06 August 2015

How Microsoft Lost the Browser Wars and the Comex is Losing the Precious Metals Trade

I am sure that some of us remember the first 'browser war' from the mid-1990s when the Mosaic enabled 'world wide web' became increasing popular, and the highly popular and user friendlier Netscape Navigator broke on the scene.

And after a bloody battle with Microsoft, which created its first incarnations of Explorer.  At first they just gave it away for free, and then they firmly embedded it with their monopoly positioned operating system.

Netscape faded into Mozila, and was later reborn as Firefox.

And then there was Google Chrome and the Apple Safari.

With the advent of 'Windows 10' as the latest in a series of operating systems du jour from aging Microsoft, a new browser is born called 'Edge.'

Having the pleasure of still running a couple of PCs using Microsoft 7, I recently upgraded them to Windows 10.    Before you think I am stuck in an MS world, I have other PCs running Linux and Apple's OS X. Microsoft is a legacy thing for certain purposes.

I have always put together high performance work stations for family and a few friends to use, and they typically work best with Windows and Linux.  And a lot of non-tech users don't care for Linux.

My son is picking up the baton on this sort of thing, since I seem these days to have a limited distance sweet spot about 12 inches from my face for reading the fine print and seeing the pins on the motherboard.  As my old mentor used to say, starość nie radość (old age is no joke).

Edge is much faster and more reliable than Explorer. But that said, the performance of Explorer had become so unreliable, slow and problematic that I had pretty much stopped using it in favor of Chrome and Firefox.

And apparently I am not alone in this.  At some point bad performance overcomes the momentum of the familiar underpinned by a dominant market share.

The chart below shows a sample of the last thirty days traffic on my site. It certainly is a small drop in the big ocean of the internet traffic, but with 450,000 views or so per month, (with no comment section to drive multiple clicks) and about thirty-five or more percent of the traffic coming from non-US sources, I think it is at least statistically significant.

And it seems that Microsoft has blown it again. After struggling with Edge for a day or so, trying to get it to do searches on the address bar using Google, rather than Bing, I gave up. I will not use it.

Yes it is fast. And it is obtuse, in the manner that Microsoft always seems to take with its inward focused, non-user oriented systems engineering choices.

It is funny how these behemoths, which one thinks can never falter, can slide slowly but surely into failure and then a kind of oblivion.

I remember as a boy engineer in the 1970's how AT&T dominated communications and IBM ruled computer processing with a big blue iron fist. AT&T went bankrupt under a series of very bad management choices, to be reborn as a rebranded Baby Bell, and IBM is now just a service-oriented accounting shadow of its former expansive self.

And I can see quite a few other commercial behemoths staggering their way down the same trail of arrogant disregard for their customers,  trying to squeeze very last dollar out of their profit stream with an inward focus and a failure to innovate.

I was thinking the same thing today when John Thain, the former CEO of Merrill Lynch, was speaking about another financial crisis looming today on financial television. As he noted drily about the last crisis, hopefully the financiers in Europe have learned not to buy things that they do not understand.   Yes, they are learning that the Wall Street Banks and their rating agencies are not to be trusted.   And that is a two edged sword, John.

I also noticed an article today on Bloomberg that traders seem to be deserting the gold futures trade on the Comex. Bloomberg attributed this to 'a lack of interest in gold.'
"As gold continues to languish near its lowest price in five years, one element seems to be missing: traders.

Volume so far in August, already a slow time of year, has dropped about 8 percent from 2014. On Thursday, trading was about 40 percent below the 100-day average. With fewer participants, the metal’s volatility has tumbled to the lowest in nine months."
Yes, if you are willfully blind to what is happening in the rest of the world, I imagine that is what that is what it would seem to be.  Especially if you consider the Comex to be 'the gold market.'

It could certainly not be a lack of interest in trading on what has become The Bucket Shop run by insiders for insiders, with flagrant abuse of the market in quiet hours and obvious price manipulation.

The trade in precious metals has already moved East to more transparent, efficient, and balanced markets.  And it is not clear what could ever make it return without a thorough and far-reaching reform of the markets and the exchanges.  Bulls make money, and bears make money.  But pigs get swept into the dustbin of history.

Oh how the mighty are fallen, and falling.