Seattle Pics 1st Avenue

August 14th, 2006 by Hugh

A few snaps I took while wandering up 1st Avenue last Thursday evening.

In Defence of Two Seattle Firms

August 11th, 2006 by Hugh

seattle 013Seattle has more than a smattering of world famous businesses: Boeing, Amazon, Starbucks and Microsoft. Are the citizens of Seattle justly proud of their global titans? Not if the employees of Exbiblio are anything to go by. In particular, Microsoft and Starbucks don’t have a great name around the office. In contrarian spirit, here’s a defence from a visiting Londoner of these two Seattle home-growns.

No self respecting Exbiblio staffer would be seen dead with a PC type laptop in his/her hands. Apple is the constantly worshipped at the Exbiblio shrine. By implication, and sometimes more explicitly, Microsoft is given the thumbs down. But I would argue that the raw, competitive capitalist drive of Microsoft has done more good for the world than almost any other company over the last 20 years. The combination of Windows and a PC box has has brought cheap computing to the world. Factories in Taiwan and elsewhere in Asia turn out millions and millions of low cost PCs that are affordable for ordinary people, ordinary schools, ordinary hospitals. Those Asian PC assembly businesses would never have taken off without an operating system that they could use as just another component. Microsoft has brought us close to the vision of a PC on every desk and has truly changed the world for the better.

By contrast, what has Apple done for the world? It’s produced admittedly sleek and stylish computers with nice interfaces that look really cool – but at a price. In truth, Macs are fashion statements for rich bohemians. Apple is greedy. It wants the margin from the box and the software. It charges a premium for looks. Apple never has had and never will have the democratizing effect of Microsoft.

I admit that this Seattle business does not make the best coffee ever tasted, but it has spread the coffee culture around the globe. Before the arrival of Starbucks in London, the “greasy spoon” culture reigned supreme. You were offered of a strong cup of tea (the color of coffee) and egg and chips. Starbucks has spawned many imitators and those who have sought to improve on its formula. But the original Starbucks still has one of the best reputations as an employer and it shows. Here in Seattle you do at least get served in Starbucks. At a more trendy coffee shop I waited almost 20 minutes for just a cup of coffee. I couldn’t understand how they get any repeat custom, but passing by the next day I saw they that drew a crowd of customers patiently waiting to be served. I happily walked past to my friendly service, comfy-armchair, and mediocre cup of coffee at Starbucks.

All in all, I think Seattle should be proud of its contribution to the world via these companies. You don’t have to agree with me – that’s what the comment box is for…