I have been doing a poor job keeping up with my Steve Jobs-related media. I haven't had a chance to pick up the new Becoming Steve Jobs book yet. And I had no idea that the Aaron Sorkin-penned biopic was still in the works, much less that Michael Fassbender is playing Jobs and Danny Boyle is directing. Here's the trailer:
The trailer debuted during last night's series finale of Mad Men, which was possibly the most appropriate venue for it. [Slight spoilers...] Draper always had a Jobs-esque sheen to him, although the final scene showed us that, yes, Don Draper actually would like to sell sugar water for the rest of his life.
It is, in short, the book about Steve Jobs that the world deserves. You might wonder how such a book could be written without Jobs's participation, but effectively, he did participate. Schlender, in his work as a reporter for The Wall Street Journal and Fortune, interviewed Jobs extensively numerous times spanning 25 years. Remember the 1991 joint interview with Jobs and Bill Gates? That was Schlender. As the book makes clear, Jobs and Schlender had a very personal relationship.
The book is smart, accurate, informative, insightful, and at times, utterly heartbreaking. Schlender and Tetzeli paint a vivid picture of Jobs the man, and also clearly understand the industry in which he worked. They also got an astonishing amount of cooperation from the people who knew Jobs best: colleagues past and present from Apple and Pixar -- particularly Tim Cook -- and his widow, Laurene Powell Jobs.
Update: A glitch in Amazon's Look Inside the Book feature gave Luke Dormehl a sneak peek at some of the book's details, including that Tim Cook offered Jobs a part of his liver and Jobs talked about buying Yahoo.
Another interesting tidbit: Steve Jobs and Disney boss Bob Iger talked about buying Yahoo! together at one point, a move that would have given Apple an "in" in the search business.
While the question of Apple buying Yahoo! has been raised plenty of times over the years, this is the first time there's been a serious suggestion that Jobs considered such an acquisition.
Buying Yahoo! would have given Apple access to a host of patents, web services and other tools in a fiercely competitive sector. Yahoo! would have been an interesting fit for Apple (which is probably why it didn't happen), but it's fascinating to consider what might have been.
One afternoon, Cook left [Jobs'] house feeling so upset that he had his own blood tested. He found out that he, like Steve, had a rare blood type, and guessed that it might be the same. He started doing research, and learned that it is possible to transfer a portion of a living person's liver to someone in need of a transplant. About 6,000 living-donor transplants are performed every year in the United States, and the rate of success for both donor and recipient is high. The liver is a regenerative organ. The portion transplanted into the recipient will grow to a functional size, and the portion of the liver that the donor gives up will also grow back.
Totally sweet and charming video of Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak talking about the early days at the company while setting up and using an old Apple II.
Of Apple's two founding Steves, Wozniak was the technologist and Jobs was the one with the artistic & design sense, right? But it's obvious from watching this video that Woz cared deeply about design and was a designer of the highest order. Those early Apple circuit boards are a thing of beauty, which is echoed in the precision and compactness with which Apple currently designs iPhone and Mac hardware. They each have their own unique way of expressing it, but Woz and Jony Ive speak in a similarly hallowed way about how their products are built.
I awoke one night in Quito, Ecuador, this year and came up with a way to save a chip or two from the Apple II, and a trivial way to have the 2 grays of the Apple II be different (light gray and dark gray) but it's 38 years too late. It did give me a good smile, since I know how hard it is to improve on that design.
By the time I was done, the design of the Nova was half as many chips as all of the other minicomputers from Varian, Digital Equipment Corp., Hewlett-Packard, all of the minicomputers of the time (I was designing them all). And I saw that Nova was half as many chips and just as good a computer. What was different? The architecture was really an architecture that just fit right to the very fewest chips.
My whole life was basically trying to optimize things. You don't just save parts, but every time you save parts you save on complexity and reliability, the amount of time it takes to understand something. And how good you can build it without errors and bugs and flaws.
Beginning in 1985, photographer and filmmaker Doug Menuez wrangled access to some of the people at the center of the Silicon Valley technology boom, including Steve Jobs as he broke away from Apple to create NeXT. Menuez has published more than 100 of those behind-the-scenes photos in a new book, Fearless Genius.
In the spring of 1985, a technological revolution was under way in Silicon Valley, and documentary photographer Doug Menuez was there in search of a story -- something big. At the same time, Steve Jobs was being forced out of his beloved Apple and starting over with a new company, NeXT Computer. His goal was to build a supercomputer with the power to transform education. Menuez had found his story: he proposed to photograph Jobs and his extraordinary team as they built this new computer, from conception to product launch.
In an amazing act of trust, Jobs granted Menuez unlimited access to the company, and, for the next three years, Menuez was able to get on film the spirit and substance of innovation through the day-to-day actions of the world's top technology guru.
The analysis of the weak parts of Apple's recent introduction of the iPhone 6 and Apple Watch at the beginning of this piece is good, but the real gem is the complete reworking of the presentation as Steve Jobs might have approached it.
Jobs: It's not easy being an engineer at Apple. (Laughs) How do you take the world's best phone and make it even better? (Cheers)
When we first launched the iPhone back in 2007, we didn't anticipate the central role it plays today-how it would touch every part of our lives. (Cheers)
Seven years later, our iPhones are the window to our world. Through this window I see my wife and kids. I see my friends, take care of work, and relax.
If this window is so important, what if we made it a little bigger?
(Steve holds out his hand and starts separating his fingers as if he's stretching an iPhone)
(Once they get really far, he grins and quickly pushes them back together)
Jobs: But not too big! (Audience chuckles) You still want to be able to hold it in one hand and fit it inside your pocket.
Our team of smart engineers have come up with the perfect size.
The heartfelt folksiness is pitch perfect. And the whole thing about the iWatch is amazing:
Jobs: The iWatch comes with a special sensor that detects your heartbeat. In addition to linking to Apple Health, it does something very special.
Something very dear to me.
I'd like to see how my daughter is doing. Instead of sending her a text, what can I do? I press this button twice, and... (Heartbeats echo in the auditorium)
You can't see it, but my watch is vibrating to her heartbeat. I can close my eyes and know that my daughter is alive, living her life halfway around the globe.
Not sure if Jobs would have approached it this way, but it made me actually want to get an Apple Watch. (via @arainert)
Peter Sims writes about an under-appreciated aspect of Steve Jobs' success: he "was a superb collaborator with the people who he respected and trusted".
[Ed] Catmull, now president of both Pixar as well as Walt Disney Animation (a position Catmull has held since Disney acquired Pixar for $7.4 billion in 2006), was Jobs' longest-running colleague, a working relationship that spanned 26 years. Catmull dedicates a chapter of his superb recent book Creativity, Inc. to what it was like to work with Jobs. Catmull, who has the least overt ego of any senior executive I've ever met, saw Jobs mature enormously over time, especially in the development of personal empathy and humility.
In fact, Catmull, sees Jobs' life as having taken a classic Hero's Journey arc.
From his widely-reported immature and often arrogant youth, Jobs by all accounts appeared to develop into a far more empathetic human being and wise leader. But that personal transformation would not have happened without what leadership scholar Warren Bennis described as "crucibles" -- those personal crises and setback experiences that shape us much like "medieval alchemists used in their attempts to turn base metals into gold" -- and, that allow for personal and leadership metamorphosis.
The "far more" qualifier in front of "empathetic" is necessary when speaking of Jobs' transformation. I think what he developed could probably be referred to as a ruthless empathy, employed much like another other tool in the service of building great companies and making great products.
Explaining Hitler is a 1998 book by Ron Rosenbaum that compiled a number of different theories about why Adolf Hitler was the way he was, updated recently with new information.
Hitler did not escape the bunker in Berlin but, seven decades later, he has managed to escape explanation in ways both frightening and profound. Explaining Hitler is an extraordinary quest, an expedition into the war zone of Hitler theories. This is a passionate, enthralling book that illuminates what Hitler explainers tell us about Hitler, about the explainers, and about ourselves.
Oh my God, there are so many terrible psychological attempts to explain Hitler. I think the subject brings out the worst in talk show psychologists. There's a lot of 'psychopathic narcissism' among those psychologizing Hitler. The examples in my book were two psychoanalysts-one wanted to claim that Hitler became Hitler because he was beaten by his father, and the other psychoanalyst was equally determined to believe that Hitler had a malignant mother who was over-protective. As if everyone who has an over-protective mother or abusive father turns into Hitler. If everyone who has been struck by their father turned into Hitler we would be in a lot more trouble than we are.
Incredible that the Mac is still around; the 90s were a dire time for Apple and it's amazing to see the current fantastic iMacs and Macbooks that came after some epically bad mid-90s machines. Here's Steve Jobs introducing the original Mac in 1984 (a snippet of the full introduction video):
First, I met the machine. From the instant the woman running the demo switched on that strange-looking contraption (inspired in part by the Cuisinart food processor), I knew the Macintosh would change millions of lives, including my own. To understand that, you must realize how much 1984 really was not like 2014. Until that point, personal computers were locked in an esoteric realm of codes and commands. They looked unfriendly, with the letters of text growing in sickly phosphorescence. Even the simplest tasks required memorizing the proper intonations, then executing several exacting steps.
But the Macintosh was friendly. It opened with a smile. Words appeared with the clarity of text on a printed page - and for the first time, ordinary people had the power to format text as professional printers did. Selecting and moving text was made dramatically easier by the then-quaint mouse accompanying the keyboard. You could draw on it. This humble shoebox-sized machine had a simplicity that instantly empowered you.
If you have had any prior experience with personal computers, what you might expect to see is some sort of opaque code, called a "prompt," consisting of phosphorescent green or white letters on a murky background. What you see with Macintosh is the Finder. On a pleasant, light background (you can later change the background to any of a number of patterns, if you like), little pictures called "icons" appear, representing choices available to you. A word-processing program might be represented by a pen, while the program that lets you draw pictures might have a paintbrush icon. A file would represent stored documents - book reports, letters, legal briefs and so forth. To see a particular file, you'd move the mouse, which would, in turn, move the cursor to the file you wanted. You'd tap a button on the mouse twice, and the contents of the file would appear on the screen: dark on light, just like a piece of paper.
The rollout on January 24th was like a college graduation ceremony. There were the fratboys, the insiders, the football players, and developers played a role too. We praised their product, their achievement, and they showed off our work. Apple took a serious stake in the success of software on their platform. They also had strong opinions about how our software should work, which in hindsight were almost all good ideas. The idea of user interface standards were at the time controversial. Today, you'll get no argument from me. It's better to have one way to do things, than have two or more, no matter how much better the new ones are.
That day, I was on a panel of developers, talking to the press about the new machine. We were all gushing, all excited to be there. I still get goosebumps thinking about it today.
What's clear when you talk to Apple's executives is that the company believes that people don't have to choose between a laptop, a tablet, and a smartphone. Instead, Apple believes that every one of its products has particular strengths for particular tasks, and that people should be able to switch among them with ease. This is why the Mac is still relevant, 30 years on-because sometimes a device with a keyboard and a trackpad is the best tool for the job.
"It's not an either/or," Schiller said. "It's a world where you're going to have a phone, a tablet, a computer, you don't have to choose. And so what's more important is how you seamlessly move between them all.... It's not like this is a laptop person and that's a tablet person. It doesn't have to be that way."
The Macintosh is the future of Apple Computer. And it's being done by a bunch of people who are incredibly talented but who in most organizations would be working three levels below the impact of the decisions they're making in the organization. It's one of those things that you know won't last forever. The group might stay together maybe for one more iteration of the product, and then they'll go their separate ways. For a very special moment, all of us have come together to make this new product. We feel this may be the best thing we'll ever do with our lives.
I like to claim that I bought the second Macintosh computer ever sold in Europe in that January, 30 years ago. My friend and hero Douglas Adams was in the queue ahead of me. For all I know someone somewhere had bought one ten minutes earlier, but these were the first two that the only shop selling them in London had in stock on the 24th January 1984, so I'm sticking to my story.
The Next Web has an interview with Daniel Kottke (no relation) and Randy Wigginton on programming the original Mac.
TNW: When you look at today's Macs, as well as the iPhone and the iPad, do you see how it traces back to that original genesis?
Randy: It was more of a philosophy - let's bring the theoretical into now - and the focus was on the user, not on the programmer. Before then it had always been let's make it so programmers can do stuff and produce programs.
Here, it was all about the user, and the programmers had to work their asses off to make it easy for the user to do what they wanted. It was the principle of least surprise. We never wanted [the Macintosh] to do something that people were shocked at. These are things that we just take for granted now. The whole undo paradigm? It didn't exist before that.
Like Daniel says, it's definitely the case that there were academic and business places with similar technology, but they had never attempted to reach a mass market.
Daniel: I'm just struck by the parallel now, thinking about what the Mac did. The paradigm before the Mac in terms of Apple products was command-line commands in the Apple II and the Apple III. In the open source world of Linux, I'm messing around with Raspberry Pis now, and it terrifies me, because I think, "This is not ready for the consumer," but then I think about Android, which is built on top of Linux. So the Macintosh did for the Apple II paradigm what Android has done for Linux.
The iPhone could play a section of a song or a video, but it couldn't play an entire clip reliably without crashing. It worked fine if you sent an e-mail and then surfed the Web. If you did those things in reverse, however, it might not. Hours of trial and error had helped the iPhone team develop what engineers called "the golden path," a specific set of tasks, performed in a specific way and order, that made the phone look as if it worked.
But even when Jobs stayed on the golden path, all manner of last-minute workarounds were required to make the iPhone functional. On announcement day, the software that ran Grignon's radios still had bugs. So, too, did the software that managed the iPhone's memory. And no one knew whether the extra electronics Jobs demanded the demo phones include would make these problems worse.
Jon Caramanica talks with Kanye West about his work, his past, his impending child, and all sorts of other things in the NY Times. I started pulling interesting quotes but stopped when I realized that I was copy/pasting like 96% of the article. So, you only get two:
I sat down with a clothing guy that I won't mention, but hopefully if he reads this article, he knows it's him and knows that out of respect, I didn't mention his name: this guy, he questioned me before I left his office:, "If you've done this, this, and this, why haven't you gone further in fashion?" And I say, "I'm learning." But ultimately, this guy that was talking to me doesn't make Christmas presents, meaning that nobody was asking for his [stuff] as a Christmas present. If you don't make Christmas presents, meaning making something that's so emotionally connected to people, don't talk to me.
And I don't want to ruin the amazing last few paragraphs, but I just had to include this:
I think what Kanye West is going to mean is something similar to what Steve Jobs means. I am undoubtedly, you know, Steve of Internet, downtown, fashion, culture. Period. By a long jump. I honestly feel that because Steve has passed, you know, it's like when Biggie passed and Jay-Z was allowed to become Jay-Z.
The bureau's head of climate monitoring and prediction David Jones said the new scale, which also features a pink code for temperatures from 52 to 54 degrees, reflected the potential for old heat records to be smashed.
"The scale has just been increased today and I would anticipate it is because the forecast coming from the bureau's model is showing temperatures in excess of 50 degrees," Jones told Fairfax newspapers.
Australia's all-time record temperature is 50.7 degrees, set in January 1960 at Oodnadatta in the state of South Australia.
The nation as a whole experienced its hottest day on record on Monday with the average maximum temperature across the country hitting 40.33 degrees, surpassing the previous mark of 40.17 degrees set in 1972.
I feel like climate change needs a Steve Jobs to kick everyone's ass into action on this, iPhone announcement-style. "Unprecedented polar ice cap melt, new colors on Australia's weather map, massive East Coast hurricanes, are you getting it? These are not three separate incidents. This is one global pattern. And we are calling it anthropogenic climate change. [wild applause]" (via @ftrain)
If walking is a casualty of modern life the world over -- the historian Joe Moran estimates, for instance, that in the last quarter century in the U.K., the amount of walking has declined by 25 percent -- why then do Americans walk even less than people in other countries? Here we need to look not at pedometers, but at the odometer: We drive more than anyone else in the world. (Hence a joke: In America a pedestrian is someone who has just parked their car.) Statistics on walking are more elusive than those on driving, but from the latter one might infer the former: The National Household Travel Survey shows that the number of vehicle trips a person took and the miles they traveled per day rose from 2.32 trips and 20.64 miles in 1969 to 3.35 and 32.73 in 2001. More time spent driving means less time spent on other activities, including walking. And part of the reason we are driving more is that we are living farther from the places we need to go; to take just one measure, in 1969, roughly half of all children lived a mile or more from their school; by 2001 three out of four did. During that same period, unsurprisingly, the rates of children walking to school dropped from roughly half to approximately 13 percent.
A businessman laments that he no longer has colleagues at work. He doesn't stop by to talk; he doesn't call. He says that he doesn't want to interrupt them. He says they're "too busy on their e-mail." But then he pauses and corrects himself. "I'm not telling the truth. I'm the one who doesn't want to be interrupted. I think I should. But I'd rather just do things on my BlackBerry."
A 16-year-old boy who relies on texting for almost everything says almost wistfully, "Someday, someday, but certainly not now, I'd like to learn how to have a conversation."
In today's workplace, young people who have grown up fearing conversation show up on the job wearing earphones. Walking through a college library or the campus of a high-tech start-up, one sees the same thing: we are together, but each of us is in our own bubble, furiously connected to keyboards and tiny touch screens. A senior partner at a Boston law firm describes a scene in his office. Young associates lay out their suite of technologies: laptops, iPods and multiple phones. And then they put their earphones on. "Big ones. Like pilots. They turn their desks into cockpits." With the young lawyers in their cockpits, the office is quiet, a quiet that does not ask to be broken.
I read a study that measured the efficiency of locomotion for various species on the planet. The condor used the least energy to move a kilometer. And, humans came in with a rather unimpressive showing, about a third of the way down the list. It was not too proud a showing for the crown of creation. So, that didn't look so good. But, then somebody at Scientific American had the insight to test the efficiency of locomotion for a man on a bicycle. And, a man on a bicycle, a human on a bicycle, blew the condor away, completely off the top of the charts.
And that's what a computer is to me. What a computer is to me is it's the most remarkable tool that we've ever come up with, and it's the equivalent of a bicycle for our minds."
Perhaps then the iPhone is an automobile for our mind in that it allows us to go anywhere very quickly but isolates us along the way.
ps. This photo that accompanies Vanderbilt's article is kind of amazing:
Totally speechless. I think it's further from my desk to the bathroom here in the office than it is from that house to the bus.
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.
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."
At the end of this month Jeff Atwood is leaving Stack Exchange, a company he cofounded with Joel Spolsky. In a post on his blog, he explains why:
Startup life is hard on families. We just welcomed two new members into our family, and running as fast as you can isn't sustainible for parents of multiple small children. The death of Steve Jobs, and his subsequent posthumous biography, highlighted the risks for a lot of folks. [...] Stack Overflow and Stack Exchange have been wildly successful, but I finally realized that success at the cost of my children is not success. It is failure.
In his post, Jeff points to a similar post by another entrepreneur, Brad Wardell.
In the last several years, the company has been successful enough to generate a substantial amount of capital. And with it, I have been fortunate to bring in people with great talent. And so I started thinking of all the amazing things we would do. I would put in crazy hours to do it, of course, but we would go and do amazing things.
Then Steve Jobs died.
And suddenly I realized something. What is the objective here? My oldest child just turned 15. My other two are no longer little either. And I have been missing out on them.
For a long time, work was my only thing. I worked evenings, weekends, and Christmas. At those rare times when I wasn't at work in body, I was there in spirit, unable to speak or think of much else. I wanted so badly to climb the mountain that I stopped asking why I was doing it.
I admire [Jobs] for the mountains he climbed. At the same time, I wonder if he missed the whole point, becoming the John Henry of our time. He won the race, but at what cost?
Me? I may turn out to be a failure in business, but I refuse to fail my kids.
This mirrors my main reaction to Jobs' death and Isaacson's book as well. I wasn't working 80 hours a week or leading a growing company or even spending very little time with my kids but I was pushing pretty hard on Stellar, pushing it towards a potential future of insane working hours, intense stress, and a whole lot less time with my family (and selfishly, less time for myself). Since Jobs died, I've been pushing a little less hard in that direction.
Four is hardly a trend but it is interesting that the death and biography of the greatest businessman of our generation -- someone who was responsible for so many world-changing products and ideas, who shaped our world through sheer force of will & imagination, etc. etc. -- is inspiring some people to turn away from the lifestyle & choices that made Jobs so successful & inspiring in the public sphere and to attempt the path that Jobs did not.
Jobs's sensibility was editorial, not inventive. His gift lay in taking what was in front of him-the tablet with stylus-and ruthlessly refining it. After looking at the first commercials for the iPad, he tracked down the copywriter, James Vincent, and told him, "Your commercials suck."
"Well, what do you want?" Vincent shot back. "You've not been able to tell me what you want."
"I don't know," Jobs said. "You have to bring me something new. Nothing you've shown me is even close."
Vincent argued back and suddenly Jobs went ballistic. "He just started screaming at me," Vincent recalled. Vincent could be volatile himself, and the volleys escalated.
When Vincent shouted, "You've got to tell me what you want," Jobs shot back, "You've got to show me some stuff, and I'll know it when I see it."
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.
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)
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".
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.
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. :)
Again. You could argue that the arguments we have about the cognitive effect of reading for the web are largely a replay of the upheaval surrounding mass urbanization at the turn of the century. Continuing our Metropolis theme, pull up Georg Simmel's 1903 essay "The Metropolis and Mental Life" [PDF]. (Simmel's German word is "Grosstadt," which literally means "big city"; Lang deliberately used the slightly stranger, Greek-derived word to make his city feel different.) Simmel saw big cities as a tremendous economic and informational engine that fundamentally transformed human personality:
Lasting impressions, the slightness in their differences, the habituated regularity of their course and contrasts between them, consume, so to speak, less mental energy than the rapid telescoping of changing images, pronounced differences within what is grasped at a single glance, and the unexpectedness of violent stimuli. To the extent that the metropolis creates these psychological conditions - with every crossing of the street, with the tempo and multiplicity of economic, occupational and social life - it creates in the sensory foundations of mental life, and in the degree of awareness necessitated by our organization as creatures dependent on differences, a deep contrast with the slower, more habitual, more smoothly flowing rhythm of the sensory-mental phase of small town and rural existence.
And cognitive scientists have actually begun empirically verifying Simmel's armchair psychology. And whenever I read anything about the web rewiring our brains, foretelling immanent disaster, I've always thought, geez, people -- we live in cities! Our species has evolved to survive in every climate and environment on dry land. Our brains can handle it!
But I thought of this again this morning when a 2008 Wilson Quarterly article about planner/engineer Hans Monderman, titled "The Traffic Guru," popped up in my Twitter feed. (I can't even remember where it came from. Who knows why older writing just begins to recirculate again? Without warning, it speaks to us more, or differently.)
The idea that made Monderman, who died of cancer in January at the age of 62, most famous is that traditional traffic safety infrastructure--warning signs, traffic lights, metal railings, curbs, painted lines, speed bumps, and so on--is not only often unnecessary, but can endanger those it is meant to protect...
Traffic engineers, in Monderman's view, helped to rewrite [towns] with their signs and other devices. "In the past in our villages," Monderman said, "you could read the street in the village as a good book." Signs advertising a school crossing were unnecessary, because the presence of a school and children was obvious. "When you removed all the things that made people know where they were, what they were a part of, and when you changed it into a uniform world," he argued, "then you have to explain things."
In other words, information overload, and the substitution of knowledge for wisdom. Sound familiar?
I'll just say I remain unconvinced. We've largely gotten rid of pop-up ads, flashing banners, and the <blink> tag on the web. I'm sure can trim back some of the extra text and lights in our towns and cities. We're versatile creatures. Just give us time. Meanwhile, let's read some more Simmel:
[These changes] reveal themselves as one of those great historical structures in which conflicting life-embracing currents find themselves with equal legitimacy. Because of this, however, regardless of whether we are sympathetic or antipathetic with their individual expressions, they transcend the sphere in which a judge-like attitude on our part is appropriate. To the extent that such forces have been integrated, with the fleeting existence of a single cell, into the root as well as the crown of the totality of historical life to which we belong - it is our task not to complain or to condone but only to understand.
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.
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".
1. Why is there a comma after "The Pulse News Reader app" in the laywer's note to Apple?
2. The very same NY Times ran a positive review of the very same Pulse a few days ago. Doh!
3. Seems like all the Pulse guys need to do is unbundle the NY Times feeds and open the actual nytimes.com pages into a generic browser window and all is good.
4. I wonder why the Times et al. haven't complained about Instapaper yet. It might not technically infringe on copyright, but magazines and newspapers can't be too happy about an app that strips out all the advertising from their articles...as much as we would all be sad to see it go.
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".
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.
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).
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.
What new brushed metal magic treats will Steve Jobs unveil this year at the Apple Worldwide Developer Conference? Hover car? Neverlost keys? Orgasm pills? Electric pony? All that and more at 1pm ET....live blogging of Jobs' keynote at MacRumors, Mac Observer, Engadget, and Ars Technica (which includes a spectacularly nerdy photo of Gizmodo's Brian Lam and his liveblogging contraption). Let the games begin.
iPhone 3G delivers UMTS, HSDPA, GSM, Wi-Fi, EDGE, GPS, and Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR in one compact device - using only two antennas. Clever iPhone engineering integrates those antennas into a few unexpected places: the metal ring around the camera, the audio jack, the metal screen bezel, and the iPhone circuitry itself. And intelligent iPhone power management technology gives you up to 5 hours of talk time over 3G networks.
When Steve Jobs disregards a market segment -- think mp3 players or cell phones -- that sometimes means Apple is about to jump in and take over. When asked about Amazon's Kindle a few months ago, Jobs said:
"It doesn't matter how good or bad the product is, the fact is that people don't read anymore. Forty percent of the people in the U.S. read one book or less last year. The whole conception is flawed at the top because people don't read anymore."
Of course, that set off speculation that Apple was about to do just that, integrate a book reader into a series of portable internet devices.
It's speculation like this that feeds the conspiracy theory in all of us. Being an Apple fan is like that -- except once every few product cycles the conspiracy actually plays out.
This was a very typical time. I was single. All you needed was a cup of tea, a light, and your stereo, you know, and that's what I had.
This was right in the thick of Lisa/Macintosh development; I bet Jobs didn't spend a whole lot of time at home. Note: there's some bad Exif data that prevents the display of this photo in Safari (ironic, eh?)...try Firefox instead. (thx, mark)
Update:Some more interesting iPhone statistics, including Apple's stock price increase since the iPhone was announced ($32 billion increase in market cap) and that iPhone was mentioned in 1.25% of all blogs posts over the weekend. (thx, thor)
Update:Apple's stock price went down this morning in heavy trading. I guess Wall Street wasn't so over the moon for the iPhone?
Long profile of Steve Jobs on the eve of his fourth act written by John Heilemann, who is one of my favorite technology/culture writers. I'm dying to find out what past Jobs-championed Apple product the iPhone will most resemble: the Lisa or the iPod?
Update: From the reaction I'm hearing so far, it's difficult to tell what was more disappointing to people: Jobs' keynote or The Sopronos finale. Also, a Keynote bingo was possible (diagonally, bottom left to top right)...no report yet as to whether anyone yelled out during the show.
Update:TUAW is reporting that someone in the crowd yelled "bingo" 35 minutes into the keynote, but if you look at the card, a bingo was only possible when the iPhone widgets were announced towards the end. Disqualified for early non-bingo! (thx, alex)
Today we once again get to hear the gospel straight from the source; Steve Jobs will be keynoting Apple's WWDC at 1pm ET. MacRumors, Mac Observer, and Engadget will have live coverage. My predictions: better .Mac, iPhone something, and Jobs will announce that Paulie's gonna whack Tony Soprano but not before Tony squeals to the Feds. Oh, and a pony.
Profile by Ken Auletta of Walt Mossberg, the WSJ's technology columnist. It was interesting reading Mossberg's opinion of the Sprint/Samsung UpStage. A couple friends of mine were testing this phone before it came out and it was one of the most poorly designed technology products that I've ever held in my hand. Who knows if the iPhone will actually be worth a crap, but Steve Jobs must rub his hands together with glee when he sees his competitors come out with stuff like this. Mossberg was too easy on it. Auletta has previously profiled Barry Diller, Pointcast, Andy Grove, and Nathan Myhrvold for the New Yorker.
1993 New Yorker piece on Barry Diller's search for his future and that of television, cable, and technology. This article is a time capsule of the optimism surrounding technology in the early 90s. Note that no one saw the internet coming then...the word doesn't even appear in the article even though most of the things hoped for by the media barons came to pass on the web without their involvement. This interesting exchange between Diller and Steve Jobs happens about halfway through: "After studying NeXT's brilliant software and graphics -- 'It's the most magical computer,' Diller says -- he recalls telling Jobs, 'You've made this thing too hard. It shouldn't be this hard.' 'No,' Jobs answered. 'It's like learning to drive. It takes two months.' 'No, it takes very little time to drive,' Diller said. 'A computer is not that -- it's hard. Why make it harder?'"
By now you've all heard about the iPhone and read 60 billion things about it, so I'll get straight to it. I've been tracking some of the best points from around the web and jotted down some thoughts of my own.
Caveat: Evaluating an interface, software or hardware, is difficult to do unless you have used it. An interface for something like a mobile phone is something you use on the time-scale of weeks and months, not minutes or hours. There are certain issues you can flag as potential problems, challenges, or triumphs after viewing demos, descriptions of functions, and the like, but until you're holding the thing in your hand and living with it day-to-day, you really can't say "this is going to work this way" or "I don't like the way that functions" with anything approaching absolute confidence. With that said:
In his keynote announcing it, Steve Jobs said the killer app for the iPhone was voice. The thing is, many people you talk to who are are under 35 use their phones more and more for text and less and less for voice. Same thing for Treo and Blackberry aficionados. Does the text entry via the touchscreen work as well as text entry via a mini keyboard? The tactility of raised buttons provides a lot of feedback to the typer's fingers that a touchscreen does not. (Jason Fried said: "When you touch the [iPhone] it doesn't touch you back.") Can you type on it with your thumbs? What about if your thumbs are large? I know people who can text without looking at the keypad and/or Blackberry keyboard, that's out the window with the touchscreen. Can you dial with one hand?
The touchscreen text entry is the biggest issue with the iPhone. If it works well, the iPhone has a good shot at success, and if not, it's going to be very frustrating for those that rely on their mobile for text...and every potential customer of the iPhone is going to hear about that shortcoming and shy away.
The price is pretty high. So was the price for the first iPod. And the Macintosh. Apple will approach this in a similar way to the iPod...start with a premium product at the high end and work their way down to shuffle-land. It isn't difficult to imagine an iPhone nano that just does voice, SMS, music, and a camera. (Or an iPhone shuffle...you press the call button and it randomly calls someone from the ten contacts the shuffle synched from your computer that morning.)
I guess we know why iPod development has seemed a little sluggish lately. When the Zune came out two months ago, it was thought that maybe Apple was falling behind, coasting on the fumes of an aging product line, and not innovating in the portable music player space anymore. I think the iPhone puts this discussion on the back burner for now. And the Zune? The supposed iPod-killer's bullet ricocheted off of the iPhone's smooth buttonless interface and is heading back in the wrong direction. Rest in peace, my gentle brown friend.
How long before the other iPods start working like the iPhone? I imagine a widescreen video iPod with touchscreen but without a phone, wifi, camera, etc. will be introduced at some point after the iPhone comes out in June. Without the need for the clickwheel, the shape of the video and nano iPods becomes much more flexible. If they can cram all the memory and electronics into a smaller space, the nano could be half its current height with a touchscreen.
What's really kind of sad about the intensely exuberant reaction to the iPhone is that the situation with current mobile phones are so bad in the first place. It's not like we didn't see any of this coming or couldn't imagine the utility of the iPhone's features. Visual voicemail is a good idea, but the reason Nokia or Motorola didn't introduce it years ago is that the carriers (Sprint, Verizon, T-Mobile, etc.) don't want to support it despite its obvious utility and ease of implementation. (T-Mobile sends my Nokia phone a text message every time I get a voicemail...what could be simpler than sending the number along with it and shunting those messages to a special voicemail app on the phone to see a list of them? Listening to them out of sequence would be a bit harder, but doable. Blackberry announced they were doing this back in 2005.) Integrated Google Maps, email, and search makes obvious sense too. As for the touchscreen, we've all seen Jeff Han's work on multi-touch interaction, Minority Report, and Wacom's Cintiq, not to mention the mousepads on the MacBooks and the iPod's clickwheel. The Japanese are pretty unimpressed with the whole thing.
What *is* fantastic about the iPhone is the way that they've put it all together; features are great, but it's all about the implementation. Apple stripped out all the stuff you don't need and made everything you do need really simple and easy. (That's the way it appears anyway...see above caveat.)
One reason there's limited innovation in cell phones generally is that the cell carriers have stiff guidelines that the manufacturers have to follow. They demand that all their handsets work the same way. "A lot of times, to be honest, there's some hubris, where they think they know better," Jobs says. "They dictate what's on the phone. That just wouldn't work for us, because we want to innovate. Unless we could do that, it wasn't worth doing." Jobs demanded special treatment from his phone service partner, Cingular, and he got it. He even forced Cingular to re-engineer its infrastructure to handle the iPhone's unique voicemail scheme. "They broke all their typical process rules to make it happen," says Tony Fadell, who heads Apple's iPod division. "They were infected by this product, and they were like, we've gotta do this!"
From the video, it looks like it take four clicks (after unlocking the phone) to make a phone call. For everyday use, that seems excessive. I hope there's going to be some sort of speed dial mechanism...with my current phone, pressing "2" and then "send" calls my wife (which I can basically do without looking, BTW).
I don't know what the state of the art is in voice recognition these days, but I'm a little surprised that's not an input option here. To call someone, you say their name (my current phone does this). To text someone, you speak the message and they get the text on their end. Speaking "Google Maps, sushi near 10003" would have the expected result.
Or maybe drawing graffiti on the screen with your fingers and other gestural input methods? You could have different swipes and taps as a speed dial mechanism...swipe the screen from top left to bottom right and then tap in the lower right hand corner to call mom, that sort of thing. Or Morse code maybe? ;)
The OS X included with the phone obviously isn't the version that's running on my Powerbook right now. John Gruber proves that footnotes are often more interesting than the referring text and offers this little tidbit:
That is to say the core operating system at the core of Mac OS X, the computer OS used in Macs, and "OS X", the embedded OS on the iPhone. More on this soon in a separate fireball, but do not be confused: Mac OS X and OS X are not the same thing, although they are most certainly siblings. The days of lazily referring to "Mac OS X" as "OS X" are now over.
Several people have speculated that the iPhone's version of OS X is actually a preview of what we'll be getting with Leopard, the next version of Mac OS X.
My favorite thing about the iPhone is the Google Maps integration. I would use that at least 4-5 times a week.
Will phone numbers and addresses detected on web pages in Safari be clickable? Click to dial a phone number, click to look up an address with Google Maps, that sort of thing. Update: There's a video online somewhere (anyone?) of a demo that shows a URL in an email and/or text message that's clickable. (thx, Deron)
The resolution of the screen on the iPhone is 160 ppi. People who have seen it close up report that the screen is extremely crisp and clear. Apple displays have been higher than 72 ppi for quite awhile, now but not as high as 160. How soon can we expect 160 ppi on the MacBooks?
Double the width of the iPhone and you've got the iTablet. 640x480, a bigger virtual keyboard to type on, etc. Just a thought.
My friend Chris suggested that it should ship with a dock that hooks directly to a monitor. Attach a keyboard and mouse to the monitor and voila!, you've got the world's smallest portable computer.
This is one of the biggest questions in the hardcore technology community: will Apple allow 3rd party development of widgets and apps for the iPhone? Right now it seems like they might not, but there's a lot of speculation in the absence of information going on. It sure would be nice if they did, but Apple doesn't have a good track record here. I bet the Dodgeball and Upcoming folks are looking at the integrated Google Maps and wishing they could integrate their apps in the same way. (And Flickr too!)
Games! A no-brainer. Probably lots you can do with the motion sensors and proximity detectors, not to mention the touchscreen. Although the touchscreen does make it difficult to see and control the onscreen action at the same time. How would you play Pac-Man on the iPhone?
Available in more than one color? Probably a few months after launch...or it could be right away.
Don't you think that maybe every company should fire their founders after a few years and then hire them back a few years later? I mean, how crazy is it that Apple birthed the Apple II and the Macintosh -- each a significant achievement that taken alone would have sealed Apple's reputation for innovation in the history of computing -- and then fired the guy that got them there, stumbled badly enough that they were heading for mediocrity and obscurity, and then brought Jobs back, who spurred a string of successes that has nearly overshadowed the company's earlier achievements: OS X, the iMac, the iBooks/PowerBooks/MacBooks, the iPod, iTMS, and now the iPhone. It's insane! Not to mention fun to watch. Perhaps Google should fire Larry and Sergey with the idea that they'll take them back in a few years when they're a little older, a little wiser, a little more seasoned in business, with a new perspective, and possessing an enormous amount of motivation to prove that their dismissal was a bad move.
Apple has figured out a way to retain a hold on hearts and minds in a business previously based on bytes. I applaud its designs, I worry about its tactics and what they mean for the future of marketing and group think. A group that wants our devotion but doesn't need the press, doesn't want the press, can't keep the press off its backs, is a group that's more interested in mind control than in improving lives with its products.
Yesterday a weird smell descended on New York City, a miasma of natural gas odor. Today you might sense a low hum emanating from all over the Earth, localized in households whose inhabitants spend unhealthy portions of their paychecks on consumer electronics. Geeks the world over are vibrating in anticipation of Steve Jobs' keynote at MacWorld starting in, oh, 5 minutes. Since I too am slightly vibrating and won't be able to get anything done for the two-hour duration of his talk, I'll be following along here, sipping from MacRumors' live coverage. (Gizmodo, Engadget, and Twitter have coverage too.)
As an appetizer, here's a few of the less hysterical predictions for what Our Fearless Leader is going to provide us with today:
- BREAKING NEWS: Attendees still taking their seats!
- Started. Gizmodo is stumbling badly. Zero updates.
- Sales updates. Apple now sells more music than Amazon.
- The Zune has 2% market share, the iPod has 62%. What brown can do for you, apparently.
- Apple TV in September. Not an actual TV, but a device that hooks to a TV. Here's some specs: 802.11b/g/n, 40GB HD, 720p HD, component rca, usb2, ethernet, HDMI. Retails for $299. Shipping in Feb.
- New product: internet communicator, mobile phone, and widescreen ipod all in one. Steve is very excited about this one. Called the iPhone. No buttons. Multi-touch screen. (WHOA!) Runs OS X. Jobs: "Software on mobile phones is like baby-software." It does all the stuff that OS X does. Calendar, mail, movies, music, podcasts, etc. Turns off the display and sound when you bring it to your ear to talk. It's got an accelerometer (motion sensor) and a proximity sensor. 2 megapixel camera. Screen resolution is 160 ppi. Here's what it looks like (photos from Engadget):
- Free IMAP email from Yahoo for iPhone customers. (Shot over Google's bow.) And it's "push-IMAP"...works just like a Crackberry.
- The iPhone has a full copy of Safari. Just browse away.
- iPhone ships in June in the US. $499 for 4 gig, $599 for 8 gig. Available only with Cingular as the carrier. (Can you unlock?) Can purchase either at Cingular or Apple stores. Have to sign up for a 2-year contract.
I've never seen a Mac that has run faster than its Wintel counterpart, despite the Macs' faster chip architecture. My 486/66 with 8 megs of ram runs faster than this 300 mhz machine at times. From a productivity standpoint, I don't get how people can claim that the Macintosh is a superior machine.
At my first web design job -- at a company that used to sell and service Macintosh computers -- they had Macs on all the desks. When I left a year and a half later, everyone had Dells running NT 4.0 instead; the difference in speed, stability, and price was not even close at that time. I didn't use another Mac until I bought an iBook after the second coming of Jobs and the advent of OS X.
BTW, that Mac sucks post has become something of a meme on Slashdot. It's been used to call out Java 1.4.2 fanatics, TI fanatics, SGI lava lamp fanatics, Apple laywers, Mac Mini hard drive performance, cat fanatics, Google fanatics, Amiga fanatics, Pittsburgh professors, Apple I fanatics, trolling losers, and so on.
A brief history of Pixar. "Even with the animation group generating income Pixar was still a money pit. That was about to change. Disney had decided they were willing to give a computer-animated movie a shot."
Going to try doing an live update of what Jobs is announcing at MacWorld. If you'd like to drink right from the firehose, here's the MacRumors feed. (Note, I'm not at MacWorld, so I have no idea why I'm doing this except it's kinda fun and old school in a way.)
- 32 million iPods sold in 2005
- Selling at the rate of a billion songs a year on iTunes Music Store
- Offering SNL skits through iTunes, all your old favorites
- Remote control for iPod with an FM tuner in it...listen to FM radio with the iPod
- 40% of the cars sold in the US in 2006 will have iPod integration
- Announced some new Dashboard widgets, including one for snow conditions for skiing
- Update to iLife....iLife '06
- New iPhoto will handle 250,000 photos (!!!), full-screen editing, more printing options (postcards calendars)
- Photocasting - podcasting for photos (Flickr competitor?), uploads photos to .Mac to iPhoto, people can subscribe, anyone can view photos via RSS
- Create video podcasts with iMovie, dump video to iPod
- iDVD creates widescreen DVDs, something called Magic iDVD that makes it super easy to create DVDs...drag and drop and push a couple buttons
- use iChat to record audio interviews with GarageBand (I think....), ah, ok, GarageBand has a Podcast Studio in it, use it to produce podcasts
- Announcing iWeb. Share photo albums, publish blogs, podcasting, Apple-designed templates. One-click publishing to .Mac. RSS, of course (lots of RSS stuff in iLife). A bit hard to see what this is exactly when you're not watching these demos in person. Also includes some sort of online media browser w/AJAX...works in any browser. "integrated with your music library", whatever that means.
- iWork '06.... (nothing really new here)
- Talking about new hardware. Intel update...looks like OS X on Intel is ready. New Mac today with Intel chip. It's the iMac. Ahead of schedule (Apple originally said mid-year).
- Intel iMac is 2 to 3 times faster than the G5, Tiger (10.4.4) is native on the Intel processor, all of Apple's apps are too.
- Microsoft will make new versions of office for the Mac for a minimum of 5 years
- New Intel iMacs shipping today. They will be doing Intel versions of all their hardware this calendar year.
- Famous Jobs' "one more thing"....MacBook Pro, Powerbook with Intel chip, 4-5 times faster than the G4 Powerbook, magnetic power adapter
Ok, all done. Check out Apple.com for all the new stuff. Apple's stock price is up 5 points (~6%) on today's news.
How the iPod nano came to be. Lots of Jobs and Apple haters out there, but you have to admire the shooting from the hip that's going on here...too many American companies minimize their risk so much that the possible reward dries up almost completely.
The point here is that I think this is one part of what teaching me how to think is really supposed to mean. To be just a little less arrogant. To have just a little critical awareness about myself and my certainties. Because a huge percentage of the stuff that I tend to be automatically certain of is, it turns out, totally wrong and deluded. I have learned this the hard way, as I predict you graduates will, too.
As in his writing, Wallace has a knack for depicting the world as a pretty messy place that one must navigate with a certain amount of uncertainty in order to really experience anything, which, for me, holds a little more truth than Jobs' "grab the tiger by the tail and live, dammit" thoughts.
A quick take on Apple's control freakishness. "Running a tightly controlled company has worked well for Jobs. But being a little out of control can pay dividends, too - by fostering creative freedom, not to mention goodwill. Jobs need only look at his own slogans. Life Is Random. Enjoy Uncertainty. At Apple, this is marketing, not a way of life."