[linux-elitists] We are elitist criminals!

Mike Touloumtzis miket@bluemug.com
Sun Sep 3 18:35:36 PDT 2000

On Sat, Aug 26, 2000 at 05:34:31PM -0700, Ben wrote:
> That is when it hit me, that really behind companies like Sony there
> are ONLY few people who do the designs for their products. Maybe 1000?
> Those people are embodiment of all the technology that we think of as
> Sony products. There are probably only a few people who have the
> knowlege and experience to figure out how to fit the the pieces of a
> MDR together in such a compact form factor. Since it is actually so
> few people. If we develop similar talent we can make anything that we
> want.

This is very true; I have worked closely with a couple of the large
Japanese consumer electronics companies on smartphone/PDA type products.
The future product direction of these companies is dictated by well-funded
and relatively small (by the standards of such organizations) R+D groups.

Their R+D groups tend to focus less on "abstract yet somehow relevant"
research a la IBM and more on bringing cutting-edge products to market
across departmental and product category boundaries; the attitude of
these companies (as far as I can tell) can be described in simplified
fashion as: "let's get all the really smart people in one department
and have them handle all of our cutting-edge stuff.  Once they have made
the architect-level decisions and worked out the 1st generation kinks,
we'll hand the product line off to a more specialized group."

Interestingly, the engineers I have worked with are the answer to the
question "who really uses all these obscure Word features?".  Barring a
few people with really specialized needs (e.g. people who do contract
negotiation by exchanging Word docs), Japanese software engineers make
more expert use of MS Office features that anyone else I've ever met.

There are always a few Linux zealots, but by and large they seem to be
reasonably happy in a Microsoft universe, especially as many have small,
fancy laptops with spiffy multimedia features of the sort that tend
to be slow to come to Linux.  One guy I met could contol his Vaio by
holding up specially printed business cards in view of its CCD camera;
one such card had a blank rectangle on it which when shown in realtime
camera-captured video on his laptop screen contained an MPEG movie,
correctly oriented to the position of the card in 3D space.

In contrast, the managers of the R+D groups seem less likely to fall
victim to the kind of managerial Linux hostility that's still too common
in the U.S.  IHMO, they are expected to plan for the future (and correctly
predict long-term trends) to a greater degree than would be expected
in the U.S.; I'd be surprised if Intel, Cisco, or Compaq had "100-year
plans", which these companies do.  They are also shielded from short-term
spending considerations more than is common here.  Interestingly, this
means that although the typical trickle-up Linux advocacy scenario is
less prevalent in Japan, the prospects of converting higher-ups to a
Linux strategy are correspondingly higher.

Of course, it also helps that they don't like Microsoft in _their_ product
spaces :-).  IMHO, they don't think Microsoft is evil per se, but they
correctly perceive that if Microsoft is allowed a strong foothold in the
consumer electronics market, brand loyalty and cost margins will drop to
PC-like levels.  Sony was so scared of this that at one point I heard
they were sinking $40 million a year into their now-defunct "Aperios"
in-house OS.


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