Happy Shutdown Day!

Government Shut DownDon’t worry, I guarantee the “shutdown” of the United States federal government will not last very long. Those who stand to lose the most from a prolonged shutdown are the establishment politicians. A protracted shutdown of “non-essential” federal government services will only serve to show the people just how non-essential they really are. Which will then make people start questioning why the federal government is handling those operations in the first place. Establishment politicians need their entitlement programs as leverage to get reelected. If entitlement programs start disappearing, this opens the door wider for small-government politicians to get into office. So again, don’t worry about the shutdown. The federal government will soon start spending our money (plus money it doesn’t have) at the same voracious rate it was before – likely even faster once the politicians make their deals.

The only thing I wish we would see is a tax break for every day the federal government was shutdown. If people would actually see a larger paycheck because they weren’t paying taxes on the days the government was shut down we’d see some serious reduction of government!

In the meantime, celebrate the idea of a government shutdown, even if it only lasts a little while. The reality is that the federal government in a partial shut down is much closer to the government the founders envisioned and that ran the country during the early days. You know, when the United States was truly considered the land of opportunity. Perhaps a little taste of small government might help us return to those days.

Apple’s Shot Across Microsoft’s Bow

Apple Has Their Sights Directly on Microsoft

Apple Has Their Sights Directly on Microsoft

During Apple’s media event on September 10th in which they introduced the new iPhone 5C and iPhone 5S, Apple CEO Tim Cook also announced something that has not received a whole lot of media attention. However, this announcement while seemingly small, may actually have the biggest impact on the near-term future of the technology industry.

I’ve written before how Microsoft is in a tough situation in the mobile device market. They are a distant third-place to Apple’s iOS-based devices (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch) and the variety of Google Android-based devices. However, unlike the now fourth-place BlackBerry, Microsoft has a strong cashflow due to their existing PC Windows operating system and PC Microsoft Office sales. They have time to try to mount a respectable mobile platform, while BlackBerry is for all intents and purposes dead. The problem for Microsoft is that these cash cows won’t last forever. The PC era is over and Microsoft needs to develop a strong position in the mobile device market sooner than later if they want to remain a significant player in the technology industry.

In an attempt to leverage their strength in the PC market to give them a springboard into the mobile device market, Microsoft has withheld Office from the iOS and Android platforms (even though a rumored iOS version of Office was ready in early 2012). Microsoft is betting that by only offering Microsoft-branded Office on Microsoft-based mobile devices this will lure droves of users away from the other platforms into the Microsoft fold. As I’ve written, this is basically betting the farm for Microsoft because they longer they withhold Office from other mobile platforms (specifically the iPad), the more likely users will realize life without Microsoft Office is just fine. Once users no longer have an attachment to Microsoft Office, the most viable cashflow stream for Microsoft dries up and the company itself will be in big trouble.

The announcement on September 10th that was mostly ignored is that Apple will give away their iWork suite of office productivity apps to all new iOS devices. If it isn’t already obvious to you, this is a significant challenge to Microsoft. First, Apple is basically saying to Microsoft, “screw you, we don’t need your Office on our platform”. Second, Apple is basically daring Microsoft to bring Office to iOS ASAP. Apple knows that if Microsoft brings Office to iOS at any point soon, it will basically kill Microsoft’s best chance of gaining a foothold with Windows in the mobile device market. But now that Apple is giving away the iWork suite on all new iOS devices, it puts the squeeze on Microsoft to have an offering on iOS devices before Apple’s office productivity software becomes the de-facto standard on the leading mobile platform.

Apple has just put Microsoft in-between a rock and a hard place. Apple is basically forcing Microsoft to make a tough decision: save Microsoft Office and possibly the entire company but sacrifice Windows – or continue to bet the entire company and possibly lose everything. But by giving away iWork for free, Apple may have already sealed Microsoft’s fate. It will be extremely difficult for Microsoft to compete with free when it comes to Office, even if they do bring it to iOS quickly. But that may be their only option and Apple seems to know it.

“Lost” Steve Jobs Mouse Recovered

At about 2:40 Mountain Time, the mouse that Steve Jobs used during his 1983 IDCA speech was recovered from the Aspen Time Tube. I can not share any pictures yet, but here are some pictures from the conference program that year.

“Lost” Steve Jobs Time Capsule in Aspen Recovered

This is picturesque Apsen, Colorado. I can't share pictures of the dig site yet due to agreement with the production of the show Diggers. Stay tuned!

This is picturesque Apsen, Colorado. I can’t share pictures of the dig site yet due to agreement with the production of the show Diggers. Stay tuned!

As many of my readers may remember, last year I posted The “Lost” Steve Jobs Speech of 1983. I then followed up with another article detailing how a time capsule was buried with the mouse Steve Jobs used during that speech. The “Aspen Time Tube”, as it was called, was intended to be recovered in the year 2000. I wrote that I thought it would be great if the time capsule could be recovered in 2013, the 30th anniversary of the IDCA conference where Steve Jobs gave the 1983 speech. Nothing much came of this until April of this year when I was contacted by a producer of the show Diggers that airs on the National Geographic channel. Long story short, this set into motion a series of events that is culminating now, as I am in Apsen participating in the recovery of the Aspen Time Tube. I can not share much information due to confidentiality agreements with the production, but at this point I can report that the Time Tube itself has been unearthed. Next up is recovering the contents, which include the Lisa mouse that Steve Jobs gave for placement in the Time Tube. I will report as soon as I have my hands on the mouse, so stay tuned!

My Review of Jobs, Starring Ashton Kutcher

JobsmovieNo, I’m not “that guy” who goes out and sees a movie when it is released at midnight or anything … but yes, I did see the movie Jobs on the first day it was released. But it was mostly that the timing was right for me to take in an afternoon matinee. And besides, as a technology consultant and technology historian, I wanted to make sure to see the movie before I started getting a lot of questions – at least that is my story and I’m sticking to it!

Obviously I’m not a professional movie critic, but I know what I like, so you’re going to get my take on the movie from my personal perspective and that of someone who knows the history of the personal computer era.

The first scene was telling – I knew immediately what was going to happen simply from the introductory title scene – “Apple Town Hall Meeting 2001″. I knew this was going to be the iPod introduction. What else could it be? I am very familiar with the actual event, which I remember mostly because looking back now the event was very small and relatively low-key as compared to later Apple events. Given its historical significance, the event is now larger than life, but the reality is that the actual stage and auditorium was pretty tiny. When I saw the scene develop, I wasn’t sure at times if I was watching the movie or some of the actual footage from the event. It looked that accurate. I hoped the rest of the movie would be as historically accurate, and for the most part, I believe it was.

I’ve already read some reviews that criticize some of the details of the film as being inaccurate. But for the most part, those details are very minor, and probably only noticeable to serious geeks. And sure, some of the scenes were dramatized, but by and large I felt the movie gave a very accurate high-level portrayal of the events that shaped the life of Steve Jobs, the history of Apple Computer during his tenures, and to a lesser degree the early history of the personal computer era. Ashton Kutcher did an amazing job of nailing the mannerisms, voice, and general persona of Steve Jobs. At times I completely lost myself in the movie, not recognizing that the person I was watching on screen wasn’t Jobs himself.

For me personally, I really appreciated the scene at the first annual West Coast Computer Faire of 1977, where the Apple II was introduced. Many historians call this event the birth of the personal computer industry, as the Apple II is credited with igniting the personal computer revolution. But the scene also showed the Commodore PET computer, which was one of the three significant personal computers that were introduced in 1977. Along with the Radio Shack TRS-80 computer,  Apple and Commodore defined personal computing during the earliest stages of the era, before IBM and then Microsoft rose to dominance.

The only fault I could find with the movie was that there simply wasn’t enough of it. My wife is a technology layperson, relatively speaking, and wasn’t very familiar with the details of Steve Jobs’ life or the history of the personal computer era. After watching the movie, she said that she wanted to know more about how Steve Jobs matured, especially in the time where Steve Jobs wasn’t at Apple. I couldn’t agree more. The film literally spends 30 seconds bridging those twelve years, never mentioning Pixar, and only mentioning NeXT to segue Jobs’ return to Apple. This time period in Jobs’ life is absolutely critical, as he matures both as a person and a business leader. But it’s hard to fault the film for this. It was already a two-hour movie and I know that most movie audiences get squeamish at anything longer that 90 minutes. My wife mentioned that it would have needed to be a mini-series to cover his entire life. Perhaps, but I would not have minded a three-hour movie that filled in some more gaps and gave a more complete picture.

Overall, even if the movie feels like a “cliff notes” version of Steve Jobs’ life, I still think it is a worthwhile movie. For most people who know very little about Apple prior to 2001, I think this is a great introductory look at the man that made Apple and quite literally changed the world. Sure, it’s not 100% accurate and it is a little thin on details at times, but it serves its purpose, at least from my viewpoint. I hope it helps more people understand the passion and drive that Steve Jobs had and how his influence shaped our technology, no matter if it is an Apple product or not. Ultimately the technology industry that he helped define and drive forward has influenced our society so greatly, that we all would do well to study his life as we study the life of other great people in history.

What Elizabeth Warren Really Said …

There is nobody in this country who got rich on their own. Nobody. You built a factory out there - good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn't have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory... Now look. You built a factory and it turned into something terrific or a great idea - God bless! Keep a hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.This quote by Elizabeth Warren shown in the picture floats around the Internet every so often, touted by many as some sort of great wisdom. But if we break it down, we find that it isn’t quite the benevolent quote many take it to be. So let’s take a look at my version of what Elizabeth Warren “really” said.

There is nobody in this country who got rich on their own. Nobody. You built a factory out there – good for you. I can say this because I’ve never started or ran a business myself.

But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on roads that were paid for with money forcibly confiscated from the people. You hired workers that were educated in a forced monopoly system which is paid for with money seized from the people. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that are paid for with money forcibly extracted from the very people they protect. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory … unless you’re counting your own government.

Now look. You built a factory and it turned into something terrific or a great idea – God bless! Keep a hunk of it. Because I know better than you just how much of your own money you should be “allowed” to keep. Part of the underlying social contract – that you never agreed to – is that people like me forcibly confiscate a hunk of the wealth you gave your blood, sweat, and tears to create and give it to the next kid who comes along – so they can have their wealth forcibly confiscated too.

Doesn’t sound so wise now, does it? Another thing that is really, um, “interesting” about her quote is that she says “the rest of us”, as if business owners didn’t pay taxes for all the things she talks about. If in fact all that taxes actually paid for were those things, we’d be talking about tiny little slivers, instead of hunks. But instead they often pay for politicians’ pork projects, making those who exert influence on the government rich. So maybe she is right. Nobody gets rich on their own – they need a politician’s help for that!

A Different Way to Think About Freemium

free-managed-services.jpgOftentimes, I find that entrepreneurship and liberty are inexorably intertwined. Sometimes, even the terminology used seems to hint at this unalienable truth. A shout out to Amanda at amandabillyrock.com for bringing up a discussion about the freemium business model. I’ve recently discovered her online and I must say her writing reads as if they are thoughts coming from my own mind. Check her out if you haven’t already.

I won’t go into too much detail about the freemium model or argue the merits. Lots of other people have done that. But core to the model is the idea that information is given away for free, in order to develop a following and establish oneself as a category authority.

Of course, “free” as in pricing is different than “free” as in liberty. Yet for many, the belief that information should be free covers both cost and availability. This is one place where entrepreneurship and liberty intersect.

Certainly I believe that the free flow of information is the greatest gift the Internet has given us. The decision to get paid for information I leave up to each individual. But in the age of the Internet, consider the following. Those who set information free are viewed in higher regard. Perhaps one day we will look at the liberation of information as a turning point in human history.

You’re the President – Man Up or Step Aside

Obama CluelessWe are in the midst of the worst Washington scandal since Watergate. – Peggy Noonan, Wall Street Journal

As usual, please read my Obligatory Obama Disclaimer if you haven’t already.

While many apologists are dismissing the above quote from the Wall Street Journal, the reality is that the last couple of weeks have been unprecedented in the number of scandalous events to hit a presidential administration. While any single one may not be technically bigger than Watergate (at least from what we currently know), the series of events shows a potential scale of corruption in a presidential administration unmatched in the history of our country.

The next point apologists bring up is that we have no evidence that Barack Obama had anything to with any of these scandals, or any of the previous scandals that now require careful re-examination. Whatever the issue (pick your poison: Fast and Furious, Bengazhi, the IRS abuse of power, or the Justice Department wiretapping journalists’ phones), the president has steadfastly denied any knowledge of the improprieties. This leaves us two possibilities: Either Obama is lying – or he is one of the most incompetent presidents in history.

Let’s get down to brass tacks. Barack Obama holds the office of president of the United States. His job is to run the executive branch of the federal government. He is the head honcho of the Justice Department, the State Department, and the IRS. He is the one who appoints the heads of those individual departments, but just like any chief executive, ultimately the operation and actions of all those departments are his responsibility. Let’s not gloss over that word: responsibility. Assuming he wasn’t directly in charge of ordering the various misconducts or poor decisions that his departments carried out, as head of the executive branch, the fault still fundamentally falls on his shoulders. Regardless of all the posturing going on by politicians all all sides, the bottom line is that Barack Obama has NOT accepted any responsibility for those under his administration.

While the conduct of the various departments in discussion are all inexcusable, the biggest scandal to me is the outright refusal of Obama to own up to even a shred of fault. One of the core principles of leadership is to take responsibility for the actions of those they lead. Obama has up to this point only offered to take action against those who he thinks will end up being at fault. Not once have I heard him say publicly that as leader of those departments he is ultimately responsible and will accept any repercussions. And in his capacity as chief executive, I certainly have not heard him apologize for the actions of those departments.

Bottom line, however these scandals play out, the undeniable reality is that instead of acting like a leader, Obama chose to defer responsibility to his subordinates. That is irrefutable fact. Those are the actions of a coward. Unless he reverses course and accepts responsibility for the actions of his administration, Obama has abdicated his duty. Ultimately, the people of this country are his superiors. It is time to live up to our mistakes and accept our own responsibility. So I do now: Mr. President, if you can not effectively lead and accept responsibility for the faults of your own administration, please tender your resignation immediately.

If Not Us, Who? If Not Now, When?

Your heart is free. Have the courage to follow it.

An awesome quote from the movie Braveheart. Seems fitting here.

The best way to make a movement, if you really care, is to courageously follow and show others how to follow. - First Follower: Leadership Lessons from Dancing Guy

Those who regularly read this blog may have noticed that I haven’t written on the topic of liberty for several months. There are a few reasons for this. To be honest, I sort of needed a break after the election season (and the somewhat depressing outcomes). Then life and work got in the way. Once I stop writing on a topic, it’s a bit hard for me to start back up at times.

However, I am easily triggered to write when I feel I need to respond to something. So while I wasn’t writing on this blog, I was writing various responses to some postings on Facebook. I’m sure some of you know the feeling of standing up for what you believe. At times it feels like being a Spartan at the Battle of Thermopylae, standing alone against a seemingly unstoppable horde.

But surprisingly, following a few comments where I was the lone voice in support of freedom, I received some private messages encouraging my opinions. I’d like to share a couple of those:

heya. we have a mutual friend, (name withheld). I wanted to drop you a private message to say how much I appreciate your thoughtful, articulate comments. I avoid politics on fb at all cost… it just never ends up well. Most typically just want to have their beliefs validated and reflected back… and most of my fb friends are left of center. I’ve witnessed A LOT of ‘interesting’ posts on (name withheld)’s wall and just bite my tongue. Anyway, I wanted to thank you for voicing basic, conservative ideas in a calm and thoughtful way. cheers!

And another

I read your replies on (name withheld)’s status….all I can say, ROCKSTAR!!!! I could read your responses all day long!

It felt really good to get some validation; to reinforce the fact that I am not alone in my ideals. Yet, it is frustrating to know that people who believe like I do stay quiet. Most keep quiet out of fear. Fear of standing out. Fear of voicing a dissenting opinion. Fear of making waves. Fear of alienating friends or clients. I get that. For a long time I had the same fears. But eventually I grew tired of sitting on the sidelines. I could no longer sit idle and not stand up for my beliefs. What I’ve found is that even though you run the risk of alienating some people, you will draw in closer those who share your beliefs. And you have just as much chance of gaining the respect of many, even if they hold different opinions.

Your heart is free. Have the courage to follow it.

In light of recent events, it has become increasingly obvious that the traditional mainstream media has failed us. However, The New World of Technology lays out an incredible opportunity before us and, I believe, a corresponding responsibility. If traditional media is not serving our best interests, it is up to us to pick up the slack. Social media allows us to disseminate information in ways never before possible. Where in the past we were somewhat beholden to big media to get our information, the Internet and now social media has given us access to a plethora of new sources of information – and more importantly – the ability to spread that information on our own.

I bring this up because I believe the time is now for those who believe in individual freedom and responsibility to speak up. It is time to show the country that there is a tidal wave of support for liberty and small government ideals. We can no longer afford to keep quiet. We no longer have the luxury of complacency. The good news is it doesn’t take much to get this tidal wave started. Every little thing can help. Simply posting your thoughts on Facebook or Twitter is a start. Post news articles from non-mainstream sources that counter the traditional media biases. Question everything. Stand up for freedom. The more you do it, the more others are encouraged to do it. If you watch the first follower video on YouTube, you will see this process in action.

The country is in your hands. Do you have what it takes to build a movement? Do you have the courage to be one of the first followers?

I Think It’s Microsoft Who’s Frustrated

Confused Bill GatesBill Gates did a recent interview on CNBC, proclaiming that iPad users are frustrated. According to Bill Gates, ”They can’t type. They can’t create documents. They don’t have Microsoft Office there.” To put it mildly, this is an “interesting” statement from someone who at one time was the face of the technology industry. Save for the fact that he is doing his best to save the company he founded, it appears that Mr. Gates has lost his touch on the reality of the technology market. Just for fun, let’s take apart his statements.

iPad users can’t type? Obviously the fact that the iPad doesn’t come with a built-in keyboard is not the issue here. We all know this. Bill Gates seems to think that if a device doesn’t come with a keyboard, then there must be no way to add one. Besides the Apple Wireless Keyboard option, there are hundreds of third-party keyboards that work with the iPad. It’s not like iPad users can’t use a keyboard, as they obviously have many options to choose from. You would think a technology company figurehead like Bill Gates would know this teensy-tiny detail. Additionally, his statement is highly peculiar considering that the Surface RT base model DOES NOT include a keyboard (although one would be hard-pressed to know this from all the flashy Surface RT ads with keyboards clicking and clacking all over the place). Is Bill Gates really that out of touch, or is he simply towing the company marketing line, no matter how dumb it is?

iPad users can’t create documents? I believe that if a salesperson wants to look somewhat competent when comparing and contrasting their own products against their competitions’ offerings, they must have at least some experience with their competitors’ products. Maybe Bill Gates has never really used an iPad. Then I could almost forgive him for making this statement. However, he is Bill Gates, so I can not cut the guy any slack. Seriously? Besides Apple’s $9.99 “Pages” app, there are many third-party choices for creating “documents” on an iPad. My 9-year old daughter could have told him that. Perhaps she should be Microsoft’s Chairman?

But maybe he meant Microsoft Office “documents”, which in typical Microsoft fashion, they must believe there are no other formats for word processing files. At least his third statement accurately describes the situation. True, Microsoft Office is not available on Apple’s iPad. But Bill Gates says this as if it is some sort of inherent flaw with the iPad. That is an extraordinary statement considering that the ONLY reason iPad users don’t have Microsoft Office is because Microsoft hasn’t released it for the platform. Well frickin’ DUH! Seriously, it’s like shooting fish in a barrel. I’m done with this because it feels like I’m picking on an senile old man.

The bigger problem Microsoft must deal with is that besides Windows 8, they’ve pinned their future on a 57-year old technology: the computer keyboard. They must have missed the memo that a lack of keyboard on mobile devices is a feature, not a problem. If it were seriously a problem, would the iPad continue to set sales records? Perhaps people don’t really want a physical keyboard on their mobile devices. Mobile devices become just a little less mobile when they have a hunk of plastic hanging from them.

According to a report from IDC for the first quarter of 2013, Microsoft shipped only 900,000 units of their Surface line of tablets, which include both both the Surface RT and Surface Pro devices. Compare this to 19.5 million Apple iPads shipped, which beat expectations. That’s about 20 times as many iPads shipped than Microsoft devices. Consider as well that Microsoft’s users are so unhappy with Windows 8 that Microsoft just announced a reversal of their Windows 8 strategy. It doesn’t sound to me like users are frustrated with the iPad. Rather, perhaps it is Microsoft who is feeling the frustration.

Microsoft needs to come to grips with the reality of the market if they are to save their own skin. For all it is worth, Microsoft Office is still a huge cash cow for Microsoft. However, they are missing out on a huge revenue stream by keeping Office away from the iOS platform. It was obvious what Microsoft’s strategy was last year when a rumored version of Microsoft Office for the iPad mysteriously vanished. Microsoft probably realized that if users could get Microsoft Office on other platforms, there would be very little incentive for users to purchase a Microsoft mobile device. They were trying to leverage the dominance of their office software (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) to help bolster Windows 8/RT acceptance in the mobile device market. At the very least they were trying not to crush Windows’ chances. But this strategy is extremely risky. The longer they wait to deploy Microsoft Office to other platforms, the longer people have to get used to the idea of not needing Microsoft Office. For now Microsoft Office is still a force in the office productivity software market. But as users have begun to exodus Microsoft Windows, it won’t take much more for users to exodus Microsoft Office as well.

Microsoft is gambling everything on Windows 8 and they are using Microsoft Office as collateral. If they double-down on this strategy, they stand to lose everything.