Missing columns

For the last two Sundays some unexplained glitch has prevented the publication of my column on the Web edition of the Observer. While an explanation is being sought (and the Editor looks for The Guilty Man) I’ve decided to go in for a spot of self-publication.

The column for May 28 is here. It’s about corporate hubris and the risks thereof. Sample:

Nothing succeeds like success, especially in the wishful thinking of technology companies and their Wall Street shareholders. The moment a company shows signs of dominating a particular market, then its executives — and their stockholders — begin to dream about dominating other markets in which they had hitherto no expertise. They are encouraged in this delusion by the mainstream media, which are irresistibly fascinated by the hubris implicit in corporate megalomania.

The best-known case study is, of course Microsoft…

But the column is actually as much about Google as about the Gates empire.

The column for today (4 June) is here. Sample:

If, like me, you while away the time while waiting for a Tube train by browsing the display ads on the wall opposite the platform, you will have been struck by some recent Microsoft advertisements. They show office workers wearing dinosaur-head masks engaging in laboured banter, in which one worker berates the other for his or her obsolete work practices.

My first reaction was to conclude that Microsoft had picked a turkey of an advertising agency, because the ads and the dialogue are so entirely devoid of the creativity that large advertising budgets are supposed to command. But this rapidly gave way to puzzlement. You see, it’s clear that the people in the ads are users of Microsoft software: they have to be because most office workers are. So why is Microsoft insulting its users by portraying them as dinosaurs? After all, treating your customers as idiots is not generally a sustainable business strategy — though the record and movie industries haven’t quite twigged that yet. But Microsoft isn’t a brain-dead organisation like Sony BMG or Warner Brothers. Au contraire. So what’s going on with these daft ads?