The Internet Explorer Desktop

The future is in front of us, not behind us. Not exactly revolutionary words as much as an obvious observation.  But in these days of technology breakthroughs and change we see and hear of new dynamics taking place all the time.  We have all heard by now the imminent demise of the desktop.  That the Microsoft Windows Paradise is about to all come undone.  If you look at industry trends and the painful release of Windows 8 you may even lean heavily in that direction.  On top of that Google seems to be getting a lot of favorable press with its Chromebooks, the browser-based device.  We are in an ever-increasing connected world with new software services being created and delivered all the time.  Rather than fight for past glory it may be time to embrace future glory, namely for Microsoft.  Microsoft would be well served by exploring the possibility of a browser-based piece of hardware running Internet Explorer and not Windows.  Blasphemy?  Of course it is but here are a few reasons why I think this course of  action is wise and necessary.

I have come to the conclusion that I hate my home laptop hard drive.  The amount of crap that gets loaded onto my machine, much in the name of security and privacy, in the end leads to a painfully slow boot process and overall slow machine.  But this is the challenge of a home pc/laptop.  You as an individual are responsible for its protection.  But most people do not have the technical know how to even begin to contemplate how to do that. As a result we are happy to sign up for services to help us manage that desktop.  This can work and even help, but often leads to pain.  Not to mention there are so many services and information that we are asked to give up, we cannot remember what we have agreed to.  For anybody who owns a Windows-based machine, who has not received a call from somebody in India asking, “We see you own a Windows PC?”, “You may be at risk of a virus”…usually 2-3 questions/comments before you hang up the phone.  Uneasy with the fact that everything they said was true.  They know what is in your hard drive and probably have access to a lot of info you do not want to provide or even be known.  It seems an invasion of privacy but somewhere along the line you agreed to it.

We are always connected.  We have access to the internet whenever and for whatever we need.  If you think of the percentage of time spent on your laptop how much is being done locally versus up on the internet, where do you spend your time?  We spend time researching vacations, booking airfare, shopping online.  We spend more time in our browser than any application. It is a windows to the world and it is an increasingly fragmented market.  We have Internet Explorer, Chrome, Mozilla’s Firefox, Safari, and Opera.  If we are not connected, then we cannot use our browser and there is simply not enough interesting stuff stored on our local machine to make it a compelling experience.  Why not just have a device that is a browser to connect me to and experience that world?

The Cloud is increasingly delivering more and more consumer based services.  Many of the applications we used to run locally on our machine or in our corporate environment as a two tier or three-tier application service are now available in the cloud as application services.  Many of the interesting start-ups are Cloud Providers, such as Box, DropBox etc..There are also established vendors like SalesForce and Amazon.  Even Microsoft with apps like Office 365 and OneDrive are embracing the cloud, making the need for local storage less relevant.  More importantly since all this data is housed in highly secure data centers the Amazons and Microsoft’s of the world handle data redundancy and security.  End-Users need to use their device but they need to not be in the business of having to manage their device.  The goal of technology has always been about improving our productivity and decreasing our pain.  Unfortunately with the advent of desktops and laptops, with time complexity increased and along with it the associated pain.  It is time to let go and move to the ether, that is the cloud.

We are moving beyond the desktop, this much is obvious.  Microsoft at times has been guilty of trying to hang on to the past and sell the successful history of Microsoft in repackaged versions of the latest version of Windows, rather than sell people on the future of the industry.  For a long time now the primary application we run on our machine has been our browser.  The browser is a window to the world and now thanks to all the information and services, it is really the only place we spend on our time, and frankly need to spend our time.  Microsoft has a great solution that it could offer as its new devices and services mantra.  Steve Jobs once said, “If you don’t cannibalize yourself, someone else will” . No surer truth was ever said and that is the dilemma Microsoft now finds itself in.  That being said new leadership is slowly starting to sow the seeds of change.  Steve Ballmer said before he left, “We are a Windows Company”, but I would argue that resonates with Microsoft’s past not its future. New Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has already made an impact on the corporate culture at Microsoft.  For starters changing the name of Microsoft’s cloud offering “Windows Azure” to just “Microsoft Azure”.  At first glance he seems to see the writing on the wall and  Satya is starting to distance the company from Windows 95, something long overdue.  It is time to discover the next big thing not reinvent the old one.

My argument, would be that the focus of OS development needs to shift and more focus should be put on the browser, specifically Internet Explorer.  We are entering a period where Microsoft can slowly start de-emphasizing the need for Windows.  It took twenty years for Microsoft to create and launch Windows 95, it has taken nearly twenty years since that time for Microsoft to stat evolving beyond Windows. Before Steve Ballmer left he called Microsoft a “Windows” company.  Windows has been great and very profitable, but even if Satya were to take my advice and focus on Internet Explorer I would add a second piece of advice.  Do not become an Internet Explorer company or even a browser company.  become what you always have been; A technology company.  If Microsoft does just that one simple thing the revenue will follow.  Not in the browser or even the device but the services that will be offered as part of the experience.  The assets exist at Microsoft such as Azure, Office 365, OneDrive, XBOX, and Bing, to name but a few.  Save us the headache of a corrupted hard drive with security issues and drive the experience of the future.  Reinvention is a beautiful thing and can reap rewards, the flip side is watch yourself get eaten by competition with cannibalistic tendencies .

Good Night and Good Luck

Hans Henrik Hoffmann April 29, 2014

 

 

 

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The End of the Reagan Revolution

I grew of age under our 40th President, Ronald Reagan. I was in junior high school when he was elected in 1980 and sworn in, in January 1981. I lived through eight years of what was a really un-eventful period of time. The economy grew during his time in office. There was no war during his time in office (Grenada..really?), Even the Soviet Union was rather tame at this time creating their own problems in Afghanistan. Probably the most notable events during his time were his Supreme Court nominees and his tough stance with the Soviet Union, in what was becoming a new global arms race. Despite what on the surface would seem an anemic presidency he has remained a political influence on not just the Republican Party but America.  It stems from probably the simplest of Reagan quotes, “Government can’t solve your problems, government is the problem”.  To this day we hear of the evils of government.  Government cannot help you.  News commentators, leaning to the right, insist on screaming into the television about the evils of government. Probably because we are in a time when younger generations are saying, “lets move on”.  In reality the Reagan revolution is over and has been coming to an end for some time.

I guess only in America could a Hollywood actor not only become President, but cause some sort of popular movement.  To be fair Ronald Reagan created the revolution but he borrowed and was greatly influenced by former Arizona Senator and Presidential Candidate Barry Goldwater. However Reagan had the benefit of timing and he was a great communicator of his ideas and beliefs.  He leveraged his acting background very well. At the time of his successful Presidential run,  the incumbent President, Jimmy Carter, was dealing with both an economic crisis a home and with a hostage crisis in Iran.  Reagan offered change (always a good place when running against an incumbent) and strength against the Soviets.  Unlike President Carter, who was honest to a fault. Reagan offered a positive outlook for America and a solution to governments problems in running the economy.  With Reagan the rise of the free market economists was completed Adam Smith, Ludwig Von Mesis and Milton Friedman could all sleep better.  We were all of a sudden hearing about Supply side economics and the Laffer Curve, and many young individuals were becoming converts, especially notable was our university economic and business schools.

Reagan’s accent was a result of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society.  A period where LBJ had declared a “war on poverty”.  As much as Republicans try to complain about FDR’s policies LBJ created medicare and welfare.  Government had grown and when government grows it can get into areas where it’s role can become questioned.  The flip side is though when things go bad it seems to be human nature that we turn to our government for help.  We did during the great depression and we did during the recent financial crisis.  We had gone through a period of strong control of congress via the Democrats.  From the time of FDR to Nixon, we only had the Presidency of Dwight Eisenhower to point to as a period where the Republicans controlled the oval office.  A shift was inevitable, but in order to create these tidal change in directions, a movement needs something to follow.  Ronald Reagan was able to fill and add color to that void.

It has been over thirty years since Ronald Reagan took office and like the country he inherited the country continues to change as does its views on politics and the role of government. However Reagan is still sanctified within the Republican party.   He was the great conservative leader, the leader of the conservative movement.  Rush Limbaugh, would make him god if he had his way. Ann Coulter I am sure has a shrine to him.  He could talk to both sides of the party, the fiscal conservatives and the religious right.  His vice reached its pinnacle under George W Bush, even as his influence had started to fade.  I think if he were alive today he would be shocked by the in fighting that is happening today in the GOP.  His son, Ron Reagan Jr, once said that he thought his father would be disappointed in the lack of civility in today’s political arena.  Having lived through his Presidency I would concur.  Ronald Reagan had a strong set of ideals but he did not need to belittle or insult people to state his views.

All this however is history.  This country is a country built on change and a lot of that change is driven by generations.  The current group that is coming of age is not so enamored with the previous generations.  Government is no longer the enemy, corporate America is the enemy (I doubt they view them as “people”).  The environment is in danger, global warming is real, if government needs to regulate then do it.  They are a more pragmatic group and not driven as much by greed, but a desire to do good.  To have some self-worth. Greed is for the weak.  The Millennial’s as they are called seem to be more concerned withe greater good as opposed to self-preservation.  The debate on global warming is over for them, let snow see what can be done to heal the earth that we live on.  They have grown up in the age of the internet, where boarders have been broken down and geo-politics does not seem as relevant.  The idea of possessions do not govern their value chain.

As these changes occurred what Ronald Reagan created began to dissipate.  It is often argued in the US that our individual rights are the most important thing that we have.  But for the pragmatic generation if you don’t have a planet worth living on what good are your individual rights?  I am moved by this new point of view.  Rather than fight fixing the problems lets fix the problems.  Do the right thing, not the cost-effective thing.   The idea that fee markets are free is being replaced.  In large part due to the financial crisis which at its core was just greed in overdrive.  Despite efforts to blame government, it was large financial institutions running out of control that were at the center of the crisis.  You combine this loss of faith in capital markets with a generation not so self-absorbed in the idea of wealth creation and self interests the transition beyond what Ronald Reagan created has been well underway for sometime.

Bill Clinton was often hailed as the first post World War II President.  We are nearing another generational shift where we will start having leaders in congress who are of the internet generation.  Moving forward I expect to GOP to start to morph and change and distance itself from Reagan’s slogans.  They may not be in time for 2016, but the GOP will return.  Just as the democrats returned under Clinton A new voice will appear on the right.  I think the one lesson that the current GOP could still learn from Reagan is you have to be likable and civil.  I look forward to witnessing these changes.  Rather than a media and society that has been overly negative over the past decade (s) I think the millennial’s will have a more positive outlook on what both government and society at large can accomplish in the coming decades.  We continue to learn from the past to improve the future.  Reagan had his time and influence and now we must move on as we always have.

 

Good Night and Good Luck

Hans Henrik Hoffmann April 15th 2014

 

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Thoughts on the crisis in Ukraine

It is hard these days not to think about what is going on in the Ukraine and the Crimea. It seems the idea of a land grab has been something we read about in history books, in what is usually in a very negative light.  Most notably the second World War and its aftermath the cold war.  However what is going on in the Ukraine has been something that has been building for the last century.  It places a leader steeped in the history of the Soviet Union, Vladamir Putin against the global onslaught of the digital democracy.  A country wanting to appear strong, to argue on the side of Russian history, but in the eyes of the world to look, quite simply, outdated. With the recent referendum vote it seems almost comical and yet tragic that Russia looks set to get its way, not just in Crimea but eastern Ukraine as well.   However I think that though Putin may be a good student of Russian history he is a bit lost when it comes to current history.

Ukraine has often been called one of the bread baskets of Europe.  The agricultural fertility of the Ukraine is well-known.  It is also the pace where during the early days of collectivization by the Soviets  it led to one of the great genocides of the 20th century.  A genocide that is well  documented by Miron Dolot’s, devastating account in his book “Execution by Hunger”.  As collectivization took hold, people s farms were taken and then as people were indoctrinated with communist philosophy and no possessions they simply starved.  During the era people were removed from Ukraine and sent elsewhere, like the Crimean Tartar’s, many who were told to get on a train and were sent to Uzbekistan.  This happened in nearly every Soviet Republic.  Ukranian’s, Russian’s, Uzbek’s etc..One thing the Soviets understood is if you want to minimize social unrest remove people from their historical roots and distribute the people across Russia’s vast expanses and that way they cannot congregate in mass.  Nor will they inhabit lands they call home.  It was cruel but effective.

President Obama was dumped with an out of the blue global crisis.  It was Harry Truman who was once asked, “What’s the most difficult thing about being President?”  He replied in one word, “Events”. I guess it seemed on the surface that Russia was having its Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics moment at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.  It was a Russian moment of, “We are here, and part of the modern world”.  But even leading up the Olympics when Russian experts like David Remnick were being interviewed there seemed to be some dark undertones when commenting about today’s Russia.  A sense of wanting not just to be at the table but to be at the head of the table. President Obama now is at the forefront of these events, taking him away from domestic policy, but that seems in line with all two term Presidents.  Congress does not listen as they are in re-election mode.  I think increasingly President Obama will be reacting to global events like the Ukraine.

Since Ukraine declared its independence from the Soviet Union on August 24, 1991, Russia has worked to make sure that it retains a “sphere of influence” over the Republic of Ukraine (and other former Soviet states).  Trying to foster tight relations with its neighbor.  often holding the Ukraine hostage over energy resources.   We saw this take place in the Orange revolution in 2004.  In what appeared to be a victory by Victor Yanukovych over Victor Yushchenko, was found to be a corrupt and rigged election.  This after his supporter, Vladimir Putin had already sent his congratulations to Mr. Yanukovych.  Yushenko won in the run off however this did not lead to brighter days in the Ukraine.  Consequently several years later Yanukovych would return to power .  the problem all along the way has not been if the left or the right is in power, but empty promises made in the face of wide-spread government corruption.  In the case of Yanukovych we discover a leader building himself a palatial place while average Ukrainians try to eek out a living.

If anything we as a country can learn something from this,  it is history is a powerful influence in many parts of the world, China, Japan, Europe, the Middle East etc.  It is something that we may claim to understand but we really do not.  We failed in Vietnam largely because we did not understand the link of Vietnam and China (Read former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara’s “In Retrospect:  the Tragedy’s and lessons of Vietnam”).  President Clinton failed to understand the depth of history and its emotion in his failed Middle East peace talks.  We are still a very young country with a lack of depth to our history.  I know 238 years may seem like a lot but when you consider my home state of Washington’s history just passed 100 years, holistically we do not have a lot of depth.

Putin came to power towards the end of the Clinton Administration.  He was a throwback to “old” Russia following the barrel of vodka man, Boris Yeltsin.  As we know Putin may be the last of the Russian leaders to have strong KGB ties.  He was 36 yrs old when the Soviet Union ceased to exist. Seemingly lacking in personality to the west but oozing with the strength of his nationalistic identity.   Following up on the previous paragraph Putin will play history to, what he feels is his advantage, but seemingly failing to realize that the current world history has global safeguards that did not exist before.  For now he is an immensely popular leader in Russia, but I feel there are clouds on his horizon

If there is a card to play it is the oldest and safest card we have which is economic sanctions.  Russia desperately wants respect but it cannot happen without financial means.  This is what fundamentally led to the collapse of the Soviet Union.  If Russia  is anyway shut off from participating in the free worlds global economics it will be hurt.  The only real card Russia has to play is the oil card, but with America’s growing domestic oil industry, the threat to the US is not as great as it used to be, however Europe may be different, as they are more dependant on foreign oil..  Along the lines of the Sochi Olympics, Russia is hosting the 2018 World Cup.  However FIFA is a heavily euro-centric governing body for soccer and it would not surprise me to them receive tremendous pressure to “cancel” Russia and replace with England, Spain or the United States.  This would be a last resort, but would have a crippling effect on Russia’s current and future domestic economy.  It would also be a significant blow to  Russia’s pride

As much as Putin wants to rely on Russia’s rich history to justify his end means, the last point is a powerful one.  It is not just the United States that controls this, but it is truly a global effort.  Russia has a strong economy, but it is the eight largest economy on the planet, behind the US and China and even behind Brazil.  The 7 countries ahead of Russia could easily shut out Russia and the global economy may face a blip, but the Russian economy would be devastated.  For all those dooms dayers, anti-Obama, anti-global integration, the US is getting weak etc..keep in mind the strongest hand to play still resides in the US Capitol, the group of 8 (soon to be 7) and the ability to control the monetary systems.  The ability to influence and build coalitions is still a very strong hand to play.  The combined GDP of the US and European Union is $32 trillion add in China’s $8 trillion and Japans $6 trillion, you have $45 trillion compared to Russia’s $2 trillion.  In the current world of global economics Putin can be as popular as he wants in the short-term, because in the long-term the Russian people will feel the economic impact  of global isolation.  The rest of the world will hardly notice that Russia is missing or choosing not to participate in the vast global wealth that is being created.

It is easy to get emotional in the heat of the moment.  But you need to know the cards you are playing and for all Putin’s desire to drive a wedge between the US and Europe, he keeps failing to realize that the wedge that unites Europe and the United States is Russia.  For all his talk of Russian history he does not seem a very good student of Russia’s history with Europe.  Russia is an outsider in these relations and in reality Putin is playing with cards he does not have.  In the short run he will appear strong but in the long run he will only hurt Russia and its people.  How that plays out is for the Russian people to decide, but then again if Putin understands Russian history we will just rule with an iron hand, which Russia seems to always to revert to throughout its storied history.

 

Good Night and Good Luck

Hans Henrik Hoffmann April 1, 2014

 

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