Saturday, February 02, 2008

Potential Presidents as Gadgets

Watching the goings on over Presidential Primaries in the USA is engrossing. As is watching the press reviews of the MacBook Air.

Seems to me that if you were looking for products that maps to those Running for President, perhaps you'd get the following, drawing on the characterisations of the individuals that seem to appear most often in the press:

Barak Obama is the MacBook Air. Sexy, high gloss, something to aspire to, real innovation and change in the marketplace, but lacking several things that many consider should be available by default (not to say that politicians should have replaceable batteries of course). A half year ago, Barak would have been the iPhone; And 10 years ago he'd have been the first iMac - all gadgets that lacked features (remember the iMac was the first PC to have no floppy drive, and the consternation that caused). You could say, if he isn't right this time round, he will be in the future. But you don't know for sure about the MacBook Air despite its evident high desirability; those omissions nag at you and might nag at you in the future and there's enough doubt to maybe stop you getting one until the next version comes out.

Hillary Clinton is a high end Dell PC. You know the brand, you know it's had some problems in the past. You used to be able to say that Dell had two people running the company - Dell and Rollins, but you know that there's room for only one - the CEO is back in charge and he's come out fighting. The Dell machine is solid and reliable and Dell has learned its lessons - every deficiency has been analysed, inspected and improved on - as it has diversified and grown from humble beginnings to the awesome machine it is now. This machine, of course, runs Windows Vista - new and upgraded with features you haven't seen before, but based on the core of what has gone before.

John McCain strikes me as a Linux operating system running on Intel. It does what it says on the box. No frills - but lots of hidden complexity. The Intel side is the one that has been around a long time, almost as long as anyone can remember and has moved and changed as the world has changed around it. The linux side is where you have to move some way to get to where he's at and perhaps give up a few of your sacred beliefs (such as treasured devices and applications). If you have firm views about how things should be and are prepared to compromise in places, you could go Linux.

Mitt Romney is harder to game. He might be a Garmin SatNav device - one that navigates, acts as a phone speaker, does bluetooth and traffic upates. Essentially, if you change direction, it will figure out where you are and try and get you to where it thinks you should go. He could also be the new limited edition ThinkPad with the calfskin case; expensive and elite. Some might say that he's a server with virtualisation capability, running multiple operating systems across multiple cores, each tuned to a specific task or set of opinions to process, and each operating independently from the other, even when performing two contradictory tasks.

Rudy Guiliani is, plainly, the Palm Folio. Available for only a short time in a narrow geographical area and then withdrawn before anyone actually owned one.

One wonders what would happen if Dell and Apple combined to produce the DellBook Air. If Hillary and Obama ran together?

I guess I could have had just as much fun comparing the candidates to wines - so many good ones to choose from: elegant Burgundy full of the effects of terroir, fine Bordeaux steeped in centuries of tradition, exotic vintage champagne prepared in ways only the Champenois know, Australian Shiraz full of peppers and spice, New Zealand Sauvignon with its in your face fruit and acidity.

Likewise, I could have compared them with companies. Who would be Microsoft or Yahoo (oh, wait Microo!)? Who would be Google? Or Petfoodonline.com? Or General Motors? Or GE?

When so much money is being consumed by each candidate as they strive to present their views on a huge variety of policies, issues and proposals, campaigning across every state and appearing on national television at every opportunity both in debates and in paid-for advertisements, I imagine many voters are boiling each candidate down to a few key phrases describing why they like or don't like them. Gadgets is as good a substitute as any.

One of the things I find odd, when comparing US to UK elections is that there's so much about the President as an individual and nothing about the party - the other people who will be governing. An incoming President, between the election and the inauguration and handover, has to hire many hundreds of people to fulfil roles throughout the administration. In the UK, an incoming Prime Minister knows who his/her ministers are (although they reserve the right to change them or take on new ones through the House of Lords) but has, immediately, a fully staffed civil service ready to take on the new mission - with the heads of the civil service departments there to buffer the level of change so that their teams can absorb it. It's an interesting difference. You wouldn't hire anyone else for any job that you had in your own business based on how much either of their own or of other peoples' money they had spent to get in front of you for interview nor would you hire them without real evidence that they had done a very similar job beforehand. But that's politics.

These are entirely personal opinions of course. Perhaps it's a good job I'm not able to vote in these elections.

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