Is Windows….Cool?

August 17, 2008

Let’s face it. Microsoft just isn’t as cool as Apple. And after a heck of a sales slump with their beloved Vista and Bill Gate’s departure, things are looking pretty grim for them. And rightfully so — their advertising sucks. Lee Clow’s genius “Get A Mac” campaign has hit internet stardom, and turned into a phenomenon that successfully depicts Microsoft as “uncool” for anyone who doesn’t work in a cubicle. The Economist put it well, quoting: “All this puts Microsoft in the awkward position of having its brand image defined by a rival—despite its own vast advertising budget, which towers above Apple’s.” And they made a very interesting point with that as well. 

Similar to Google now, about fifteen years ago (which is ages in computer technology) Microsoft was the ‘it’ company, literately and technically. Although there was no main competition, Windows users enjoyed using their R2 operating system and Bill Gate’s mastermind domino effect was in full force. Everyone bought a Windows because everyone else had a Windows. And that was the story of Microsoft’s life — until Mac got out of their previous slump with their OS 9. Until then, people never thought of computers as….cool. And that was really what fed Apple’s beast and let them unleash their OS 10, with a level of user service, compatibility and customization that shocked the world. No one had ever seen or heard about it before, and that is what kept Windows alive — people were simply afraid to switch to a previously unstable company. My family was one of the people who did, and I vividly remember the color and brightness the OS 9 and 10 boasted. I loved my iBook clamshell, and never cared that it crashed about three times a day (mostly because I was about six). 

After the OS 10, Apple really separated themselves with Windows as the cooler brand and used it to their advantage. When the iPod came out, Apple thrived on its sleek, easy to use music player that swamped everything from the Creative to the Walkman. And what did Windows do? They fought fire with fire and created their own, hopefully for them “cool”, new music player — the Zune. 

And it was horrible. It was ugly, bulky, and huge. But what windows really failed to do was the feature that made the Ipod thrive — accessibility. Anyone can own an iPod from any computer (including Windows) and buy songs from anywhere (the iTunes Store just makes it easier) and put it on your iPod. The Zune simply made that impossible, not letting you take any songs from your previous iTunes store purchases, basically making sure that you start a new collection of music in Microsoft’s Zune store, which is more limited. 

Windows diehards valiantly defended their sole portable device with biased charts and Apple Parodies striving themselves on the fact that the Zune uses WiFi. And although that’s great, the only WiFi that Microsoft offers on their Zune is music sharing, where you can only play your buddy’s (he has to have a Zune) songs three times and then you must buy them off of the Zune store. And now with the iPod touchand iPhone, you can use WiFi (yes…you can’t change songs) to surf the web, update your wordpress, and do basically anything on the web you can with a computer. 

So after soon after the Zune’s release, Apple released it’s iPhone, which needs no introduction. Originally laughed off by Steve Balmer, the iPhone tromped all of Window’s brand name phones, and Balmer again looked like an idiot. So after all this, Windows really was in deep trouble. They looked like  old, dark, cubicle hackers, and that really wasn’t what many users strived to be. They lost tons of business from mac and their “get a mac” campaigns. So what did they do? Fight fire with fire….again. This time it was with an ad of their own — the Mojave Experiment, where they brought people into their dark San Francisco lair only to have them completely rip up Vista, calling it slow and “crash happy.” Then they showed them a “new” windows interface with a codename Mojave, and they said it was nice and fast. All of this is ‘conveniently’ on tape and is documented on this website.  

Windows again has made themselves look boring and dumb, and overall — uncool. And until Microsoft can make something better than Apple without copying them, then I (and many other people) will eat our hats. 

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As an amateur music fanatic, I was amazed by the difference technology has made in today’s music, from the actual sound to the marketing. Since the release of iTunes, music has turned into the singles market, where an artist will be forced to release a good single before his/her album for anyone to actually buy it. And most of the time, that single will be the most popular song for that artist, over-passing their entire album in sales. There will also be something I call the chain effect, where an album has one hot radio song after another. For example, during Kanye West’s album, Graduation, the first hit song was “Stronger.” It erupted all over the world, rocking the Billboard and iTunes charts. Then, it was gone, surpassed by the next song in the album, “Good Life.” This carried on for maybe a month until “Flashing Lights” got the green light. Finally, “Flashing Lights” was surpassed with the last hit song of his album: “Homecoming.” There were millions of people who at first bought the entire album, owned each and every song, but only listened to the songs that were hot on the radio and publically. This is one of the ways Apple’s music store makes all of its cash, with people buying albums with extra songs that no one will necessarily listen to.

The last phenomenon that really stuck me was the “one and done.” After listened to about 10 times an hour for a week, a hot single vanishes, and loses its reputation. It will almost guaranteed not to be played continuously again on the radio nor in someone’s earbuds. Before, a song would be played at a lesser rate, but over a long period of time. A great example of this would be the Rolling Stones. So because of this one and done craze, Apple can make crazy amounts of money just by supplying all the hot songs and advertizing them when they are hot. And after the single has been in a sense wasted, it will rarely be played again, sitting in the back of someone’s music library unnoticed, and Apple will end up with their well-earned ninety-nine cents. 

Yes it is, but is it worth it? With all the new features including an actually good game (what a concept, Mr. Jobs) some of those cool things that you got when you “unlocked” (a nice way to say it) your old iPhone, you can now get with your new one. And, after every update, apple’s IT guys are making it harder and harder to hack the iPhone. I currently have 2 friends that have successfully hacked their old iPhones, but are a little scared to unlock their new ones in fear that apple will catch them in the act and not let them update! Now if  I was lucky enough to get an iPhone, would I take a shot at it? No. I (as well as my buddies) would be scared to not update it, or worse — have it crash on me. So if anyone has successfully hacked their new 3G and are reading this, please feel free to brag to me via the comment bar below. Thanks, and happy unlocking, tech bloggers. 

The iPhone Craze

July 13, 2008

I was walking around a popular shopping spot in Los Angeles yesterday and noticed the insane two and a half block line around our town’s apple store. The the 3G was in so much demand that I saw at least 5 or 6 tents outside the store, even though the iPhone had been out for three days. Those people told me that they had set up camp right after the Apple store had closed the night before. But I was a little confused why those people didn’t just update their first generation iPhones with the free software that the new 3G would have. One guy told me he really wanted the GPS for his car, but it was a shame he had to wait 5 hours to get it. But why not just wait a week when you can just get the same phone with virtually no wait? A couple even told me that they sacrificed their entire Saturday just because they wanted to have the hot 3G before their friends did. If it were up to me, I’d just download the all the new features onto the old iPhone for a week then when the lines die out, I’d go buy the 3G.