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The Northern Spy
Aug 2004

Patterns and Parables

Rick Sutcliffe

The pea harvest is complete, plums and beans have started, apples ripen slowly in the hot summer sun, and the sweet corn is ready to eat. Ah yes, it's corn season. Does that explain the latest spate of suggestions to merge Apple with some other industry player, to put OS X on the Pentium, to go out of the computer business altogether?

Latest out of the orchestra pit, but playing one of the same old refrains is Rob Enderle writing in TechNewsWorld. He thinks Apple and Sun ought to merge. "Apple, proprietary from day one, lost the market to Microsoft, which embraced a more open approach to licensing. While both Sun and Apple have lost massive amounts of market share, Sun held its own against Microsoft but was hurt by Linux. Apple failed against Microsoft and has yet to face Linux."

Indeed, as often lamented, Apple's always superior system did lose its once dominant place largely to two factors:

- the emotional attachment of the business community to anything IBMish (regardless of quality) led to widespread adoption of the early PC,

- Apple's own abysmal failures in marketing cost both its initial business foothold and much of the critical education market.

While Apple still does not get education, the other factors no longer apply. Confidence is up, the iPod has restored brand recognition, profits are steady, the retail stores are successful, and if buyer intentions (see MacNewsWorld article) are any indication, market share appears about to climb. IBM, while respected (more now than in recent years) no longer controls the market. Contrary to Enderle, Apple has embraced standards such as BSD UNIX, the platform has become much easier to program for, and its hardware uses far more off-the-shelf components than in the past.

So, why merge with a company with no consumer presence, whose Java strategy is in tatters, whose relationship with the standards community is worse than abysmal, and whose strategy for doing anything about market share is nonexistent? Even if both were losers as Enderle claims, joining two such would simply create a bigger one. Sony or HP would make a better match if a merger or purchase were on the horizon, but other rumours to the contrary, the Spy sees no evidence of this happening either now or in the foreseeable future. Apple is capable of innovating and selling its way back to a preeminent place in the market, even of re-inventing the market as it goes. A raspberry (he couldn't appreciate larger fruit) to Enderle. He doesn't know a winner when he sees one.

Smoke and Mirrors department

But speaking of Sony, as part of its bumpf for its new Walkman iPod wannabee, vice president Todd Schrader was quoted recently as saying: "The technology wasn't ready until now to carry the Walkman brand name..." Thus he tries to brush off Sony having missed the first few generations of this technology. Hey, folks, this isn't a reprise of the Beta versus VHS war. Sony arrived at the table too late with too little. Better luck with something else. Maybe Apple could buy Sony.

Even the competition is starting to get it right department

PC Magazine editors may have sweat hot Pentiums reporting it, but had to give Apple products its Readers' Choice awards for product reliability in both laptop and desktop categories, as they earned scores significantly higher than the industry average from their readers. When even a survey taken of a largely fanatical anti-Mac audience yields such results, it's time to sit up and take notice.

Diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, Steve Jobs had surgery in late July to remove a tumour. Adenocarcinoma, the common form of pancreatic surgery would have suggested an average survival time of a year, but his turned out to be the rarer (1% of cases) islet cell neuroendocrine tumour, for which the surgery should suffice, without chemo to follow.

Some pundits leapt on this story suggest Jobs' term and influence were almost over, and Apple should get on with finding a successor, blah, blah. A better lesson, besides that in the mortality that will have us all appear before our Maker, is that Jobs' health experiences are a parable for Apple itself. Yes, bad technology, like bad money cancerous cells usually drive out the good. Apple has had its share of the bad, and survived sometimes in spite of itself. But in the rare ones it's possible to excise the flaws and become survivors. Jobs is one of these. Apple is another.

Speaking of excising the cancerous, the Spy recently noticed a link on CIRA (Canadian Internet Registration Authority) that leads to a heartwarming story, another indication the good guys can sometimes win, despite the odds. Disclaimer: the Spy also runs an Internet domain name registration service (reseller for Enom) as part of Arjay Web Services and therefore has a material interest in this story.

Seems one Mr. Daniel Klemann and his Internet Registry of Canada (IROC), which he and others operate out of Toronto, has been found guilty under the misleading representations provisions of Canada's Competition Act. He/they were sentenced to a $40000 fine and a five-year prohibition order.

IROC was one of the many companies that send out deceptive mail informing recipients that their Internet domain name registration is about to expire, and offering to renew it, usually at a very high price. In this case recipients were also led to believe they were already customers of IROC's domain name registration service and were presented an invoice that appeared to be mailed by a Canadian government agency.

As is typical of governments, which get credit for larceny enough on their own, they didn't want their reputations besmirched by someone else, so they took the fellow to court, and won.

'Course, there are other sharks in the same sea. Sending out renewal notices to other registrar's customers is called "slamming" and was also conducted for some time by the "Domain Registry of Canada" and the "Domain Registry of America" (related to the above?) After some protests, their notices were changed to include a disclaimer that one did not have to register with them or with their current registrar. Still, the notices appear to be from one's own registrar, and appear to have official status.

At one time or another, every .ca domain holder (and many others) have either received these notices, or had unreasonable demands made of them by a supposed registrar, whether their real one or some other. The Spy reminds all domain name registrants:

  • You lease a domain name from the registry (not the registrar/reseller) for the term of payment (usually 1-10 years).
  • No one can register someone else's trademark as a domain name, but otherwise, a registrant can select any domain name she wants.
  • The registrant alone owns the name use rights, and can change registrars or resellers for that registry at any time and for any reason.
  • All two letter top level domains such as .ca and .us are country domains and most require a presence in that country (residence or business conducted) to register.
  • Apart from the common domains, and one's own country domain, few other registries are worth considering. They work, but the price is high and the name recognition low.
  • Obtaining a domain through a web host can be risky because the host becomes the technical contact and has access to the domain for editing purposes (a good thing) but if unscrupulous, can hijack the domain for him/herself.
  • A good reseller never charges more than $10-$12US for common domains like .com, .net or more than $25 CDN for .ca domains. An actual registrar usually charges more, to give resellers room to compete by buying domains wholesale and selling them at retail. This is not a scam, but a legitimate business model.
  • A domain name ceases to function on the day of its expiration.
  • A good registrar/reseller can still retrieve the domain manually for a few days (varies) after expiration, but will charge slightly more. Once the grace period has expired, anyone can register it.
  • Any domain can be transferred to a different registrar, except in the first couple of months after registration (bin case of credit card fraud) or near the registration's expiry
  • A transfer to a new registrar always involves a renewal for at least one year.
  • A good registrar/reseller who also acts as a host keeps the two at least nominally separate so customers will always have their own access to their domain, and can operate it independently of their hosting contract.
  • A good registrar provides the means to edit the domain DNS so the customer can add nameservers, redirects, and mailservers for the domain.
  • A better one supplies the tools to manage multiple domains (though may charge a slight premium).
  • Legitimate registrars/resellers send renewal notices to the eMail address of registration, which must be kept up to date. They never spam customers of other registrars.

Sermon mode off.

Free Advice to Steve department

Those who've perused this space for the last couple of months know the Spy is less than enamoured with the state of wireless telephony, whether attached to a PDA or not. The silly limits companies like Rogers put on bandwidth and the lack of working wireless modem software make the whole concept more or less useless for serious mobile connectivity, though the Palm PDA isn't bad in itself.

After ruminating over the whole matter a little more, the Spy has a suggestion for Apple. If you folks are serious about the Mac as digital hub, equip the portables with a high speed cell card (replaceable to keep up with technology) and go into the connectivity business yourselves. Buy cell bandwidth from one of the big providers, or make a deal with AT&T, who still own that name for wireless, even though the spin-off has been sold to Cingular. Use the bandwidth to set up the Apple wireless network, and count coup once again over the dark empire.

Better yet, expand the iPod to become a pocket component of the portable system (maybe with a built in dock like the battery compartment). Keep iTunes as it is, but add the address book, eMail, book reader, larger screen, and a browser. iPod's got a *NIX OS anyway, so what's a little extra software and runtime overhead? Go into direct competition with Palm as well with a digital hub that will blow everyone out of the water. Forget Treo. Call it the Quarto. Can you spell tripled market share?

The pitter patter of little feats

And speaking of the iPod, the Spy notes that Real has cracked it sufficiently to allow music sold by them to be played on Apple's device. Apple reps described their reaction as "stunned" and made vague threats that Real's products wouldn't necessarily continue to work. Perhaps they should have yawned instead. Think about it folks. Anyone who has an iPod also has the software to buy music from Apple. If they can buy more from others, the iPod becomes more useful, more versatile. Apple will sell more of them.

Face it. Real did Apple a favour. Apple should respond by releasing their own plugins to iTunes to allow music from anywhere to be played on the iPod, and their own music format to be played on other devices. Indeed, an agreement with Motorola to permit iTunes music to work on cell phones is a step in the right direction. After all, the music in the user's ear is as alike as peas in an iPod, regardless of its source. If it comes through an iPod, Apple puts money in the bank and takes one step closer to the goal of defining its own digital hub as the standard.

--The Northern Spy

Want to discuss this and other Northern Spy columns? Surf on over to ArjayBB.com. Participate and you could win free web hosting from the WebNameHost.net subsidiary of Arjay Web Services. Rick Sutcliffe's fiction can be purchased in various eBook formats from Fictionwise, and in dead tree format from Bowker's Booksurge.


The Northern Spy Home Page: http://www.TheNorthernSpy.com

WebNameHost: http://www.WebNameHost.net

WebNameSource : http://www.WebNameSource.net

Arjay Books: http://www.ArjayBooks.com

Booksurge: http://www.booksurge.com

Fictionwise: http://www.fictionwise.com

MacNewsWorld Article on Buyer Intentions: http://www.macnewsworld.com/story/35569.html

Rob Enderle's article: http://www.technewsworld.com/story/35535.html

PC magazine article: http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,1759,1623864,00.asp

CIRA home page: http://www.cira.ca/en/home.html

Slammer ruling: http://competition.ic.gc.ca/epic/internet/incb-bc.nsf/en/ct02863e.html

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