot be measured, now or in the future. How convenient. Such thinking is the playground for corruption and snake oil salesmen, voodoo economics and ultimately Luddism. The extent to which Google partakes of this is proportional to the extent to which they cause their own downfall.

For how many years have we been asked to accept the notion that we are well served by a desktop operating system which is installed insecure by design, but for which you must pay extra to buy software to change all those settings to (hopefully) make it more secure? That there are “viruses” that the OS can’t detect, but which add-on software can? That sounds a lot like the sort of “emotional intelligence” we are being asked to consume these days in all aspects of our life.

I hope Google sticks to it’s engineering bias toward being able to predict and measure things. I just wish the country as a whole could reacquaint itself with that same concept and atttude.

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