Tag Archives: stevejobs

Apple apologists

The hardest transition for fans of Apple Computer from the 1990s is realizing that Apple no longer needs us to defend the company. If I’m sometimes critical of Apple, both here and on Core Intuition, it’s because they’re the largest tech company in the world.

I will always hold Apple to a very high standard of excellence. They’ve earned it. When airline flight attendants tell passengers to turn their Samsung Galaxy Note 7 phones off along with the usual warnings about oxygen masks and life vests, we shrug and laugh because it’s Samsung. From Apple, we expect higher quality and attention to detail, not shortcuts.

Steve Jobs has been gone for 5 years, but the spirit of building insanely great products is well-rooted at Apple. Apple employees are doing incredible, passionate work.

And yet the company itself hardly resembles the struggling computer maker of 20 years ago. Apple is a giant corporation now. Unlike its employees, who have the best intentions, giant corporations are by default selfish, arrogant, and rarely courageous.

Apple does a lot of good for the world. I doubt there’s another company even approaching Apple’s size that does as much, from renewable energy to safer materials to workplace diversity. But that good doesn’t absolve them of criticism.

Patience and impatience in the tech industry

There’s a great line from an iPad Pro article by Ben Brooks, where he’s discussing how Steve Jobs was always conscious of shipping only Apple’s best work:

The key difference between Gates and Jobs isn’t the vision, it’s the patience, or if you prefer the unwillingness to ship something which isn’t great.

I’ve been thinking about the time just before the iPad was announced. We didn’t know what form it would take, how much it would cost, or even what OS it would run. At the time, I even wanted it to run Mac OS X. From one of my blog posts in 2008:

The primary market for a Mac tablet is the millions of people who look at the Wacom Cintiq and drool. An Apple tablet has to run full Mac OS X because it has to run Photoshop, Acorn, and Painter.

It’s easy in hindsight to say how wrong I was, that of course it should run iOS. And today I’d agree; iOS 9 on the iPad is great. But I thought a tablet would be particularly good for artists, and basing it on the Mac would be the only way to hit the ground running with a stylus and mature graphics software.

That brings us back to patience, and how Apple rolls and iterates. It has taken 6 years from the original iPad introduction to the iPad Pros we have today that fulfill what I had hoped a tablet could be. Was it worth the wait? Yes. But that’s a long time, and a more impatient company might’ve taken a different path to get here, and they wouldn’t have been wrong.

I’m not actually thinking about Microsoft here, but Amazon. Amazon is so impatient not just with hardware development but everything else that even overnight delivery for their customers isn’t fast enough.

When I pre-ordered the Amazon Echo on a whim a year ago, I’m not sure that Amazon really had any idea what they were doing, whether it would flop or succeed, or if anyone would understand it. A year later, they own the market for this kind of device and it’s spread by word of mouth because the product is good. If Apple ever makes an Echo competitor it will be years from now and only because someone else proved the idea first.

Patience is good, and I’m glad that Apple has a great balance between innovating on brand new products and perfecting existing concepts. But I’m also glad that not every company is as patient as Apple. I think the industry makes better progress when some companies aren’t afraid to ship something half-baked too early.

Tesla Model 3

John Gruber, writing about the Tesla Model 3 unveiling:

The crowd enthusiasm was palpable. Tesla took over 115,000 pre-orders before anyone had even seen the car. That is trust — and rather incredible for a car that they don’t intend to ship until the end of next year.

At the beginning of the presentation, Elon Musk references his “master plan” blog post, where he outlined Tesla’s plan to start with the luxury market and then use that money to build a less expensive car, and then use that to build an even more affordable car. That blog post was 10 years ago.

Vision takes time to execute. It’s incredible to reflect on the scope of what Elon Musk’s companies have accomplished. As I wrote about last year, Elon will be admired by my kids’ generation in the same way that mine was inspired by Steve Jobs.

Scott Knaster visits the Steve Jobs movie office

Scott Knaster blogged about his day advising the crew of the new Steve Jobs movie:

“Every room had things taped up on the walls. Giant blown up pictures of the different events they were going to re-create. One entire wall was nothing but ancient Mac error messages. Another was photos of buildings where different Apple events happened. One wall had pictures from the Internet of random Apple employees from the ’80s.”

Apple seems intent on downplaying this movie as inaccurate and unfair to Steve, but it’s not supposed to be a documentary. It’s promising that they asked Scott Knaster for help getting some of the everyday details right. I’m really looking forward to it.

Steve Jobs and ET

I watched two documentaries last week. The first was “Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine”, which I somewhat regret paying $7 to rent. It had its moments, but also seemed to become more negative and dramatic the longer it went on. I guess we should all hope to be so lucky and famous to have people try to bring out the best and worst of us.

The second documentary I watched was “Atari: Game Over”, which was free on Netflix. It was great, interspersing a history of the rise and fall of Atari with the effort to dig up the ET game cartridges supposedly buried in New Mexico. Highly recommended.

Three months without Twitter

Over three months ago I stopped using Twitter. I wanted to make a statement — perhaps in an overly-dramatic way — that the developer-hostile environment that Twitter had evolved into wasn’t something I could support anymore. I do still read plenty of tweets while testing Watermark, and I’m almost done with a new version of Tweet Library, because my customers deserve great Twitter features. But I haven’t tweeted, retweeted, or favorited a thing from my personal account since October 5th.

I knew that sometimes it would be difficult to resist going back to Twitter, replying to a question, or cross-posting my posts from App.net. So I set things up to discourage my future self from even considering more tweeting. I picked the 1-year anniversary of the day Steve Jobs died and wrote my final tweets a week in advance. If someone visits my profile, I want those statements to be what they see. I can’t tweet again without pushing those tweets from the top of the list.

Meanwhile, App.net started taking off. Netbot shipped. The developer incentive program started to directly reward developers. There’s a good community there. It’s smaller than on Twitter; there isn’t the same never-ending stream of tweets flowing into your timeline. But maybe that’s a good thing.

The flip side is that it’s hard to let go of things like Twitter that have value. I had similar self-doubt when I killed off my app Wii Transfer, so that I could focus on bigger ideas. But simplifying has allowed me to do some of the best work of my career in 2012. I’ve put everything I have into Watermark, into the new Tweet Marker subscriptions, into doing Core Intuition weekly, into shipping everything I work on. 2013 is going to be awesome, and I’m not looking back.


Don Draper, from the “season 1 finale of Mad Men”:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=suRDUFpsHus (YouTube, skip if you plan to watch the whole series):

Don Draper

“This device isn’t a spaceship; it’s a time machine. It goes backwards, forwards. It takes us to a place where we ache to go again. It’s not called the wheel; it’s called the carousel. It lets us travel the way a child travels — around and around, and back home again, to a place where we know we were loved.”

When I first saw this a couple years ago I thought of Steve Jobs, the master pitchman in our industry. The delivery is different, more personal here, but it was stunning as part of the full episode. Who doesn’t want to build products that resonate so well, that go from nice utilities or productivity apps to something our customers fall in love with?

First you build a product that changes things, that is truly useful. Something ambitious. Then find a way to sell it that connects, and underscore why it matters.

I don’t really know how to do this yet. But I do know that part of it is telling stories. Why did I create “Tweet Library”:http://www.riverfold.com/software/tweetlibrary/? To tell stories, to remember events that matter before they’re lost in the fleeting stream of old tweets. It’s the kind of nostalgia at the heart of the Mad Men clip.

“I like this post from Kyle Neath of GitHub”:http://warpspire.com/posts/idea-businesses/, that it’s about ideas, not products (via “Duncan Davidson”:http://duncandavidson.com/):

“People want to be part of ideas. Being part of a company who builds a successful product is cool… but being part of an idea is a lot more attractive. If you can build a business where both your employees and your customers think they’re part of an idea, you’ve created something special.”

If you can extract the core idea from a great product, everything that comes next can be matched to the idea, so the product has a clear path for new features. Building a story around it — something that sticks, and having the resources to tell that story properly — takes a lot of work. I’m inspired when I see others do it well, and it’s an art I hope to make time for.

Macworld 2007 predictions

“Dan covers his Macworld predictions”:http://hivelogic.com/articles/2007/01/04/macworld_2007 in great detail. Instead of predictions, since mine will probably be wrong, I’m going to list what I want to see:

Tablet. I tend to agree with “Steven Frank’s analysis”:http://stevenf.com/2007/01/wherein_i_predict_the_future.php more than “this former Apple exec”:http://technology.guardian.co.uk/weekly/story/0,,1981815,00.html, but either way it remains pretty unlikely that a tablet is going to happen under Steve Job’s watch. At WWDC once Steve Jobs called the Newton a “little scribbly thing” or something similar, and it wasn’t long before he officially gave that division the axe.

Numbers. Some people still insist on sending me Excel documents. We need a simple application in the iWork suite that can natively read/write Excel documents and handle the basics.

Finder. I’m pretty sure Leopard will sport a new Finder, as well as user interface candy paint applied across the operating system. The only question is whether they’ve rewritten it from scratch and in the process introduced even more problems. I’m optimistic on this one, though, and expect an elegant UI evolution from the Finder team.

What I don’t care about:

iTV. See “previous post about DRM”:http://www.manton.org/2007/01/goodbye_itms.html. If I want to watch a movie, I’ll put in a DVD. However, I do hope to draw some inspiration from whatever they do and apply it to “Wii Transfer”:http://www.riverfold.com/software/wiitransfer/ development.

iPod Phone. I have no doubt it will be well designed, but it will also be at least $299 (guess). I have only owned a couple mobile phones in my life, and they were free or nearly free. The iPod Phone will have to be something no one’s even thought of yet for me to consider it. It’s kind of like “Nike + iPod”:http://www.apple.com/ipod/nike/, a luxury that I don’t really need.

Anyway, should be a fun Macworld. I haven’t been in years and I’m a little jealous of those who are attending this year. (But not jealous enough to want to get on a plane next week.) Part of me misses the old days, having a booth and talking with users or seeing what was new on the show floor. I was at the first Macworld keynote after Steve Jobs came back to Apple, while Gil Amelio was still in charge, and I’ll always remember it as something pretty special.

iPods, videos, and U2

Steve Jobs in yesterday’s special event, discussing the white iPods:

“It’s been a huge success for us, and therefore it’s time to replace it.”

The new iPods look great. At first I was disappointed by the $1.99 price for music videos and TV shows, but when you do the math it is only a little more than buying DVDs. And what about the small quality, only 320×240? In the name of science I dropped $2 to test it.

Last week, thanks to eBay, I became the proud owner of 2 tickets to see U2 in Houston at the end of the month. I’ve seen every U2 tour since ZooTV over a decade ago, so I wasn’t about to let little things like “too busy” and “money” stand in the way this time. Our seats are fairly horrible, but the price was right and all that matters is that we are there.

So buying a U2 music video was a natural choice. The download time was reasonable. I clicked it to full-screen on my Cinema Display and sat down 6 feet away. It actually looked good. 30 frames per second doesn’t hurt either. I could definitely watch TV shows this way.

Another interesting tidbit from the Apple event. Disney’s new CEO Bob Iger was introduced quite warmly by Steve Jobs, and Iger even joked that he still hoped an agreement could be reached between Disney and Pixar for continuing distribution of their films. Sounds like that could happen after all.