Ms. Fobes, who lives in Raymore, Mo., plans meals around discounts offered at the grocery store and always checks coupon apps on her cellphone before buying clothes. When, a little over a year ago, J. C. Penney stopped promoting sales and offering coupons and instead made a big deal about its "everyday" low prices, Ms. Fobes stopped shopping there. It wasn't that she thought the prices were bad, she said. She just wasn't having any fun.
"It may be a decent deal to buy that item for $5," said Ms. Fobes, who runs Penny Pinchin' Mom, a blog about couponing strategies. "But for someone like me, who's always looking for a sale or a coupon -- seeing that something is marked down 20 percent off, then being able to hand over the coupon to save, it just entices me," she said. "It's a rush."
That's from an article in the NY Times about J.C. Penney's recent overhaul by Ron Johnson, who sought to apply his Apple Store experience to the mid-range department chain. Being the sort of person who a) doesn't like to shop, and b) doesn't want any nonsense when I do need to shop, I don't often think about shopping as a game. But it clearly is a game for some. As we don't spend so much time on the savana anymore, the hunting of bargains and the gathering of sale items is about as primal as we get these days, aside from Halo and Call of Duty. But not every shopping experience is the same type of game. And maybe that's where Johnson slipped up. The Apple Store game is more aspirational: buying the best products for reasonable prices and feeling part of a place & company that's so minimalist, simple, smart, and cool. Maybe Penneys shoppers didn't want to play that game...not at Penneys anyway.
I really enjoyed this piece by John Siracusa about why Apple should continue to make a high-end personal computer (like the Mac Pro) even though it's not a big seller or hugely profitable. Basically, the Mac Pro is Apple's halo car:
In the automobile industry, there's what's known as a "halo car." Though you may not know the term, you surely know a few examples. The Corvette is GM's halo car. Chrysler has the Viper.
The vast, vast majority of people who buy a Chrysler car get something other than a Viper. The same goes for GM buyers and the Corvette. These cars are expensive to develop and maintain. Due to the low sales volumes, most halo cars do not make money for car makers. When Chrysler was recovering from bankruptcy in 2010, it considered selling the Viper product line.
But car companies continue to make halo cars in part because they are great cars, or at least have the potential to be great cars, and when a car company stops caring about making great cars, they lose their identity and credibility...with consumers, with employees, with investors, and with competitors. Halo cars are the difference between being a car company and being a company that sells cars.
Normally I'm not a big fan of advice like "do what big car companies do", but what Siracusa's piece demontrates is one of the things that's problematic about data: there are important things about business and success that you can't measure. And I would go so far as to say that these unmeasurables are the most important things, the stuff that makes or breaks a business or product or, hell, even a relationship, stuff that you just can't measure quantitatively, no matter how Big your Data is. (via df)
Under the terms of the deal, the buyers' consortium, which also includes Microsoft, will pay $13.65 a share in cash. That is roughly 25 percent above where Dell's stock traded before word emerged of the negotiations of its sale.
Michael S. Dell will contribute his stake of roughly 14 percent toward the transaction, and will contribute additional cash through his private investment firm, MSD Capital. Silver Lake is expected to contribute about $1 billion in cash, while Microsoft will loan an additional $2 billion.
OK, I need to wrap this up. But first, raise your hand if you use a computer. That's what I thought. Have you tried doing anything without a computer lately? It's impossible. You want money from the bank? ATM computer. You want gas for your car? Pump computer. You looking for a news story explaining why your shares dropped 5% even though our gross margin was over 40%? Computer computer.
Apple CEO George Costanza, who is also CEO and chairman of Vandelay Industries, added, "George is getting upset!"
The iPad mini is the best tablet to get and lets be honest, it's way better than the full sized iPad for nearly everyone. I'd even go so far as to say that the full sized iPad is plain obscene after using the mini.
I'm embarrassed to say this because I've been part of the problem by not talking enough about the heft. But the truth is that we've all been overlooking the iPad's weight because everything else was good about it. It's not anyone's fault-it's physics and trade offs that make a 10-inch tablet weigh this much when its made of these materials with a battery life this long. It was the best tablet for most, because it was the only one to get with iOS and its amazing library of apps and great hardware. But I can't say the heft is ok anymore. You didn't hold it like a magazine, which is the dream of a tablet, because it weighed as much as coffee tablet book or a small telephone book. You can agree or disagree, but it's indisputable that the mini is a better hold because you don't have to grip it like a steering wheel or like an underpowered circus strongman. And what good is a mobile gadget if its hard to carry and hold?
After using one for just under a week now, I completely agree. When it gets a retina screen in the next iteration or two, it'll be perfect. (via @robinsloan)
Earlier this morning in a post about Apple manufacturing their products in the US, I wrote "look for this "made in the USA" thing to turn into a trend". Well, Made in the USA is already emerging as a trend in the media. On Tuesday, Farhad Manjoo wrote about American Giant, a company who makes the world's best hoodie entirely in the US for a decent price.
For one thing, Winthrop had figured out a way to do what most people in the apparel industry consider impossible: He's making clothes entirely in the United States, and he's doing so at costs that aren't prohibitive. American Apparel does something similar, of course, but not especially profitably, and its clothes are very low quality. Winthrop, on the other hand, has found a way to make apparel that harks back to the industry's heyday, when clothes used to be made to last. "I grew up with a sweatshirt that my father had given me from the U.S. Navy back in the '50s, and it's still in my closet," he told me. "It was this fantastic, classic American-made garment -- it looks better today than it did 35, 40 years ago, because like an old pair of denim, it has taken on a very personal quality over the years."
The Atlantic has a pair of articles in their December issue, Charles Fishman's The Insourcing Boom:
Yet this year, something curious and hopeful has begun to happen, something that cannot be explained merely by the ebbing of the Great Recession, and with it the cyclical return of recently laid-off workers. On February 10, [General Electric's Appliance Park in Louisville, KY] opened an all-new assembly line in Building 2 -- largely dormant for 14 years -- to make cutting-edge, low-energy water heaters. It was the first new assembly line at Appliance Park in 55 years -- and the water heaters it began making had previously been made for GE in a Chinese contract factory.
On March 20, just 39 days later, Appliance Park opened a second new assembly line, this one in Building 5, to make new high-tech French-door refrigerators. The top-end model can sense the size of the container you place beneath its purified-water spigot, and shuts the spigot off automatically when the container is full. These refrigerators are the latest versions of a style that for years has been made in Mexico.
Another assembly line is under construction in Building 3, to make a new stainless-steel dishwasher starting in early 2013. Building 1 is getting an assembly line to make the trendy front-loading washers and matching dryers Americans are enamored of; GE has never before made those in the United States. And Appliance Park already has new plastics-manufacturing facilities to make parts for these appliances, including simple items like the plastic-coated wire racks that go in the dishwashers.
What I saw at these Chinese sites was surprisingly different from what I'd seen on previous factory tours, reflecting the political, economic, technological, and especially social pressures that are roiling China now. In conjunction with significant changes in the American business and technological landscape that I recently saw in San Francisco, these changes portend better possibilities for American manufacturers and American job growth than at any other time since Rust Belt desolation and the hollowing-out of the American working class came to seem the grim inevitabilities of the globalized industrial age.
For the first time in memory, I've heard "product people" sound optimistic about hardware projects they want to launch and facilities they want to build not just in Asia but also in the United States. When I visited factories in the upper Midwest for magazine stories in the early 1980s, "manufacturing in America" was already becoming synonymous with "Rust Belt" and "sunset industry." Ambitious, well-educated people who had a choice were already headed for cleaner, faster-growing possibilities -- in consulting, finance, software, biotech, anything but things. At the start of the '80s, about one American worker in five had a job in the manufacturing sector. Now it's about one in 10.
As noted by Fishman in his piece, one of the reasons US manufacturing is competitive again is the low price of natural gas. From a piece in SupplyChainDigest in October:
Several industries, noticeable chemicals and fertilizers, use lots of natural gas. Fracking and other unconventional techniques have already unlocked huge supplies of natural gas, which is why natural gas prices in the US are at historic lows and much lower than the rest of the world.
Right now, nat gas prices are under $3.00 per thousand cubic, down dramatically from about three times that in 2008 and even higher in 2006. Meanwhile, natural gas prices are about $10.00 right now in Europe and $15.00 in parts of Asia.
Much of the growing natural gas reserves come from the Marcellus shale formation that runs through Western New York and Pennsylvania, Southeast Ohio, and most of West Virginia. North Dakota in the upper Midwest also is developing into a major supplier of both oil and natural gas.
So basically, energy in the US is cheap right now and will likely remain cheap for years to come because hydraulic fracturing (aka fracking aka that thing that people say makes their water taste bad, among other issues) has unlocked vast and previously unavailable reserves of oil and natural gas that will take years to fully exploit. A recent report by the International Energy Agency suggests that the US is on track to become the world's biggest oil producer by 2020 (passing both Saudi Arabia and Russia) and could be "all but self-sufficient" in energy by 2030.
By about 2020, the United States will overtake Saudi Arabia as the world's largest oil producer and put North America as a whole on track to become a net exporter of oil as soon as 2030, according to a report from the International Energy Agency.
The change would dramatically alter the face of global oil markets, placing the U.S., which currently imports about 45 percent of the oil it uses and about 20 percent of its total energy needs, in a position of unexpected power. The nation likely will become "all but self-sufficient" in energy by 2030, representing "a dramatic reversal of the trend seen in most other energy-importing countries," the IEA survey says.
So yay for "Made in the USA" but all this cheap energy could wreak havoc on the environment, hinder development of greener alternatives to fossil fuels (the only way green will win is to compete on price), and "artificially" prop up a US economy that otherwise might be stagnating. (thx, @rfburton, @JordanRVance, @technorav)
Apple CEO Tim Cook announced one of the existing Mac lines will be manufactured exclusively in the United States next year. Mac fans will have to wait to see which Mac line it will be because Apple, widely known for its secrecy, left it vague. Cook's announcement may or may not confirm recent rumors in the blogosphere sparked by iMacs inscribed in the back with "Assembled in USA."
Well, those iMac pretty clearly state they are assembled in the US. And look for this "made in the USA" thing to turn into a trend...I think companies are finding that making stuff in the US is not as expensive as everyone thinks it is.
It's not known well that the engine for the iPhone and iPad is made in the U.S., and many of these are also exported-the engine, the processor. The glass is made in Kentucky. And next year we are going to bring some production to the U.S. on the Mac. We've been working on this for a long time, and we were getting closer to it. It will happen in 2013. We're really proud of it. We could have quickly maybe done just assembly, but it's broader because we wanted to do something more substantial. So we'll literally invest over $100 million. This doesn't mean that Apple will do it ourselves, but we'll be working with people, and we'll be investing our money.
So this is fun. Back in February 2000, I wrote a post about Amazon being awarded a patent for their affiliates program. In it, I wondered about a world where Apple was the largest company in the world:
And that brings us to Microsoft and Apple. Microsoft is perhaps the largest target of this sort of "boycott", organized or otherwise. People hate Microsoft. Companies hate Microsoft. It's the company you love to hate. Apple, on the other hand, is one of the most beloved companies in the world. People love Apple.
But what if Apple were Microsoft? What if Apple had won the battle of the PC and was the largest company in the world? People would hate them. Why? Because they would be using the same tactics as Microsoft to stay ahead and keep every bit of that advantage in anyway that they could. Apple is the way it is because they are the underdog.
I'll even argue that life would be worse under Apple's rein. Apple controls the OS *and* the hardware: if we were under Apple's boot instead of Microsoft's, we'd be paying too much for hardware as well as the software.
Nailed it! Or not. That third paragraph is pretty wrong...one of the things that contributed greatly to Apple's rise is their commitment to pricing their products competitively. And software is cheap.
As for Apple being the underdog, I've always thought one of the interesting things about Daring Fireball, even from the beginning, is that John Gruber never treated Apple as an underdog. In his esteem, Apple was the best company making the best software and hardware, and the DF attitude with respect to Microsoft was very much like that of Jon Lovitz's Michael Dukakis in a debate with Dana Carvey's George H.W. Bush on SNL: "I can't believe I'm losing to this guy". Gruber proved correct...what looked like an underdog proved to be a powerhouse in the making. (thx, greg & andy)
This is an oldie but a goodie. Ron Avitzur was working for Apple as a contractor in 1993 when the project he was working on (a graphing calculator) was cancelled and his contract subseuently ended. However, Avitzur really wanted to finish what he started he kept on going into Apple to work on this calculator.
There was one last pressing question: How could we get this thing included with the system software when the new machines shipped? The thought that we might fail to do this terrified me far more than the possibility of criminal prosecution for trespass. All the sweat that Greg and I had put in, all the clandestine aid from the friends, acquaintances, and strangers on whom I had shamelessly imposed, all the donations of time, expertise, hardware, soft drinks, and junk food would be wasted.
Once again, my sanity was saved by the kindness of a stranger. At 2:00 one morning, a visitor appeared in my office: the engineer responsible for making the PowerPC system disk master. He explained things this way: "Apple is a hardware company. There are factories far away building Apple computers. One of the final steps of their assembly line is to copy all of the system software from the 'Golden Master' hard disk onto each computer's hard disk. I create the Golden Master and FedEx it to the manufacturing plant. In a very real and pragmatic sense, I decide what software does and does not ship." He told me that if I gave him our software the day before the production run began, it could appear on the Golden Master disk. Then, before anyone realized it was there, thirty thousand units with our software on the disks would be boxed in a warehouse. (In retrospect, he may have been joking. But we didn't know that, so it allowed us to move forward with confidence.)
Once we had a plausible way to ship, Apple became the ideal work environment. Every engineer we knew was willing to help us. We got resources that would never have been available to us had we been on the payroll. For example, at that time only about two hundred PowerPC chips existed in the world. Most of those at Apple were being used by the hardware design engineers. Only a few dozen coveted PowerPC machines were even available in System Software for people working on the operating system. We had two. Engineers would come to our offices at midnight and practically slip machines under the door. One said, "Officially, this machine doesn't exist, you didn't get it from me, and I don't know you. Make sure it doesn't leave the building."
According to the Wall Street Journal, Orbitz has determined that Mac users spend 30% more per night on lodging. Obviously, this is an opportunity for Orbitz to display more expensive hotel options to Mac users.
The Orbitz effort, which is in its early stages, demonstrates how tracking people's online activities can use even seemingly innocuous information--in this case, the fact that customers are visiting Orbitz.com from a Mac--to start predicting their tastes and spending habits.
It's funny. Or sad. Or predictable. It's predictably sadly funny that many tech media outlets are saying that Apple's iPad finally has a bonafide competitor in the Microsoft Surface. Set aside for now that Surface does look genuinely interesting, that the price hasn't been set, and the thing isn't even out yet. For a piece of portable networking technology like a smartphone or tablet to be successful on the scale at which Apple operates, you need to have an ecosystem, a network of interacting devices, software, products, and services that work together...hardware + software is not enough. Apple, Google (and partners), Amazon, and possibly Microsoft are the only companies with the expertise and pockets deep enough to build their own ecosystems. Ok, maybe Facebook in a couple years or if Nokia can dig themselves out of their current hole, but that's really about it.
The current parts of the phone/tablet/media ecosystem are as follows:
1. A piece of hardware at a price that compares favorably to its quality and features. Apple sells premium hardware with great features at a premium-but-still-reasonable price. Google and their partners offer a range of devices at different prices corresponding to different levels of quality and features offered. Amazon offers low-price hardware with a relatively limited but appropriate set of features. Microsoft looks to have a nice piece of hardware with promising features but the price point is pending.
2. An OS that takes proper advantage of the hardware capabilities with features in line with the price of the device. Apple has iOS, with most of its devices running the same version. Google and their partners have many different versions of Android, most of which are not the most recent version. Amazon runs a customized Android OS for the Kindle Fire and a modified version of Linux for the non-Fire Kindles. Microsoft has Windows 8, which will eventually run, in different configurations, on lots of different kinds of hardware, from desktop computers to phones.
3. An app store stocked with the applications that smartphone and tablet owners want to use. Apple has the comprehensive App Store. Google, etc. have Google Play (née Android Market), Amazon's Appstore for Android, and other stores, on which you can get most of the most popular apps. Amazon has their Appstore for Android for the Kindle Fire. Microsoft has the Windows Phone Marketplace for the Windows Phone with a more limited selection than the other stores...it's unclear what their plans are for a Windows 8 app store.
4. A media store with books, movies, and TV shows. Apple has the iTunes store (as well as iBooks, Newstand, etc.). Android has Google Play. Amazon has the Kindle store and Amazon Instant Video. Will Microsoft offer a way to purchase media across their Windows 8 platform? Does Windows Media Player do this?
5. A digital media hub for managing media, apps, software updates, etc. This part is a bit more optional than the others since media management is moving to the device and the cloud, but still. Apple has iTunes. Android has a variety of possible desktop managers and management happens on the device or through the cloud? You manage the Kindle stuff through Amazon's site and on the device. Microsoft will probably go cloud/device-based at this point?
6. An integrated cloud solution for syncing apps, media, and documents across devices. Again, this isn't crucial but will likely become so over time. Apple has iCloud. Android has Google's suite of apps (Gmail, calendar, Google docs, Google Drive, etc.). Amazon uses Whispernet and is leveraging AWS in various ways (e.g. Cloud Drive). Will Microsoft leverage SkyDrive for their tablets and phones?
7. Sister devices. Apple has the iPhone, iPad, iPod touches, Apple TV, and their full line of OS X-powered computers. Android runs on phones and tablets, but can also run on an increasing number of other devices (Google TV, etc.). And maybe ChromeOS devices? Amazon doesn't really have an interacting network of devices. Microsoft will have phones, the Surface, billions of desktop computers running Windows 8, and, dare I even say it, the Xbox.
You don't need to have every single part of the ecosystem for it to thrive but the more the better. Again, Surface does look genuinely interesting (as do the Windows phones from Nokia), Windows 8 and the Metro interface look promising, and Microsoft has deep pockets but all the pieces aren't quite there yet for them. Microsoft's real opportunity here is the Xbox. If they can properly leverage and integrate the Xbox's growing status as a home media hub (Xbox Live), they can fill in a lot of the holes in their fledgling ecosystem, provide people with compelling devices & media experiences, and give Apple, Google, and Amazon a real run for their (and our) money.
The point, explains Carmine Gallo, who is writing a book on the inside workings of the Apple Store, is to get people to touch the devices. "The main reason notebook computers screens are slightly angled is to encourage customers to adjust the screen to their ideal viewing angle," he says -- "in other words, to touch the computer."
A tactile experience with an Apple product begets loyalty to Apple products, the thinking goes -- which means that the store exists to imprint a brand impression on visitors even more than it exists to extract money from them. "The ownership experience is more important than a sale," Gallo notes. Which means that the store -- and every single detail creating the experience of it -- are optimized for customers' personal indulgence. Apple wants you to touch stuff, to play with it, to make it your own.
It's a genius touch. I went in to the Apple Store last week just after it opened to see the new MacBook Airs and retina MacBook Pros and I'll be damned if I didn't have to adjust the screen in both cases. Get out of my head, man! (via @alexismadrigal)
To summarize: after the deal, Apple will immediately become a giant payments company, with an installation base that is expected to encompass half of all mobile devices sold. The company will have the best local search abilities, far exceeding any existing recommendation engine. And due to its enormous reach, it will possess a payment system that merchants will line up to support.
The lessons are powerful: Jobs matured as a manager and a boss; learned how to make the most of partnerships; found a way to turn his native stubbornness into a productive perseverance. He became a corporate architect, coming to appreciate the scaffolding of a business just as much as the skeletons of real buildings, which always fascinated him. He mastered the art of negotiation by immersing himself in Hollywood, and learned how to successfully manage creative talent, namely the artists at Pixar. Perhaps most important, he developed an astonishing adaptability that was critical to the hit-after-hit-after-hit climb of Apple's last decade. All this, during a time many remember as his most disappointing.
The discussion of the lessons he took from Pixar and put into Apple was especially interesting.
And just as he had at Pixar, he aligned the company behind those projects. In a way that had never been done before at a technology company--but that looked a lot like an animation studio bent on delivering one great movie a year--Jobs created the organizational strength to deliver one hit after another, each an extension of Apple's position as the consumer's digital hub, each as strong as its predecessor. If there's anything that parallels Apple's decade-long string of hits--iMac, PowerBook, iPod, iTunes, iPhone, iPad, to list just the blockbusters--it's Pixar's string of winners, including Toy Story, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, WALL-E, and Up. These insanely great products could have come only from insanely great companies, and that's what Jobs had learned to build.
It made me reflect upon how lucky I have been to call the theater my home all these years, the only place I can imagine this kind of discourse happening. It made me grateful for the great privilege it has been to be able to call myself a storyteller and to have audiences come and listen to what I have to say, to extend their trust to me. I am sorry I was careless with that trust. For this, I would like to apologize to my audiences.
I don't want to get into a discussion about whether Apple should be rejecting apps based on morality or what not, but there's no debating the fact this app created by Luciano Foglia features the filthiest behavior any of these geometric shapes have ever been involved in. I watched it and then I needed a shower. And now I'm uncomfortable around the kitchen floor tiles.
We likes The Wire. We likes reading about The Wire.
1. Aaron Bady, of The New Inquiry, earns a 'tie-today's-story-to-The-Wire' badge by thoughtfully comparing the recent revelations about Mike Daisey's one man show to Jimmy McNulty serial killer creation in Season 5. People as a whole don't end up looking too hot when Bady is done with us.
After all, Jimmy McNulty's problem is not only that he's an unscrupulous narcissist, but that he combines that quality with a streak of good intentions, a kind of idealism and desire to do some version of the right thing. Cynics and fatalists wouldn't fall into this trap, because they've never expected the world to be different, or never imagined that they could change it.
(via e-migo @djacobs who accurately referred to the above piece of deep analysis + Apple + The Wire as #kottkebait)
2. David Simon, creator of The Wire, recently penned a story worth reading for The Baltimore Sun about the recent health issues of Baltimore cop Gene Cassidy. Cassidy was shot twice in the head, and the investigation and prosecution of this shooting is the basis for Simon's 1991 'Homicide'.
But grocery stores have not rebounded in the same way. Before the storm, there were 30 in New Orleans; today, there are 21. Most that have reopened are in wealthier neighborhoods: a Tulane University survey in 2007, the latest data available, found that nearly 60 percent of low-income residents had to travel more than three miles to reach a supermarket, though only 58 percent owned a car.
Bonus: Last week Omar Little was crowned The Wire's best character in Grantland's tournament. Jason is reportedly disconsolate. Even though he didn't make the tournament, my allegiance was to Slim Charles for that one scene. You know the one.
And a Kima update, too. Sonja Sohn recently spoke with NPR about ReWired for Change, a nonprofit she founded with Pierce and Michael K. Williams that attempts to cut down on crime with arts and mentoring programs.
Ira also talks with Mike Daisey about why he misled This American Life during the fact-checking process. And we end the show separating fact from fiction, when it comes to Apple's manufacturing practices in China.
The audio is not available on the site yet (because the show hasn't aired yet?), and the audio for the retracted show is no longer available on their site (but you can listen to it here). Mike Daisey, the performer of the retracted piece, responds on his web site:
What I do is not journalism. The tools of the theater are not the same as the tools of journalism. For this reason, I regret that I allowed THIS AMERICAN LIFE to air an excerpt from my monologue. THIS AMERICAN LIFE is essentially a journalistic -- not a theatrical -- enterprise, and as such it operates under a different set of rules and expectations.
I have difficult news. We've learned that Mike Daisey's story about Apple in China - which we broadcast in January - contained significant fabrications. We're retracting the story because we can't vouch for its truth. This is not a story we commissioned. It was an excerpt of Mike Daisey's acclaimed one-man show "The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs," in which he talks about visiting a factory in China that makes iPhones and other Apple products.
Amazingly, there's almost nothing to it...it's mostly battery and screen. My kids have toys that contain more components. Makes you realize that a not-insignificant part of Apple's success is essentially 3-D puzzle solving with chips, batteries, screens, and antennas as the pieces. John Gruber calls it "a remarkable engineering accomplishment" on the part of Apple, noting:
Apple doesn't make new devices which get worse battery life than the version they're replacing, but they also don't make new devices that are thicker and heavier. LTE networking -- and, I strongly suspect, the retina display -- consume more power than do the 3G networking and non-retina display of the iPad 2. A three-way tug-of-war: 4G/LTE networking, battery life, thinness/weight. Something had to give. Thinness and weight lost: the iPad 3 gets 4G/LTE, battery life remains unchanged, and to achieve both of these Apple included a physically bigger battery, which in turn results in a new iPad that is slightly thicker (0.6 mm) and heavier (roughly 0.1 pounds/50 grams, depending on the model).
50 grams and six-tenths of a millimeter are minor compromises, but compromises they are, and they betray Apple's priorities: better to make the iPad slightly thicker and heavier than have battery life slightly suffer. And keep in mind that the new iPad 3 remains far thinner and lighter than the original iPad.
It's really cool. They just started making it and not many people have one yet. It does all sorts of stuff and can fit in my pocket, but it can also get bigger than that if I want it to. Plus it's made by a company I trust to put out things that will make me happy.
(Not that I wouldn't consider buying this thing even if it weren't made by a familiar company-that's how cool this thing is-but the fact that I know and trust the company makes it even better.)
Despite my half-hearted and shameless plea on Twitter for an invite to Apple's product announcement, I am sitting at my desk in NYC today, sucking on lemons. Lemonade tastes better, so to that end I will be blogging the liveblogs blogging the announcement. Blog, bloggy, blog, blogggggggggggggg. Bla. Guh.
As a teaser, I'd like to offer the world's worst prediction for today's event: Apple announces the iPhone 5. Could you imagine though? After Apple declined the version number bump with the introduction of the 4S, what would a device need to do to warrant it? A fusion energy source? Teleportation? A camera that sees into the future? My money's on a built-in quadrotor system so that your phone could autonomously run errands for you or spy on your enemies.
Update: Notes will appear here, newest at the top.
The event is over. Thanks for joining me. I miss "one more thing". :(
So Apple has now used "iPod classic" and "new iPad" for product names. Uh, New Coke?
They are keeping the iPad 2 on sale. $399 for 16 GB Wifi model.
They *still* haven't told us the name of the new iPad. Is it just iPad? No 3 or 2S or HD or whatever?
"Apps that collect or transmit a user's contact data without their prior permission are in violation of our guidelines*," Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr told AllThingsD. "We're working to make this even better for our customers, and as we have done with location services, any app wishing to access contact data will require explicit user approval in a future software release."
Hang on folks, things are going to get a little Apple bloggy around here this morning. First is the news of Apple's new operating system for the Mac, OS X Mountain Lion. Gruber has the details:
What do I think so far, Schiller asks. It all seems rather obvious now that I've seen it - and I mean obvious in a good way. I remain convinced that iCloud is exactly what Steve Jobs said it was: the cornerstone of everything Apple does for the next decade. So of course it makes sense to bring iCloud to the Mac in a big way. Simplified document storage, iMessage, Notification Center, synced Notes and Reminders -- all of these things are part of iCloud. It's all a step toward making your Mac just another device managed in your iCloud account. Look at your iPad and think about the features it has that would work well, for a lot of people, if they were on the Mac. That's Mountain Lion -- and probably a good way to predict the future of the continuing parallel evolution of iOS and OS X.
Details are finally starting to trickle out about how various iOS apps use the address book data on your phone. The Verge and Venture Beat both have good article on the subject. What they're finding is nowhere near the 13/15 ratio that Dustin Curtis reported last week but Curtis has also said:
Second, for obvious reasons, I promised the developers I reached out to that I would never reveal who they are. Many of them have, since last week, changed their practices.
What I like about The Verge and VB articles is that they both end with Apple's role in all this. In a future release, Apple should make sure that rogue parties can't do stuff like this. If you're going to have a store where every app has to be approved for the good of the end users and the integrity of the system, this is *exactly* the type of thing they should be concerned with.
It's not really a secret, per se, but there's a quiet understanding among many iOS app developers that it is acceptable to send a user's entire address book, without their permission, to remote servers and then store it for future reference. It's common practice, and many companies likely have your address book stored in their database. Obviously, there are lots of awesome things apps can do with this data to vastly improve user experience. But it is also a breach of trust and an invasion of privacy.
I did a quick survey of 15 developers of popular iOS apps, and 13 of them told me they have a contacts database with millons of records. One company's database has Mark Zuckerberg's cell phone number, Larry Ellison's home phone number and Bill Gates' cell phone number. This data is not meant to be public, and people have an expectation of privacy with respect to their contacts.
13 out of 15! Zuckerberg's cell phone number! Maybe I'm being old-fashioned here, but this seems unequivocally wrong. Any app, from Angry Birds to Fart App 3000, can just grab the information in your address book without asking? Hell. No. And Curtis is right in calling Apple out about this...apps should not have access to address book information without explicitly asking. But now that the horse is out of the barn, this "quiet understanding" needs to be met with some noisy investigation. What happened to Path needs to happen to all the other apps that are storing our data. There's an opportunity here for some enterprising data journalist to follow Thampi's lead: investigate what other apps are grabbing address book data and then ask the responsible developers the same questions that were put to Path.
Update: I am aware of this very confusing display of data from the Wall Street Journal. It indicates that of the ~50 iPhone apps surveyed, only three (Angry Birds, Facebook, and TextPlus 4) transmit address book data to a server. That's not exactly the widespread problem that Curtis describes (the data sets are likely different)...it would be nice to see the net cast a bit wider.
Speaking of Apple, here's a profile of Jerry Manock, who worked for Apple from 1977 to 1984 and designed the case for the Apple II and helped design the Macintosh. Manock was Jobs' first Jony Ive.
The whole basis of the class I've taught at UVM for 21 years is ... integrated product development, which means concurrently looking at all of these things: the aesthetics, the engineering, the marketing ... which is what we were doing at Apple. Not necessarily purposefully, but everybody was just thrown together... I would walk through the software place and look around and see what people were doing ... walk through the marketing area. I had my drawings all on the walls, so anybody could come up. There was a red pencil hanging there. I'd say, "If you see something you don't like, or is a problem -- I don't care whether it's a janitor or Steve -- write the correction, circle it, put your phone there and I'll call you and we'll talk about it."
I take this to mean that any iPhone app can download your address book to their servers? What. The. Hell! Apple?
Upon inspecting closer, I noticed that my entire address book (including full names, emails and phone numbers) was being sent as a plist to Path. Now I don't remember having given permission to Path to access my address book and send its contents to its servers, so I created a completely new "Path" and repeated the experiment and I got the same result - my address book was in Path's hands.
"If everything you do needs to work on a three-year time horizon, then you're competing against a lot of people," Mr. Bezos told reporter Steve Levy last month in an interview in Wired. "But if you're willing to invest on a seven-year time horizon, you're now competing against a fraction of those people, because very few companies are willing to do that. Just by lengthening the time horizon, you can engage in endeavors that you could never otherwise pursue. At Amazon we like things to work in five to seven years. We're willing to plant seeds, let them grow-and we're very stubborn."
Like Apple, Amazon is one of those large market cap growth stocks that investors don't really know what to do with. Both stocks are still undervalued compared to much of the rest of the market, IMO.
The company was obviously under tight constraints as to what they could do with the store (they would have loved to encase the whole thing in plexiglass probably), but from the looks of things, they did a marvelous job. There's so little styling -- the whole store is just tables and screens mostly -- that it looks like the Apple Store not only belongs there, but that it's been there forever, like Grand Central was designed with the Apple Store in mind. If you walk around Grand Central, not a lot of the other retail locations can say that, if any. (photo by katie sokoler)
Inspired by the collaborative intelligence of her fellow software designers, Kare stayed on at Apple to craft the navigational elements for Mac's GUI. Because an application for designing icons on screen hadn't been coded yet, she went to the University Art supply store in Palo Alto and picked up a $2.50 sketchbook so she could begin playing around with forms and ideas. In the pages of this sketchbook, which hardly anyone but Kare has seen before now*, she created the casual prototypes of a new, radically user-friendly face of computing - each square of graph paper representing a pixel on the screen.
Why not the same thing [as Newsstand] for TV channels? We're seeing the beginnings of this, with iPhone and iPad apps like HBO Go, Watch ESPN, and the aforementioned Bloomberg TV+. Letting each TV network do their own app allows them the flexibility that writing software provides. News networks can combine their written and video news into an integrated layout. Networks with contractual obligations to cable operators, like HBO and ESPN, can write code that requires users to log in to verify their status as an eligible subscriber.
This smells right to me...it's a very Apple-y way of approaching the TV/movie problem. Rather than fight with the studios and networks over content sold through the iTunes Store (where the studios control the licensing rights), just provide a platform (iPhone + iPad + iTV + App Store) controlled by Apple and if the studios/networks want to reach those customers, they need to provide an app...with Apple taking a 30% cut of the App *and* content sales.
[Apple's] devices have become increasingly simple and pared down, even as the power contained in them has increased. There is very little, if anything, extraneous on the Magic Trackpad or the MacBook Air. And of course the iPhones 4 and 4S are radically simple, yet well-constructed masterpieces of industrial design.
Yet, when it comes to stuff that isn't hardware:
But no one laughs when Apple delivers a calendar application for the iPad that tries its hardest to look like a real-word desktop calendar pad, complete with fake leather and "torn" pages.
Still fewer have a chuckle when they see the new Address Book app on Mac OS X Lion, or the even more recent Find My Friends iPhone app.
These apps, and many more besides, all stem from a completely different, and I would say opposite aesthetic sensibility than the plain devices they run on.
They are an expression of purest kitsch, sentimentality, and ornamentation for its own sake. In Milan Kundera's brilliant definition, kitsch is "the absolute denial of shit". These are Disney-like apps, sinister in their mendacity.
This isn't a recent thing either...look at the cheeseball themes and transitions in Keynote (many of them used by Jobs in his keynotes), some of the default system fonts, the emphasis in past keynotes on things like Mail.app themes, etc. Without too much effort, you could pull together many design examples from their currently shipping software that make it appear as though Apple doesn't have a good aesthetic sense of design at all. But then you look at the general aesthetics of OSX and iOS...I don't know, it's really confusing how the same company, especially one that had such strong design leadership, could produce something as beautifully spare as iOS and something as cheesy as the Game Center app. (via ★thefoxisblack)
Dieter Rams' 40 year stint at Braun until 1995 redefined the world of product design, taking pure modernism to the world of gadgets. He is the direct inspiration for much of Apple's product design after Steve Jobs returned and in many aspects his work is more rigorous and more coherent than Apple's.
Dan Lyons posted the notes of a long conversation he had with Steve Wozniak last week. Lots of Apple history and prehistory...I didn't know, for instance, that Woz designed the Apple I before Jobs was involved.
I was highly regarded for my engineering skills. But I never wanted money. I would have been a bad person to run a company. I wanted to be a nice guy. I wanted to make friends with everybody. Yes I came up with the idea for the personal computer but I don't want to be known as a guy who changed the world. I want to be known as an engineer who connected chips in a really efficient way or wrote code that is unbelievable. I want to be known as a great engineer. I'm thankful Steve Jobs was there. You need someone who has a spirit for the marketplace. Who has the spirit for who computers change humanity. I didn't design the Apple II for a company. I designed it for myself, to show off. I look at all the recent Apple products, like the iPhone, the iPad, and even Pixar, and it was like everything Steve worked on had to be perfect. Because it was him. Every product he created was Steve Jobs.
And Woz is *still* an Apple employee! He makes $100 a week. (via stellar)
I am incredibly sad this morning. Why am I, why are we, feeling this so intensely? I have some thoughts about that but not for now. For now, I'm just going to share some of the things I've been reading and watching about Jobs. And after that, I think I'm done here for the day and will move on to spend some time building my little thing that I'm trying to make insanely great.
The 2005 Stanford Commencement Speech. For me, the speech is better in text than in video.
Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.
The iPhone announcement in 2007. I am with Dan Frommer on this one: this is Jobs at his absolute best. He was just so so excited about this thing that he and his team had created, so proud. His presentation is also a reminder of how revolutionary the iPhone was four years ago.
Jobs usually had little interest in public self-analysis, but every so often he'd drop a clue to what made him tick. Once he recalled for me some of the long summers of his youth. I'm a big believer in boredom," he told me. Boredom allows one to indulge in curiosity, he explained, and "out of curiosity comes everything." The man who popularized personal computers and smartphones -- machines that would draw our attention like a flame attracts gnats -- worried about the future of boredom. "All the [technology] stuff is wonderful, but having nothing to do can be wonderful, too."
I like to think that in the run-up to his final keynote, Steve made time for a long, peaceful walk. Somewhere beautiful, where there are no footpaths and the grass grows thick. Hand-in-hand with his wife and family, the sun warm on their backs, smiles on their faces, love in their hearts, at peace with their fate.
I have no way of knowing how Steve talked to his team during Apple's darkest days in 1997 and 1998, when the company was on the brink and he was forced to turn to archrival Microsoft for a rescue. He certainly had a nasty, mercurial side to him, and I expect that, then and later, it emerged inside the company and in dealings with partners and vendors, who tell believable stories about how hard he was to deal with.
But I can honestly say that, in my many conversations with him, the dominant tone he struck was optimism and certainty, both for Apple and for the digital revolution as a whole. Even when he was telling me about his struggles to get the music industry to let him sell digital songs, or griping about competitors, at least in my presence, his tone was always marked by patience and a long-term view. This may have been for my benefit, knowing that I was a journalist, but it was striking nonetheless.
At times in our conversations, when I would criticize the decisions of record labels or phone carriers, he'd surprise me by forcefully disagreeing, explaining how the world looked from their point of view, how hard their jobs were in a time of digital disruption, and how they would come around.
This quality was on display when Apple opened its first retail store. It happened to be in the Washington, D.C., suburbs, near my home. He conducted a press tour for journalists, as proud of the store as a father is of his first child. I commented that, surely, there'd only be a few stores, and asked what Apple knew about retailing.
He looked at me like I was crazy, said there'd be many, many stores, and that the company had spent a year tweaking the layout of the stores, using a mockup at a secret location. I teased him by asking if he, personally, despite his hard duties as CEO, had approved tiny details like the translucency of the glass and the color of the wood.
Heartwarming/breaking: shortly following the news of Steve's death, our daughter called me "dada" for the first time. It goes on.
The Computer That Changed My Life. Bryce Roberts shares the story of the first Apple computer he bought.
As I sat alone in my makeshift office in Sandy, UT I decided that I wanted to start fresh, all the way down to my operating system. It sounds funny now, but it was an important psychological move for me. I wanted the next level to look and feel different than what I'd experienced in the past in every possible way.
I fired up my Sony Viao and surfed over to Apple.com. I wasn't an Apple fanboy. I'd never owned one of their machines. And that was the point.
I didn't know if I would love it or even like it, but it was going to be different. And different was exactly how I wanted the next level to feel.
This is *exactly* why I bought an iBook in 2002 after a lifetime of Windows/DOS machines.
I was hoping for something bold and interesting looking. The iPhone 4 was just that when it shipped. So too were the original iPhone and the iPhone 3G. If I'm going to buy a new phone, of course I want it to look new. Because of course we care about having novel designs. If we didn't we'd all be lugging around some 10-inch thick brick with a 12 day battery life.
Mat's is an understandable reaction. After I upgraded my iPhone, Macbook Pro, and OS X all at once two years ago, I wrote about Apple's upgrade problem:
From a superficial perspective, my old MBP and new MBP felt exactly the same...same OS, same desktop wallpaper, same Dock, all my same files in their same folders, etc. Same deal with the iPhone except moreso...the iPhone is almost entirely software and that was nearly identical. And re: Snow Leopard, I haven't noticed any changes at all aside from the aforementioned absent plug-ins.
So, just having paid thousands of dollars for new hardware and software, I have what feels like my same old stuff.
Deep down, when I stop to think about it, I know (or have otherwise convinced myself) that these purchases were worth it and that Apple's ease of upgrade works almost exactly how it should. But my gut tells me that I've been ripped off. The "newness" cognitive jolt humans get is almost entirely absent.
For me, yesterday's event, Apple's continued success in innovation *and* business, and the recent CEO change provided a different perspective: that Apple makes two very complementary types of products and we should be excited about both types.
The first type of product is the most familiar and is exemplified by Steve Jobs: Apple makes magical products that shape entire industries and modify social structures in significant ways. These are the bold strokes that combine technology with design in a way that's almost artistic: Apple II, Macintosh, iPod, iPhone, and iPad. When they were introduced, these products were new and exciting and no one quite knew where those products were going to take us (Apple included). That's what people want to see when they go to Apple events: Steve Jobs holding up a rainbow-hued unicorn that you can purchase for your very own.
The second type of product is less noticed and perhaps is best exemplified by Apple's new CEO, Tim Cook: identify products and services that work, continually refine them, innovate at the margins (the addition of Siri to the iPhone 4S is a good example of this), build interconnecting ecosystems around them, and put processes and infrastructure in place to produce ever more of these items at lower cost and higher profit. The wheel has been invented; now we'll perfect it. This is where Apple is at with the iPhone now, a conceptually solved problem: people know what they are, what they're used for, and Apple's gonna knuckle down and crank out ever better/faster/smarter versions of them in the future. Many of Apple's current products are like this, better than they have ever been, more popular than they have ever been, but there's nothing magical about them anymore: iPhone 4S, iPod, OS X, iMacs, Macbooks, etc.
The exciting thing about this second type of product, for investors and consumers alike, is Apple is now expert at capturing their lightning in a bottle. 'Twas not always so...Apple wasn't able to properly capitalize on the success of the Macintosh and it almost killed the company. What Tim Cook ultimately held up at Apple's event yesterday is a promise: there won't be a return to the Apple of the 1990s, when the mighty Macintosh devolved into a flaky, slow, and (adding insult to injury) expensive klunker and they couldn't decide on a future direction for their operating system (remember Copland?). There will be an iPhone 5 in the future and it will be better than the iPhone 4S in significant & meaningful ways but it will also *just work*. And while that might be a bit boring to Apple event watchers, this interconnected web of products is the thing that makes the continued development of the new and magical products possible.
There's been a lot written about Steve Jobs in the past week, a lot of it worthy of reading, but one piece you probably didn't see is David Galbraith's piece on Jobs' similarity to architect Norman Foster. The essay is a bit all over the place, which replicates the experience of talking to David in person, but it's littered with insight and goodness (ditto).
The answer is what might be called the sand pile model and it operated at Apple and Fosters, the boss sits independently from the structural hierarchy, to some extent, and can descend at random on a specific element at will. The boss maintains control of the overall house style by cleaning up the edges at the same time as having a vision for the whole, like trying to maintain a sand pile by scooping up the bits that fall off as it erodes in the wind. This is the hidden secret of design firms or prolific artists, the ones where journalists or historians agonize whether a change in design means some new direction when it just means that there was a slip up in maintaining the sand pile.
And I love this paragraph, which integrates Foster, Jobs, the Soviet Union, Porsche, Andy Warhol, Lady Gaga, and even an unspoken Coca-Cola into an extended analogy:
Perfecting the model of selling design that is compatible with big business, Foster simultaneously grew one of the largest architecture practices in the world while still winning awards for design excellence. The secret was to design buildings like the limited edition, invite only Porsches that Foster drove and fellow Porsche drivers would commission them. Jobs went further, however, he managed to create products that were designed like Porsches and made them available to everyone, via High Tech that transcended stylistic elements. An Apple product really was high technology and its form followed function, it went beyond the Porsche analogy by being truly fit for purpose in a way that a Porsche couldn't, being a car designed for a speed that you weren't allowed to drive. Silicon Valley capitalism had arguably delivered what the Soviets had dreamed of and failed, modernism for the masses. An iPhone really is the best phone you can buy at any price. To paraphrase Andy Warhol: Lady Gaga uses an iPhone, and just think, you can have an iPhone too. An iPhone is an iPhone and no amount of money can get you a better phone. This was what American modernism was about.
Matt Buchanan's Unedited thoughts about technology better left unposted is like the sportswriter 'nuggets from the drawer'-type column for tech writing. Seems like Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr would have been low hanging fruit, what other tech companies are missing? On the other hand, there are 9 paragraphs and 4 of them relate to Apple in some way. Maybe this should have just been unedited thoughts about Apple better left unposted.
A lot of the suggestions were to be more like Microsoft and embrace the Windows platform. Apple, obviously, rejected that path and has benefitted greatly from doing so. It's hard to remember now, but many people thought that Apple should drop their operating system and instead turn to making high end Windows PCs. I think we're all glad they never went that route.
Not content to knock-off simple iPhones and iPads, some enterprising Chinese have built an entire fake Apple Store in Kunming, China. It's an actual store selling actual products but is obviously not affiliated with Apple in any way.
Being the curious types that we are, we struck up some conversation with these salespeople who, hand to God, all genuinely think they work for Apple.
Two other misc Apple thoughts: 1) They appear to have discontinued the MacBook. There are Airs and Pros but no plain-old MacBooks. 2) Apple Inc, already among the largest companies in the world in terms of market cap, announced yesterday that the company's "revenue [is] up 82 percent and profits [are] up 125 percent" over the same quarter last year. That level of growth in such a big company...that's just astounding. And much of the revenue and profit are from products that didn't exist even five years ago...the iPad alone was a ~$5 billion business in Q3 (for comparison, Google had $9 billion in total revenues in Q2). If that's not unprecedented, it's damn close.
From 1990, a NY Times article on a new factory built by Next, the company Steve Jobs started after he left Apple. The more you learn about Next, the more you realize just how much Next DNA there is in the current incarnation of Apple. The story of Apple's second coming could easily be written as the triumph of Next. This section from the middle of the article articulates perfectly Apple's current approach to manufacturing:
Indeed, critics of Mr. Jobs, who is 35 years old, say he is wasting his money by building a factory at this point. With the small number of machines he is building today, it would have been cheaper simply to contract with other companies to assemble the computers, they say.
But Dr. Piszczalski said the initial high investment in an automated factory may permit Next more control of its expenses while volumes are low.
And backers of Mr. Jobs note that he has a long-term strategy in which manufacturing makes sense. "Steve will be in business for the long pull," said H. Ross Perot, one of Next's investors. "He's not in business for six months."
Next's products have yet to gain a significant share of the marketplace, but Mr. Jobs, who has a reputation for painstaking attention to detail and a passion for the importance of manufacturing, argues that by linking this flexible factory more closely than ever to Next's research and development process, his company can gain a strategic advantage in the industry that will eventually pay off in larger sales.
In Mr. Jobs's view, the factory testifies to the fact that the United States can still compete as both a low-cost and a world-class manufacturer when it sets its mind to the task.
Mr. Jobs said he modeled the factory after those of Japanese corporations like the Sony Corporation that have perfected a design-for-manufacturing strategy that transforms the factory floor into an extension of the company research and development center.
Update: Next made a documentary on how computers are made at the new factory.
That's got to be a Hans Zimmer soundtrack, yes? (via @mgrdcm)
In the near term, companies making iPhone and iPad competitors are never going to beat Apple at their own game. Apple has supply chain advantages, a massive number of their customers' credit card numbers (why do you think Jobs brings this up at every single Apple event...it's important!), key patents, one-in-lifetime personnel like Steve Jobs and Jony Ive, solid relationships with key media companies, and an integrated ecosystem of stores, apps, applications, and hardware. They are an imposing competitor.
But Apple also has some weak spots which a canny competitor should be able to exploit to make compelling products that Apple won't be able to duplicate or directly compete with.
1. Apple doesn't do social well on a large scale. Ping? Game Center? Please. Social applications don't seem to be in Apple's DNA...their best applications are still single-player or 2/3/4-player. Someone should figure out how to leverage Facebook's social graph to make the phone/app/gaming/music/video experience significantly better than on the iPhone/iPad and then partner exclusively with Facebook to make it happen. The Facebook Fone would be a massive hit if done right.
2. Apple can't do the cloud either. Mobile Me has been around since January 2000 (when it was called iTools) and the service is still not as compelling as newcomer Dropbox. iPods, iPhones, and iPads are still very much tethered to plain-old desktop/laptop computers and iTunes...there's an opportunity here for a better way.
3. iTunes is getting long in the tooth. The cloud and social are the two Apple weaknesses, but iTunes is showing its age and over the years has become a bloated collection of functionalities...music store, video store, app store, mobile device manager, "social" network, and, oh, by the way, you can also use it to play your music. Spotify, Pandora, and Rd.io point the way to a different approach.
4. I can't remember if this is my own theory or I read about this on Daring Fireball or something, but the Apple products & services that Apple does well are the ones that Steve Jobs uses (or cares about) and the ones he doesn't use/care about are less good (or just plain bad). Jobs uses Keynote and it's very good...but I'm pretty sure Jobs never has had to schedule his own appointments with iCal so that program is less good. Cloud apps and social apps are at the top of this list for a reason...I just don't think Jobs cares about those things. I mean, he cares, but there's not a lot of passion there...they aren't a priority for him so he doesn't really know how to think about them and attack those problems.
And then there are a couple of Apple weaknesses that actually aren't weaknesses at all:
1. Price. Everyone still thinks that Apple products are expensive, or, more to the point, overpriced. But no one else has made a compelling tablet for under $500 yet. And if you attack Apple on price, potential gothchas lurk: Apple is absurdly profitable and cash-rich; if they feel the need to compete with anyone on price in order to protect their business interests, they can do so with price cuts deep enough and long enough to drive most potential competitors out of business.
2. Openness and secrecy. Competitors should take a page from Apple's playbook here and be open about stuff that will give you a competitive advantage and shut the hell up about everything else. Open is not always better.
He is 27 years old. He lives in Los Gates, Calif., and works 20 minutes away in Cupertino, a town of 34,000 that his company has so transformed that some San Franciscans, about 35 miles to the north, have taken to calling it Computertino. There is no doubt in any case that this is a company town, although the company, Apple, did not exist seven years ago. Now, Apple just closed its best year in business, racking up sales of $583 million. The company stock has a market value of $1.7 billion. Jobs, as founder of Apple, chairman of the board, media figurehead and all-purpose dynamo, owns about 7 million shares of that stock. His personal worth is on the balmy side of $210 million. But past the money, and the hype, and the fairy-tale success, Jobs has been the prime advanceman for the computer revolution. With his smooth sales pitch and a blind faith that would have been the envy of the early Christian martyrs, it is Steven Jobs, more than anyone, who kicked open the door and let the personal computer move in.
The article contains some really interesting stuff: perhaps the first mention of Jobs' "reality-distortion field", a prescient comment that Jobs "should be running Walt Disney", and a description of Steve Wozniak as "a Steiff Teddy bear on a maintenance dose of marshmallows".
'We lost a great talent,' says Grinyer. 'We virtually created our own consultancy, Tangerine, just so that we could employ Jony (as Ive prefers to be called). And if I had to put my finger on why and where we lost him it would have to have been one day at Ideal Standard in Hull.
'Tangerine had a consultancy contract with the bathroom-fittings company to design a toilet. I was there when Jony made an excellent presentation to this guy who was wearing a red nose because it was Comic Relief day. This clown then decided to throw his weight around and pulled apart Jony's design. It was ridiculous. Britain lost Jony Ive then and there.'
Since the introduction of the iPhone, Apple has ruled the December holidays. Under the tree, by the menorah, and around the Festivus pole has appeared a steady stream of iPods, iPhones, iTunes gift cards, iPod touches, and even MacBooks. Apple has sold tons of devices in the final quarter of the last three years and, with the iPad added to the lineup, will likely do so again this year.
But I think two companies who will do even better than Apple in December this year.
The first is Amazon**. The cheapest Kindle is now only $139 (and the one with free 3G is $50 more). They are going to sell a metric crapload of these things this Christmas. And even if they don't, they're going to sell 50 million metric shitloads of Kindle books because you don't even need a Kindle to read Kindle books...Amazon has readers for the iPad (which is way better than Apple's iBooks app IMO), iPhone, Android devices, Blackberry, WinPhone 7, Windows, and OS X. I never would have predicted it, but I am a firm convert to Kindle books...and I don't even have a Kindle. The killer feature here is Amazon's multi-platform support. I *love* reading books on the iPad at home but when I'm out and about, if I've got my iPhone in my pocket, I can read a book. The best book is the one that's always with you.
This one is more of a guess, but the other company that will do well this holiday season is Microsoft. I know, right? But have you seen this Kinect thing? It's an add-on for Xbox 360 that takes everything people loved about the Wii and Wii Fit and makes it easier, more natural, and more powerful. Basically you hook this bar up to your Xbox 360 and it tracks your motion around the room. You're the controller. Here's a snippet from David Pogue's positive review:
The Wii, by tracking the position of its remote control, was amazing for its time (2006). It's a natural for games in which you swing one hand -- bowling, tennis, golf. But the Kinect blows open a whole universe of new, whole-body simulations -- volleyball, obstacle courses, dancing, flying.
It doesn't merely recognize that someone is there; it recognizes your face and body. In some games, you can jump in to take a buddy's place; the game instantly notices the change and signs you in under your own name. If you leave the room, it pauses the game automatically.
There's a crazy, magical, omigosh rush the first time you try the Kinect. It's an experience you've never had before.
The ventilation stripes used on Apple products from 1984 to 1990 were part of a design language developed by Frog Design called Snow White.
The Snow White design language was an industrial design language developed by Frog Design, founded by Hartmut Esslinger. It was used by Apple Computer from 1984 to 1990. It is characterised by vertical and horizontal stripes acting as decoration and occasionally ventilation, as well as creating the illusion of the computer enclosure being smaller than it actually is.
I enjoyed this extensive interview with John Sculley about his time at Apple (he was CEO from 83-93) because of 1) his insight into Steve Jobs' way of thinking, 2) his willingness to talk about his mistakes, and 3) his insights about business in general...he gives Jobs a lot of credit but Sculley is clearly no slouch. Some high points:
[Jobs] felt that the computer was going to change the world and it was going to become what he called "the bicycle for the mind."
On the small size of teams actually building products:
Normally you will only see a handful of software engineers who are building an operating system. People think that it must be hundreds and hundreds working on an operating system. It really isn't. It's really just a small team of people. Think of it like the atelier of an artist.
Sculley was president of Pepsi before coming to Apple:
We did some research and we discovered that when people were going to serve soft drinks to a friend in their home, if they had Coca Cola in the fridge, they would go out to the kitchen, open the fridge, take out the Coke bottle, bring it out, put it on the table and pour a glass in front of their guests.
If it was a Pepsi, they would go out in to the kitchen, take it out of the fridge, open it, and pour it in a glass in the kitchen, and only bring the glass out. The point was people were embarrassed to have someone know that they were serving Pepsi. Maybe they would think it was Coke because Coke had a better perception. It was a better necktie. Steve was fascinated by that.
On why he should not have been hired as Apple's CEO:
The reason why I said it was a mistake to have hired me as CEO was Steve always wanted to be CEO. It would have been much more honest if the board had said, "Let's figure out a way for him to be CEO. You could focus on the stuff that you bring and he focuses on the stuff he brings."
Remember, he was the chairman of the board, the largest shareholder and he ran the Macintosh division, so he was above me and below me.
After Jobs left, Sculley tried to run the company as Jobs would have:
All the design ideas were clearly Steve's. The one who should really be given credit for all that stuff while I was there is really Steve. [...] Unfortunately, I wasn't as good at it as he was.
And finally, Sculley and Jobs probably haven't spoken since Jobs left the company:
He won't talk to me, so I don't know.
Jobs is pulling a page from the Don Draper playbook here. In season two, Don tells mental hospital patient Peggy:
Peggy listen to me, get out of here and move forward. This never happened. It will shock you how much it never happened.
Maybe Jobs is still pissed at Sculley and holds a grudge or whatever, but it seems more likely that looking backwards is something that Jobs simply doesn't do. Move forward, Steve.
The launch highlights the mounting pressure on Apple Inc. to give publishers a way to sell their magazines more than one digital issue at a time. Executives from the New Yorker and its publisher, Conde Nast, say the true value of apps like the New Yorker's can't be realized until readers are allowed to purchase subscriptions.
"It is important to the New Yorker that we have offerings that allow long-term relationships with the consumers," said Conde Nast President Bob Sauerberg. "Obviously, we don't have that in place for the moment with Apple. We are very keen to do that."
The other night, however, a very amazing thing happened. I downloaded an app called Color ID. It uses the iPhone's camera, and speaks names of colors. It must use a table, because each color has an identifier made up of 6 hexadecimal digits. This puts the total at 16777216 colors, and I believe it. Some of them have very surreal names, such as Atomic Orange, Cosmic, Hippie Green, Opium, and Black-White. These names in combination with what feels like a rise in serotonin levels makes for a very psychedelic experience.
I have never experienced this before in my life. I can see some light and color, but just in blurs, and objects don't really have a color, just light sources. When I first tried it at three o'clock in the morning, I couldn't figure out why it just reported black. After realizing that the screen curtain also disables the camera, I turned it off, but it still have very dark colors. Then I remembered that you actually need light to see, and it probably couldn't see much at night. I thought about light sources, and my interview I did for Get Lamp. First, I saw one of my beautiful salt lamps in its various shades of orange, another with its pink and rose colors, and the third kind in glowing pink and red.. I felt stunned.
One of the first things that Steve Jobs did after taking over as Apple's interim CEO in 1997 is to get Apple back on track with their branding. In this short presentation from '97, Jobs talks about branding & Apple's core values and introduces the Think Different campaign.
What's interesting is how the iPad and iPhone advertisements focus almost entirely on the product. Apple no longer has to imply that their products are the best by showing you pictures of Albert Einstein and Amelia Earhart...they just show you the products and you know. But I don't see Jobs doing a "fake it 'til you make it" branding presentation anytime soon. :)
This Best of Kottke post was easy, because I wanted to write something about Steve Jobs over the years anyways. The kickoff is Jason's link to a 1995 interview with Jobs for Smithsonian Magazine. It's mostly reflective, talking about his childhood, his history with Apple and early history with NEXT and Pixar. Toy Story hadn't come out yet, and it's fascinating to read what could be his bluster about what the movie and company were going to do, which of course turned out to be totally true. He's also absolutely thrilled with what NEXT was doing with graphical user interface and networked computers. Windows 95 came out four months later.
It's a sharp contrast with his interview the next year for Wired, which is mostly about the future of computing. He's devastated and angry about Windows, but incredibly enthusiastic about the open web.
The desktop computer industry is dead. Innovation has virtually ceased. Microsoft dominates with very little innovation. That's over. Apple lost. The desktop market has entered the dark ages, and it's going to be in the dark ages for the next 10 years, or certainly for the rest of this decade.
It's like when IBM drove a lot of innovation out of the computer industry before the microprocessor came along. Eventually, Microsoft will crumble because of complacency, and maybe some new things will grow. But until that happens, until there's some fundamental technology shift, it's just over.
The most exciting things happening today are objects and the Web. The Web is exciting for two reasons. One, it's ubiquitous. There will be Web dial tone everywhere. And anything that's ubiquitous gets interesting. Two, I don't think Microsoft will figure out a way to own it. There's going to be a lot more innovation, and that will create a place where there isn't this dark cloud of dominance.
He also has this crystal clear vision about how the web was going to move beyond simple publishing and would be used to do commerce and create marketplaces for physical and virtual goods -- a vision, which, again, turned out to be exactly right.
Two common threads in both interviews: he hates teachers' unions, and doesn't think technology can do anything for education. You generally see a much more libertarian, pessimistic Jobs in both of these interviews than you do today. He talks about death a lot, even though he's still young and healthy.
Finally, I'll link to what's still one of my favorite looks at the future of consumer technology, Jobs and Bill Gates's 2007 joint interview at D5 with Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher. (Prologue - Full Video - Transcript) It's long to watch, but so worth it. They joke and reminisce with each other, tell stories about the early days of the computer industry, and share ideas about where things are going. (Bill Gates's first line: "First, I just want to say: I am not Fake Steve Jobs.")
The iPhone (announced but not released) is hot as hell, but Apple is still a much smaller company than Microsoft. Vista's just been released and is stumbling out of the gate. Gates, unlike Jobs, is incredibly invested in trying to do something in tech to help education, and Jobs (whose Apple now has a huge education market) is mostly silent.
It's also painfully obvious in retrospect that Jobs is talking about the expansion of the iOS into the iPod Touch, iPad (and maybe beyond) while Gates is talking about the experiments in input recognition that played into Windows 7 and the new XBox Kinect. Neither of them have any real idea what to do with TVs, but Gates actually seems to be more visionary, in part because he can afford to be less coy. It's great. I've probably rewatched it four times, and you've never seen it, and care about this stuff at all, you should catch it.
Here's a great story of Jami getting her bike stolen last night in Brooklyn. Wait, why is that great? Because, thanks to some internet sleuthing, a lot of luck (!!!), and solid police work from Brooklyn's finest, she had it back by 11:30 this morning!
While we're on the subject of bikes, according to a recently filed patent, Apple is looking at making a smart bike. I look to the future and I see 1) Consternation that Apple has signed an exclusive agreement to release the bike on Trek frames only for a period of 3, 4, or 5 years depending on which rumor you believe. 2) Several media stories crediting Apple for popularizing the riding of bikes. 3) Several media stories criticizing Apple for claiming they popularized the riding of bikes, even if they didn't.make that claim, 4) Much rejoicing 3 weeks after release of the bike when someone has figure d out how to jail break the phone into a fixed gear. 5) 250 posts from John Gruber refudiating predictions of iBike failure. I look forward to all of it.
Lastly, on the topic of bikes. My friend Chris Piascik is drawing all the bikes he's ever owned. This wouldn't be a big deal for most people, Chris, however, has owned a gazillion bikes. The drawings are accompanied by vignettes on the bikes and I think the project will end up being more of a memoir than Chris originally anticipated. (Disclosure: If I had to name a favorite artist, it'd probably be Chris, and I post his art often on UW.)
1. a creation myth highlighting the counter-cultural origin and emergence of the Apple Mac as a transformative moment; 2. a hero myth presenting the Mac and its founder Jobs as saving its users from the corporate domination of the PC world; 3. a satanic myth that presents Bill Gates as the enemy of Mac loyalists; 4. and, finally, a resurrection myth of Jobs returning to save the failing company...
On Twitter, Tim Carmody adds that Apple's problems are increasingly theological in nature -- "Free will, problem of evil, Satanic rebellion" -- which is a really interesting way to look at the whole thing. (John Gruber the Baptist?)
** The Antennagate being, of course, the hotel where Apple Inc. is headquartered.
If the Mac was so great, why did it lose? Cost, again Microsoft concentrated on the software business and unleashed a swarm of cheap component suppliers on Apple hardware. It did not help either that suits took over during a critical period. (And it hasn't lost yet. If Apple were to grow the iPod into a cell phone with a web browser, Microsoft would be in big trouble.)
Then again, a few footnotes later Graham writes:
Apple is holding a press conference today, which will presumably address the antenna problems that few actual customers seem to be having on the still-selling-like-hotcakes iPhone 4. I have a number of sources at Apple and based on my conversations with them, here's my prediction on how today's event will play out:
Steve Jobs will come out on stage and will sit in front of a large olde tyme cash register. He will immediately begin taking questions from the assembled journalists and bloggers. As the first-question scrum begins, Jobs will start madly ringing up purchases on the very loud register while pointing to his ears, shaking his head, and shouting "gosh, I'm sorry I can't hear you guys over the sound of the register". This will continue for several minutes and then the press conference will be over.
Someone on Apple's board suggested a more conventional press event but Jobs quickly wrote an email back saying that they were not going to "hold it that way".
I have to think (and experiment) every single time I want to decipher one of these keyboard "shortcuts". Why is it that only the command key (⌘) actually has the symbol printed on the key itself? And what's up with the symbol for the option key (⌥)?
The recently announced iPhone 4 includes a feature called FaceTime; it's wifi videophone functionality. In Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace wrote that within the reality of the book, videophones enjoyed enormous initial popularity but then after a few months, most people gave it up. Why the switch back to voice?
The answer, in a kind of trivalent nutshell, is: (1) emotional stress, (2) physical vanity, and (3) a certain queer kind of self-obliterating logic in the microeconomics of consumer high-tech.
First, the stress:
Good old traditional audio-only phone conversations allowed you to presume that the person on the other end was paying complete attention to you while also permitting you not to have to pay anything even close to complete attention to her. A traditional aural-only conversation [...] let you enter a kind of highway-hypnotic semi-attentive fugue: while conversing, you could look around the room, doodle, fine-groom, peel tiny bits of dead skin away from your cuticles, compose phone-pad haiku, stir things on the stove; you could even carry on a whole separate additional sign-language-and-exaggerated-facial-expression type of conversation with people right there in the room with you, all while seeming to be right there attending closely to the voice on the phone. And yet -- and this was the retrospectively marvelous part -- even as you were dividing your attention between the phone call and all sorts of other idle little fuguelike activities, you were somehow never haunted by the suspicion that the person on the other end's attention might be similarly divided.
[...] Video telephony rendered the fantasy insupportable. Callers now found they had to compose the same sort of earnest, slightly overintense listener's expression they had to compose for in-person exchanges. Those caller who out of unconscious habit succumbed to fuguelike doodling or pants-crease-adjustment now came off looking extra rude, absentminded, or childishly self-absorbed. Callers who even more unconsciously blemish-scanned or nostril explored looked up to find horrified expressions on the video-faces at the other end. All of which resulted in videophonic stress.
And then vanity:
And the videophonic stress was even worse if you were at all vain. I.e. if you worried at all about how you looked. As in to other people. Which all kidding aside who doesn't. Good old aural telephone calls could be fielded without makeup, toupee, surgical prostheses, etc. Even without clothes, if that sort of thing rattled your saber. But for the image-conscious, there was of course no answer-as-you-are informality about visual-video telephone calls, which consumers began to see were less like having the good old phone ring than having the doorbell ring and having to throw on clothes and attach prostheses and do hair-checks in the foyer mirror before answering the door.
Those are only excerpts...you can read more on pp. 144-151 of Infinite Jest. Eventually, in the world of the book, people began wearing "form-fitting polybutylene masks" when talking on the videophone before even that became too much.
Last week, Mike Davidson put up a post about Apple discussing the idea that having a ruthless company making great products is a good problem to have (compared to a ruthless company making so-so products). It got picked up by DF, but I flagged it in my RSS because of a section close to the bottom. I haven't seen this theory about Apple discussed before.
What's the best way to avoid becoming a monopoly? Make sure you never get close to 100% market share. What's the best way to temper your market share? Keep prices a bit higher than you could. Keep supply a bit lower than you could. Keep investing in high margin differentiation and not low margin ubiquity...They are fighting hard right now to make sure they are one of the two or three that will continue to be relevant in 5-10 years, but their goal is clearly not to be at 100% or even 90%...It's scary to people because they remember the harm other companies have done when they reached monopoly status, but with Google, Microsoft, Nokia, RIMM, and now HP all keeping the market healthy with different alternatives, there is no excuse for not voting with your feet if you're unhappy. Apple's not going to take over the world because -- if for no other reason -- the laws of the United States won't let them.
Until we see that the iPhone is as thoroughly entangled into a network of landscapes as any more obviously geological infrastructure (the highway, both imposing carefully limited slopes across every topography it encounters and grinding/crushing/re-laying igneous material onto those slopes) or industrial product (the car, fueled by condensed and liquefied geology), we will consistently misunderstand it.
A letter from Steve Jobs about why they don't allow Flash on iPhones, iPods, and iPads. (Notice he specifically uses the harsher "allow" instead of the much softer "support".)
Jobs sort of circles around the main issue which is, from my own perspective as heavy web user and web developer: though Flash may have been necessary in the past to provide functionality in the browser that wasn't possible using JS, HTML, and CSS, that is no longer the case. Those open web technologies have matured (or will in the near future) and can do most or even all of what is possible with Flash. For 95% of all cases, Flash is, or will soon be, obsolete because there is a better way to do it that's more accessible, more open, and more "web-like".
Since the Windows 95 launch, Microsoft's stock has only (only!) quadrupled in value while Apple's stock has increased by more than 24 times. 24 times! That kind of growth is remarkable for a company that had already been public for 15 years and, everyone assumed, had already been through their boom time. Of course, what goes up can easily come down...
I stuck Google in there for good measure. It doesn't show as much growth as you'd think because GOOG's IPO-day closing price made it a very large company from the start...the chart hides Google's pre-IPO growth in value. But still, look at how much Apple's stock price has grown in comparison to Google's since the latter's IPO. (For fun, add Yahoo into the mix and dial the graph back to 1996.)
In 2001, a PowerBook G4 would have set you back $3500. Suppose instead that you had purchased $3500 in Apple stock instead of the computer...that stock would now be worth about $110,000. Even an original iPod's worth in AAPL ($399) would be worth almost $12,000 today.
Writing for the New Yorker, Ken Auletta surveys the ebook landscape: it's Apple, Amazon, Google, and the book publishers engaged in a poker game for the hearts, minds, and wallets of book buyers. Kindle editions of books are selling well:
There are now an estimated three million Kindles in use, and Amazon lists more than four hundred and fifty thousand e-books. If the same book is available in paper and paperless form, Amazon says, forty per cent of its customers order the electronic version. Russ Grandinetti, the Amazon vice-president, says the Kindle has boosted book sales over all. "On average," he says, Kindle users "buy 3.1 times as many books as they did twelve months ago."
Many compare ebook-selling to what iTunes was able to do with music albums. But Auletta notes:
The analogy of the music business goes only so far. What iTunes did was to replace the CD as the basic unit of commerce; rather than being forced to buy an entire album to get the song you really wanted, you could buy just the single track. But no one, with the possible exception of students, will want to buy a single chapter of most books.
I've touched on this before, but while people may not want to buy single chapters of books, they do want to read things that aren't book length. I think we'll see more literature in the novella/short-story/long magazine article range as publishers and authors attempt to fill that gap.
Lorem iPad dolor sit amet, consectetur Apple adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua Shenzhen. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud no multi-tasking ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip iPad ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor iPad in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse CEO Steve Jobs dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Windows 7 ha ha ha. Excepteur sint occaecat battery life non proident, iPad in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.
Morbi erat justo, magical in semper posuere Jony Ive, molestie eget ipsum. Praesent eget erat no camera. Apple a erat sit amet ante pretium just a big iPod touch bibendum a at magna. Suspendisse Flash, sem sed tempor gravida, dolor mi auctor HTML5, vel feugiat justo metus nec diam. Maecenas quis iPad volutpat augue.
You know, by people who have actually used the thing for more than 5 minutes at a press event. Walt Mossberg from WSJ:
It's qualitatively different, a whole new type of computer that, through a simple interface, can run more-sophisticated, PC-like software than a phone does, and whose large screen allows much more functionality when compared with a phone's. But, because the iPad is a new type of computer, you have to feel it, to use it, to fully understand it and decide if it is for you, or whether, say, a netbook might do better.
The simple act of making the multitouch screen bigger changes the whole experience. Maps become real maps, like the paper ones. You see your e-mail inbox and the open message simultaneously. Driving simulators fill more of your field of view, closer to a windshield than a keyhole.
Also from Pogue, an interesting tidbit on how you buy access for the iPad through AT&T:
But how's this for a rare deal from a cell company: there's no contract. By tapping a button in Settings, you can order up a month of unlimited cellular Internet service for $30. Or pay $15 for 250 megabytes of Internet data; when it runs out, you can either buy another 250 megs, or just upgrade to the unlimited plan for the month. Either way, you can cancel and rejoin as often as you want -- just March, July and November, for example -- without penalty. The other carriers are probably cursing AT&T's name for setting this precedent.
The most compelling sign that Apple got this right is the fact that despite the novelty of the iPad, the excitement slips away after about ten seconds and you're completely focused on the task at hand ... whether it's reading a book, writing a report, or working on clearing your Inbox. Second most compelling: in situation after situation, I find that the iPad is the best computer in my household and office menagerie. It's not a replacement for my notebook, mind you. It feels more as if the iPad is filling a gap that's existed for quite some time.
Maybe the most exciting thing about iPad is the apps that aren't here yet. The book-film-game hybrid someone will bust out in a year, redefining the experience of each, and suggesting some new nouns and verbs in the process. Or an augmented reality lens from NASA that lets you hold the thing up to the sky and pinpoint where the ISS is, next to what constellation, read the names and see the faces of the crew members, check how those fuel cells are holding up.
I like it a lot. But it's the things I never knew it made possible -- to be revealed or not in the coming months -- that will determine whether I love it.
The iPad does perform tasks -- it runs apps and has the calendar, e-mail, Web browsing, office productivity, audio, video and gaming capabilities you would expect of any such device -- yet when I eventually got my hands on one, I discovered that one doesn't relate to it as a "tool"; the experience is closer to one's relationship with a person or an animal.
Companies who target the middle of the market (Sony, Dell, General Motors) are losing customers to companies like Apple & Hermes at the high end and Ikea & H&M at the low end. From James Surowiecki:
The products made by midrange companies are neither exceptional enough to justify premium prices nor cheap enough to win over value-conscious consumers. Furthermore, the squeeze is getting tighter every day. Thanks to economies of scale, products that start out mediocre often get better without getting much more expensive -- the newest Flip, for instance, shoots in high-def and has four times as much memory as the original -- so consumers can trade down without a significant drop in quality. Conversely, economies of scale also allow makers of high-end products to reduce prices without skimping on quality. A top-of-the-line iPod now features video and four times as much storage as it did six years ago, but costs a hundred and fifty dollars less. At the same time, the global market has become so huge that you can occupy a high-end niche and still sell a lot of units. Apple has just 2.2 per cent of the world cell-phone market, but that means it sold twenty-five million iPhones last year.
I straight-up loved this movie. It's a fascinating look at the creative process of a team with strong leadership operating at a very high level. The trailer is pretty misleading in this respect...the main story in the film has little to do with fashion and should be instantly recognizable to anyone who has ever worked with a bunch of people on a project. Others have made the comparison of Anna Wintour with Steve Jobs and it seems apt. At several points in the film, my thoughts drifted to Jobs and Apple; Wintour seems like the same sort of creative leader as Jobs.
The pessimistic dig on Apple, says Gruber, is that it's a supremely well-organized company organized around one irreplaceable guy. The optimistic view is that Jobs has structured it to run like his other company, Pixar, which manages to turn out hit after hit, year after year, without a charismatic celebrity leader.
David Heinemeier Hansson has some thoughts on "quality control without the quality part" nature of Apple's App Store.
In fact, lots of software has lower quality because of the App Store process. Developers can't easily get bug fixes out and they certainly don't release new versions as often as they otherwise would. This harks back to the era where software was really cumbersome to release on CDs, so you did it much less frequently.
No 3G? No contracts? (Might be saving this for last/later.)
I'm looking on the photos of this thing and there doesn't seem to be a camera, video or otherwise.
The iPad appears to be a device that you use sitting down. Can you type on it while holding it standing up?
Ok, there's 3G. $15/mo for 250 MB of data. $30/mo for "unlimited".
iPad is unlocked. International SIM cards "will just work".
Price: $500. Boom. That's for the low-end model with no 3G.
Ooh, keyboard dock. If they could outfit that with a hinge and some sort of latching device, I wonder what that kind of thing would look like? (Will the keyboard work with the iPhone -- er, iPad nano -- as well?)
Will there be an iBook Reader/Store app for the iPhone?
Oh, from earlier: Jobs repositioned Apple as a "mobile devices company".
Right at the end, Jobs showed a street sign marking the intersection of "Technology" and "Liberal Arts". I guess that means that kottke.org is now in direct competition with Apple, Inc. YOU'RE GOING DOWN, STEVE!
The iPad makes the Kindle look like it's from the 1980s.
Amazon's stock price is up...it dipped a bit when the iPad's price was announced but recovered shortly after. I have heard more than a few people say that the Kindle is "dead". But one minus in the iPad column is that readability in the outdoors is not going to be so good...the iPhone in the sunshine might as well be a stone for how useful it is.
If you watch the video on Apple's site, there are now (at least) three different keyboard interactions people need to know to use Apple products. There's 10-fingered touch typing on analog keyboards, thumb typing on the iPhone keyboard, and (about 2:30 into the video) the really odd 4-fingered no-thumbs way of typing on the iPad.
Thinking ahead to the iPad 2, they'll add a video camera, right? What else?
Whoa, the zooming on the Google Maps apps (@ 3:45 in the video) looks incredible. The page flipping animation in the iBooks app though? Super cheesy. It's like in the early days of cars where they built them to look like horse-drawn carriages. Can't we just scroll?
The orientation on the keyboard dock is wrong...it should be horizontal, not vertical.
iPad is not a good name. Too close to iPod for one thing. But mainly just blah.
If the iPhone is any indication, this thing is going to be great for kids. Ollie likes playing games and looking at videos on the iPhone but the larger screen size of the iPad allows for more collaborative play...one kid + one adult or two kids using it together. The iPhone is for solitary use; the iPad can be collaborative (or at least collective). Later: Sippey calls the iPad the family computer:
It looks like a great machine to travel from the living room to the kitchen to the kids room to the bedroom. We'll search the web on it, read the news on it, the kids will do email on it, play Brushes and Bejeweled on it, and it'll be the perfect complement to the Sunday afternoon TV football ritual. We'll use it to control the music in the house, and do some quick bet-settling during dinner. I'm sure we'll eventually enjoy some multiplayer "board" games on it, or read a book on it, or watch a TV show on it. And the kids will argue with each other over who gets it next. (Dad will.)
As usual, several media outlets will bring you breathless coverage of Apple's shiny new thing, in this case, some sort of tablet-y device/service. The event starts at 1pm ET; you can follow along on Ars Technica, Engadget, gdgt, NY Times' Bits blog, or Gizmodo (which is often irritating).
I don't know if these two photos depict the rumored Apple tablet or not, but I *do know* I want 5000 words from Errol Morris that attempt to answer these two seemingly related questions in an attempt to determine their authenticity:
1. Which photo was taken first?
2. Why was the tablet moved between photos?
Allow two classes of apps in the App Store: those approved by Apple and those not approved by Apple. The unapproved apps would only be accessed through direct searches (they would not appear in top 10 lists or be featured on the front page), would carry cigarette-grade warnings that it might kill your phone and cause cancer, and maybe Apple would take a slightly larger cut to incentivize developers to get apps approved. Non-approved apps could still be pulled from the store by Apple at any point for blatant violations of Apple's guidelines. That way, if developers want to skirt around all the headaches of Apple's approval process and if users want to gamble on an app to run on their own hardware that Apple won't or can't approve in a timely fashion, they can.
Like the Lisa, it uses a hand-held "mouse" -- a small pointing device which enables the user to select programs, and move data from one part of the screen to another. Also like the Lisa, Macintosh uses a black and white display screen whose resolution is so high that it can quickly draw detailed pictures while at the same time display crisp and readable text.
Few technology and device-making companies probably realize it, but they are in direct competition with Apple (or soon will be). How did this happen? Well, the iPhone1 does a lot of useful things pretty well, well enough that it is replacing several specialized devices that do one or two things really well. Space in backpacks, pockets, and purses is a finite resource, as is money (obviously). As a result, many are opting to carry only the iPhone with them when they might have toted several devices around. Here is a short list of devices with capabilities duplicated to some degree by the iPhone:
Mobile phone - All the stuff any mobile phone does: phone calls, texting, voicemail.
PDA - The iPhone meets all of the basic PDA needs: address book, calendar, to-dos, notes, and easy data syncing.
iPod - The iPhone is a full-featured music-playing device. And with 32 GB of storage, the 3GS can handle a huge chunk of even the largest music collection.
Point and shoot camera - While not as full-featured as something like a PowerShot, the camera on the iPhone 3GS has a 3-megapxiel lens with both auto and manual focus, shoots in low-light, does macro, and can shoot video. Plus, it's easy to instantly publish your photos online using the iPhone's networking capabilities and automatically tag your photos with your location.
Personal computer - With the increased speed of the iPhone 3GS, the 3G and wifi networking, a real web browser, and the wide array of available apps at the App Store, many people find themselves leaving the laptops at home and using the iPhone as their main computer when they are out and about.
Nintendo DS or PSP - There are thousands of games available at the App Store and if the folks in my office and on the NYC subway are any indication, people are using their iPhones as serious on-the-go gaming machines.
GPS - With geolocation by GPS, wifi, or cell tower, the Google Maps app, and the built-in compass, the iPhone is a powerful wayfinding device. Apps can provide turn by turn directions, current traffic conditions, satellite and photographic street views, transit information, and you can search for addresses and businesses.
Flip video camera - The iPhone 3GS doesn't shoot in HD (yet), but the video capabilities on the phone are quite good, especially the on-phone editing and easy sharing.
Compass - Serious hikers and campers wouldn't want to rely on a battery-powered device as their only compass, but the built-in compass on the iPhone 3GS is perfect for casual wayfinding.
Watch - I use the clock on my iPhone more often than any other function. By far.
Portable DVD player - Widescreen video looks great on the iPhone, you can d/l videos and TV shows from the iTunes Store, and with apps like Handbrake, it's easy to rip DVDs for viewing on the iPhone.
Kindle - Amazon's Kindle app for the iPhone is surprisingly usable. And unlike Amazon's hardware, the iPhone can run many ebook readers that handle several different formats.
With all the apps available at the App Store, the list goes on: pedometer, tape recorder, heart monitor, calculator, remote control, USB key, and on and on. Electronic devices aren't even the whole story. I used to carry a folding map of Manhattan (and the subway) with me wherever I went but not anymore. With Safari, Instapaper, and Amazon's Kindle app, books and magazines aren't necessary to provide on-the-go reading material.
Once someone has an iPhone, it is going to be tough to persuade them that they also need to spend money on and carry around a dedicated GPS device, point-and-shoot camera, or tape recorder unless they have an unusual need. But the real problem for other device manufacturers is that all of these iPhone features -- particularly the always-on internet connectivity; the email, HTTP, and SMS capabilities; and the GPS/location features -- can work in concert with each other to actually make better versions of the devices listed above. Like a GPS that automatically takes photos of where you are and posts them to a Flickr gallery or a video camera that'll email videos to your mom or a portable gaming machine with access to thousands of free games over your mobile's phone network. We tend to forget that the iPhone is still from the future in a way that most of the other devices on the list above aren't. It will take time for device makers to make up that difference.
If these manufacturers don't know they are in competition with the iPhone, Apple sure does. At their Rock & Roll event last week, MacWorld quotes Phil Schiller as saying:
iPod touch is also a great game machine. No multi-touch interface on other devices, games are expensive, there's no app store, and there's no iPod built in. Plus it's easier to buy stuff because of the App Store on the device. Chart of game and entertainment titles available on PSP, Nintendo DS, and iPhone OS. PSP: 607. Nintendo DS: 3680. iPhone: 21,178.
The same applies to the iPhone. At the same event, Steve Jobs commented that with the new iPod nano, you essentially get a $149 Flip video camera thrown in for free:
We're going to start off with an 8GB unit, and we're going to lower the price from $149 to free. This is the new Apple, isn't it? (laughter) How are we going to do that. We're going to build a video camera into the new iPod nano. On the back of each unit is a video camera and a microphone, and there's a speaker inside as well. Built into every iPod nano is now an awesome video camera. And yet we've still retained its incredibly small size.
"I'm sure there will always be dedicated devices, and they may have a few advantages in doing just one thing," he said. "But I think the general-purpose devices will win the day. Because I think people just probably aren't willing to pay for a dedicated device."
In terms of this competition, the iPhone at this point in its lifetime2 is analogous to the internet in the late 1990s. The internet was pretty obviously in competition with a few obvious industries at that point -- like meatspace book stores -- but caught (and is still catching) others off guard: cable TV, movie companies, music companies, FedEx/USPS/UPS, movie theaters, desktop software makers, book publishers, magazine publishers, shoe/apparel stores, newspaper publishers, video game console makers, libraries, grocery stores, real estate agents, etc. etc....basically any organization offering entertainment or information. The internet is still the ultimate "there's an app for that" engine; it duplicated some of the capabilities of and drew attention away from so many products and services that these businesses offered. Some of these companies are dying -- slowly or otherwise -- while others were able to adapt and adopt quickly enough to survive and even thrive. It'll be interesting to see which of the iPhone's competitors will be able to do the same.
 In this essay, I'm using "the iPhone" as a convenient shorthand for "any of a number of devices and smartphones that offer similar functionality to the iPhone, including but not limited to the Palm Pre, Android phones, Blackberry Storm, and iPod Touch". Similar arguments apply, to varying degrees, to these devices and their manufacturers but are especially relevant to the iPhone and Apple; hence, the shorthand. If you don't read this footnote, adequately absorb its message, and send me email to the effect of "the iPhone sux because Apple and AT&T are monopolistic robber barons", I reserve the right to punch you in the face while yelling I WASN'T JUST TALKING ABOUT THE IPHONE YOU JACKASS. ↩
 You've got to wonder when Apple is going to change the name of the iPhone. The phone part of the device increasingly seems like an afterthought, not the main attraction. The main benefit of the device is that it does everything. How do you choose a name for the device that has everything? Hell if I know. But as far as the timing goes, I'd guess that the name change will happen with next year's introduction of the new model. The current progression of names -- iPhone, iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS -- has nowhere else to go (iPhone 3GS Plus isn't Apple's style). ↩
Among the questions voiced by video game executives: How can Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft keep consumers hooked on game-only consoles, like the Wii or even the PlayStation Portable, when Apple offers games on popular, everyday devices that double as cellphones and music players?
And how can game developers and the makers of big consoles persuade consumers to buy the latest shoot'em-ups for $30 or more, when Apple's App store is full of games, created by developers around the world and approved by Apple, that cost as little as 99 cents -- or even are free?
I recently upgraded to a new MacBook Pro from a two-year-old version of the same model (more or less). It's sturdier, faster, has a more functional trackpad, and has a much larger hard drive than the previous model, making it well worth the ~$2700 purchase price because I use my computer for more hours in a year than I sleep. Three weeks ago, my first-generation iPhone broke and rather than pay for a straight-up replacement, I upgraded to a new iPhone 3G (and promised AT&T my spare kidney in the process). Again, totally worth it...the speed and video camera alone were worth the upgrade. On Monday, I upgraded the OS on my MBP to OS X 10.5 Service Pack 1 Snow Leopard. Not sure whether it was worth it at this point or not, but it was only $29 and promised much.
The upgrade process in each case was painless. To set up the MBP, I just connected it to my Time Machine drive and was up and running about an hour later with all my apps and preferences intact. The iPhone took even less time than that and everything from my old phone was magically there. Snow Leopard took 45 minutes and, aside from a couple of Mail.app and Safari plug-ins I use, everything was just as before.1 Past upgrades of Apple computers and iPods have gone similarly well.
Which is where the potential difficulty for Apple comes in. From a superficial perspective, my old MBP and new MBP felt exactly the same...same OS, same desktop wallpaper, same Dock, all my same files in their same folders, etc. Same deal with the iPhone except moreso...the iPhone is almost entirely software and that was nearly identical. And re: Snow Leopard, I haven't noticed any changes at all aside from the aforementioned absent plug-ins.
So, just having paid thousands of dollars for new hardware and software, I have what feels like my same old stuff.
Deep down, when I stop to think about it, I know (or have otherwise convinced myself) that these purchases were worth it and that Apple's ease of upgrade works almost exactly how it should. But my gut tells me that I've been ripped off. The "newness" cognitive jolt humans get is almost entirely absent. I don't know if Apple is aware of this (I'd guess yes) and don't know if it even matters to them (because, like I said, this is the way that it should work...and look at those salesfigures), but it's got to be having some small effect. People want to feel, emotionally speaking, that their money is well-spent and impeccable branding, funny commericals, and the sense of belonging to a hip lifestyle that Apple tries to engender in its customers can only go so far. [Apple Tablet, this is your cue.]
 Merlin Mann's upgrade did not go well. Not only did Merlin not get the "newness" cognitive jolt, his new stuff worked worse than his old stuff. Although, Merlin, upgrading five (five!) computers while "writing a book on deadline" probably wasn't the best idea. ↩
Apple is finally offering the 15" MacBook Pro with an anti-glare screen. I bought a new MBP about a week before Marco but don't want to pay $250 for the exchange even though the glossy screen bugs the shit out of me and ranks right up there with Apple's worst design decisions ever (e.g. the Mighty Mouse and the puck mouse). Irritating.
Book publishers have been in talks with Apple and are optimistic about being included in the computer, which could provide an alternative to Amazon's Kindle, Sony's Reader and a forthcoming device from Plastic Logic, recently allied with Barnes & Noble.
And if it runs apps from the App Store ("yes" seems to be the general consensus), you'll be able to read books in the Apple tablet format *and* in Amazon's Kindle format (with the Kindle app), which can't be happy news for Amazon, hardware-wise.
Then an amazingly lucky thing happened. I refreshed the iPhone location and the circle moved, to the corner of the block, and shrunk in size to maybe 100 feet across. I waited a minute and refreshed again. The small circle had shifted southward down Washtenaw.
Us three skinny white guys walked at a rapid pace in the direction of the circle. We moved past the birthday party, curious if one of the participants might be culpable, but the circle again shifted farther south. I was ready to break for our car if the phone started moving away faster than we could catch it, but it hovered at the very end of the street, at the corner of Washtenaw and Milwaukee.
I wonder if Apple imagined this sort of amateur (and potentially dangerous) police work would happen when they implemented Find My iPhone.
This must be a deliberate, timed leak from Apple. The timing is simply perfect from Apple's perspective -- midnight on the Friday of what appears to be the most successful new product launch in company history.
In the photographs, a visual parallel between the wires delivering energy to a mechanical memory and the neural pathways of human anatomy becomes apparent. The pieces of machines are re-framed as something more than cold technology; I hope I can provide emotion, unexpected beauty and history.
Land sakes, with all the hustle and bustle around here lately, I plumb forgot that Apple had an event today to announce the newest version of the operating system for their interactiveTelePhone. Engadget has the details. The iPhone 3.0 highlights so far:
Embeddable Google Maps within applications.
Same apps of two phones can talk to each other (gaming!).
Turn-by-turn directions available.
Push notifications finally coming. (They retooled after hearing all sorts of feedback from App Store developers.)
Streaming audio and video.
CUT AND PASTE.
Better searching, like in email and calendars.
Update: The new location for the tabs is pretty disorienting so far. (So far = 10 minutes of use.) I keep glancing up in the middle to see the title of the page I'm on and it's not there...and then I have to hunt for whichever tab I'm on. The separation of the tabs from the page content is also causing me problems. The page area is What I'm Looking At Now and the tabs are What I'm Going To Look At Soon...why separate them with a bunch of stuff (aside from the URL) that is unrelated to either of those things...i.e. What I Almost Never Need To Look At?
Ten minutes past ten o'clock, which forms a smiley face on a clock and "frames the brand" nicely, is the go-to time for watches in advertising. Timex sets their watches to precisely 10:09:36 while Rolex waits almost a minute until 10:10:31.
The Hamilton Watch Company was among the first to clock in at 10:10; that time is favored in ads dating at least as far back as 1926. Rolex began consistently setting watches in ads at 10:10 in the early 1940s. Timex appears to have begun the transition in 1953, when its Ben Hogan model showed 8:20 while the Marlin model was set to 10:10.
iTunes U is a section of the iTunes store that houses educational audio and video files for free use by anyone.
iTunes U is a part of the iTunes Store featuring free lectures, language lessons, audiobooks, and more, that you can enjoy on your iPod, iPhone, Mac or PC. Explore over 75,000 educational audio and video files from top universities, museums and public media organizations from around the world. With iTunes U, there's no end to what or where you can learn.
Apple announced new MacBooks and MacBooks Pro today and as Apple's new releases always seem to do, the new models make the old ones look like a pile of puke. (My year-old MacBook Pro suddenly looks like an antique.) To show off their new lineup and manufacturing process, they've produced a little video. Jonathan Ive is one earnest dude.
After a couple of teasers starring Jerry Seinfeld, Microsoft is airingsome new ads that take Apple's "I'm a PC" out into the real world. So instead of John Hodgman's dorky PC character (who is parodied in one of the new ads), they've got all sorts of people -- basketball players, actresses, scientists, fashion designers, etc. -- proudly declaring "I'm a PC". As Michael Sippey mentions, the ads do communicate a "message of joy and abundance and widespread use of Personal Computing", but they're not "great".
I briefly worked for a design firm in the late 90s that did a lot of advertising work. One of the hard and fast rules in the office -- which was taken from a book written by a successful ad man whose name I cannot recall -- was that if a company was #1 in a certain space, their advertising should never ever mention the competition, not even in an oblique fashion. And even if a company was #2, they should do the same and act as if they were #1.
That's the problem with Microsoft's ads. They're still #1 and the bigger company, but by referencing Apple's successful ad campaign, they're acting like Apple is #1. (John Gruber made this same point the other day.) The ads fail because they serve to remind people that Apple comes up with good ideas that Microsoft then takes and shapes into something that so-called "normal people" can use or understand. Except that this isn't 1993. With the iPod, iPhone, iMac, OS X, the Apple Stores, and the iTunes Store, Apple has their finger firmly on the pulse of what normal people want and Microsoft's recent attempts (the Zune, Vista) to keep up by emulating Apple have failed. If MS had created the "I'm a PC" message on their own, the ads would be great, but these copy-and-paste ads lack soul and are merely "eh".
What's interesting is that with the I'm a Mac/I'm a PC ads, Apple mentions Microsoft explicitly, over and over, proving the old adage that rules are made to be broken. What works in Apple's favor is that they are the #2 company and were clever about how they attacked #1. Microsoft's hamfisted ads are almost saying to Apple, "nuh-uh, my mom thinks I'm cool" while the image of Hodgman's frumpy PC is hard to shake and makes Windows seem lame without being overly insulting about it.
I just checked eBay again and those prices are down only slightly. Never-opened unlocked iPhones are still fetching $400-500 and somewhat less for previously used phones.
BusinessWeek recently confirmed that those old phones are still selling well, demonstrating a lot of demand for iPhones that can be easily unlocked for use on networks besides AT&T in the US and elsewhere in the world.
On e-commerce site eBay, where NextWorth peddles many of its wares, a 16-GB version of the first-generation iPhone goes for about $600, and an 8-GB model in good condition commands $500. When it was new, the 16-GB phone sold for $499; the 8-GB model went for $399. Today, AT&T's most expensive iPhone 3G model sells for $300 with a two-year service contract.
Yesterday developer Armin Heinrich posted an iPhone app to the App Store called I Am Rich. The program displays a red gem, has no function but to display your wealth to others through ownership, and costs $1000. It has since been removed from the App Store, although no one knows whether Apple or Heinrich pulled it.
I Am Rich isn't the most clever piece of art, but it's not bad either. For some, the iPhone is already an obvious display of wealth and I Am Rich is commenting on that. Plus, buying more than you need as an indication of wealth is practically an American core value for a growing segment of the population. Is paying $5000 for a wristwatch or $50,000 for a car when much cheaper alternatives exist really all that different than paying $1000 for an iPhone app?
When news of the app got out onto the web, the outcry came swiftly. VentureBeat implored Apple to pull it from the App Store, as did several other humorless blogs. Blog commenters were even more harsh in their assessments. What I can't understand is: why should Apple pull I Am Rich from the App Store? They have to approve each app but presumably that's to guard against apps which crash iPhones, misrepresent their function, go against Apple's terms of service, or introduce malicious code to the iPhone.
Excluding I Am Rich would be excluding for taste...because some feel that it costs too much for what it does. (And this isn't the only example. There have been many cries of too many poor quality (but otherwise functional) apps in the store and that Apple should address the problem.) App Store shoppers should get to make the choice of whether or not to buy an iPhone app, not Apple, particularly since the App Store is the only way to legitimately purchase consumer iPhone apps. Imagine if Apple chose which music they stocked in the iTunes store based on the company's taste. No Kanye because Jay-Z is better. No Dylan because it's too whiney. Of course they don't do that; they stock a crapload of different music and let the buyer decide. We should deride Apple for that type of behavior, not cheer them on.