Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Round-buying and Dinosaurs

Work was quiet today; the worst that happened was that someone’s emails were getting stuck in a queue in Adelaide and not getting to the recipients in London. It took me all of half an hour to sort out. I’ve also been installing a new PDF creation system on one of our servers. Our consultants prefer PDFs for sending documents to clients as it lessens the risk of Microsoft’s ‘Track Changes’ feature revealing embarrassing or sensitive comments written by our staff is a useful, portable format with a free reader available. So we have a system that works just like a real live printer but instead of spitting out paper, it drops a PDF file into a location on the network. We are moving the service from one server to another and upgrading it at the same time, so I’ve been spending time getting the new version to look as much as possible like the old version, while still being better and giving users more options.

There was an interesting conversation thread in our office today which ran, on and off, throughout the day. Gaetan was defending his view that people buying rounds in pubs and agreeing to split the bill in restaurants was a bad thing; peer-pressure run rampant, forcing people to eat and drink more than they want and/or pay for other people to eat/drink without necessarily getting anything in return. I’m not entirely sure whether it was a serious point of view he was defending – sometimes it’s difficult to tell when he and Jon get into discussion – but it was certainly an interesting diversion. The consensus in the office was that he was just being weird and seeing set-in-stone ‘rules’ governing rounds and bill-splitting whereas everyone else saw much greyer, fuzzier common-sense practices – although I must check this out with Brett and the other Americans I know, as Gaetan tried claiming that everyone in the States typically only pays for their own stuff …

The other thing which impinged on my consciousness today was monolithic companies reacting to sudden changes in their environment. It was brought on partly by seeing a Kodak brand-reinforcement type advert at the cinema last night and partly by seeing more column inches devoted to Sony’s recent dubious practices.

Kodak, a brand which in my mind is totally associated with photographic film and optics, was using an advert to associate its name with the digital creation, storage and restoration of images; the company would seem to be trying to adapt to the sudden obsolescence of its major product(s) by repositioning itself into the digital market.

Sony, on the other hand, needs to wake up and smell the coffee. They seem to be battling all-out to protect markets which I expect will have all but disappeared within a few years; CDs and DVDs are the media which currently bring us our entertainment. Cheap digital storage and transmission is making those media obsolete and, I strongly suspect, precipitating a revolution in the concept of intellectual property.

On the basis of just one advert, I wouldn’t really try to guess the future for the Kodak Group. However I have more experience with Sony (through several arms of its empire) and I’m afraid what I see there is a dinosaur that doesn’t know it’s extinct yet.

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