Amazon throws perceived threats under the bus

In an incredibly head-scratching move, Amazon has announced that streaming video gadgets that fail to support the full implementation of Amazon Prime will be forbidden for sale at Amazon, even by their partners. This includes Apple TV and Google Chromecast—both of which are more popular than Amazon Fire TV.

amazon-logo-black-sAmazon claims that the reason for restricting the sales of streaming devices that don’t fully support their own service will mitigate customer confusion.


No one buying these devices is confused. If this were really about buyer confusion—and not blatant trade suppression—they would simply publish a big, fat comparison checklist on the home page.

Just how dumb does Bezos think his customers are? This is about as smart as Google suppressing any search results that mentions Bing. After all, we don’t want to foster a confused user, right?! But Google recognizes that taking the high ground fosters more trust than blocking your competitors at the door.

What’s next, Jeff? Why don’t you remove apps that stream security footage from private companies, but are not compatible with an upcoming Amazon project? How about de-listing all Android phones and tablets? After all, they might promote confusion with Amazon’s Kindle and Fire products.

amazon bans streaming devicesWhy not suppress all Apple and Microsoft products? After all, Siri and Cortana still have a market edge over Alexa—the persona and research wit of Amazon’s voice controlled speaker.

I suspect that there will be law suits in response to the Amazon decision to de-list hardware vendors who are not licensees and partners. But despite Amazon’s broad and heretofore inclusive offerings, I also suspect that courts will not force them to offer competing products. After all, these products have many outlets. Moreover, Amazon could rightfully point out that Google and Apple don’t sell the Fire TV in their own web stores.

But here’s the thing, Amazon: Selling Chromecast and Apple TV do not constitute promoting competition. Amazon is in many businesses, and one of these businesses is online retailing. In this area, you have deftly scrambled to the top of the heap. You didn’t get there by suppressing competition—you got there through brains, guts and striking innovation.

Amazon Fire TV

Amazon Fire TV: We’re not confused. Please compete on merits and marketing.

Despite the legality of Amazon’s move, it is an incredibly shortsighted blunder. After all, Amazon is not running a storefront for branded merchandise and a few compatible accessories. They are shopping cart to the Earth. The king of retailers. They compete in a rarefied atmospheric aura with only two pretenders to the throne: Aliexpress and Ebay. In fact, they trump everyone else together. They are that significant.

Wise up, friend. Wise up Jeff! It’s healthy to look over your shoulder, but debasing the core mission of selling every legal product makes no sense at all. Suddenly, my go-to place is a competitive censor. For such a bright guy, you have made an incredible blunder. Time to retrench. Time to show a little respect to your customers and your biggest supporters.

…Including me.

Stephen Hawking speaks with virtually no muscular movement

Next January Stephen Hawkings will be 74 years old. He has lived much longer than most individuals with his debilitating condition. In addition to being an unquestionably gifted cosmologist, he has invited controversy by supporting the pro-Palestinian, Israel-BDS boycott and warning about the dangers of alien invaders who tap into our interstellar greetings

Antisemitism, notwithstanding, this man is a mental giant. He is Leonardo. He is Einstein. Like them, his discoveries and theories will echo for generations beyond his life on earth. He is that genius.

Forty years ago, when Stephen Hawking still had mobility, he delivered a paper on a mystery regarding information-loss for entities that cross the event boundary of a black hole.

In the mid 1970s, Astronomers were just discovering black holes and tossing about various theories about the event horizon and its effect on the surrounding space-time. Many individuals still considered black holes to be theoretical. Hawking’s analysis of the information paradox seemed extremely esoteric. Yet, last month (Aug 2015) , at Sweeden’s KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Hawkings presented a possible solution to the paradox that he sparked.

I can barely understand the issue and cannot articulately rephrase the problem. But my interest in the black hole event horizon takes a back seat to my interest in the amazing tool created to compensate for the famous cosmologist’s handicap. Watch closely as Stephen Hawking offers a new theory that provides a possible explanation for the paradox.

Near the end of the video (beginning at 7:22), the camera begins a steady zoom up to Hawking’s face. Unlike a year ago, when he could still smile at a joke or move his eyes, he now appears completely motionless. Throughout his speech, there is no sense of animation—not even a twitch—with or without purpose. His eyebrow doesn’t move, his fingers are not restless, he doesn’t blink anymore.

Hawking-smile-sSo how, then, does he form sentences with scarcely more delay than someone who is not paralyzed? That magic is enabled by a tiny camera that monitors a slowly deteriorating cheek muscle. It is Hawking’s last connection to the outside world. What began as index cards with words and then an Apple II computer, has evolved into a sophisticated upgrade process involving cutting edge analysis of the professor’s slightest tick combined with sophisticated computing algorithms. The camera and software that interprets this microscopic Morse code is tied to a process that optimizes options for successive words and phrases. Drawing on a powerful processor and connected to the Web, gear is constantly upgraded by a specialized Intel design team. They are engaged in a race to offer Hawkings the potential for communication up until he has no capacity for interaction at all.

In a recent documentary by Hawkings himself,* he laments the likely day when he will no longer have any capacity for output at all. No ability to discuss physics and cosmology; no way to say “I need help” or “I love you”; no way to show any sign of cognition. At that time, he reflects, the outside world will no longer be certain that there is anything going on behind his blank stare. They will never really know when or if he wants them to pull the plug. Even more mind boggling, humanity will never know what secrets his brilliant mind has unlocked to mysteries of the cosmos.

* Referring to his 2013 autobiographical film and not the 2014 feature film about his life, Theory of Everything.

What if US had raised interest rates?

At the end of 2015, the US national debt will be 18.6 trillion dollars. With such a big number, it’s tempting to put it in perspective by comparing it with things more easily envisioned. Alas, I can not think of anything that puts such an oppressive and unfair burden into 98e2c31e5c194d21be9fd3922dc45fde9207f454perspective, except to this:

US debt represents a personal obligation of $60,000 for each American citizen. And it is rising quickly. Most of our GDP is used simply to pay down interest on that debt. Few pundits see a way out of this hole.

In my opinion, that hole was facilitated in August bretton_woods-a1971, when the US modified the Bretton Woods Agreement and unilaterally terminated convertibility of the US dollar to gold. By forcibly swapping every dollar in every pocket and bank account with the promise of transient legislators, individual wealth was suddenly based on fiat instead of something tangible or intrinsic.

Feds Meet: No interest rate hike

The benchmark interest rate set by the US Federal Reserve Board is currently between 0 and 0.25%. It has been at or near zero since 2006.

By now, most Wild Ducks know that 20 hours ago, the US Federal Reserve board decided to not hike the benchmark interest rate. The Fed did, however, signal that they still intend to raise interest rates at a future meeting—perhaps in October or December.

The announcement came just after US equity markets closed. But, in what has become a most odd news coverage of a non-event, the immediate reaction was to lift the Asian stock markets, which were still open during the announcement.

I am a frequent contributor to Quora. I field many questions on economics, politics, law, and even physics. You might be inclined to check out my credentials as pundit of macro-economics. Don’t bother…There are none! I am an armchair economist (this is the same as saying: “I am not an economist”). But I certainly follow these things closely, and have an opinion.

Today, I was asked this:
What would happen if the fed had raised interest rates?

The question asked specifically about the effect on other interest rates, but a more interesting exercise might be to speculate on the state of the economy. Here then, is a Wild Duck response…

If we could freeze all other conditions and avoid the effects of public confidence, likely change in debt, debt rating, etc… If  we ignore these things, then the direct result of raising the interest rate for a given national currency is to attract outside money. That is, we would see an increase in foreign conversion into dollars and a movement of US assets from stocks and bonds into currency or currency equivalents. This is a simple result of the higher payout that one would expect after a raise in interest rates.

In theory, the sift of international assets and investment into dollars does four things:

  • It strengthens the value of the dollar, thereby increasing the take-home potential of US workers and the number of things US residence buy from overseas (because a slightly higher fraction of organizations seek dollars)
  • It increases income for anyone tied to published interest rates, such as many senior citizens.
  • It increases interest payments from anyone tied to published interest rates. For anyone deep in debt on instruments such as credit cards or home equity, this can have a devastating impact—causing minimum payments to rise by many times the interest rate hike.
  • It increases US national debt, because so much of the economy is built on forward loans in the form of Treasury notes. With an interest rate increase, the US must pay more on both new debt and the financing of massive outstanding debts.

This is all theoretical, of course. In practice, one of the first effects is for individuals and institutions to wonder: How can the US possibly pay out on debt at an increased rate?”.  [possible answer]*

One very obvious effect is that many individuals will further lose confidence in the American economy or the will of Americans to honor the national debt. Because of this, the effect of raising the interest rate (for the first time in 9 years) is not easy to predict. Despite massive uptake on US debt, the Chinese and energy producing nations have limits to what they can believe. A subtle switch in their investment activity (or the determination to move away from a dollar-based reserve) will have massive repercussions, especially for the US.

* Some pundits argue that US debt and payments can continue to grow, because the amgrowth and confidence are protected in these ways:

  • a recovering economy
  • increased activity from the new investors
  • need for producer nations to seize on a massive consumer market
  • need for producer nations to invest their gains

But, a growing number of economists, investors, analysts, credit bureaus, and citizens don’t buy this argument! They recognize a pyramid scheme. At best, it kicks-the-can down the road and foists untenable debt on future generations. They would prefer that the US reign in spending and pay down debt.

In this regard, hosting the world’s reserve currency has helped hook the US on debt, and it has ballooned out of control. Transitioning to a firmly capped currency that is not controlled by legislation or a reserve board would help the country avoid a confidence crisis and a debt that pushes bond buyers to look elsewhere. It is high time for our leaders to do what they must do.

In my take, the real question is not “What if the Fed has raised interest rates?” The real question is:

Does the U.S. have the courage to link its currency to something durable
— and beyond control of transient political winds and a debt pyramid?”

Sure, we must still honor the excess of the past 40 years. But with gold, or Bitcoin, at least we will have solid underpinnings and incentives to spend within our means.

Ellery Davies is a member the New Money Systems Board
at He is Co-chair of Cryptocurrency Standards
Association and  editor at A Wild Duck.

What is a Blockchain?

This short post is not about Bitcoin. It’s about a new method of organizing and arbitrating communications that is at the heart of Bitcoin.

We hear a lot about the blockchain. We also hear a lot of misconceptions about its purpose and benefits. Some have said that it represents a threat to banks or to governments. Nonsense! It is time for a simple, non-political, and non-economic definition…

What is a Blockchain?

A blockchain is a distributed approach to bookkeeping. Because it opens and distributes the ledger among all participants, it offers an empowering, efficient and trusted way for disparate parties to reach consensus. It is “empowering”, because conclusions built on a blockchain can be constructed in a way that is inherently fair, transparent and resistant to manipulation.

Blockchain-backed systems have the potential to take uncertainty out of accounting, voting, legislation, research and even medicine. The blockchain not only solves a fundamental transaction challenge, it addresses a communications consensus and arbitration problem that has bedeviled thinkers since the ancient Egyptians.

—Ellery Davies, CRYPSA Co-chair
Cryptocurrency Standards Association

Will Bitcoin End the Reign of Government?

When my daughter was just starting primary school, she would look inside a book for the pictures before reading the text. She was old enough to read without pictures, but she wanted to get a quick synopsis before diving in. “Look, Dad! a bunny is carrying a giant clock into a rabbit hole.”

White Rabbt-01This is my first article without pictures. At least none of Bitcoin, because the copper coin metaphors are tired and inaccurate. At the user level, owning bitcoin is simply your stake in a widely distributed ledger. Ownership exists only as strings of secret code and public code. There is no physical coin.

Since the only pictures in this post show a white rabbit with a big clock, let me give you the quick synopsis: The answer is “No”. Bitcoin will not end government, nor its ability to tax, spend—or even enforce compliance.

But there is an irony: Most lawmakers and regulators have not yet figured this out. They perceive a great threat to their national interests. That’s why Andreas M. Antonopoulos runs around the world. He briefs prime ministers, cabinets and legislators with the noble purpose of demystifying and de-boogieing Bitcoin.

Does Bitcoin Help Tax Cheats?

As the original Wild Duck, I tend to be perceived as a Libertarian. (It’s a label of which I am not all together comfortable—but I like that it puts places my ethos far from the ‘Tea Party’). While I hope that my government doesn’t believe fear is a necessary motivator, I understand the need for taxpayer reporting, measurement, and compliance initiatives. After all, it’s human nature to dislike paying taxes. Many individuals dodge taxes, if the perceived risk of being caught is low. Sociologists also point out that people are willing to cheat a system, if they perceive it to be sufficiently big or impersonal—i.e that their individual contribution is meaningless.

[ASIDE]: For this reason, Akamai Technologies ends their free-soda-&-snack policy whenever an office grows beyond 30 people (I learned this during a job interview a few years ago). People who would normally respect the policy begin pocketing free sodas for their home or friends, if (a) they no longer know everyone, or (b) they perceive the extra burden is just a drop in the corporate bucket, and not a burden on their office peers.

I suspect that most early proponents of Bitcoin are partially motivated by a desire for low taxes and privacy. While I don’t feel that these individuals are bad for the cause (after all, I am one), I feel that it is unfortunate that they appear to be the overwhelming majority of users & supporters. Let’s dismiss, for the moment, the fraction of voices that want to completely end government and taxation…If you believe in any taxes at all, then government needs compliancy mechanisms, including methods that measure, verify and ultimately arbitrate or prosecute offenders. (Don’t blame me…I’m not even the messenger here. Just an observer).

My point is that in their effort to control a country’s monetary supply (and the interbank loan rate, etc) and in their effort to ensure taxpayer compliance, a great many governments view Bitcoin as a threat. In the past, I felt that my job was to evangelize the public on the benefits of cryptocurrency, and to a great extent, that’s what CRYPSA is all about. But in recent months, I have become confident that Bitcoin will become ubiquitous. It doesn’t need me to be an evangelist. The freight train is now rolling downhill. But…

Andreas Antonopoulos-01s
But as an engineer, author, speaker and occasional consultant, I have found a new calling. Like Andreas Antonopoulos (my idol), I have found a calling in de-boogieing Bitcoin to lawmakers and regulators. I demonstrate that (a) cryptocurrency represents far more of an opportunity than a threat to a national interests, and (b) the future is coming at ya’.
So, either: Stand pat; Get out of the way; or Hop on!

I can give an audience filled with old-school conservatives compelling reasons to “hop on”. Ultimately, blockchain technology coupled with true, permissionless, p2p transactions will shake up established mechanisms and enforcement protocols. They will force new ways of thinking. But cryptocurrency will not end the reign of government—nor even end the ability to tax, enforce and spend. It will simply change the way they do these things. It will also change the way we conduct polls, vote, arbitrate disputes, perform scientific research and much more.

Bitcoin and the blockchain are not just technologies. They transform the way in which many tasks are performed. But it’s not just about efficiency. These technologies offer mechanisms to level the playing field. TWhite Rabbt-02hey bring fairness and representation to processes that were opaque and perhaps even relied on the excuse of opaqueness.

Ultimately, Bitcoin may render certain government departments redundant. Nations will begin to question their need to directly control monetary policy. The impact at the department level is no reason to fear Bitcoin. Overall, it represents great opportunity and not a threat. In my opinion, the changes will benefit everyone.

Bitcoin is not an us-against-them instrument. It is win-win. Of course, perception counts. Misunderstanding potential and confusing it for a threat is a fundamental problem. Wild Duck and CRYPSA share a passion to help make it a very short-term problem.

What gives Bitcoin Value?

For most of us, figuring out the value of something that we want, comes from research. If you want a new set of wine glasses, you check the price online. Perhaps you consult a catalog. If the set of 8 stemware goblets that you like are a current model from a major company, there are probably many places to buy them. If there are multiple Ebay sellers and many recently completed sales, then you can establish the value with precision.

I’ve written a lot of Bitcoin articles at A Wild Duck. So, let’s dig a bit deeper this time. Let’s talk about from where value really comes.

Supply and Demand

In the end, an item’s value is a direct result of supply and demand. It’s no different with a currency. And let’s be clear: Despite a raging debate, Bitcoin is a currency and not just a payment instrument. How can I be certain? Try this mental exercise—

Amazon_Gift_CardWestern Union money orders and Amazon Gift cards are each trusted monetary instruments. They facilitate cash transactions. But are they currencies with inherent value? If so, there would be no need to denominate them in units of fiat currency.

A money order is only worth something before it is redeemed. The gift card is only worth $500 when it is purchased or received as a gift. As the $500 is depleted, it becomes worthless. Eventually, it is just a piece of plastic. But like a dollar bill, a bitcoin can be circulated over and over. You may believe that its value comes from the government, but more realistically, its value arises from brand recognition and from pure supply and demand—not from a trusted redemption authority.

Bitcoin isn’t the first ethereal stash of bits with value. But is is more durable than others. The latest Pixar film on DVD or On Demand from your cable service provider has value. But piracy reduces the value dramatically. The supply is no longer scarce (no matter the demand) because of the ease and willingness to replicate digital files in any quantity. A Picasso painting is very rare, but it is so scarce, that we cannot gather enough data points to establish a stable value.

But, commodities like iPhones, Doritos tortilla chips—or even non-branded things, like Idaho potatoes, have a large and fluid market. These things have very measurable value and we can track the change in value over time.

People like to think that money is different than other commodities. In practice, it differs only by its handling characteristics: Compared to a Bitcoin-08Picaso painting or a new iPhone 6, currency has these properties. It is:

  • portable
  • fungible
  • divisible
  • widely recognized
  • resistant to forgery
  • backed by something tangible

Bitcoin has all of these characteristics. In fact, it surpasses your national currency in every way. But many people are confused about that last niggling detail… Aristotle called it intrinsic value. They worry that there is no gold—or at least the promise of a stable government—to establish and stand behind the value of a bitcoin unit (BTC). The concern is understandable, but it is wrong.

Recall that value arises through supply and demand and not simply because of authority or promises. The real question is Can we trust that the supply is limited and that the demand is durable?” — Or at a personal level: “Will my coins be recognized, coveted and honored in the future?”

The Case Against Bitcoin as a Currency

At first glance, Bitcoin enthusiasts and early adopters face a frightening fact: Bitcoin is manufactured out of thin air. It lacks the underpinnings of a traditional currency. Referring to that last item on Arisotle’s list above, Bitcoin seems to fail the test of intrinsic value, because it lacks at least one of these properties that guaranty future redemption:

  • A promise of a trusted authority
  • An edict to remit taxes in Bitcoin
  • A fractional reserve requirement
  • Any claim of pegging it to the value to some essential commodity (intrinsic value)
  • Bitcoin doesn’t even offer a perception of uniqueness. The source code is open for anyone to copy. You could create a competing ‘Bob-coin’ tomorrow.

In the absence of at least one of these things, detractors claim that Bitcoin lacks a foundation—and so it is effectively worthless. But value does not come only from authority. It comes from trust and is governed by supply and demand.


The dollar is backed by trust — Not gold, math, nor even history

In fact, math may be a more trusted ‘authority’ than the directors of your national treasury and reserve board. Supply and demand leads to more tangible value than bankers, especially if the math leads you to believe that the demand will continue to outpace the supply. This is why you are comfortable with a $20 bill in your pocket. You have a pretty good idea, that—next week—it will still buy two movie tickets or two pizzas.

Bitcoin has achieved a “two-sided network effect” (Google the term and the economist “Marshall Van Alstyne”). It has captured the public imagination more than Picasso. It cannot be manufactured. With a reasonable understanding of wallets, it cannot be seized, stolen or lost.

The ability to mine new bitcoins is capped with a total supply of 21 million units, and so there is no opportunity for governments to inflate it through mismanagement of taxation or spending. They cannot even inflate it with good intent (for example, when they need to repair a bridge or provide for the poor). Instead, the ability to pay for these services (and all other government functions) forces them to live within a balanced budget. Spending cannot outpace the revenue generated by taxes and bonds. In a Bitcoin economy, the bonds will more likely be paid back by user fees rather than the future debt of unborn generations.* You get the point: Because governments no longer control the printing press, they cannot make hollow promises and then kick the problem into the next administration. With a limited money supply that everyone recognizes as money, governments are forced to live within their means.

What About Uniqueness?

The last item in the list above decries Bitcoin’s lack of uniqueness. You cannot mint your own bitcoins of course—but you can create an equivalent bitcoin ecosystem yourself. If your name is Bob, you can call it Bobcoin. Many countries and organizations are already doing this.

This is really no different than the US Dollar or you own national currency. The government note is difficult to counterfeit, but so is your own signature when placed on a fancy printed currency (Let’s call it a Bob-Buck). The problem is that the dollar is widely recognized, trusted and accepted, but few people other than your kids are collecting Bob Bucks.

You would face the challenge of spurring adoption. Whether it’s Bob Bucks (paper) or Bobcoin (cryptocurrency), how will you get the world to covet, mine and trade your new currency? That’s the point of a two-sided network. It becomes increasingly more difficult after one method rises to the top—especially if that method is open, transparent and extensible. Bitcoin is open. It is subject to worldwide scrutiny. But this works both ways. Bitcoin can also add incremental improvements that are part of any pretender to the throne.

Bitcoin is not just a transient coin-du-jour. It evolves and so it will not die.

How Can the Value be Measured?

I get this question a lot, and so I am adding the answer here. There is no need to measure the value of Bitcoin or define debt. Its value floats with supply and demand like a true world currency. Because the supply growth is capped and well understood, it is resistant to manipulation. As time goes by, it becomes far less likely to exhibit wild swings in value.

A few years from now, if Bitcoin spikes or tanks by 10% in a short time, you will be more likely to wonder “What is affecting the dollar?” (or Euro), rather than “What is affecting Bitcoin”. Consumers will budget for the cost of a new car or refrigerator in BTC rather than dollars or Euros. You will even see catalogs that print prices in BTC and honor them for the life of the catalog or online sale. After all, in an international market, it makes sense to quote a price in units with no geopolitical boundaries, just as we quote time in UTC (formerly called GMT).

Are these predictions crazy? They are not even bold. For Wild Ducks, they are rather obvious. If we can be accused of dreaming, it is because we are ahead of the game. Look ahead, yourself. The signs are clear…

If Bitcoin has Value, What is the Value?

As Bitcoin adoption moves past enthusiasts and early adopters, the capped supply of coins (21 million, max) will be spread thinner and thinner. This doesn’t play out like a classic shortage, because unlike a supply squeeze on food or medicine, you can work with a smaller piece of the pie each year. The piece needed to pay for a car or an iPhone simply gets smaller as the unit price floats higher and higher.

Last year, I set up an equation to predict how high Bitcoin will float in 5 or 10 years. It involved a lot of WAGs (wild *ss guesses). Although I am a pundit, I am not a mathematician, and so the attempt was incomplete. No need to rehash that exercise.

Passport-s-TAs Hysteria Withers, Bold Becomes Mundane

Eventually consumers, banks, brokers, and governments will recognize that Bitcoin is a far greater opportunity than it is a threat. It pulls the world together by decoupling currency controls from national agenda, inflation, manipulation and loss (You can back up your Bitcoin. Try doing that with your paper money or a defunct bank).

[Ellery Davies is editor of He is also CEO &
Co-Chair of CRYPSA, a recognized standards organization]

* This is just one reason why an eventual transition to Bitcoin (as currency, and not just as a payment instrument) is in the national interest. It demonstrates to citizens that monetary policy is backed by more than growing debt, inflation or the promises of transient officials. It returns any government or economic entity to a non-inflationary, limited-supply pie. The pieces of pie can grow in value, but the pie cannot be watered down by printing more ingredients, counterfeit or even by enemy action.

Further Reading


The Arrogance of Apps

online_formYesterday, I filled in an online form hosted by a government agency. The PDF form didn’t allow me to save a partially completed form to my drive, but it was easy to do by simply printing it through a PDF driver. But, filling in data was quick and simple with just the free Acrobat Reader that is available on virtually any platform. (It won’t surprise me if Adobe releases of an Acrobat client for the Apple Watch).

I appreciated that I could fill in the form online, but because of my urgent need for a notarized original, I was under the gun to get the form filled, printed, signed, notarized and delivered to a courthouse.

But wait! Perhaps I don’t need to do all those things. I was delighted to find that the government web site would accept my electronic signature during the online session. I could sign the form with a registered Adobe ID and a an image file of my real signature.
I had created an Adobe ID to sign a document in the past and I recalled using the signature feature. With just a bit of digging, I found my ID and password — Acrobat already knew where to find the image of my signature.

But something irking happened after signing the online form. WIth every subsequent boot up of my PC, Adobe Creative Cloud was loaded and running.Adobe Acrobat It placed an icon in the task bar tray; the icon cluster next to the clock with in which a user can select options for running apps.

Since I had previously used the signature feature, there must be other factors that led to new startup behavior. Either Adobe changed their launch policy, or perhaps it was related to my recent upgrade to Windows 10, or perhaps Creative Cloud wasn’t tied to the PDF signature feature in the past. Either way, I figured that I could stop Creative Cloud from launching when I start my PC by simply un-ticking a configuration option.

I was certainly not prepared for what I discovered…

  1. There is no way to disable start-up at boot without signing into an online service.
    (Who owns this PC? Me—or Adobe?)
  2. Since I had never used Adobe Creative Cloud, I had no ID—at least none that I recalled. The ID for my PDF signature was not the correct one.
  3. I could override start-up behavior with MS-Config, a system utility that suppresses startup, but leaves the launch command intact. But this results in a custom boot state intended for analysis and diagnostics. I shouldn’t have to use a system override, simply because Adobe demands that users love their app.

Sure—it’s just a command placed with arrogance by a software vendor. I could suppress it or uninstall the entire application. But still, it raised my blood pressure to know that Adobe thinks they are my mother. They know what’s better for me than I do. In their effort to demonstrate a product ecosystem that rivals Microsoft or Google, they feel supremely entitled to shove a product suite down my throat.

How can a big, reputable vendor be so arrogant and indifferent? In addition to collecting and transmitting data to the mother ship, running unwanted apps steals processor & memory resources and opens up users to new terms and conditions?

Apparently, I am not the only one frustrated by Adobe’s design arrogance. Other users of the Adobe support forum are just as irked as I am.
Of course, this behavior is not unique to Adobe. You see it all the time.

Adobe logo-stResist the Temptation

I was CEO of an email and antispam service for 10 years. We aced expert reviews and were awarded PC Magazine Editor’s Choice for email security. Our service used a local, client app through which mail was filtered. During product-release review, I fought hard to get developers and marketers to back down from demanding that the app be installed without explicit action from the user, loaded without explicit directive and constantly running without the user choosing this behavior explicitly.

Most importantly, I fought to make it quick and simple to disable or uninstall our software. But it was a lonely fight. Software engineers and marketing gurus felt that the need for our product was universal and obvious—on par with any critical OS process. When you consider that we had invested 3 years and millions of dollars in our nifty, little invention, the vociferous justification for arrogance almost seemed to make sense:

  • Why would anyone want to shut down or uninstall our incredibly valuable service?
  • Think of our user’s security. There is danger in failing to launch!
  • Lions, Tiger’s and Bears (Oh, My!)
  • We know better than our users.

In effect, my product team was echoing Danny DeVito’s famous line from Matilda, “I’m smart—You’re dumb! And there’s nothing you can do about it” In the end, it was I who came across as arrogant—at least to my team. Refusing to let the decision be decided by a vote. I vetoed the always on behavior using the executive authority of my office.

IAdobe Creative Cloud had originally titled this article “The Arrogance of Software Engineers”, but after talking with individuals who shared my experience, I realized that it is not necessarily an engineer or marketing manager who pushes for the arrogant decision Often, it is a product manager, a corporate officer or one of the founders.

If I could interdict design arrogance it at my small SAS company, then I am certain Adobe can do a better job. Please guys—You design excellent software and Creative Cloud is a masterpiece of holistic engineering. But check your ego at the door and get over yourselves. The decision of always running is not yours to make. Disabling or uninstalling an app should never require an online account or a password. Please do the right thing. It might even mitigate the frustration of users who rebel against your move to host every utilitarian app in the cloud. [Or this one, or this one]

My rant is not about you, Adobe—It is about the insipid ethos that arises naturally with hard work and pride. If you need a fresh, outside eyeball on your review board for software updates, feel free to contact me. I would be honored to be an acid test for any hidden and lingering arrogance.