Friday, July 29, 2011

There Can Be Only One! No, Really?

You know, I loved the original Highlander movie. Without having an expectation for it, the story and performances surprised and entertained me.  But it has left our culture with a sensibility that is silly and often destructive. It really stems from that stupid mantra, "There Can Be Only One."

It's endemic here in Silicon Valley, and underscores most of the conversations we hold about technology. We see the evidence in the debate over Google+ and how it will or won't kill [Twitter/Facebook/Free Will] -- pick one or more.

I mean, c'mon...


I mean, c'mon! Would it seem silly to us if we were reading a debate about how the emergence of General Motors would wipe out Ford? How about if ABC were the "CBS Killer?"  I guess I should be happy that at least it gave us this Aunt Jemima vs. Mrs. Butterworth slapdown.

It's really nothing new. The browser you now know as Firefox came from a group of engineers who were trying to build the "Mosaic Killer." (NCSA Mosaic is the grandfather of web browsers as we now know them. The original designers moved to Silicon Valley and founded Netscape during the '90s. Meanwhile senior Microsoft executive Paul Maritz explained to Intel how the Redmond software company would "cut off their air supply" to prevent Netscape from continuing to innovate.)

In the end, Microsoft eventually lost its stranglehold on the personal computer marketplace, and Netscape became an irrelevant brand for AOL/Time Warner. (I guess that part does work out a little bit like the story in Highlander.)

But here's the deal. Nobody is going to cut off the air supply. The marketplace will welcome a choice of players both for how we're able to publish, and in how we'll read news.

If companies pursue strategies that are focused more on how to thwart their marketplace peers rather than striving to provide value to customers -- those companies will fail.

Don't get me started on clumsy copy protection and IP rights protection schemes. That's fodder for another week.