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Apple v Google, not quite a death match

18 January 2011

Robert Lane Greene has written a sparkling account in Intelligent Life of the growing rivalry between Google and Apple. For years Steve Jobs was an inspiration to Larry Page and Sergey Brin, and, Eric Schmidt sat amicably on Apple’s board until 2009. As Greene puts it, ‘the companies could have been a […]

More runaway trains

21 August 2010 (Part 2 of post of 17 August)

The French Revolution was another striking example of history moving like a runaway train. The monarchy had been in dire financial and moral straits for almost a century, since Louis XIV’s grandiloquent expenditure on follies like Versailles and his disastrous wars. Subsequent wars led to […]

Hitler, History and feedback loops

17 August 2010

Part of my long summer break was spent writing a new talk, Winner Takes All , and thinking further about the role feedback loops and network effects played in the rapid rises of Microsoft and Google to market domination. For relaxation, and entirely by chance, I read Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers and Ian […]

Winners and prizes

21 February 2010

I discussed last week how different combinations of network effects and positive feedback loops have enabled a few winners to take something close to all the prizes in some markets. But we should beware of being deterministic and over-schematic about this – each case is different. Microsoft and eBay established effective monopolies […]

The Network Effect

February 11, 2010

The Economist recently published a special report on social networking, which attributed Facebook’s extraordinary growth to ‘the network effect’. This is more or less true but the writer is conflating two different phenomena: network effects, a concept drawn from economics, and positive feedback loops, from the world of engineering. It is their […]

How evil is Google?

20 January 2010

Google’s announcement that it is no longer prepared to cooperate with the Chinese authorities in ‘filtering’ search results and may pull out of the country altogether is proof positive for the faithful of just how different a company it is. The fact that there were probably business considerations behind the decision as […]

In defence of heretics

4 December 2009

Cormac McCarthy announced this week that he is auctioning the Olivetti he has been using since 1963. Why do some people cling stubbornly to a technology that everyone else thinks is completely passé? Are they Luddites, or just wildly eccentric?

The questions reveal more about the unthinking conformism and intolerance of those […]

The free lunch

15 November 2009

The sharpest comments I’ve seen on Rupert Murdoch’s latest pronouncement were from Cory Doctorow on BoingBoing and John Gapper in the Financial Times. (In an interview, which is available on BoingBoing, Murdoch said that he planned to charge for the content on News Corp web sites, and that he might even bar […]

The end of email?

8 November 2009

This may be a bit rich coming from me, but perhaps expressions like ‘winners and losers’ and ‘creative destruction’ have reinforced a crudely gladiatorial view of the complex patterns of economic change. If Google is up , then Microsoft must be down or, as Gore Vidal put it apropos of […]

Evolution or Revolution?

4 November 2009

Tim asks what the difference is ‘between peaceful evolution and continuous revolution. Is CD a revolutionary argument that peaceful evolution does not exist?’