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September 29, 2009

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Hans Boldt

Hmmm, what's 21 years old this year is the AS/400. I still remember the announce party held at Ontario Place on the Toronto waterfront. And I remember the accordian player providing entertainment on the bus ride back to the office.

Thirty years for the technology is, as you said, quite an achievement. And like you said, it's one of only two proprietary architectures left. The other is the xSeries, which started life as the S/360 in the mid 1960's. One interesting feature of that architecture is that the vast majority of S/360 programs compiled 40 years ago can still run today unchanged.

Another ancient operating system architecture remaining is Unix, which started life in the early 1970's, and survives in several forms as AIX, HP/UX, BSD, and Linux.

What's interesting is how each maintain program compatibility: In x, programs are 100% binary compatible from one version of the O/S to the next. In i, the hardware may be different, but compatibility is achieved via a machine abstraction layer. And in Unix, compatibility is at the source code level.

But anyways, back on topic, your point on the delivery of recorded audio/video is bang on. It's been said often that the customer is always right. That means that business has to read what the market wants and respond appropriately.

In the world of recorded entertainment, there will always be a demand. What customers want is a choice in delivery mechanism and a choice in how to view the video or listen to the music, which is something the media distributors are resisting. And the same is also true to some extent in the software business. Do I want my data and programs to be tied to one particular system? That's as much of a challenge in the computer industry as it is in the entertainment business. It will be interesting to see how the iSeries market deals with the current competitive pressures.

Cheers! Hans

Nathan M. Andelin

This blog entry could have been aptly titled "The allegory of the music CD". Like most allegories, different interpretations may arise by looking at it from different perspectives.

Let's consider an economic perspective - the resources required and the cost of physically producing a music CD, embossing a label on it, a plastic container, a printed jacket, an RFID device glued to the container's interior, sealing the container with a taped label and plastic wrap.

Consider the expense of warehousing, inventorying, trucking, securing, and retailing CDs. Consider millions of consumers driving to stores in cars, and returning home.

When you look at it from an economic perspective, you begin to see the efficiencies in digitally packaging and distributing music over the internet, in addition to more flexibility.

CD publishers are not the only ones squeezed by digital distribution methods. We're seeing the same trend in newspaper deliveries to homes. Even monopolies like school textbook publishers are beginning to feel pressure from consumers to digitally distribute.

Of course, the economics could change rather quickly if a few governments decided to take over internet backbones and began taxing downloads at a rate of say $50 dollars per GB, to fund say their interest in Java technology.

All of a sudden, distributing music via CD would begin to look attractive again - due to an "interactive tax" on internet technologies that were otherwise intrinsically more efficient.

Sometimes less efficient, more costly technologies, thrive by artificially taxing more efficient ones. But that will only go on for so long, as artificial manipulations tend to give way to intrinsic values.

-Nathan.

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