Barney's Rubble

The PC Blues

Doug Barney contemplates Microsoft's domination of PC design, its Passport technology and the new search engine.

Last month IBM threw in the towel after more than 20 years in the PC business by selling out to a Chinese firm for $1.75 billion. We've seen countless articles and lamentations, but they all miss the point. There is nothing left for a PC maker to do—even the original PC maker.

PC companies no longer innovate because they're not allowed to. Compatibility is king, which means Microsoft—not Dell or HP—defines what PCs can and cannot do. Don't believe me? Then you've never been to a WinHEC (Windows Hardware Engineering Conference) where Microsoft, a software vendor, lectures hardware makers on exactly how to design their PCs. The message is that if you don't do it Redmond's way, then you can forget about running Windows. If you don't think that PCs have become a pure commodity, shop for a desktop or laptop and compare specs—they're all as indistinguishable as an '80s boy band.

I'm not saying this is entirely bad. If I was running Microsoft, I'd do the same thing. Its strong-arm tactics result in reliable, compatible, interchangeable computers—PCs that actually work. I'd just hate to be a PC designer who has to wear those creative handcuffs. Wonder what sort of PCs we'd have if Dell and HP engineers were given free reign?

In Praise of Passport
I don't often spend a lot of time contemplating Microsoft Passport, but trying to sign up my 8-year-old son Nick for free e-mail got me thinking. First, I tried Hotmail. It used to be easy, but now Hotmail wants your life story. If you don't fill in everything perfectly, you are rejected. After a couple of brutal failures, I gave Yahoo a shot. It was the same deal. Another rejection. Then, I decided to be loyal and go back to Microsoft's service. That's when I realized that however difficult Hotmail sign-up may be, you still walk away with a Passport account that helps with things like eBay.

I sign up for white papers and special content almost every day and labor through field after field every time. If something like Passport could give the content provider the information it needs and only require that I enter a user name and password, life would be far simpler.

Pitchman Bill Clinton
Former President William Jefferson Clinton lent his support to a new search engine company run by former Compaq chief Eckhard Pfeiffer. The company claims its is vastly superior to Google because it uses artificial intelligence.

Accoona has a bit more work to do if my "Monica Lewinsky" search is any indication. Included in its top 10 results were pages about UFOs and Rod Stewart. The AI-free Google hit the mark with nearly 300,000 pages, most of which actually seemed to have something to do with Monica.

As always, e-mail me with comments and suggestions.

About the Author

Doug Barney is editor in chief of Redmond magazine and the VP, editorial director of Redmond Media Group.

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Reader Comments:

Wed, Jan 12, 2005 Doug Barney Anonymous

I tried a search on my name just now and the results were OK, not great. no newsgroups, and a bunch of sponsored results at the top. Keep working on Accona guys and I wish you well.

Wed, Jan 12, 2005 Jon New York City

I AGREE!!! with Armand
and I have a great story to share about Accoona!!!

My Boss gave me a task to "call a Pricescan and get me a conf call
so we can discuss a partnership etc..."

I went to the Pricescan site but could only find email addresses in their contact section...not good... no phone #
I drilled further in the site and still no # to call...

so what do I do?

Go to Accoona business search!!! typed in Pricescan, retrieved their result (in first spot) on the Biz search result page, AND clicked on their Accoona QuickProfile...

and voila,'s phone number, and location, etc... and I was able to reach a contact, speak to them, and fulfill my task, and set up a very important meeting!!

The world is certainly a better place with Accoona!!!
my "worries were over", Accoona...
no worries

Wed, Jan 12, 2005 armand new york

The Accoona Artificial intelligence search Engine Has improved tremendously since its launch....
it's worth looking at.

Wed, Jan 5, 2005 Michael Jacksonville, FL

Doug, use Microsoft's new fingerprint keyboard to keep track of all you usernames and passwords. I have been using it for about a month now and it works great.

Sun, Jan 2, 2005 Rob Texas

I seem to remember a similar thing happening a few years back. Apple started licensing it's computers, the other vendors started doing non "sanctioned" modifications and Apple started pulling the licenses.

Sun, Jan 2, 2005 Doug Barney Anonymous

Yeah, I sure was wrong about Passport! Still, even though it apparently tanked, I still like the concept -- can't keep track of all my darn passwords and user names?

Sat, Jan 1, 2005 hawks5999 Kirkland

Sometimes the voices here should not be so independent that they are clueless about upcoming shifts in MS strategy, like dropping Passport. And the irony is even better when eBay is mentioned specifically since they publically kicked Passport to the curb last week. HA!

Fri, Dec 31, 2004 Anonymous Anonymous

Man, shut up about blaming Microsoft for the fact that PCs are all the same and have to run Windows. You Linux noobs are all the same. You are worse than Communists and your computer technology is based on even bigger lies than Stalin ever told. Linux is theftware. LINUX IS COMPLETELY INSECURE. Go to . Look at the ten to twenty daily Linux security holes. BTW that has to be a capital "A" in alerts.

Thu, Dec 30, 2004 Joe Anonymous

Universal compatibility is Gods gift to Earth :-) Strong Arm Technique is bad. But, can we be compatible with out somebody to dicctate compatibility? Would be a jungle out there a Hardware jungle and no drivers. Think Linux :-)

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