Keynote: Robert X. Cringely

Nov 15, 2005 - 12:56 pm 0 by
Filed Under PubCon 2005

Brett Tabke started off by talking about the last conference in New Orleans and wishes all the best. He then goes over what is going on today at the conference.

Robert Cringely is now up. He has been an internet user since April on 1977. He was working in Lebanon as a reporter. He then moved to California and joined a computer club and met Steve W. and Steve Jobs. And they offered him a job at Apple computer. He was offered stock and not much money. He then got fired and worked at Stanford. He then went back to Apple and worked on Lisa. He worked on the GUI of Lisa and invented the trash can icon. He said he was working on a thing and hit one key and it was all gone. He went to the help desk and asked for the backup. There was no backup tape. So he determined that his role was to save users from themselves. So he worked on the trash can, you put something in the trash and then you must empty the trash (two step process now). He makes jokes about the recycle bin, people laugh. He said he first built a little fly that flew around the trash can when it was full. Only issue, if you turned off the fly, the computer was twice as fast. Then they fired him again and he went back to Stanford. He then came back to Apple in 1984. He worked on file sharing solutions at Apple, named Apple Link. They sold the Apple Link code to AOL. He built into that, the ability to send email and then change your mind (like trash can). Then they fired him again, because they checked the mail before he was able to take it back. :) He then worked for his assistant who started Cisco. They went to Stanford and asked if they can sell these routers. The issue was, Sun was in the same building. He then goes into this story on how Sun and Cisco came up with selling these things and who to sell them to. They went to IBM to have them build these routers for them, but they turned the offer down. Sun and Cisco used the same motherboard. They waited 18 months to make a decision on how to sell these things. They started financing the company with credit cards. He then worked with Excite, he helped them find the first customer and first venture capitalist. He was able to my a ton of them for peanuts, but didn't. He now writes a lot for PBS and runs NerdTV.

He writes a weekly column on PBS since April 1997. He kept track of his accuracy rate, he is 85% accurate, which is pretty good. Often we get so caught up about today and tomorrow, we forget about the more long term. He said vagueness is the key to this, no one laughed (I did, internally). He salutes the Webmaster because the environments around us have a major impact on us.

AOL is kinda in limbo, we do not know if its for sale, if its not - what is going on with the company. He said, he doesn't even think that AOL knows. He feels it will be broken up, between its ISP and its portal and its search service. Lots of companies are talking to AOL. They have lost momentum, because they are thinking of bailing.

Microsoft has recently made a play for Web services for Windows Live and Office Live. He said no one really understands what they are. He said they are place-marks, for MIcrosoft to say that we have these areas, so dont mess with us there. He believes they leak these things on purpose. He said M$ makes their money from Windows and Office, they know it. These products exist to exist and they exist to cost money (they need to show expenses). xBox cost them $4 billion, and its a major success. They have $2.5 billion in revenue and more in cost. This way they can get rid of these businesses, so they can be in a position to, one day, make money. That is how you run a monopoly. They will always think of Office and Windows. They are not a leader, they are a deep pocketed and quick follower.

So AOL and Microsoft to not affect the Webmaster space.

Google and Yahoo we need to worry about. Yahoo has a more content orientation today then Google. They are both very dynamic organizations, run by strong minded people. Yahoo is more media minded now, then Google. But all of this is in flux. Where is this going? Yahoo and Google will handle it in different ways.

What is Google doing? They sold $4 billion in stock. What do they need the money for? Because they can do it, so they do it? He believes they have something to spend it on. The question is what? Dark fiber rumor? He said he thinks Google is going to smoke the dark fiber. Is it really happening? They bought 30 acres in Oregon. He said, Google is screwing with us and they love it. They introduced Gmail, 1GB and now 2GB of storage. Gmail has 3 million users. Yahoo at that time at 150 million users. Who will that hurt more? It costs so much more for Yahoo to match that. That is the "Google distributive mojo." Google will take your business and turn your business upside down. Google makes the competition react to this. Microsoft didn't do anything, waited a few months and added some more space and knew it was enough. Yahoo made the mistake of matching, where Microsoft did not make that mistake. Microsoft labeled Yahoo as a media company, so Yahoo is not a competitor. Which is a mistake. Microsoft only wants to go after one competitor at a time, which is Google.

Google wants to become the internet. How they want to do this, is not clear. But it will be very different. It will be geeky, open source, web services. The nature of the distributive cluster is different from the way the others handle the hardware. It is different and an advantage over the competitors. He believes the dark fiber think. ISPs are not doing well. Google can buy up all these companies for almost nothing. He feels Google will come to control this network. When they extend their clustering technology into this, they will embrace more and more what it is to "be the internet". Microsoft positioned itself to be your friend. Google is not as sophisticated about this, they are too busy trying to impress you with how big their brains are. Google has a slight image problem. Google is going to take this infrastructure approach and in doing so offer to provide a playing field for you to function. He feels Google will win. Google will win. He said, Microsoft will lose. Yahoo will transform itself into something different then Google or Microsoft. Yahoo will win too. But Google will define the internet. The Google internet will just work. He said he sees this happening in the next two years, tops.

He then explains that his NerdTV costs him $2,000 per week. About $0.02 per download. How does he make money from it? He has no income and a cost of $2,000 per week. The more successful you are, the more bankrupt you can get. Problems with video podcast, people subscribe to more then they watch. So effectively he can triple his bandwidth expense and not increase his audience. These are the new problems with these media companies - how do we make money? He asks the audience for ideas.


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