Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Geek Wednesday: A New Vista Yawns

Starting...theWOW ...Wow... oww... ow... ow... owgh...

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that dull echo you faintly heard Monday night and Tuesday morning was the sound of the Vista release parties—half a billion dollars' worth of marketing glitz met with relative silence—where, according to the geek press, one might have found more reporters than customers attending. On the east coast, in New York:

the launch itself was a quiet affair in a midtown CompUSA store (the chain had organized midnight events at several of its stores), where it seemed like there were just as many reporters and camera crews as there were customers hoping to take home a copy of Vista.

...And even where Steve Ballmer was gracing the retail stage, the indifference was only cloaked by the presence of reporters:

The event, ostensibly aimed at showing the retail excitement around the new products, drew a crush of reporters.

That made the considerably smaller number of store customers at 10 a.m. PST on Tuesday nearly as popular as Ballmer, with video crews lining up to get their thoughts on the new software.

C-Net concludes its coverage of the big event with two warnings: Don't buy Vista for the security; and Don't delete XP. Wow.

Here at the Donohue Camp for Unemployed Geeks, I spent a few minutes Monday night removing XP from my MacBook. Honest, I didn't even realize the timing of what I was doing until much later. It's just that I wasn't using those precious 12GB of hard drive space, and finally decided to re-run Boot Camp and remove the partition (that's all you have to do to get rid of a Windows install on a Mac, by the way: it takes about five minutes and the Mac then restarts like a rocket, as if it had just thrown a gorilla off its shoulder). Then I saw the C-Net poll featured in this graphic. My only question about those results is: "where are the Linux users represented?" (for more on that, see below).

So much for Vista, except more thing. About three months from now, or even less, Mac OS X Leopard arrives to take another bite out of XP/Vista; after a year in which sales of the Intel Macs helped shoot the value of Apple stock well beyond Dell's.

Curiously, the only question mark for Apple's future is another really stupid, Martha Stewart-style piece of corporate greed. The Apple stock dating scandal is yet another example of how wealth can turn smart people into absolute idiots. If Steve & Co. survive that bit of folly, their products and their geekery will only grow in popularity, even--gasp--in the enterprise realm, where MS dominance is already being weakened by another UNIX-based OS, Oracle-Red Hat. Gartner is already calling this one for Larry Ellison, and the uncertainty over Vista will only make it easier for Oracle. Your average enterprise desktop lacks standalone video, sound, and sufficient RAM to run Vista, and the cash required to upgrade thousands of boxes to accommodate Vista will be nixed by most corporate bean counters.

But people like having MS-friendly hardware and software, and Red Hat might not be the best solution for many. Enter the Mac Mini running off an xserver network, with windows XP, UNIX compatibility, PERL, Apache, Java, you name it, the Mac can now run it in 64-bit mode on Intel-powered hardware.

I know it sounds kooky, and I don't pretend to claim that Apple will take significant market share away from MS next year or the year after that. But 5 years down the line, Red Hat and Apple combined could account for 40-50 per cent of the enterprise IT base; and Microsoft resorting to its old market dominance tricks will only accelerate that trend.

The amazing piece to this Vista release is how Gates and his cronies could have missed the obvious, which is that this OS will further endanger their stranglehold on IT in the enterprise realm. But in corporate America, it is as in corporate government: dissent is considered treason, even—or especially—if it contains truth that will help the company (or the republic). Thus, executive row lines everyone up and delivers the edict: you will aggressively market this impactful new product (note to all corporate dweebs: "impactful" is NOT a word); and if you have any questions, there's the door and here's your pink slip.


Finally for this Geek Wednesday, a few more gems from my Webby Award reviewing pile.

Activism Down Under: This is a terrific site with a focus, spirit, and research base that makes it the equal of any MoveOn or AfterDowningStreet on this hemisphere. I've now got it bookmarked, and I would recommend you do too.

The Global Dialogue Center is another activism site, but with a more highbrow image. However, once you get into the guts of this site, you'll find audio and text content from the likes of John Perkins (Confessions of an Economic Hit Man), Dr. Masaru Emoto (The Hidden Messages in Water), and a memorial to Viktor Frankl.

I also went through a few science sites, and this one stood out: BBC's Science of Memory. Take the test yourself and see how you do; you'll learn a lot in the process.

And if you'd like to learn about population and living standard trends on a global, 3-D matrix that offers a lot of perspective, try Google's Gapminder tool.

Now as long as I'm not painfully employed for the moment, I'll probably have lots of time to survey more Webby entrants, so there may well be more to come of these.

One last note to all our readers: January brought us 2,000 unique visitors and some 14,000 pageviews (one of these Geek Wednesdays, we may take some time to explain how to accurately interpret web usage statistics, which is a wildly twisted and abused metric, especially in the corporate realm). For us, that's a really solid month, and I'd like to once more thank you folks for coming by and reading our stuff. I'd probably do this on a deserted island with not a soul to see it, because I'm just that kind of nuts about writing, but knowing that you're all out there makes it a lot more fun.

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