[Clips] The Walt Within

R. A. Hettinga rah at shipwright.com
Sun Feb 5 09:56:07 PST 2006

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  Date: Sun, 5 Feb 2006 12:29:39 -0500
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  From: "R. A. Hettinga" <rah at shipwright.com>
  Subject: [Clips] The Walt Within
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  Read the last bit about traffic analysis and curve fitting. It's the most



  PBS: I, Cringely -- The Pulpit

  February 2, 2006

  The Walt Within:

  What If Disney's Prize Wasn't Pixar, but Jobs?

  By Robert X. Cringely

  I was wrong.

  No, not about phone and wire-tapping -- more on that below -- but on the
  Disney-Pixar merger. What if, instead of having to accept the board
  presence of Steve Jobs as a cost of getting Pixar's animation talent and
  film library, Disney actually views the transaction as buying Pixar TO GET
  Steve Jobs and then gaining the animation bits as a bonus? If Disney CEO
  Robert Iger is really an exceptional leader, he'll see it exactly that way.

  I am not a big Steve Jobs fan. No fawning here. I once called him a
  sociopath in a book that was translated into 18 languages, and I don't take
  it back now. But even a sociopath has his moments, and I am beginning to
  see that this moment belongs to Jobs.

  What made me come to this understanding was reading an op-ed piece this
  week in the New York Times written by film historian Neal Gabler, who is
  just finishing a monumental book about Walt Disney. You'll find the essay
  among this week's links.

  Assuming that Gabler knows what he is writing about, having spent several
  years getting inside the head of Walt Disney, then Disney and Jobs have a
  lot in common. Both were iconoclasts and loners, driven by creative visions
  and always a bit out of sync with their peers. Both were dreamers, but
  dreamers who for the most part realized their dreams. Both believed that
  the purpose of being in business was to create a unique product that came
  to define an experience for customers. Rod Canion and Michael Dell and Ted
  Waitt never talked about user experience, but Jobs and Disney did, right
  from the beginning of their careers.

  What Jobs created at Pixar by allowing it to be (this is his only company,
  remember, where he stayed out of the day-to-day operations) is an
  environment where technology might have run, Tron-like, over character and
  creative sensibilities but somehow that didn't happen. At Pixar, technology
  drives character rather than characters being spray-painted on technology.
  What Disney gets from Pixar is, of course, the cancellation of most
  animated films in development or production, but that's balanced by a
  separate slate of films that will gross two, three or four times as much
  with all that now going to Disney. In this trade, Disney loses nothing and
  gains everything.

  But Pixar and a trunkload of new theme park characters are the least of it.
  Disney is in the film, TV, sports, publishing, and hospitality industries,
  but none of its major competitors -- none -- are run by people who come to
  their positions with anything like an artistic drive or a real sense of
  what their customers want. Does Sumner Redstone understand MTV? Does GE
  have an artistic molecule in its "lop off the bottom 10 percent" corporate
  culture? Does Rupert Murdoch really understand his own success and its
  ultimate cost? Does ever-imploding Sony even know what to do with its music
  and movie empires? No, no, no, and no.

  If Robert Iger creates a miracle at Disney, which I think he will, that
  miracle is Steve Jobs. We're in a new century with new realities, but we
  haven't yet found a new archetype for enlightened corporate power. Bill
  Gates? Give me a break! What we have are people in power who have no muse
  and wouldn't recognize one if they could even hear her. Steve Jobs knows
  his muse.

  For the entertainment industries, the next 10 years will be the most
  revolutionary in a century. Broadcast TV as we knew it is going away,
  replaced by a Chinese entertainment menu of such complexity that even
  knowing what's "on" tonight will be beyond the abilities of most viewers.
  At some point, too, movies will be subsumed into television and recorded
  music will find its own new place with new rules. This will be Steve Jobs's
  world and we'll all just be visitors. It's obvious to me and, evidently, to
  Iger, too.

  The trick here is in knowing how to get the best product for the least
  money. Jobs is not opposed to spending money, but he is determined to get
  more for his money than anyone else. Look at the books of Apple and Pixar
  to understand this concept. Against a century-old tradition of corporate
  bloat, Jobs successfully preaches (and proves) that smaller is really
  better. How else can Apple compete with Microsoft AND Dell and HP, and
  still have $8 billion in the bank? Because smaller is better and cheaper,
  too, when it comes to creative development.

  I still don't like Steve Jobs. I've known too many people he has hurt. But
  this is clearly his time, maybe even his century. And what of Bill Gates?
  Bill Gates is a very successful philanthropist, but he's no Steve Jobs.

  Nobody is.

  Well, maybe Oprah.

  Bill once told me that there was no way that Steve could win, so he
  wondered why Jobs was even still in the game?

  Bill now knows why.

  Now for a final word on wiretapping, the NSA, and you, which were the
  primary topics of my last two columns. This last thought comes from an old
  friend of mine who is conservative in the very best sense and knows what he
  is writing about:

  "Traffic analysis, at the NSA? I'm tempted to be sarcastic, but I won't be.
  As you might know, I started a company a few years ago with a former NSA
  guy -- somebody who was a cryptographer and Russian linguist on those
  submarines that snuck into Soviet harbors to tap their phone lines -- and
  we applied traffic analysis to Internet discussion groups to identify
  opinion leaders, conversation trends and so forth. We used a lot of
  techniques that were developed or applied to law enforcement. And we didn't
  use anything that violated anybody's security clearances... really!

  "(My company) was acquired by a business intelligence company funded by the
  CIA venture capital outfit. Apparently the stuff I invented is now in the
  hands of a couple of intelligence agencies, including Homeland Security.

  "I'll tell you what I think the most troubling thing about all this is.
  It's easy to see whatever pattern you're looking for. It's like curve
  fitting in the stock market -- looks beautiful historically and maybe even
  in the short run, but it's a disaster in the making. So we have these guys
  running the country who saw a non-existent pattern in Iraq that justified a
  war ... and now we're going to give them software that will make it easy to
  create the illusion of patterns of conspiracy.

  "Your friend from the NSA was right, but it's worse than he suggests. It's
  not just that social network analysis casts a wide net. It's that without
  oversight by people who really grasp the mathematics and have some distance
  from the whole thing, they're going to see patterns where there aren't any.

  "They have a history of that."

  R. A. Hettinga <mailto: rah at ibuc.com>
  The Internet Bearer Underwriting Corporation <http://www.ibuc.com/>
  44 Farquhar Street, Boston, MA 02131 USA
  "... however it may deserve respect for its usefulness and antiquity,
  [predicting the end of the world] has not been found agreeable to
  experience." -- Edward Gibbon, 'Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire'
  Clips mailing list
  Clips at philodox.com

--- end forwarded text

R. A. Hettinga <mailto: rah at ibuc.com>
The Internet Bearer Underwriting Corporation <http://www.ibuc.com/>
44 Farquhar Street, Boston, MA 02131 USA
"... however it may deserve respect for its usefulness and antiquity,
[predicting the end of the world] has not been found agreeable to
experience." -- Edward Gibbon, 'Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire'

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