Silicon Insider: Disappearing Institutions

So, ask yourself: Will you ever fully trust the mainstream media again? Will you ever again depend upon the traditional media as your sole source for any news story? Your answer will tell you a whole lot about the fate of Fourth Estate in 21st century America. We may well mark August 2004 as the date when this country's dominant media institutions abrogated their responsibility to conduct objective reporting, turned their back on the First Amendment and forever lost their hard-won place at the center of American life. And in the process they may have turned journalism over to another medium, the Internet, that has no constraints, that is driven as much by gossip as facts, and that rewards the outrageous and loud. Thanks.

The HP Way

Hewlett-Packard — It was the greatest company on earth, certainly the greatest large company. Enlightened, progressive and innovative, Hewlett-Packard was the HP Way, the most admired and imitated business philosophy in history. Even now, when you see the HP logo on a PC or a printer, you find yourself harkening back to the legendary HP instruments and calculators.

But HP isn't HP anymore. The new management of the firm, deciding that the old philosophy — the one that trusted the employees of the company to come up with the right ideas — was old and in the way, and killed the HP Way. It was, in fact, the most revolutionary business model ever attempted, which may be the real reason it was suppressed.

In its place, HP's management promised to restore the company to glory by turning it into a low-cost, mass-producer of near-commodity products. The Samsung of Silicon Valley.

You know what happened. The company's stock is down 20 percent this year. Its products are falling behind in quality surveys and being outpriced by foreign competitors. And these days, for Hewlett-Packard, the company of "Invent," the idea of an innovative new product is an Apple iPod with the HP logo slapped on it.

The Demise of Rock

Rock/Pop — The top touring acts like Aerosmith are geriatric, the cutting edge bands like Radiohead are drifting into ever-more obscure music, the most popular performers are forced into shocking behavior to camouflage music devoid of new ideas and the hottest band on Earth, Coldplay, makes (as the joke goes) rock music for people who don't like rock music. Doesn't anybody give a damn about popular music anymore?

These days pop music looks like soft core porn and sounds like Mantovani; while rock music (what little there is) is mostly recycled riffs from a decade ago. Three generations of kids hit the streets moving to an infectious beat and shouting the lines to their favorite songs. Who does that nowadays?

People have declared the death of rock now for 30 years. But this time it's different. Jazz, as it lost its cultural importance, drifted into obscurity, nostalgia and Muzak — the same thing that is happening to rock and pop today. Add to that the rise of music downloads, with their ability to let young people explore all sorts of diverse and historic avenues of recorded sound without the cost of buying complete albums — not to mention the ability to store 10,000 already recorded songs — and what incentive is left to listen to endless crappy new music in search of a single hidden gem? Rock and pop, the soundtrack of most of our lives, is heading for niche status, overrun by C&W, rap and, no doubt, something refreshingly new.

Whither Windows?

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