Markets are conversations about more than vendor sports
There are basically two ways you can see a market. One is as a place where people gather to do business and make culture. That's what markets have been since the dawn of trade. The other is as an battlefield, arena, playing field, ring, racetrack, or some other war or sports habitat where combatants win, lose or draw.
War is the deeper metaphor, of course; but civilization is largely a matter of sublimation, which is pretty much what sports is all about. That's why mainstream coverage of IT markets (Computerworld is just one example) is mostly about vendor sports.
Here at IT Garage, from the beginning, I've tried to make it (and IT, puns intended) a place where we could talk about What's Happening without getting getting all rah-rah about one vendor or another. Or even about a favorite operating system, software breed or development methodology. Although all those things are always open for discussion.
In fact, I've tried to put vendors in market contexts that are larger than whatever platforms and silos it is their natural tendency to create.
But I think I've failed at that, so far, with the podcasting subject.
Podcasting gets its name from Apple's iPod, which is now often called a "platform". Of course, Apple deserves enormous credit for lots of good things, the iPod among them. And I'll confess to a little bias in favor of the iPod because my friend Tony Fadell is one of the leading creative and engineering minds behind it (and many other cool things). I've given Apple plenty of credit over the years for the good and original work that it's done. And I'll continue to do that, as long as I think the company deserves it (which I'm sure it will). But I'll also criticize the company for stuff it does that I think are lame, or bad, or not helpful... or whatever.
Hence my post, Open the 'pod bay doors, Steve. I liked the headline (a reference back to the movie 2001: A Space Oddyssey) too much not to use it, but in retrospect, it was a mistake. So was using the "Apple is the Microsoft" line. It was too big a red herring for people to ignore. So, of the eleven comments to the post so far, not one addressed my request for news about anything that provides "hope for free market expansion in podcasting". Meaning, beyond Apple and iPod.
In the course of that, I think it's important to discuss the limitations Apple imposes without getting into sport talk. For example, the iPod, for better and worse, is the hardware end of the iTunes application and the distribution and retailing system iTunes enables. Yes, iTunes is free (as in beer, not as in speech), and it runs on 97+% of the personal OSes out there (Windows and Macintosh). So it may be big and easy and harmless enough for most of us, and for most of our purposes (including playing music and podcasts). But iTunes' ubiquity also gives Apple lots of market muscle.
When I was at CES, I saw car-makers and various other third parties either building products that fit in Apple's silo, or lined up with Microsoft's PlayForSure system (which is open to other hardware makers, but which uses Microsoft DRM), as a way of playing in the market. Apple was seen as the Big Kahuna in the whole portable music playing space. In the auto audio hall, the new sound sources that mattered were satellite radio (which presented a choice of two closed and mutually incompatible systems) and iPods. While the line "Apple is becoming the Microsoft of music" was mine, it summarized the sentiments of many people I spoke to at CES.
Do we want Apple to become the Microsoft of music? I think that's a legitimate question, but I'm beginning to doubt it can be answered in ways that appreciate the fact that the whole market is larger than either Apple or Microsoft, and won't be healthy unless there are lots of independent and do-it-yourself players on both the supply and demand sides of the marketplace.
So, this is kind of a report on what I'm learning as we go along here as well as a message to new visitors at IT Garage: We're not about vendor sports here. We're focused on how information technology markets grow when independent and resourceful participants roll their own solutions to their own problems.
If you've got any news of that sort, feel free to post it here. My name may be at the top of the page, but there's nothing to stop the rest of you from posting whatever you like. In fact, I'd call this project a success if my own posts were a small minority of the total postings, rather than the large majority they are now.