[d@DCC] SuitWatch - February 5 - It's the Fifties all over again.
russell at flora.ca
Thu Feb 5 15:11:23 EST 2004
This Suitwatch is particularly relevant to this list this week. I often
reference Doc's newsletters when talking about demand-side economic
analysis in commons-based peer production.
(edited to fix URLs to work better in archive)
Russell McOrmond, Internet Consultant: <http://www.flora.ca/>
Governance software that controls ICT, automates government policy, or
electronically counts votes, shouldn't be bought any more than
politicians should be bought. -- http://www.flora.ca/russell/
---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 5 Feb 2004 01:33:33 -0800 (PST)
From: Linux Journal News Notes
Subject: SuitWatch - February 5
Views on Linux in Business
--by Doc Searls, Senior Editor of Linux Journal
Thursday, February 5, 2004--It's the Fifties all over again.
I'm not talking about the conformist Eisenhower Fifties, with its
poodle skirts and tail fins. I'm talking about the rock & roll
Fifties, when the music business got blown up and consumer electronics
was born. Now, almost five decades later, we're seeing the music
business getting blown up again and the consumer electronics business
right along with it. The first explosion is obvious, but the second
The music biz got blown up when Napster came along in 1999. Suddenly,
the whole world could start sharing its music over the Net, and the
industry hardly knew what to do--other than sue the crap out of
everybody and thank its lobbyists for pounding the DMCA through
Congress in 1998.
The consumer electronics biz got blown up with the introduction of the
iPod. The difference, of course, is the consumer electronics industry
doesn't know what's happened yet. It thinks the iPod is just another
device. Creative Labs alone has 11 products competing in the same
http://www.creative.com/products/welcome.asp?cat=3 . When I was at CES
in Las Vegas last month, I thought the same thing, especially when I
saw the crowds of people around the Creative booth, hankering for a
gander at all the new goods. In fact, I didn't see the explosive
significance of the iPod until my friend Kurt Starsinic pulled one out
of his bag at LinuxWorld Expo a week or so later.
What blew my mind wasn't that Kurt had one of the things; I've seen
plenty of hackers with iPods. It was that he pulled the unit from his
bag when we started talking about radio. "I don't listen to music on
the radio any more", he said. "I listen on one of these." Suddenly my
mind went back to the 1950s. I looked at Kurt's iPod and remembered
what Sony did to popularize the transistor radio and to invent the
consumer electronics business along the way.
Sony didn't invent the first transistor radio. The Regency TR-1 came
out in late 1954. Others followed from Zenith (the still-outstanding
Royal 500), RCA, Emerson and GE. The others were all bigger, however.
What made the Regency distinctive was its shirt-pocket size. That was
the sweet spot for Sony, which hit the jackpot in 1957 with the TR-63,
the first "pocketable" transistor radio from the company. About
100,000 Regency TR-1s were sold. The Sony TR-63, TR-610 and TR-620
sold in the hundreds of thousands. Some interesting sources on all
Regency TR-1 History, on Its Golden Anniversary :
Texas Instruments' Role:
Transistor Radio History:
Early Sony Transistor Radios:
Sony TR-610 and Its Sisters :
Zenith Royal 500:
Galaxy of Transistor Radios:
What made Sony distinctive wasn't only that it made and marketed a
good radio, but that it created most of its own parts as well. It had
to, because everybody else still was trying to wedge parts from
nonportable machines into their own portables. So, while the Regency
ran on an odd 20+ volt battery, Sony made a system that ran on a
common little 9-volt battery. By fabbing so many of their components,
and by selling quality products at good prices--and then by branching
out into other product lines--Sony was the prime mover behind the
Japanese-led consumer electronics revolution. The most distinctive
aspect of that revolution was the high values companies such as Sony
placed on portability and involvement with popular culture.
It's easy to forget that before the transistor radio you had to do
your radio listening at home or in a car. The transistor radio created
a huge increase in radio listening, especially among young people.
Those increases were not only in the total number of hours spent
listening to radio, but also in the variety of music heard. Back in
those days, rock & roll was a life-saver to stations with second- and
third-tier signals. So many come to mind: WIND in Chicago, WMCA and
WINS in New York, WMEX in Boston, KRLA and KFWB in Los Angeles, KYA
and KEWB in San Francisco, KSJO in San Jose, WAIR in Winston-Salem,
WOLF in Syracuse, WKIX in Raleigh, KLIF in Dallas, WDGY in
Minneapolis, WXYZ in Detroit, KOIL in Omaha, KROY in Sacramento, KQV
in Pittsburgh, WEAM in Washington. I can name dozens more from memory.
All these stations were staffed with disc jockeys who were
connoisseurs of their music and deeply involved in their communities.
These were the guys who emceed high school sock hops and introduced
local garage bands to record labels.
The production of music also expanded enormously as countless new
http://koti.mbnet.fi/wdd/labels.htm helped create a whole new record
Over time, of course, the industries consolidated, and the whole mess
turned into what Joni Mitchell called "the star maker machinery behind
the popular song"By the time the Net came along, disc jockeys were
just voices, and radio had become a system for pumping stars chosen by
Hollywood's music machines.
Today, celebrity itself is a manufactured commodity, across all the
mass media. Look at the newsstands or surf through the TV channels and
you'll see the same sluice, coming down the tubes that run from mass
production through mass media to mass consumption.
When I look at iPod and iTunes--especially the iTunes record store,
selling more than $30 million in music, so far--I see those tubes
getting replaced. And not only by Apple. Inevitably, there will be
other intermediaries, as first sources and then final customers start
seeking efficient ways of relating and doing business.
What matters is what happens to the supply side of the market. In my
report on Macworld, "New Economy Hack: Turning Consumers Into
http://linuxjournal.com/article.php?sid=7345 , I said Steve Jobs and
Apple were using free (as in beer) multimedia authoring products
(iPhoto, iMovie, iDVD and GarageBand) to turn consumers into
producers, redistributing market power from the few to the many.
GarageBand is the latest addition to that suite. How radical is it?
Here's my friend Dave Pentecost, a musician, urban homesteader and
film producer from New York:
Okay, I spent half of one night this week playing with GarageBand.:
http://www.gomaya.com/glyph/archives/000845.html#000845 Fun, easy,
good sounds for one quarter of the cost of Apple's $50 iLife
package it comes in. In the mid-nineties I reached the peak of my
misspent musical career, scoring four television shows for A&E.
Back then there were thousands of guys with a keyboard and a
computer. Now there will be millions.
So I've been thinking about the new market ecology this involves.
Where are the Linux and open-source roles in all these developments?
A few minutes ago I had a fun talk with another friend, Tony Fadell.
He invented the iPod and is Senior Director of iPod & Special Projects
Group at Apple. The biggest take-away from the conversation was this:
"It's really, really hard." iPod had five processors, he said, all to
make things simple, small, compact and reliable.
I hear the same thing when I talk to engineers from Intel, Transmeta
and other companies operating in the hardware world. The significant
fact here is a lot of this kind of hardware tends to be highly
proprietary. Look at the Intel, AMD, IBM and other chips that fill our
machines. Many of them are about as open as the core of the Moon. In
most cases, it doesn't matter.
There's room for countless other devices in the spaces opened up by
iPod and similar products. No doubt many of these devices--perhaps
most, if they need to connect to the Net--will run on Linux. But
that's not the sweet spot for Linux here.
Linux' sweet spot is every place openness and interoperability matter.
That's why Linux is the OS of choice if your main job is getting a
TCP/IP stack into a device. And that's why Microsoft has lately been
on a FUD offensive around the issue of interoperability.
On Tuesday, eWeek ran a piece titled "Microsoft's New Linux Salvo: IT
The piece sources findings by Jupiter and Giga that show a
high priority placed on "Windows interoperability" by IT executives.
While that form of interoperability is good to have if you're awash in
devices that run Windows, it grounds the interoperability issue in a
private rather than a public place.
Interoperability today is grounded in the public place we call the
Net, not in Windows. Linux is the primary OS in the suite of
technologies that provide interoperability through the Net. That
interoperability is not just among machines and programs. It's among
the people and businesses that comprise markets.
Whole new markets are opening up right now, thanks to products and
technologies that vastly increase the number and variety of suppliers.
That's what's happening in music right now. And it's happening,
inevitably, in other forms of entertainment as well.
The coolest thing I saw at CES in Las Vegas was Interactiv-TV's
http://www.interact-tv.com/ , an all-purpose digital entertainment
server you might think of as a TiVo that's hacker-friendly. It's so
purposefully a Linux box that it even features a penguin in its logo.
One look at the Telly, and I saw past everything on the TV dial to
every talented individual capable of creating music, movies or TV
The Telly doesn't look like something that might blow up the whole
consumer electronics industry. Rather, it seems to operate in the
spaces that already have started to open up.
We're sure to see more of those.
Doc Searls: is Senior Editor of Linux Journal. His monthly
column in the magazine is Linux for Suits, and his biweekly newsletter
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