Hey, Steve, it’s better to share.

This is a cautionary tale about technology and hubris [the tragic flaw].


It was 1999, and I had just seen the future.  My new Palm VII had arrived, and I was telling everyone that would listen that the future was upon us.  I was convinced that my new wireless Palm would become the handheld computer/communication marvel that the smartphone is today.  I subsequently invested a boatload in Palm stock.  I had no doubt that they would change the way we communicate and compute – and I was right.  Actually, I was right about everything except who would deliver the future.  Even today, I remain incredulous over Palm’s fate.  How could they possibly blow it?  I feel pretty bad about it, but not as bad as they do, I’m sure.  At least they have AOL and Steve Case to commiserate with.  AOL was Google/Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Yahoo long before these internet superstars were even a casual thought.

Screen Shot 2013-08-10 at 7.39.42 AMhttp://abcnews.go.com/Business/Decade/aol-buys-time-warner-162-billion/story?id=9279138

I remember in 1989, I gave Al the first Mac laptop ever for his 10th anniversary as Audio Al.  As we pulled all 17 pounds of it out of its box, we both marveled at the technology.  Laptop computers proved to be the future, and now the smartphone is the future [for now].  But …



I try to keep in mind that I am writing this posting on my Apple Mac, but it doesn’t change the fact that Steve Jobs was nothing more than a self-absorbed marketer.  OK, for many of you his bank account and fame cement him in your pantheon of heroes.  But the fact remains that he didn’t invent the PC, the mouse, the MP3 player, the smartphone, or anything else he usurped the glory of.  He did, however, market them all successfully for a short period until his ego got the best of him [every time].

The undoing of his iPhone empire is the latest example of his hubris.  He thought Microsoft would eventually lose out because they foolishly didn’t control the software, the hardware, and the content.  He was determined to control all three – and he was going to rule the world with the greatest company assembled since Kodak [who dominated their sector like no one before them or since].

Unfortunately, his ego got the best of him once again [even from his grave].  For anyone who witnessed the demise of Sony’s Beta [in favor of the more universal VHS platform], the demise of the Apple iOS was inevitable.  It’s better to share.  Steve Jobs’ manic desire for complete control opened the door to alternatives, innovation, and rapid expansion from outliers that ultimately led to the Google Android phenomenon.  

What if Tim Berners-Lee had been like Steve Jobs?  Well, first of all, there would be no World Wide Web.  Tim shared it with the world, and it changed the way we communicate, work, learn, gamble, and elect presidents forever.  It was epic.  

The iPhone and its record profits are nothing more than a blip on the screen [a tasty little marketing marvel, but hardly innovative or epic].  There were smartphones before it, and there will be billions more long after it jumps head first into the heap of obsolescence with the Motorola Razor, the Palm Treo, and the Blackberry Torch [the number one rated smartphone in 2010].

Poor Tim Cook.  When Apple’s stock soared last year, I hoped he would ride off in to the sunset as a hero [retire as the man who adroitly held it together and brought Apple to record heights, instead of being the bumbling fool who ultimately destroyed Steve’s magic kingdom].  But such mammoth power is intoxicating … while chance makes a plaything of a man’s life.


On the bright side, Apple does have a remarkable cash hoard for Tim to spend [if he can just get some of it back into the country untaxed].  Apple’s cash load is expected to top $170B by the end of the year.  

We’ll see how it all turns out.

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The Android Story

The first phone to use Android was released in October 2008.  It was called the HTC Dream, and it was branded for distribution by T-Mobile as the G1.  The software suite included on the phone consisted of integration with Google’s proprietary applications, such as Maps, Calendar, and Gmail, and a full HTML web browser.  In 5 short years, Android has steamrolled the competition, including Apple’s iOS, to capture almost 80% of the world’s smartphone market [not to mention a complete domination in the development of ‘things’].   

Screen Shot 2013-08-10 at 8.21.13 PMhttp://gadgets.ndtv.com/mobiles/news/androids-smartphone-marketshare-rises-to-nearly-80-percent-idc-402888

Android is a Linux-based open-source platform founded in 2003 by Andy Rubin, which Google backed financially and later bought in 2005.  Android was unveiled in 2007 along with major hardware and software developers (such as Intel, HTC, ARM, Motorola and Samsung, to name a few) that form the Open Handset Alliance.  

Google releases the code under the Apache License.  This open source code and permissive licensing allows the software to be freely modified and distributed by device manufacturers, wireless carriers and enthusiast developers.  Additionally, Android has a large community of developers writing applications (“apps”) that extend the functionality of devices, written primarily in a customized version of the Java programming language.  A developer survey conducted in April–May 2013 found that Android is the most popular platform for developers, used by 71% of the mobile developer population.

These factors have contributed toward making Android the world’s most widely used smartphone platform, overtaking Symbian in the fourth quarter of 2010, and the software of choice for technology companies who require a low-cost, customizable, lightweight operating system for high tech devices without developing one from scratch.  As a result, despite being primarily designed for phones and tablets, it has seen additional applications on televisions, games consoles, digital cameras and other electronics [‘things’].  Android’s open nature has further encouraged a large community of developers and enthusiasts to use the open source code as a foundation for community-driven projects, which add new features for advanced users or bring Android to devices which were officially released running other operating systems.  –  Wikipedia

I may just have to go out and get an Android phone, but I really do like my iPhone, iPad, and Mac combination.  So it goes.

Tony’s Stupid Stock Tips for August:

Sell Tesla short.  Share Price: $153.00  Market Cap: $17.6B  The run-up in investor demand in Tesla has the shares trading at a price that’s more than 8,900 times the company’s estimated 12-month earnings.

Sell Best Buy Short.  Share Price: $30.63  Market Cap: $10.4B  Best Buy has had surprisingly impressive performance in the markets during 2013.  Since the beginning of the year, the stock has risen 147% thanks to new CEO Hubert Joly.  The stock continues to rise despite a 2.6% decline in revenue to $9.38 billion in the last quarter .

Short selling is the selling of a stock that the seller doesn’t own.  More specifically, a short sale is the sale of a security that isn’t owned by the seller, but that is promised to be delivered. That may sound confusing, but it’s actually a simple concept.

When you short sell a stock, your broker will lend it to you.  The stock will come from the brokerage’s own inventory, from another one of the firm’s customers, or from another brokerage firm.  The shares are sold and the proceeds are credited to your account.  Sooner or later, you must “close” the short by buying back the same number of shares (called covering) and returning them to your broker.  If the price drops, you can buy back the stock at the lower price and make a profit on the difference.  If the price of the stock rises, you have to buy it back at the higher price, and you lose money.

Most of the time, you can hold a short for as long as you want, although interest is charged on margin accounts, so keeping a short sale open for a long time will cost more.  However, you can be forced to cover if the lender wants the stock you borrowed back.


November 30, 2013 Update:  How’s my stock advice holding up?

If you shorted 1,000 shares of each stock, you would be up $6,880 [3.7%].  But if you shorted an equal dollar amount of the stocks, you’d be down 6.88%.

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1 thought on “Hey, Steve, it’s better to share.

  1. Forgive me for being last to this party. A year and a half late, I guess.

    A big point, and a possible topic for another blog post, would be how open-source systems are changing the game in almost every aspect of computing, sometimes in surprising ways. An old example that gets pulled out whenever open source is discussed is the combination of linux, apache, mysql, and php.. A great deal of web sites, large and small, run on those technologies (your wordpress site, for example).

    What’s more compelling to me, however, is just how broad the movement is. Want a fully featured, battle-tested phone system? Asterisk. Want to build networking gear that rivals cisco? Vyatta. Want to crunch big data like the big boys? Hadoop. Want to store huge amounts of data for orders of magnitude less than an investment in EMC gear? There’s Gluster and OpenStack. Finally, if you’re developing software, check Github. What you’re doing is probably already there and, if it’s not, something you need – a library, for example – will be.

    I find this very interesting. Many of the projects I mentioned have thousands of contributors that often include large, well-known organizations. Many contribute because they use the project and want to improve it, either by fixing bugs or adding functionality. Many of these projects are run like businesses, or include a for-profit component, like support or consultation. The best part, in my opinion, is that these projects can leverage massive amounts of brain power. Much more than could be leveraged in a more traditional approach.

    The other interesting point is how it’s changing the business approach to software. Without a doubt, there are still closed ecosystems out there (Microsoft, Adobe), but I believe they’re feeling the pressure. Look at Microsoft’s release process for Windows 10, for example.

    There are certainly risks. Projects can veer off into nonsensical directions. People can lose interest and stop contributing. Bad code can sneak through the review process and be released. I would contend – at the risk of sounding too upbeat – that this can happen in any development situation.

    I did not mean to ramble on like this. Your discussion of Android (yes, from a year and a half ago) got me all fired up.

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