Monday, September 17, 2012

Flattery or Just a Lack of Original Ideas?

Most of you know that I am an Apple fan.  I certainly won't deny the fact.  However, it was only a few years ago that I would have derided Apple products as being inferior to Microsoft.  Yes, I was a PC.  I mention this so that my next few paragraphs don't sound like a tirade against Microsoft from an avid Apple fan.

I had to run up to the local mall today over lunch to pick up a few items.  The Christiana Mall has been the home of an Apple store for several years.  Recently, a sign went up in the mall saying that a Microsoft store would be coming soon.  The Microsoft store is a new direction for Microsoft which has only just started a year or so ago.  The idea behind the Microsoft store is to allow potential PC purchasers to come in and buy PC from some of Microsoft's largest hardware vendors.  You can also buy xBox gear, Microsoft software, and other Microsoft related products.

So, back to my trip to the mall.  I passed the soon-to-be opened Microsoft store today and I was quite surprised by the fact that it looks an awful lot like the Apple store.  Same style glass-fronted windows, similar furnishings, etc.  When I got home, I decided to look the Microsoft stores online.  The pictures that I found of other Microsoft stores showed people in colored shirts with name tags hanging around their necks, glass fronts to the stores, and a minimalistic interior with flat tables displaying products.  Sound familiar?

I felt like I was looking into an alternative Apple store where Apple suddenly started selling Microsoft stuff.  The Microsoft stores look very similar to the Apple stores.  You could easily swap staff, products, and signage between the Apple store and the Microsoft store without anyone noticing a difference.  Other than a small minor details, the Microsoft store could be a twin of the Apple store.

Microsoft is one of the largest software companies in the world.  I wonder why their marketing people couldn't come up with an original idea for their stores.  I would have thought that Microsoft would have wanted to create their own image and brand so that they could stand apart from Apple.  But, instead, it seems like they simply copied the Apple store.  What purpose could this serve?  I am fairly certain that Apple fans won't be tricked into thinking that they are walking into an Apple store.

They say that "imitation is the highest form of flattery".  Should Apple be flattered by Microsoft's attempt to imitate them, even down to the actual store design?  Or, was Microsoft simply out of original ideas?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Where Were You?


When I awoke this morning, I had really not considered what day it was.  It wasn't until I was driving into the office that I heard it mentioned on NPR that this was September 11th.  Just like the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the JFK assassination, September 11th has now become a fixed point in time that will always raise the question, "Where were you on…?"

I was living in Baltimore at the time, working down near the Inner Harbor.  I remember having been in the office for about hour when one of my co-workers announced over the sea of cubicles that a plane had just crashed into the World Trade Center.  CNN's website was providing instantaneous updates as the events unfolded.  But, it wasn't long before it was overloaded by millions of people across the global.

The building in which I work also housed the offices of a local magazine.  They had a conference room with a television, which is where myself and most of my co-workers ended up spending most of the morning, watching as the second plane slammed into the second tower, and as both towers eventually collapsed.  

The day seemed so surreal to me at the time, and even now, it seems like something out of my dreams, or perhaps nightmares is more appropriate.  The raw emotions, that went from despair over the accident to anger as the truth unveiled itself, are still seared into my mind.  And, i can still envision the moment that the first tower began to collapse.  The horrors of the death and destruction were only overshadowed by the selfless sacrifice that was seen throughout that day.  Watching as heroes from the NYPD and NYFD charge headlong into the building to assist those trying to get out, then losing their own lives in the process was not only heart wrenching, but also heartwarming.  The way these men and women cast aside their own safety to help others was what truly defined americans on 9/11.

Do you remember where you were on 9/11?  How did it impact you?  For me, I've began to take more interest in current events.  Before 9/11, I was happy to remain oblivious to what was happening in the world around me.  Now, I stay much more in tune with the news and current events.  I'm no Wolf Blitzer, but at least I am lingering on the fringes these days.

Two months later, I had to fly to Amsterdam for a business trip.  That was when I saw how 9/11 changed things in the world around me.  The presence of heavily-armed military personnel in the airports was the first sign.  Over the years, we have seen many changes in the way that we travel.  The heightening of security at airports, the passing of the Patriot Act, and the Afghanistan and Iraqi wars all show the impact of what 9/11 did to, not only our country, but the whole world.  I wonder if the terrorists had any idea how widespread the impact would be.  Their actions didn't just impact the United States, but every other continent, country, and person in this world.

As we remember those who lost their lives on that day, take a moment to think about how it has changed you.