Heroes and Villains

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Not everyone wants their hand held when PC gaming

I thought for grins I would drop back for the first time in a month and write on an old style computer. I keep reaching for that lever in the upper left — it’s called a carriage return to add a new line. No I don’t do that, although the MacBook Air keyboard feels like a typewriter compared to the virtual iPad one or even the dockable hardware one.

I didn’t go to last week’s Web 2 Expo but enjoyed the coverage of what seemed to be an engaging series of panels here on TechCrunch. One headline jumped out at me though, where Tim O’Reilly said something about how Apple (Steve Jobs) doesn’t understand the importance of Web services. Evidently MobileMe’s cost as a service disqualifies Apple from cluefullness.

Well, I disagree. Not that I haven’t resisted the call of MobileMe until now for a version of the same logic. Why pay for access to services Google is providing for free (storage, etc.), or the Blackberry with its push email? And certainly Android as practiced by Nexus One provides a glowing recommendation for the kind of realtime orchestration of multiple services that makes the iPhone and now the iPad feel like a return to Windows 2.0. You know, the one before they finally reinvented multitasking.

But there I am at the Apple store last week trying to buy an Apple case for the iPad 3G (sorry, sold out, better go online, no idea when it’ll be available) and I call an audible at the line of scrimmage and buy MobileMe because it is discounted to new iPad owners within the first 2 weeks. I’ve been carrying the box around in a case all week with no time to install it, but because it provides at least some plausible cloud services I’m betting it will ease the wait for iOS 4 and multitasking, not to mention giving me an insight into Apple’s real Web plans.

Because Tim O’Reilly gets things right a huge percentage of the time, I’ll pause a minute here and check his logic. Before I do, a little story. I was speaking at Phil Windley’s Kinetyx Impact conference and fellow keynoter Jon Udell and I were kibitzing backstage or whatever the hallway we were in. Jon mentioned something about something that happened 2 years ago, and I thought to myself, no way, easily 5 years ago. I said as much and Jon looked me straight in the eye and said, nope 2 years.

Now Jon Udell is my go-to guy for the answer about anything, so I had to make a calculation: do I drop it knowing full well he’s wrong or keep disagreeing. I was almost ready to change my opinion about something I actually knew the right answer to, but something wouldn’t let me let it go. Not his expression, which was emphatic, a little bored that I was still arguing, etc. All the right signals that he was right. So I kept after it a couple more times until he said, yeah it was 5 years.

You mean you were just blatantly making that up, I asked, incredulous. Yep, he grinned, I learned it from you. Oh great. So when Jason Kincaid says Tim O’Reilly says Steve Jobs is trying to build a fundamental challenge to the Web, I have to be careful. Like so many others, Tim frames this battle for control of the next metaphor as Apple v. Google for the Internet Operating System. Google gets the network, while Apple gets monetization. Throw in Microsoft and Facebook; the forces of closed may choke off the Web.

Whatever, the reason I don’t buy that the iPad or Objective C is a challenge to the Web is that a) the Web is doing quite well thank you, and b) Google isn’t free. In fact, I just overran my Gmail Golden Goose storage limit and now I’m paying a healthy percentage of what MobileMe charges to keep my entire life online since Gmail launched available to me moving forward. And I’d gladly pay Apple whatever it takes to get Flash off the network, instead of listening to Google rationalize their inclusion of Flash in Android as a service of openness to users.

The more that open standards gurus decry the Apple strategy of actually giving people what they want, the more I question the logic that somehow evil is being perpetrated. O’Reilly doesn’t claim heroes and villains in his excellent 2-part overview, but elsewhere the idea that there might be some competition for actual users seems to elude many. “Facebook gone rogue,” “Time for an Open Alternative,” Dave Winer on his Never-Ending Twitter Redistribution Tour. All credible if you ignore actual customers.

Sadly, people like winners. They like it when success leads to more cool stuff, as Facebook is doing with its APIs and dropped caching restrictions. A quick glance today at the Facebook stream reveals a compact and somewhat interesting flow of FriendFeed-like citations. In the absence of real competition for streamtime, I can begin to see the outline of a reason to frequent the Facebook whole, particularly if it is interleaved with Twitter and some trackable metadata. Seesmic might do the trick, but time is on Facebook’s side as the stream slows down and quality will out.

Already I’ve spent more time on this computer than I planned, and I’m missing my iPad and its inexorable lure into the terrible land of manicured lawns and repressive rules like “don’t mess with our take down of the carriers” and “can you wait for multitasking until it actually doesn’t take down the 9 hours of battery which is why you’re moving all your portfolio into the AppStore.” Watching ABC iPad hits mushroom in the millions as CBS promises H.264 in time for the fall season, what part of an on-demand realtime video network do we not want?

No doubt that Android is moving fast, and contributing mightily to the energy of the stream. But can we stop calling winners and losers before we actually see the new content that is boiling out of the disruption. This is the moment before Sgt. Pepper, when Good Vibrations was exploding with the possibilities of that most recent intersection of technology and inspiration. Brian Wilson drove McCartney, who drove Lennon, who drove Harrison, who together drove Hendrix, and around the block again. Where will it go? God only knows.

The Gillmor Gang — Mike Arrington, Danny Sullivan, Robert Scoble, and Kevin Marks. Recorded live Friday, May 14, 2010.

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