Reading a piece on the Op-Ed page of today's New York Times I suddenly realised to what dramatic extent the world of technology has changed over the past few years. I am talking here specifically about tech companies. Back in 1987 I bought my first Mac. I remember getting looks from "serious" PC users at the time. "Nice toy" they were thinking. Over the years I stuck to the Mac, upgrading hardware every few years and enjoying all the innovation that came with my choice. What a "regular" PC could never do for me and the Mac kept giving me in abundance was a sense of empowerment. It was both funny and frustrating to see PC users discover "windows" or attach mice and sound-boards to their PCs some 10 years after the Mac had come out with all of those things built in. When I told people that MS Excel had been a Mac product since 1985, way before it showed up on PCs, or that AOL had actually been an Apple only product in the 80's, they often looked at me like I was insane.
But I always knew that, at the end of the day, persistent innovation would be recognized. That constantly copying and repackaging other people's ideas does not a long term strategy make. Nobody ever accused the masses of having vision and so Microsoft thrived despite their lack of originality. And today's Op-Ed piece by Dick Brass called "Microsoft's Creative Destruction" gives us an inside look at the beginning of the end. It is written by someone who lived through this story from the inside, so I can't say I agree with everything he says, but what counts is the gist of the message. Microsoft still makes money and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. But how many tech students today dream of working for MS when they graduate ? As Mr Brass says in the piece: the company's profits are generated almost entirely from products developed decades ago. How long can you milk THAT cow ?
And so I am no longer part of the "underdog" Mac community. Actually as a younger generation comes of age and becomes computer savvy, how many of them even know that things were once different ? Still, when all is said and done, it's not really important who was right or what was better. In the final analysis it's us, the users, who are best served by this innovation. All we can do is marvel at what's coming and enjoy the ride. The journey IS the reward!