Monster Cables Gets Soundly Beaten

When we put our home theatre in I became obsessed with cables for the simple reason that you can easily spend as much on cables as all your equipment. Through one of the audio forums I found Blue Jeans Cable and had high quality speaker, interconnect, and various other cables made to length for what I thought was a pretty reasonable price.

Monster Cables sent Blue Jeans Cable a cease-and-desist letter claiming patent infringement for a specific product line. Turns out that the president of Blue Jeans is a former lawyer with considerable experience and his letter to Monster simply embarrasses the company. It’s lengthy but well worth the read and when you are finished ask yourself how you feel about the brand image of Monster.

I say this because my observation has been that Monster Cable typically operates in a hit-and-run fashion. Your client threatens litigation, expecting the victim to panic and plead for mercy; and what follows is a quickie negotiation session that ends with payment and a licensing agreement. Your client then uses this collection of licensing agreements to convince others under similar threat to accede to its demands. Let me be clear about this: there are only two ways for you to get anything out of me. You will either need to (1) convince me that I have infringed, or (2) obtain a final judgment to that effect from a court of competent jurisdiction. It may be that my inability to see the pragmatic value of settling frivolous claims is a deep character flaw, and I am sure a few of the insurance carriers for whom I have done work have seen it that way; but it is how I have done business for the last quarter-century and you are not going to change my mind. If you sue me, the case will go to judgment, and I will hold the court’s attention upon the merits of your claims–or, to speak more precisely, the absence of merit from your claims–from start to finish. Not only am I unintimidated by litigation; I sometimes rather miss it.

I will also point out to you that if you do choose to undertake litigation, your “upside” is tremendously limited. If you somehow managed, despite the formidable obstacles in your way, to obtain a finding of infringement, and if you were successful at recovering a large licensing fee–say, ten cents per connector–as the measure of damages, your recovery to date would not reach four figures. On the downside, I will advance defenses which, if successful, will substantially undermine your future efforts to use these patents and marks to threaten others with these types of actions; as you are of course aware, it is easier today for your competitors to use collateral estoppel offensively than it ever has been before. Also, there is little doubt that making baseless claims of trade dress infringement and design patent infringement is an improper business tactic, which can give rise to unfair competition claims, and for a company of Monster’s size, potential antitrust violations with treble damages and attorneys’ fees.

[From Blue Jeans Cable Strikes Back - Response to Monster Cable — Audioholics Home Theater Reviews and News]

I have many friends who are lawyers and I mean this as no disrespect to the legal profession but companies should seriously clip the wings of their corporate lawyers. They should put them in a glass case with a sign “break in case of actual legal need” because left unfettered the corporate legal goons end up hurting their companies as frequently as helping.

I saw this at SAP with a frightening degree of frequency. The corporate lawyers would impose an unhealthy degree of control over strategy… I could go on but I think you know what I mean.

Fractured Comments

Back in Jan I wrote about the need for a comment protocol in the blogosphere. This is about much more than just tracking comments, it’s about comment discovery as well. Today, with FriendFeed and other services adding commenting in the meta layer, well the need for comment portability is even more critical.

The bell has been rung, anyone who thinks they can contain comments to their blog alone is delusional. Since the advent of XML we have been on a steady march to content and data integration as structured data in the form of unstructured text with a self-contained definition. While almost everyone takes this as just normal web stuff, you would have to go back to the 1990′s to see that what we take for granted today is actually quite dramatic when compared to the way things were.

Maybe this is why FriendFeed is bigger than I have been giving it credit for, I’ve just been missing this part of the picture.

As a blogger, I am a content creator. I don’t want my content stolen, or reposted without attribution or under somebody else’s name. But I am also a huge advocate of RSS and continuing to adapt where the conversation is being held. Just as my blog’s RSS views have undoubtedly eclipsed my blog page views, I would not be surprised to see that more comments on my posts might eventually live outside of my blog. It would behoove me and other bloggers to be aware of the other places the conversation will be taking place, and to engage there, in my opinion, rather than railing against the continued evolution of how we’re consuming content and engaging online.

[From louisgray.com: Should Fractured Feed Reader Comments Raise Blog Owners' Ire?: Silicon Valley Blog]

Business Physics

Microsoft’s Windows juggernaut is collapsing as it tries to support 20 years of applications and becomes more complicated by the minute. Meanwhile, Windows has outgrown hardware and customers are pondering skipping Vista to wait for Windows 7. If Windows is going to remain relevant it will need radical changes.

[From Gartner: Windows collapsing under its own weight; Radical change needed | Between the Lines | ZDNet.com]

I’ve been watching the the Microsoft Vista saga unfold with much curiosity, not because I wish them to fail or am enjoying their quagmire status at the moment, but because this is a classic innovators dilemma moment.

Windows has been fantastically successful for Microsoft to date but I don’t think anyone would seriously argue that Vista has met with external or internal expectations, was much later to market than Microsoft would have liked, and in many ways is looking like a dinosaur just before the meteor breaks into the atmosphere.

Ironically, the coolest stuff that Microsoft was planning, like WinFS, are all the things that got dropped as Vista lurched forward to a release data. A lot of people, me included, are looking at Vista and questioning why I need or want it when it requires more hardware, has an irritating security model, and doesn’t have the hardware support that XP has. In other words, if it’s just incrementally better than XP why should I care?

Apparently a lot of people are asking Microsoft to keep XP on store shelves. In a new version of old coke vs. new coke, there is a petition circulating asking Microsoft to Save XP. Currently there are 111,000 signatures on the petition.

While it’s probably easy to point to their screwed up pricing strategy and a less than compelling feature set and steep hardware requirements as primary obstacles, it is far more likely that they need to go back to the drawing board altogether and break apart the server and desktop versions, quit insisting on every DOS program going back to 1984 being compatible, and, please, focus some development resources on building out applications that are included with the OS that are actually useful.

Lastly, Microsoft is going to be toast if they continue on the path of 5 year development cycles. If an automobile manufacturer can go from a concept drawing to design to engineering to manufacturing to dealers in 18 months, why can’t a software publisher? Microsoft has created an impossible position for themselves through their strategy of bringing everything forward with them when business physics would suggest that speed and mass are incompatible attributes without a tremendous amount of horsepower, something that Microsoft, like all companies, has a finite amount of.