Apple’s No Jack City

Apple announced the new iPhone 7 yesterday and announced that they are removing the headphone jack.  Some quick thoughts on that…

Short Term Pain

It’s annoying to have to live in a world where my phone does not have a headphone jack as I have many different headphones laying around and to use them I have to use an extra dongle that i have to carry with my phone.  Also, for people who want to listen to music and charge their phone at the same time – a common use for Uber and Lyft drivers, this is now impossible (although i did see this solution). For all of these reasons, I think it will be a pain in the ass for many people – including myself in the short term.

Moving towards the future

I do think that the wireless technology of headphones is underrated and way more advanced than we are aware.  By forcing the issue and making these headphones mandatory, Apple will bring more and more great wireless headphones available.  I can imagine a world in 5 years where everything is wireless.

From my use of the Echo, I does seem that the only thing between the cloud and my is voice. Having a sweet set of headphones that can access it all of the time seems like the right way to go.

The use of the word “courage”

This was totally ridiculous.  Apple, even if you think it, don’t say it.  When you’re causing so much short-term pain to your customer, don’t get up on stage and pat yourself on the back. That was a dumb move.

The Apple eco-system

Now all headphone manufacturers who build a lightning connector are married to the iPhone. Doing this will result in more lock-in than ever before.  This was definitely part of their thought-process when coming to this decision.  Apple loves the lock-in.

 

 



Thoughts on the iPhone 5

At the Kapost office yesterday, about half the company was glued to live-blogging of the iPhone 5 announcement.  What we saw was only a blog but watching it was quite a show.  A few things stood out for me:

 It’s all about the LTE.  Most people don’t realize what LTE is and what it means.  Forgot the ads you see for 4G right now – those are lies.  What most people are getting as 4G isn’t really 4G. LTE is wireless internet that is 20-50x faster.  Once you get it, you won’t need to upgrade for speed for a long time.  It’s like going from a bike to a motorcycle.  Sure, in the future you can get a faster motorcycle, but the major upgrade has happened.  (more info on LTE here)

The magic of Apple.  Only two companies make money in the mobile phone business: Apple and Samsung.  You could read that as Apple and the people who are best at copying Apple.  Apple make money because they convince us to buy something that we didn’t know we need.  The iPhone 5 is really just the same phone, but they go out of their way to show us how it is both the same and something totally different.  It’s thinner (ooohhh), it’s faster (aaaahhhh) and has more and better bells and whistles than ever before (applause).  I don’t know of any other company that asks and gets an hour of my time for them to explain to my why i should buy their product.

Desktop to Mobile.  The transition from computing being a desktop/laptop world to a mobile world is totally complete.  The graphics on the iPhone 5 now rival console gaming units.  There was a demo of a race car game and the rearview mirror on the car was showing accurate graphics.  At this point, the phone is literally just a smaller computer. Sure, not everyone has a smartphone yet, but they will and it will be a fascinating world when companies start taking advantage of the fact that everyone in the world is carrying out a crapload of computing power in their pocket.

I’m still rocking the iPhone 4 and plan on preordering a new phone at midnight on the 14th.  In fact, everyone I know who has a 4 or older is planning on upgrading to the 5.  Are you?

Steve Jobs: Designer First, CEO Second

I recently read a great interview by John Scully where he talks about Steve Jobs.  Scully was CEO of Apple for almost a decade.  It’s just a great read.  For anyone in the tech business, this is a story about our times about a man who more than anyone else has invented products that impact our lives.

Here are some good quotes:

The time that I first met Jobs, which was over 25 years ago, he was putting together the same first principles that I call the Steve Jobs methodology of how to build great products.

Steve from the moment I met him always loved beautiful products, especially hardware. He came to my house and he was fascinated because I had special hinges and locks designed for doors. I had studied as an industrial designer and the thing that connected Steve and me was industrial design. It wasn’t computing.

On Steve jobs being a minimalist:

What makes Steve’s methodology different from everyone else’s is that he always believed the most important decisions you make are not the things you do – but the things that you decide not to do. He’s a minimalist.

I remember going into Steve’s house and he had almost no furniture in it. He just had a picture of Einstein, whom he admired greatly, and he had a Tiffany lamp and a chair and a bed. He just didn’t believe in having lots of things around but he was incredibly careful in what he selected. The same thing was true with Apple. Here’s someone who starts with the user experience, who believes that industrial design shouldn’t be compared to what other people were doing with technology products but it should be compared to people were doing with jewelry… Go back to my lock example, and hinges and a door with beautiful brass, finely machined, mechanical devices. And I think that reflects everything that I have ever seen that Steve has touched.

Look at his apartment back then:

Steve on org structures:

The other thing about Steve was that he did not respect large organizations. He felt that they were bureaucratic and ineffective. He would basically call them “bozos.” That was his term for organizations that he didn’t respect.

The Mac team they were all in one building and they eventually got to one hundred people. Steve had a rule that there could never be more than one hundred people on the Mac team. So if you wanted to add someone you had to take someone out. And the thinking was a typical Steve Jobs observation: “I can’t remember more than a hundred first names so I only want to be around people that I know personally. So if it gets bigger than a hundred people, it will force us to go to a different organization structure where I can’t work that way. The way I like to work is where I touch everything.”

At his core, Steve is a designer:

The thing that separated Steve Jobs from other people like Bill Gates — Bill was brilliant too — but Bill was never interested in great taste. He was always interested in being able to dominate a market. He would put out whatever he had to put out there to own that space. Steve would never do that. Steve believed in perfection. Steve was willing to take extraordinary chances in trying new product areas but it was always from the vantage point of being a designer. So when I think about different kinds of CEOs — CEOs who are great leaders, CEOs who are great turnaround artists, great deal negotiators, great people motivators — but the great skill that Steve has is he’s a great designer. Everything at Apple can be best understood through the lens of designing.

More stories:

An anecdotal story, a friend of mine was at meetings at Apple and Microsoft on the same day and this was in the last year, so this was recently. He went into the Apple meeting (he’s a vendor for Apple) and when he went into the meeting at Apple as soon as the designers walked in the room, everyone stopped talking because the designers are the most respected people in the organization. Everyone knows the designers speak for Steve because they have direct reporting to him. It is only at Apple where design reports directly to the CEO.

Later in the day he was at Microsoft. When he went into the Microsoft meeting, everybody was talking and then the meeting starts and no designers ever walk into the room. All the technical people are sitting there trying to add their ideas of what ought to be in the design. That’s a recipe for disaster.

Microsoft hires some of the smartest people in the world. They are known for their incredibly challenging test they put people through to get hired. It’s not an issue of people being smart and talented. It’s that design at Apple is at the highest level of the organization, led by Steve personally. Design at other companies is not there. It is buried down in the bureaucracy somewhere

On being chosen as CEO over Jobs:

Looking back, it was a big mistake that I was ever hired as CEO. I was not the first choice that Steve wanted to be the CEO. He was the first choice, but the board wasn’t prepared to make him CEO when he was 25, 26 years old.

They exhausted all of the obvious high-tech candidates to be CEO… Ultimately, David Rockefeller, who was a shareholder in Apple, said let’s try a different industry and let’s go to the top head hunter in the United States who isn’t in high tech: Gerry Roche.

They went and recruited me. I came in not knowing anything about computers. The idea was that Steve and I were going to work as partners. He would be the technical person and I would be the marketing person.

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. It was a little bit of a façade and my guess is that we never would have had the breakup if the board had done a better job of thinking through not just how do we get a CEO to come and join the company that Steve will approve of, but how do we make sure that we create a situation where this thing is going to be successful over time?

My sense is that when Steve left (in 1986, after the board rejected his bid to replace Sculley as CEO) I still didn’t know very much about computers.

My decision was first to fix the company, but I didn’t know how to fix companies and to get it back to be successful again.

All the stuff we did then were all his ideas. I understood his methodology. We never changed it. So we didn’t license the products. We focused on industrial design. We actually built up our own in-house design organization, which they have to this day. We developed the PowerBook… We developed QuickTime. All these things were built around Steve’s philosophy… It was all about sales and marketing and the evolution of the products.

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.

And there’s more.  As i said, it’s just a great read.

Jobs Interview

There’s a good interview with Steve Jobs in the latest Fortune magazine.  One of my favorite parts was this:

People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on.  But that’s not what it means at all.  It means saying no to the 100 other good ideas that there are.  You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of many of the things we haven’t done as the things we have done.  The clearest example was when we were pressured for years to do a PDA, and I realized one day that 90% of the people who use a PDA only take information out of it on the road.  They don’t put inforation into it. Pretty soon cellphones are going to do that, so the PDA market’s going to get reduced to a fraction of its current size.  So we decided to not get into it.  If we had gotten into it, we wouldn’t have had the resources to do the iPod.

That holds very much true at Qloud. We’ve had lots of ideas on our whiteboard and killing some of the good ones is just as hard as building the great ones.

Music lessons from Seth

Speaking of music (my last post was), a good blog post from Seth Godin about music lessons. To read it all, go here. The main points were:

0. The new thing is never as good as the old thing, at least right now.
Soon, the new thing will be better than the old thing will be. But if you wait until then, it’s going to be too late. Feel free to wax nostalgic about the old thing, but don’t fool yourself into believing it’s going to be here forever. It won’t.

1. Past performance is no guarantee of future success
Every single industry changes and, eventually, fades. Just because you made money doing something a certain way yesterday, there’s no reason to believe you’ll succeed at it tomorrow.

The music business had a spectacular run alongside the baby boomers. Starting with the Beatles and Dylan, they just kept minting money. The co-incidence of expanding purchasing power of teens along with the birth of rock, the invention of the transistor and changing social mores meant a long, long growth curve.

As a result, the music business built huge systems. They created top-heavy organizations, dedicated superstores, a loss-leader touring industry, extraordinarily high profit margins, MTV and more. It was a well-greased system, but the key question: why did it deserve to last forever?

It didn’t. Yours doesn’t either. Continue reading Music lessons from Seth

iPhone will take down Blackberry eventually

I had a Blackberry Pearl and loved it.  I was planning to keep it – until i saw a friend’s iPhone.  It was just so frackin’ slick that i couldn’t stay away.  Does Blackberry do email better?  Yes.  Does Blackberry have some better/smaller sizes that are better for a cell phone?  Yes, definitely.  But is it as cool or fun to use an iPhone?  Not even close.

However, i always hear about people going back to their Blackberry’s b/c of the email capability.  I can understand that.  I don’t use my iPhone email for work everyday and it is harder to type.  But the other advantages heavily outweigh this one feature.

I then read this blog post by Tim O’Reilly about “Why the iPhone Will Beat the Blackberry.”  He write that Blackberry users are cell phone power users and:

power users are a minority, and while they point the way to the future, they tend to be disappointed when the rest of the market catches up with an inferior product that has a lower barrier to new users. So, my prediction: the Blackberry will become more like the iPhone, or the iPhone and its imitators will eventually eat its lunch, relegating it to a niche player. The iPhone is now the communications device to beat. 

I couldn’t agree more.  The iPhone is only getting better going at email and the Blackberry will never come close to the iPhone in slickness of features – including the iPod.   It’s only a matter of time before Blackberry goes down.

I heard a rumor that Microsoft was going to purchase Blackberry.  I don’t hear it anymore, but i think that’d be a great move for both companies.

EMI Tracks on iTunes – Not mp3's

I’ve heard a bunch of stuff today about all of EMI’s tracks being available on iTunes without DRM. At first i was really happy, but 2 things kept me from being REALLY impressed.

First, these tracks are not mp3’s. Everyone is assuming they are, but they’re not. They are in a format called “unprotected AAC. ” For those of you who don’t know, AAC is a similar format to mp3 but to-date it is only used by MPEg4 players and Apple (it was partially developed by Apple).  The format is understood by iPods and iTunes, but really nothing else. If you buy an unprotected AAC track, you can email it to whoever you want and listen to it on unlimited amount of computers. But, can you listen to it on the an iRiver player, the slick Samsung players or the nice Sandisk Sansa player? NOPE!

This is very clever strategic move by Apple. They have 2 objectives in mind by only offering AAC: 1) Get out of the legislation trouble they’re having in Europe which is asking them to open up thier DRM technology so other people can make iPod-like devices. 2) Try to keep the iPod as the go-to device for music. If they sold mp3’s they would solve problem 1 but then any player could be used with iTunes music. By making the tracks AAC, none of the competing players in the market today will work. Of course, new players can add AAC format compatibility in the future. But they have to license it. From who? – you guessed it: Apple!

The second thing that struck me as strange is that unprotected music is more expensive than protected. This is dumb. Sooner or later the labels will realize that people want convenience and value. There is a group of people who use the iTunes store. By making the unprotected tracks more expensive you’ll earn a few extra dollars from those users (and only those users) as they will prefer to have un-tethered music. But they won’t get the P2P fanatics. They won’t get anyone under the age of 25 to go to iTunes and buy a track. I’m not sure if 99 cents is low enough for an mp3, but i know that $1.30 is too expensive. It’s a shame. Sooner or later they’ll realize they aren’t going far enough, they aren’t getting new users with this model.

All this being said, it’s a step in the right direction and i can’t wait to see what the other labels do when they see that EMI unprotected tracks are MUCH more popular than the regular iTunes tracks.

Holy Crap the iPhone is AMAZING

Granted, i haven’t seen it in person or used it, but i watched the Macworld speech by Steve Jobs about it and let me tell you – the phone looks incredible.  The phone looks awesome but more than that, it is over-delivering.  Again, Apple is taking everyone’s expectations, throwing them out the window and giving us something that we didn’t even dream about.  There were months of speculation and NONE of them were even close to this.   It was never a question of whether or not mobile phones would replace iPods, but rather a question of when.  Apple knew this and made the most rockin’ mobile phone one could imagine.  Here’s what it’s got….

  • Thin as hell. While it is somewhat large which is nice for watching videos, it is really thin and pretty sleek.
  • Touch screen. While i’ve not a big fan of them in the past, it looks like they’ve thought about all the screwups that usually happen and made this screen really sizzle. The mouse on MacBooks are really good with recognizing multiple finger scrolling and supposedly the iPhone is too.  Also, touch screens can change when you add in applications or change functionality so this phone is forward-compatible.
  • A super-high-resolution screen. This makes videos, photos, and web browsing really a fun (or non-painful) experience. Putting only 1/5 of a browser on a screen, which is what most phones do, sucks. The iPhone screen is much better so that a whole browser screen can fit and it makes regular photos and desktop images gorgeous.
  • It’s also an iPod. Having it be an iPod too is the way to go. I can imagine a day when all iPods are cell phones.  Synergy, got to love it.
  • Sycnhing contacts and photos and music, which is really painful for most phones as their computer software sucks.  Apple does this really well with iTunes and iPods and this phone will synch with iTunes too which makes lots of sense.
  • Wi-fi capabilities. Cell networks sometime suck, so it’s nice to be able to jump onto a wireless connection if it is available.  Browing the web on this thing will be fast too.
  • Google Maps built in. My current phone has Blackberry maps built in and it’s a great feature to have on a phone. Google Maps are even better (Double True!) so that’s a big plus.  I’ve yet to see any phone have this feature.  It shows that bringing Google’s CEO onto the Apple board was good for something.
  • Voicemail browsing similar to email browsing.  Don’t know why this hasn’t been done before but it’s awesome.
  • Even the bluetooth accessories look slick

Some other specifics: $499 (4GB) or $599 (8GB) avaialble in June with 2 commitment from Cingular.

 

iPhone Is On Its Way

This is the guy that Apple sued because he always get it right.  So this is probably the real deal:

Apple iPhone to be Cingular-exclusive at launch
By Ryan Katz, Senior Editor

September 26, 2006 – Apple and Cingular have signed an agreement that will make the US’ largest cell phone provider the exclusive carrier of Apple’s forthcoming phone, sources report. Apple’s iPhone remains on track for an early 2007 release.

As previously reported, Apple’s phone will feature a candy-bar design with a 2.2-inch display and 3 megapixel camera. Robust iTunes and iSync support will also be delivered with the phone.

Apple’s exclusive contract with Cingular is said to be good for the first six months, sources report, meaning other providers will be able to sell the phone in the second-half of 2007. Cingular had an exclusive on the Motorola ROKR—the first phone to feature iTunes—when it launched last year.

Sources say Apple is in talks with providers in other parts of the world on exclusive deals, but are short on specifics. O2 had the exclusive on the ROKR in Europe, however, suggesting that provider may again be tapped to launch Apple’s phone.

Meanwhile, insiders say Apple is internally estimating that shipments of the iPhone will top a staggering 25 million in 2007 alone. Motorola’s RAZR, by contrast, has sold more than 50 million units since its launch in late 2004. Apple is betting a phone with Apple’s iconic design, elegant interface, and iPod-matching functionality will be a strong draw for users who currently carry both devices on them.

http://www.thinksecret.com/news/0609cingulariphone.html

If I Was Apple, What I Would Do To Protect iTunes

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Apple has a great monopoly on both the fulfillment and playback of digital music. ITunes is a great player, the iTunes Music Store is the most comprehensive music store available online, and the iPod is the best, most badass player on the market. However, competitors are coming on strong. Microsoft announced the Zune project, Sony is releasing new players (article), and smaller players like the Music Gremlin are doing some cool and innovative stuff.

So, what should apple do to protect this mighty lead? They should give aways as many iTunes tracks as possible! Seriously, like it is halloween or a homecoming parade they should throw tracks away like candy. And, like the clever company they afacebook.jpgre, that’s exactly what they are doing. Last week they announced that they are giving away tracks to college kids with a deal with thefacebook to give away 10 million tracks (btw: facebook is the 7th most trafficed site in the US). And yesterday Apple annouced a deal with Coke which said in the press release, “Coke will link its website to the iTunes site and give away millions of free music downloads and hundreds of iPod digital music players”

cokeapple.jpgWhy is this a good idea? Because every track that a user gets from iTunes keeps them attached to the Apple world. If you have hundreds of tracks that only work in iTunes and iPods, you’re not very likely to buy or use anything else but if you have only mp3’s from CD’s, eMusic, or “found” online it’s pretty easy to go somewhere else. So, to ensure that nobody switches in the future, Apple should lock everyone in with iTunes tracks. Personally, i’m keeping