Category Archives: huh

modularity is great – if you commoditize the right complements

Google bought Android and made great things with it.

They also had an interesting audacity to announce an “open, modular” phone that ‘anyone’ could design from, and make components that would play nicely together (like IBM did with their initial ISA architecture releases back in the 80s). (Microsoft then flipped the tables on IBM and non-exclusively licensed MS-DOS to them, which meant hardware manufacturers could build entire replacement “[IBM] PC compatible” machines … that ran Microsoft software. )

But this only works if you’re Google – an advertising company that wants more eyeballs on its ads.

If you’re a phone manufacturer, like Motorola, the absolute last thing you want is for “anyone” to be able to replace all of the modules in your phone – because you’re not selling the OS, you’re selling hardware. As Joel Spolsky wrote 15 years ago,

If you can run your software anywhere, that makes hardware more of a commodity. As hardware prices go down, the market expands, driving more demand for software (and leaving customers with extra money to spend on software which can now be more expensive.)

Sun’s enthusiasm for WORA is, um, strange, because Sun is a hardware company. Making hardware a commodity is the last thing they want to do.

Motorola is a hardware company. They may want add-ons to be available to their base phone, but the certainly don’t want you replacing everything – unless it’s from them.

Jean-Louis Gassée notes these issues in his latest article, “Lazy Thinking: Modularity Always Works”,

In order to succeed, “disruptive modularity” needs a stable architecture with well-defined and documented boundaries. Module innovators need to be able to slide their creations into place without playing havoc with the rest of the edifice. This is how it worked in the Wintel PC world…sort of. In PC reality, as many of us have experienced, the sliding in and out of modules wasn’t so neat and often landed us in Device Driver purgatory. In the mid-nineties, one Microsoft director told me that the Redmond company actually spent more engineering resources on drivers than on Windows’ core software. …
Most important, strongly-worded theories are less interesting than exploring their cracks, where they don’t seem to work. This is how physics keeps moving forward and this is also how our understanding of business should advance. In the case of Project Ara, the unexamined consensual acceptance of Disruption Theory led many to believe that Modularity Always Wins meant smartphones would (and should) follow the same path as PCs.

I hope JLG (and I, and Joel Spolsky, and basic economics) are wrong.

But I doubt it.

burger king “coffee” isn’t

I went through a Burger King drive-thru recently on my way to a customer office to get a drink. It being relatively early in the day, I thought getting a coffee would be a Good Idea™.

It was not.

It was bad. Really bad.

It was coffee-colored and -scented hot water.

I cannot recall the last time I had something so mislabeled sold to me.

free wifi

I travel a fair amount for work – not excessive “road warrior” style anymore (thank God!), but often enough.

One thing that has consistently dumb founded me is that, like cheap hotels, the smaller the airport, the more likely it is that it has free wifi.

I understand places like ATL or ORD are incredibly busy. I don’t know why, however, that means they have to treat their customers like they are cash cows.

It’s like the difference between staying at Motel 6 vs a JW Marriott. I have platinum status with Marriott, so my wifi is always free there … but it’s also free at the $40 a night joints.

How is it that Days Inn for $40 can afford to hand out free wifi, but The W at $400 a night cannot?

I’m writing this from ABE – which has free wifi. Why? Because my next stop, DTW, does not. And that’s dumb.

For the relative cheapness per person of putting-in an airport-wide service, there’s no reason everyone shouldn’t be doing it.

nclb – you know, unless you’re in one of these 10 states…

Pick your slant report – Huffington Post or Fox News: it has been reported that President Obama’s administration will be issuing waivers to 10 states with regard to compliancy with No Child Left Behind (which, in my opinion, is one of the biggest debacles in public education ever).

If the point is to “leave no child behind”, why are waivers being granted over a decade later?

And why are there 28 more states who are planning to “seek flexibility” with regards to NCLB?

Seems like that’s MAJOR proof that it was distinctly NOT the best thing we could have done as a country to address education.

nj man suing the port authority

From NBC New York, “NJ Man Sues Over Toll Hikes, Claims Bias“.

A New Jersey man has filed a federal lawsuit in New York over the Port Authority’s toll increase.

Yoel Weisshaus of New Milford claims the increase is an abuse of power and discriminates against him because he is poor.

Cash tolls on the George Washington Bridge, Holland Tunnel, Lincoln Tunnel, Goethals Bridge, Bayonne Bridge and Outerbridge Crossing went up from $8 to $12 on Sunday.

Weisshaus claims the tolls are targeted to restrict minimum-wage earners and will be used to complete the World Trade Center project instead of improving bridges and tunnels.

Sounds like a USA Today story from 3 years ago.

menu analysis – burger king

Burger King has a new series of sandwiches called “stackers“. It’s a cheeseburger with bacon (and fairly tasty, as fast-food burger go).

They come in three sizes: single, double, and triple. The single is $1, the double $2, and the triple $3.

What do you get on the sandwich? A bun, patty, cheese, sauce, and bacon. What about on the double? A bun, 2 patties, two cheeses, sauce, and bacon. The triple adds another patty and cheese.

Nifty. So for the cost of two single burgers, you get less bread and sauce. If you’re trying to cut-down on carbs, or don’t like the sauce much, that’s cool. But if you’re looking to maximize your caloric intake for dollar output, buy three singles and not one triple.