Summer has officially lasted too long.
Over at the New York Times, spunky liberal Paul Krugman takes a break from eviscerating Republicans to write a mellow, perhaps even Brooksian, column which applies the wisdom of an obscure academic to a field that academic knew nothing about. In this case the scholar is “Ibn Khaldun,” a 14th-century Islamic philosopher who basically invented what we would now call the social sciences.” Khaldun, Krugman thinks, can explain Microsoft’s decline:
Desert tribesmen, he argued, always have more courage and social cohesion than settled, civilized folk, so every once in a while they will sweep in and conquer lands whose rulers have become corrupt and complacent. They create a new dynasty — and, over time, become corrupt and complacent themselves, ready to be overrun by a new set of barbarians.
I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to apply this story to Microsoft, a company that did so well with its operating-system monopoly that it lost focus, while Apple — still wandering in the wilderness after all those years — was alert to new opportunities. And so the barbarians swept in from the desert.
Sometimes, by the way, barbarians are invited in by a domestic faction seeking a shake-up. This may be what’s happening at Yahoo: Marissa Mayer doesn’t look much like a fierce Bedouin chieftain, but she’s arguably filling the same functional role.
Anyway, the funny thing is that Apple’s position in mobile devices now bears a strong resemblance to Microsoft’s former position in operating systems. True, Apple produces high-quality products. But they are, by most accounts, little if any better than those of rivals, while selling at premium prices.
Yeah, sure, why not. But didn’t a conservative say something stupid this weekend?