Friday, June 10, 2005

Canada's Third Rail, in-your-face in Texas, and the Osborne Effect—UPDATED

The March of Science News laments, applauds and speculates.
June 10, 2005

At least they don’t have pie sales to fund cancer surgeryCanada’s vaunted national health plan got a kick in the shins yesterday, when the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that a law in Quebec that forbade private health insurance was unconstitutional. The court ruled that despite multiple promises from the federal government that it would provide sufficient funding for the national plan to eliminate waiting lists, it has not and Canadians have suffered grave health consequences as a result. Backers of the plan fear that the decision would eventually mean a two-tiered system in Canada, with the public system suffering as a result. In Canada, everyone is insured by the government (everyone is insured in every developed country in the world except the U.S.) and the health plan is the Third Rail of Canadian politics, beloved by one and all, but suffering from funding problems which have gone unsolved by successive governments. Supporters have demanded that Parliament invoke a constitutional provision called “the notwithstanding clause” to get around the ruling, which means—I think—notwithstanding the court, we are going to go ahead and do something. Several other provinces have similar laws banning private health insurance that would be effected by the ruling. In those provinces, people must either wait for their government to drop the barriers or go to court to get them dropped.

Why not meet in Texas, where a lot of folks really hate us and have guns?—Supporters of embryonic stem cell research are holding a meeting to plan strategy in a most unlikely place, that otherworldly state called Texas. Where else would you meet to think up ways to quell resistance to the research than in the capital of the resistance? The researchers, from academia, politics, health care and medicine are meeting at the Genetics Policy Institute of Baylor (incidentally, a Baptist college), one of the islands of support for the research. Houston has first-rate medical centers but they stand alone in the vast red sea. President Bush, the most prominent opponent of embryonic stem cell research was governor and the present governor said it was fine with him if other states stepped in to lead the way. “This is a war on behalf of science,” one researcher said. One hundred-fifty people are coming, including the South Koreans who seem to be ahead of everyone else.

Apple, Intel and the conspiracy theory—Down below we quoted from Robert X. Cringely, one of the more prescient writers out of Silicon Valley. We do so again because he has a fascinating column I’m not sure I accept. Cringely thinks the adoption of Intel microprocessors in Apple computers is a lot more important than many make out. He thinks it is a merger between Intel and Apple and the target is nothing less than Microsoft and its Windows hegemony. Cringely says he was moved by the apparent absurdity of the change, especially coming after years in which Steve Jobs and Apple dissed Intel chips as slow and badly designed, and he lists several reasons why the whole thing makes no sense at all. One of the reasons is called the Osborne Effect. Adam Osborne was the inventor—more or less—of the luggable computer. His company folded after Osborne announced a new product, twice as powerful and only $200 more expensive than the one he was selling several months before he had them to sell. His customers, who had planned to buy new Osbornes, decided to wait and sales disappeared. So did the company. Jobs is announcing computers two years before he will sell them. Would you buy an Apple now, or wait for the Intel machines? Seems odd. Unless: unless technology has nothing to do with it. It’s business.
Microsoft comes into this because Intel hates Microsoft. It hasn't always been that way, but in recent years Microsoft has abused its relationship with Intel and used AMD [another chip manufacturer] as a cudgel against Intel. Even worse, from Intel's standpoint Microsoft doesn't work hard enough to challenge its hardware. For Intel to keep growing, people have to replace their PCs more often and Microsoft's bloatware strategy just isn't making that happen, especially if they keep delaying Longhorn [the planned upgrade of Windows].

Enter Apple. This isn't a story about Intel gaining another three percent market share at the expense of IBM, it is about Intel taking back control of the desktop from Microsoft.
Intel buys Apple, its OEMs produce computers with Intel chips running Apple’s operating system (almost universally acknowledged as the best there is) just as Microsoft announces yet another delay in Longhorn. Computer manufacturers (who also hate Microsoft) would love to get higher profit margins then they can while playing with Microsoft, or they would have a bludgeon to beat the boys from Redmond over the head for better deals. Then Intel-Apple extends the merger into the home entertainment business and Steve Jobs has won the golden grail—he beats Bill Gates.

I don’t believe it because I don’t think Jobs would want to sell it and because Apple, besides being nicely profitable these days, has a fortune in cash sitting around in the bank and not even Intel can afford them. Apple is more likely to buy someone than be bought by someone, even Intel. But that would be soooo cool.

UPDATE: For John Markoff's take on all this, a bit more sensible, see here. Markoff says Microsoft is indeed the target (along with Sony) but not over operating systems. It is the home digital market he's after.


Quit Smoking said...

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Gone Fishin',


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