Jim Schnare Esquire – Thoughts about the Microsoft-Nokia Deal

Microsoft & Nokia: Who’s Buying Whom?

An interesting article, if not a really innovative viewpoint. I do a lot of reading and following in the tech sectors, and my first reaction when I heard of this deal is that it sounds a bit like they may end up trying to make sausage out of steak without using spices, which is not much of a value added proposition in my book. Both Nokia and RIM were victims of the illusion created by Apple and reinforced by Google that smartphones should look sleek, support social networking and have thousands of time and resource wasting downloads available, rather than being solid pieces of portable computing power optimized for productive mobile business activities.

And so goes the short (at least in terms of Western Civilization) history of personal computing in general. When Haile Shaw bought our first IBM PC and personal laser printer in 1984, they were roughly $5k each (somewhere in the $15-20k range in today’s dollars using prevailing wage scales for office staff), and the breakthrough was providing a tool to a small law firm that could allow us to generate the kind of work product that it has formerly taken a $250k mini-mainframe and $40k industrial laser printer to generate (and a 100 lawyer firm to afford).
By first making the PC a necessity for any small business to function, and when that market got saturated, promoting it as a useful “toy” for every household to own at least one, the industry drove prices down to commodity levels and ultimately saturated that market. The irony today is that the real computing power is now reserved for people who play sophisticated 3D video games (which consume more computing power than it would take to run the accounts of a bank with 50,000 customers) and the household “toy market” has moved to tablets and smart phones which can do all the “fun stuff” without the clunky keyboard and monitor package that it takes to run serious business software.
The common theme I am seeing in the economy (and this is just one small piece of it) is that the technologies of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries were mostly focused on improving the quality of people’s lives and the productivity of their work, while far too many of the “innovations” of the late 20th and early 21st Centuries seem to be focused on entertaining people and distracting them from a reality which indicates that we aren’t making much forward progress improving people’s lives and that our national infrastructure continues to decay as we invest more money on the distractions than on maintaining it.

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