Archive | October, 2008

In Search of Heroes

22 Oct

Heroes don’t emerge out of the blue in day-to-day life. Heroes are created or are born in times of crisis or, in movies or technology world, when a villain sets out to rule the world.

For a relly long long time, Microsoft rule the technology world, minting loads of money, creating new products, rolling out newer versions of existing products, and killing competition in the process. And in due course of time, it became a villain (and as Mike Arrington of Techcrunch says, Europe’s ATM). There was no other company that could compete with Microsoft, not becuase of the alleged monopolistic practices of Microsoft, but because none of the companies’ products were a serious competition to Microsoft. If you develop a crappy product, forget about competing with MS, or any other good product, for that matter.

The early 2000’s saw the rise of Google and more recently, Apple. In a world tormented by a villain, the rise of two heroes made the entire media and blogosphere blindly hail the new heroes and their antics. While MS, for many years, focussed on making money and not so much on improving it’s products, Apple, slowly and gradually, under the stewardship of Steve Jobs, developed great products and started capturing market share. The phenomenon started with iPod, Macs went mainstream, iPhone wowed people, and every other minor announcement from Apple was greeted with enthusiasm. Mostly because it deserved it, and partially because it was percieved a hero, in the fight against MS.

There were a few glitches in Apple’s way too. The activation of iPhone 3G had issues, developers apps were rejected without any apparent reason, and in some cases, because they tried to compete with Apple, MobileMe gave users a lot of trouble. But at the end, everything was forgotten and forgiven. Apple is a hero.

Google, another media hero in the war against Microsoft. Google is growing like anything, earning billions of dollars in revenues, and launching new products and taking new initiatives. But it’s also true that Google is still a one-product wonder. Google has not been able to replicate the search ads business model for any other product, not even close. But many people laud every effort made by Google in launching half-baked products, the most recent one being Chrome. People, including me, gave Chrome a try for a few days and went back to using IE, Firefox, Opera, unimpressed.

The day Chrome was launched, Techmeme was flooded with test reports from all tech-centric blogs. Many of them kept driving home the point how Chrome was the faster than all other browsers. Michael Arrington even went to the extent of calling it a desktop operating system and a Windows killer. That was really embarrassing from a person writing on a technology blog. But the speed of a browser is the not the only winning factor. After using it for two weeks, I felt that the overall user experience of Chrome was not satisfactory enough for me to continue using it. The best feature, the Omnibox, was perhaps the worst thing. May be combining the address bar and search box was not such a good idea after all.

Microsoft’s newly launched ad campaign was again a target of media attacks. The ads featuring Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld were pointless, many claimed. The ‘I’m a PC’ didn’t impress many people. But the ads did their job and were liked by the common people as was evident from the comments on many blogs. Had the same ads been launched by Google or Apple, many people would have called it the best thing to have happened to the world since the invention of the Internet!!

Poor Microsoft. I feel bad for Steve Ballmer. Not that I’m a Microsoft fan (yes, I like Bill Gates), but it’s not getting fair treatment from the media. And that makes me root for them. I own an iPod, I’m planning to buy a Macbook, and I use gmail and Google maps, but I can’t imagine life without MS Office either. Microsoft is not a villain, no matter how many heroes are born (or are made).