What is it with these guys? Everything was fine and the Times decided to improve its online reading experience. But the gesture backfired and turned my tablet into slate. For a few minor improvements, the UI is now completely FUBAR.
Let’s back up. I use an iPad to read the paper and I like it. There are no trees to kill, I can (could) size an article to be readable in all kinds of conditions and I can move between articles, email, and other apps and, best of all, I can write comments on stories that interest me without leaving the paper and going to another app.
At least it used to be that way. About a week ago much of the UI went dead. I should hasten to say that my iPad works fine on any other website so this is not a hardware problem. Instead it is a software and testing problem and it highlights the challenges that a company faces today when it tries to take a function like IT in-house.
Now you might say that a paper like the Times has a long history of doing its own IT and like many other large companies, it has to keep that skillset in-house because it is part of the secret sauce. I get it, really. But I have to disagree.
If you combine this latest UI snafu with the fact that the Chinese repeatedly hack into its systems (ironically the Times reports on this too) and that the company decided to build its own subscription billing rather than make nice with one of the many professional software companies out there that would have been glad to capture the Times as a client, then a different picture emerges.
In the last century we were vertically integrated, in-house, and manufacturing centric but not any more. Sure papers still “make things” they push out one or more editions a day and fill delivery trucks and all that. But even that business is changing. The mere fact that papers are also delivering content via the Internet and charging for it through subscriptions tells me they are straddling centuries and business models.
But it would help all concerned if companies like the Times figured out where they really are in the time continuum and what’s important to customer satisfaction. I will give a hint: make sure the iOS product works.
Google grew a pair today and told China to quit messing around in its business or Google would cease operations in the People’s Republic. The incident that provoked the tension involved a massive hack last week from computers operating in China. A total of 34 companies including Google were hit and most of the larceny involved source code. But in Google’s case, the larceny was of the company’s soul and reputation for trustworthiness.
Chinese hackers had attempted to discover the gmail addresses of dissidents inside China. It is not clear from the report in the New York Times that the hack was successful but this was not the first time something like this happened either.
According to the Times article:
“In its public statement Google pointed to a United States government report prepared by the United States-China Economic and Security Review Commission in October and an investigation by Canadian researchers that revealed a vast electronic spying operation last March.
“The Canadian researchers discovered that digital documents had been stolen via the Internet from hundreds of government and private organizations around the world from computer systems based in China.
The five-year relationship between Google and China has been a rocky one from day one when Chinese officials demanded that some Google searches like “Tiananmen Square massacre” turn up no information. And as recently as June Chinese authorities blocked Google temporarily over another issue.
The existence of cyber warfare or cyber espionage has been known for some time and the United States does its share. Some people say Google’s actions are overblown and that the company cannot afford to walk away from a market that has 300 million search users (and growing) and generates $300 million per year for Google, but I strongly disagree.
The logic of not wanting to walk away from this lucrative emerging market has the same merit as boiling a frog and if you look at the relationship to date, the United States is having its lunch money taken by the Chinese. In the name of future profits we are sending jobs overseas and we are not receiving anything as valuable in kind.
According to The American Prospect magazine, since China joined the WTO (World Trade Organization) the main referee of globalization, 42,400 factories have left the United States for China. That’s not jobs, that’s factories. Ross Perot was right about that giant sucking sound, it’s jobs baby jobs.
So why do we continue to kowtow (a nice Chinese word) to an authoritarian regime that treats us this way? This isn’t globalization as it was envisioned, it’s mercantilism and it’s doing us no good to pretend otherwise. This nonsense has to stop.
Today Google grew a pair, who’s next?