WSJ Op-Ed Piece by Holman W. Jenkins Jr. Argues Apple Is Getting All Microsofty

Holman W. Jenkins Jr. on the iPad:

And what about Apple’s decision to exclude Flash? Apple and its supporters stake out aesthetic and philosophical grounds: Flash is buggy. Flash is a power hog. Flash is “proprietary” (horrors). Flash is used to create those annoying Web ads (never mind that advertising is what pays for most of the Web).

Uh huh. Flash would also allow iPhone and iPad users to consume video and other entertainment without going through iTunes. Flash would let users freely obtain the kinds of features they can only get now at the Apple App Store.

So his argument is that no matter how bad Flash is technically and experience-wise, Apple should add it to the iPad so people can watch Hulu. And that there’s no other way to obtain video for the iPad other than stuff you buy from iTunes. Jiminy. If only there were, say, a YouTube app included with the OS.

I suppose that if you really miss things like Hulu and animated web ads, it makes sense to argue that Apple should support Flash on iPhone OS no matter what. I honestly don’t see how anything regarding the iPad, the iTunes Store, or Apple’s policy toward Flash is in any way reminiscent of Microsoft, though. I’d say the iPad only serves to bring into relief just how different the two companies have become. Perhaps what Jenkins is getting at is Apple’s willingness to impose its will, to make decisions rather than offer choices.

iBooks Isn’t Bundled With iPad

Apple didn’t emphasize this heavily at the introduction, but the iBooks app is not going to be bundled with the iPad — it’s an app you download from the App Store, putting it on an (at least somewhat) equal footing to e-book readers from other companies. From the “Features” page in Apple’s iPad web site:

The iBooks app is a great new way to read and buy books. Download the free app from the App Store and buy everything from classics to best sellers from the built-in iBookstore.

If you look at the photos of the iPad, the only bundled apps included with the system appear to be Calendar, Contacts, Notes, Maps, Videos, YouTube, iTunes, App Store, Settings, Safari, Mail, Photos, and iPod. Perhaps this will change if and when iBooks becomes available outside the U.S.

Update: Good point from a reader on Twitter: making iBooks an App Store download will allow Apple to update the app more frequently than if it were tied to OS updates.

Warner Retreats From Free Music Streaming

Ian Youngs, reporting for BBC News:

Record label Warner Music has said it will stop licensing its songs to free music streaming services. Companies like Spotify, We7 and Last.fm give free, legal and instant access to millions of songs, funded by adverts.

Warner, one of the four major labels, whose artists include REM and Michael Buble, said such services were “clearly not positive for the industry”.

Update: Spotify, on Twitter, says Warner isn’t pulling out.

Paul Thurrott, Warming to iPad

No sarcasm intended, I’m enjoying Thurrott’s perspective on the iPad. I found this perspective intriguing:

Further unclear is why we would want to learn yet another user interface. Phones, by nature, are simple to use and limited by onscreen real estate. Laptops, of course, offer more expansive screens and more powerful capabilities. But the iPad introduces yet another UI, one that is based on that of the iPhone, of course, but one that is different and more advanced (and complex). Not as advanced and complex as a PC, perhaps. But different from both the iPhone and laptop.

The starting point Thurrott is espousing here, more or less “Let’s start with something the user will already be familiar with” sounds good, and many times it is the right approach. That’s the consistency argument for Mac software being Mac-like, and Windows software being Windows-like. But if you shackle yourself to starting with something already familiar, then the state-of-the-art is never going to make a great leap forward. This sort of thinking is why Microsoft’s tablet computers all run Windows 7.

Clearly, the way Apple approached the iPad was that of course the iPad was going to introduce a new UI. They’re really rather fearless about it, because, I think, they’re so confident in its obviousness. Unfamiliar and new isn’t a problem if the whole thing is obvious and easy to figure out.

Joe Wilcox on Microsoft’s Glut of Middle Managers

Insightful reporting based on interviews with current and former Microsoft employees:

“When I started at MSFT in 1996, there were six people between me and [Microsoft cofounder] Bill Gates,” Boris said. “In 2009, there were 13 people between me and [Microsoft CEO] Steve Ballmer.” Fred said, “the number of managers between me and the CEO went from six to 10,” during the last decade. Another long-time Microsoftie, whom I’ll call Barry, saw his reports go from six to 12.

Fascinating stuff, too, about the bizarre incentive structure for Microsoft employees. I think this gets to the nut of exactly what’s wrong with Microsoft. They’ve evolved a powerful, deep bureaucracy that has lost any sort of focus on creating great products. Worse, for obvious reasons Microsoft’s management is unlikely to see itself as the problem. As Upton Sinclair said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”

Google Announces Experimental Fiber Network

Google:

We’re planning to build and test ultra high-speed broadband networks in a small number of trial locations across the United States. We’ll deliver Internet speeds more than 100 times faster than what most Americans have access to today with 1 gigabit per second, fiber-to-the-home connections. We plan to offer service at a competitive price to at least 50,000 and potentially up to 500,000 people.

Remember the Old Days, When iSuppli Would Actually Wait Until They Could Take a New Apple Device Apart Before Making Up a Ridiculously Lowball Estimate for How Much It Costs to Make?

Arik Hesseldahl on a “preliminary estimate” of iPad component costs from iSuppli:

Research firms including iSuppli conduct so-called teardown analysis of consumer electronics to determine component prices and makers and estimate margins. Researchers at iSuppli didn’t have an actual iPad and instead relied on Apple’s public statements on its features.

The next step, I guess, is issuing “pre-preliminary estimates” of component costs for products that haven’t even yet been announced.