We were lined up in front of the computer store, waiting for the stroke of midnight. The others were there to get a new operating system. I wanted to see history.
The clerks opened the doors and unveiled a pyramid of Windows 95 boxes. The customers rushed to get theirs — and Microsoft sealed its victory over Apple.
With Windows 95, Microsoft had a less clunky graphical user interface that made it — if not quite the equal of Apple — then close enough for all but Macintosh fanatics.
In a way, it was anticlimactic. Sort of like when the opposing quarterback kneels on the last few plays to run out the clock in a win over the Cardinals. But it capped quite a comeback.
Apple had a vastly superior operating system for more than a decade. But Apple concentrated on selling computers instead of licensing its operating system so it would dominate the desktop market.
In the first big corporate battle of the information age, the side with better software lost because it focused on hardware. This is a lesson to keep in mind.
The information is where the big money is in this age.
When Google announced it was bringing a facility and eventually 600 jobs to the Valley, a couple of people asked me if we weren’t getting a little too excited about it. Even if the jobs are well-paying, is it that big a deal?
OK, maybe we are a little too excited. Google won’t replace the construction industry in terms of economic impact. But this is important, at least in a symbolic way.
In the knowledge economy, our Valley’s high-profile, hightech companies are on the hardware side. We make chips and missiles in Chandler. Satellites in Gilbert. We resell electronics in east Phoenix.
Google isn’t about hardware. It’s about software. It’s about knowledge, not the box it comes in.
It’s also about image. Google’s stock sells at more than 80 times earnings. The market average is around 25 times earnings. This is a company with cache.
That Google wants to set up shop in our Valley says something about us. Something good.
Now the next question is what Valley city will Google choose?
Well, if what I’ve heard about knowledge workers is true, about how they love urban spaces, then Google should be headed for downtown Phoenix.
But, you know, it’s kind of odd — all the bastions of the information age are headquartered in suburbs, such as Redmond, Wash., Cupertino, Calif., and Mountain View, Calif.
"That’s where they were when they started and they haven’t moved,’’ said Andy McCue of the Edward Blakely Center for Sustainable Suburban Development in Riverside, Calif.
That doesn’t mean cities don’t have some appeal. "There’s a kernel of truth, but it’s generally overstated," McCue said.
Where a person wants to live has do with where they are in their life. Generally those with kids like the suburbs, young singles prefer the city, McCue said. Workers who provide creative content differ from engineers, he said.
"Engineers tend to prefer clean, safe suburbs like Chandler,’’ he said.