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Brislen on Tech

Paul Brislen, Editor. 08 June 2018, 3:34 pm

Computers just ain't what they used to be

In the old days (y'know, Windows 98 era) they were big beige boxes that sat on the desktop taking up far too much room and firing up the fan on an inconsistent basis.

I'm looking at one right now.

But it's probably the last desktop PC I'll ever buy and my kids… well, I can't see them buying a PC at all.

It's not a Windows thing. It's not an Apple thing. It's just that the consumer market now has so many other choices and "a computer" isn't that high up the list any longer.

Need to watch TV or consume websites? Get a tablet. Need to play games and compete with your mates? Get a console. Need to just watch high def TV? Get a TV (but plug it into the internet).

You don't need a PC in the home the way you did in the not too distant past and I don't think we're ever going to go back to those days. The consumer market is fragmented, long live the consumer market.

But where does that leave corporate life? I'm currently embedded in a corporate and rediscovering the joys of having to use software and services chosen by a third-party vendor instead of my own kit. It's rather alarming how much someone else's decision making can get in the way of you doing your job, but I guess that's the situation for most desk workers these days.

(I'm also quite confused by Microsoft's decision to have not one but TWO browsers included with their software, each one fighting to answer any clicks on links I might have. It's quite odd, but I digress)

Where does that all leave Microsoft and Apple, our two largest operating system giants?

Apple has surfed the wave from desktop to mobile far more ably than Microsoft, it is fair to say. Apple invented the entire smartphone market and everyone else has rushed to catch up. The wider mobile device market is now a two-horse race between Apple and Google and Microsoft barely plays, so is it fair to say Microsoft has given up on the home market? Probably not. It does have a very strong (albeit second place) contender for the home user in the form of the Xbox, and if you're into gaming and need a PC then you're going to pick a Windows device first and foremost.

But somehow I get the impression Microsoft would rather focus on the enterprise and ship grey laptops to cube warriors like me, while Apple is going the other way and is focusing heavily on the iOS platform and really isn't doing terribly much with its MacBook line up at all. Apple is still no doubt the lead choice for entrepreneurs, for graphic designers and for folk doing video work but beyond those polo-necked jersey wearing, hipster bearded, pointy shoed fellows (Ed: And me!) there's not much call for it.

Meanwhile Microsoft is doubling down on its developers by buying software development home GitHub which has caused a flurry of angst last seen when McDonald's bought UK sandwich chain Pret A Manger.

So computing. It's all pervasive and yet it's splintering in ways we wouldn't have predicted only a few years ago and where it all goes from here is anyone's guess.

But I still don't understand Microsoft Edge.

NZ Herald - Apple set to unveil latest software updates

Gizmodo - Everything Apple Announced At WWDC Today

Harvard Business Review - Why Microsoft Is Willing to Pay So Much for GitHub

ZDNet - WWDC 2018: Why the Mac you know has no future

Data Center Knowledge - Microsoft Buys GitHub for $7.5 Billion, Going Back to Its Roots

 

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Vodafone and Vocus unbundle fibre - but what's the real story?

The year was 2001 and the Commerce Commission had been given the powers to directly intervene in the telco market for the first time.

The newly appointed Telecommunications Commissioner was looking at the big issue of the day - whether competitors should be allowed in to Telecom's network to put their own equipment in the exchanges, a process known as Local Loop Unbundling (LLU).

In his draft report, the Commissioner fully backed the challengers and said yes but, in an 11th hour move that caught everyone (this reporter included) flat footed (it was Christmas and we were all at the beach) he reversed his decision and said no to unbundling.

Many years later Vodafone and Orcon were the first telcos allowed in to a Telecom exchange to put their own equipment in, and it was a day I remember well. The Ponsonby exchange was tarted up (well, they brushed the floor) and Vodafone's shiny red rack of kit was brought in much to Orcon's chagrin (the team hadn't thought to colour code anything and so they rushed out and bought a purple Orcon logo plaque to go over the space they would take up) and the media was allowed to take photographs.

It was lovely and was the sign of a new world order. A new world order that Telecom immediately crushed by announcing an aggressive programme of closing exchanges and moving everyone to small, local cabinets regardless of whether they would actually benefit from the change or not. Oh and by the way, the cabinets are so small you'll get no economy of scale so your unbundling malarkey will die in a ditch.

And so it was that unbundling arrived but was seen off and the whole thing failed to spark and the government had to step in AGAIN and so we had the Telecommunications Amendment Bill of 2010 that introduced fibre to the home and structural separation.

Today, Chorus is responsible for the lion's share of the fibre deployment and as phase one of the project nears completion, the retailers are circling looking for a chink in the armour that will allow them in to the fibre network and Vodafone and Vocus think they've found one.

Clearly Vodafone remembers the bad old days of LLU and wants to encourage the Commission to make the right call, as they see it, and let the retailers in to put their own equipment in the exchanges, but also they remember the need for scale in order to make unbundling work financially. Hence the deal with Vocus.

If both the number two and number three fixed-line telcos get together (and they've extended an olive branch to Spark as well) they would presumably have enough buying power to really unbundle on a large scale and offer services that fall outside the Commission's regulated pricing schedules.

Of course, what both companies really want is margin and by unbundling they would have more control over the product and the pricing than they currently have. But these days the products are pretty straightforward and the pricing (at retail at least) is acceptable. LLU would have seen new price points and new services, but fibre unbundling will really only deliver increased margin to the telcos, so the consumer angle is missing.

I'm pretty sure they'd all be just as happy if Chorus decided to charge less for the basic services in exchange for not unbundling, but that's just me.

No, I think the whole thing between Vodafone and Vocus has a far different purpose. It makes it far more difficult for any other player to buy Vocus and, despite the Australian company's board decision not to sell the New Zealand assets earlier this year, Vocus is still a good catch for whoever fronts up.

By entering a strategic deal of this sort with Vocus, Vodafone has made it somewhat more complex for a competitor (say Spark or 2degrees, both of which have expressed an interest) to buy the local business.

Telcos, eh? Just when you think it's all done and dusted they start in on each other again.

CIO - Vocus Group and Vodafone in joint venture to accelerate fibre innovation

Stuff - Vodafone and Vocus to spend 'tens of millions' unbundling Chorus' fibre network

RNZ - Vodafone, Vocus to invest millions in broadband services

Techblog - Unbundling fibre

Techblog - Tackling the digital divide


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