July, 2009 Archives

If you’ve seen the Laptop Hunters ads from Microsoft recently, you know that every single one of them features an Apple computer at some point during the “Hunter’s” shopping adventure. But why? Microsoft has TEN TIMES the software market share Apple has, and is the de-facto standard in personal and business computing markets. So why is Microsoft dumping incredible amounts of time, money, and emotion into this ad campaign against a flea on their back? Because they’re scared. Microsoft isn’t just scared, in fact, they’re terrified.

While on one hand you might look at Apple’s paltry 9% market share and balk at the infinitesimal nature of it, you might also contrast it with the 2.41% market share Apple held only 4 years ago. Apple is hitting the consumer/business sweet-spot hard, and Microsoft has nowhere to go but down.

Case in point: Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. Once hailed as the titan of web browsers with a >95% user base, IE today seems to be in a virtual market-share free-fall, nearing the 50% install base for all browsers worldwide. Just a few very short years ago Microsoft had a clear market advantage, while competitors had little hope of breaking in on the exclusive browser party. Yet, despite all the haughtiness of IE (maybe even because of it), other browsers such as Firefox and Safari have been able to chip away steadily at IE’s grip.

But most frightening to Microsoft must be the fact that while they’ve employed over 1,000 full-time developers at one time on IE, Mozilla employs only 175 full time employees. How did this small, lean, hodge-podge group of hackers manage to take the rug out from under Microsoft? While there are probably many factors (which I certainly won’t address here), it’s likely in part due to the fact that the Firefox developers were focused, determined, and eager to address a serious problem that was crippling the web space.

I can only see the competition having a royal fit behind closed doors in response to the current “browser war” climate. When all you have is everything, how can you survive if someone starts taking it away, little by little? In the last two years we’ve seen Microsoft pledge renewed support to web standards, CSS3/XHTML support, and even :gasp: transparent PNG’s. For those of you who don’t know how big of a deal this is, just ask your IT guy.

And don’t forget the smartphone market. I recall a couple of years back watching Steve Ballmer (chair-throwing CEO of Microsoft) scoffing violently at the idea that the iPhone posed a threat to their smartphone market dominance. His smarmy “Well, let’s wait and see, hahaha” attitude is nothing short of epic by way of fail. Not only has Microsoft lost half of their Windows Mobile presence seemingly overnight, they’ve lost nearly all of it to one, single phone: the teeny-weeny iPhone. Yes, that fledgling little phone has snuck in and stolen the proverbial wind right out of Microsoft’s smartphone sails.

And so the Déjà vu begins for Microsoft. Apple has gone from just over 2% desktop market share in ’05 to nearly 10% today. If Apple were to continue at this rate, they could theoretically own the entire OS market within the next ten years. Unlikely, but a frightening prospect for a company that has just witnessed how deafening the sound of a little trickle can become once it turns into an unstoppable landslide. Even with Microsoft’s sudden “conversion” to open web standards for their browser lineup, they’ve been able to do little to stop the inevitable slide down the slippery slope. Losing their grip on the web through IE is bad enough in a world where desktop apps are dwindling. But to lose additional OS install base to Apple, well that would be downright disastrous. Microsoft had a pretty good lock on consumer’s buying decisions because of IE. But with that strangle hold now loosened, people are beginning to peel back the scales from their eyes, and are curious to learn what else there is to see. Of course, there’s Apple. And oh, what a sight for sore eyes it is.

Then there’s the matter of money and power. Apple may be half the size of Microsoft, but as others have shown, Microsoft isn’t impenetrable. And Apple’s half-as-big size isn’t a bug that can be stepped on, it’s a smaller army with shorter swords but sharper tactics. Apple pulls in a healthy $33 Billion (that’s B) per year, and has over $15 Billion in cash on hand (probably closer to $18 bil by now). This from a company that Michael Dell (Founder of Dell Computers) stated that, if deciding what to do with Apple were up to him, he would “shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders”. Oh, and that was before Apple kicked Dell to the curb, surpassing Dells market cap in 2006. Yikes!

Also, let’s not overlook the irony of Microsoft paying their “hunters” to buy a computer with Windows on it, giving the deeper impression that the only value that comes from a PC comes by way of free, not cheap, when cheap is probably the biggest selling point of the commercial. I mean, even I would be thrilled for at least one day if someone outright bought me a Kia. Still, that wouldn’t stop the realization from hitting the very next day that I wanted to sell it.

So, back to the Laptop Hunters. For Microsoft, this isn’t a campaign to be cool. This isn’t even a campaign to sell the brand or the product. This is a campaign to survive. I’ll repeat myself, because this is really the point of it all: THIS IS A CAMPAIGN TO SURVIVE. This campaign is an attempt at a controlled blast to try to stop the Apple avalanche. Because Microsoft knows if things keep going as they have been for the last 5 years, they’re Applesauce. Maybe a more apt name for Microsoft’s Laptop Hunters campaign would be Apple Sniping. Clearly, the last thing Microsoft is hunting here is laptops.

*EDIT: As of Aug. 3rd, Apple apparently has just about $25 billion in total cash. http://finance.yahoo.com/q/ks?s=Aapl

Apple share: http://www.jeremyreimer.com/total_share.html, IE Reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_Explorer, Mozilla reference: http://www.spreadfirefox.com/node/238

Seth Godin commenting on the life and times of Walter Cronkite:

At every turn, he acted as if he had a responsibility to his audience. He didn’t do the right thing because he thought it would help him get ahead and then one day he’d get his share. Instead, he always did the right thing because that’s who he was.

Transparency works if it’s authentic.

I’ll go a step further. Not only does authentic transparency work, but any business found without it over the next ten years is going to see some pretty rough times. Transparency will happen, whether you like it or not.

With Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and all the other social networking (ahem: voyeur-in-training) sites out there, it’s just a matter of time before the new media exposes your company as one people can trust, or one that more quickly meets it’s doom due to heightened customer awareness, and subsequent brand-abandonment.

http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2009/07/walters-lesson.html

Apparently, the latest Microsoft ad was shot on the super sexy RED One digital video camera. Shame. The piece borders on painful, and is a cheap reproduction of a cheap reproduction of something that shouldn’t have cost what I’m sure it did in the end. Funny that it could only be created using a Mac. Not funny that RED’s name got a little dirt on it today.

Ads that have ranged from childish plastic-dinosaur-headed pc using morons to lame action adventure wannabes compels me to ask over and over and over again: “Microsoft—WHAT ARE YOU THINKING? Does your demographic find this funny? Glad I’m not your demographic.

microsoft dinosaur head campaign

Trying to be cool. Trying to be funny. Trying to be smart. Trying, and failing. Why don’t you try just being yourself. Be honest. Be open. Be clear. What in sam hill does telling me that I’m going extinct by using last year’s “latest and greatest” Microsoft product have to do with building brand loyalty? How does showing me a lame commercial starring recently deceased MS Word character clippy make me want to trust you more than I trust a crocodile in heat?

I want to know that YOU know that you suck. That you have sucked. For the last 20 years. Then I want to hear you promise that you are changing. I want to hear that you are committed to making life better for everybody, not just your paying constituents. I want to hear you will begin supporting standards, openness, and honesty, and that this is your new mantra starting today. And five years from now when I check back in on you I want to see that this commitment has only grown stronger. Because frankly, at this point I don’t believe you any more than I believe Kim Jong-il when he says he only wants uranium so he can “…power the fizzle fountain at the National Children’s Friendly Forest Flower Exhibit, and not because I want to make nuclear warheads to blow those idiotic Americans all to hell.”

Here’s the original MS ad shot on the RED:
http://files.coloribus.com//?DLFILE=/files/paedia/reel/part_55/558211/file/ms.mp4
UPDATE: That file has been closed off to non-paying subscribers. Here’s the video on Youtube. It still sucks:

Ten layers of multi-coloured chocolate chip sponge cake, each separated with a layer of icing.

The title is what sells it.

via thisiswhyyourefat.com

Engulfed (photos)

July 13th, 2009 Permalink

A few months back I pulled my car off a dirt road and trudged through quite a bit of brush in order to get a closer look at this fire. I was on my way home, and could see the plumes of black smoke for miles as I approached via the freeway.

I decided on a whim to get closer and see what I could see, even though I didn’t have my “real” camera with me. I met up with an amiable fellow named Thomas, and together we went fire-hunting with our iPhones. It took a lot of cutting through the willows, but eventually we did come within spitting distance to the burn.

Needless to say, it was an incredible sight. The photos don’t do it justice. I was really wishing I had a RED One with a long lens, or at least my D2X with me. The imagery, quite honestly, was breathtaking. Real, high resolution images would have been awesome, and high quality film/video would have been even better.

There were a few times that the flames were a bit too close for comfort, though for the most part we were careful not to let ourselves become surrounded. But the thing that probably struck me the most—aside from the 30-35 foot high surges—was the living nature of the flames as they collectively danced along the tops of the brush, speeding to one patch, burning, pausing, then speeding to another. The heat rose visibly off of the browning reedtops as they bowed dutifully toward the flames, being tanned by the unbearably high temperature. It was clear that these flames had a mind and will of their own, as well as the power to command nature. You can’t help but wonder how anyone would be so foolish as to take its power lightly.

As an aside, I’ve always wondered what fire is. It’s not solid, it’s not gas, it’s not liquid. It isn’t air, earth, or water. It isn’t made of particles, though it seems to produce quite a few as it burns. What is it? Its one of the few things in this world you can’t hold, but you can definitely feel. Maybe I’m way off in my assessment. For instance, maybe it’s actually a gas. I’m a photographer, not a scientist. Either way, if you can shed any light on the mystery, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

IMG_0513Corr

IMG_0516

IMG_0515

IMG_0514

IMG_0527

IMG_0523

IMG_0522

IMG_0521

IMG_0518

IMG_0503

IMG_0499

P.S. Notice the finger in the top half of shot number 3? Probably not. But that’s how I achieve manual exposure on the iPhone 3g in a high contrast scene. Not ideal, but hey, it works.

✈ Sent from my iPhone 

***All images shot and edited exclusively on the iPhone. (First image gamma adjusted in PS due to WordPress being a bit too aggressive in srgb gamma correction.)

Literally minutes after meltdown número uno, we’re presented with a second glorious performance—an encore, if you will.

IMG_0498

✈ Sent from my iPhone 

Jack has a meltdown

July 12th, 2009 Permalink

Gotta love the woes of childhood. If only I could trade my problems with his. :)

IMG_0492

✈ Sent from my iPhone 

Seems this guy could build anything he wants. Clearly, he’s a genius. I’ve poked around his website for many months now, coming back occasionally to remind myself how cool he is. Each time I visit, I’m amazed at the creativity and industry I come across on this site, from digital cameras made of flatbed scanner parts, to lego marble machines, to wood furniture, to shop tools. Wow, what an inspiration.

I’ve been wanting to make some furniture from the plans he’s posted, particularly the napping bench, the couch/day bed, and heck – why not a few milk crates, kitchen chairs, or even a queen size bed. In a world where the equivalent is crappier, plastic-ier, and expensive-ier, how can you look at his stuff and not want it at least a little?

FUN!