Monday, May 25, 2015

How To Bite The Hand That Feeds You

This is a blog about photography, Adobe Photoshop (PS) and Adobe Photoshop Lightroom.  And a place to rant every once in a while.  Occasionally I mention that I'm retired from (what I like to tell people when/if they ask) "a little west coast startup called Intel".  (Well, it was at one point.  1969 to be specific.)  One of my general interests has always been the history of the microprocessor and the computer.  I was flipping around the smart TV the other day and found a content supplier I'd never heard of before.  (I say "content provider" because it was closer to Hulu or Netflix than ABC or NBC.)  It had a documentary about Apple Computer from the beginning to the iPad.  The date of the show was about 2009.  They interviewed a cadre of folks who were "there" through the good times and the bad.  One of the people used extensively was Guy Kawasaki.  An Apple evangelist back in the day and cofounder of  You may be reading this blog through Alltop.  Don't get me wrong, I love Apple, all their computers and devices, but their fanboys (and Kawasaki was the chief fanboy) do get history a little skewed from time to time.  At one point Kawasaki was talking about Apple "firsts".  He had a pretty good list going and I agreed with most.  The one that pulled me up short was saying Apple popularized the USB port.  Ya wanna know the "real story"?  Hit the "Read More"

An easy year (maybe two) before anyone saw a USB port on a computer it was shown to Intel sales and marketing folks at a thing called ISMC (The Intel Sales and Marketing Conference.)  An internal meeting Intel holds at the beginning of each year.  Somewhere around 3,000 Intel S&M people attend and see what's new and get direction for what's coming up.  During the week Intel typically had an evening given to showing off what was coming out of the labs.  There was an array of computers with this new port called USB.  We were shown printers, scanners, mice, etc. that would use this "all in one" port.

The next year USB ports began showing up on (non Apple) pcs, but no printers, no scanners, no mice, no speakers, no nothing.  Hmmm.  It appeared that device manufacturers failed to get behind USB.  It was fully two years of USB coexisting with serial and parallel ports.  Suddenly devices with USB ports were everywhere, including the Macintosh computer.  At first glance it would appear Kawasaki was right.  It wasn't until the Mac added the USB port that manufacturers started coming out with as a serious means of connection.  

The truth is right there, just not quite the way Kawasaki and the rest of the Apple fanboys tell it.  There is another explanation, the right explanation.  What manufacturer of high volume, add on, devices is going to start production when there's one device that would use your product?  Nobody!  A printer manufacturer knows that every computer sold isn't going to have another sale that includes their printer, their scanner, their whatever.  A printer doesn't necessarily get replaced at every turn of a computer.  The computer needs to be replaced for some reason.  Too slow, too small (a HD), too many users, "too" something.  I don't know, on maybe 90% of those sales, people want to take the computer home and plug in their old devices.  Not go buy a new one of every device they have.  It's not until the TAM (Intel speak for Total Available Market) grows to a point where it makes sense to mass produce a widget (i.e. printer) will the manufacturer enter the market with their device.  It happened that that was about the two year mark for computers with USB ports.  Just about the time when Apple started putting USB ports on Macs. 

So, from Kawasaki's revisionist history point of view, USB ports didn't gain popularity until they were put on the Mac.  True enough, but without Intel pushing to "seed the market" for two years there wouldn't be a sufficient volume of machines in the marketplace to justify printers, scanners, etc. coming with USB inputs.

It looks like Mr. Kawasaki is a victim of a fundamental problem in the computer industry (I saw it plenty of times at Intel).  He didn't ask the next question.  People will ask questions until they get the answer they're looking for and then stop.  They don't look beyond their favored answer.  Let's put it this way (since this is a photography based blog).  Aunt Millie wants to take a picture of you at the Grand Canyon.  The shot doesn't quite line up right.  She asks you to move one step to the left.  Nope, still not right.  Move two more steps.  Still not just the right shot.  She asks once again and you comply.  That's it, you just fell off the edge of the Grand Canyon and are laying in a heap a thousand feet down.  Why?  Because you didn't ask the next question.  "What's going to happen to me when I take that next step and there's no ground beneath me?"  I spent most of my career (not just at Intel... the whole career) asking the next question.