My Pebble Watch

About 10 months ago, I watched this video on Kickstarter and was really intrigued about the thought of having a watch send me updates from my iPhone.

I put some money down in May 2012 and waited.  And waited. And waited.  It just so happens that I wasn’t the only one who wanted this.  The guys at Pebble raised over $10 million for their watch.  They then got started mass producing the watches which proved to be harder than they thought.  That said, last month I finally received my watch – almost 11 months after I backed the project. 
Continue reading “My Pebble Watch”

iPhone5: 3 months in

I wrote a post about 4 months ago about the iPhone5 and what I thought about it.  This was before i had purchased it or even used it.  

I have now been using my iPhone 5 for over 3 months and really love it. It’s a nice upgrade over the 4. I like the thinner size, the bigger screen, the faster processor, and the super awesome camera.   All things considered, it’s pretty damn sweet.  I even have been using Siri in the car to play music and send quick text messages.

There’s a lot of buzz around Apple maps being terrible and some android phones being better.  For me, Apple maps have been great although i just installed Google Maps and found that to be even better.  I’m sure some Android phones are better or at least come close to the iPhone, but at this point, they are all basically the same.  We’re so far past regular cell phones that are just phones that we’re all winners.  These smartphones are just ridiculous in what they can do.  Quibbling over megapixels, LTE coverage, the number of apps, and features such as turn-by-turn is such a great problem to have. 

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 Biography was Great

I just finished the Steve Jobs book and it was probably one of the most enjoyable books i’ve read in a long long time. I might say the past 10 years.  Here’s why:

Steve Jobs really cared about his products, deeply.  He had an intuitive feel for what the consumer wanted, and what he wanted.  He truly wanted his products to be close to art.   Even though very few in the industry believed him, even after the Macintosh had been around for over 10 years, he continued to hold on to this belief.  Each button, CD tray, color, and line was important to him. There’s a great passage in the book when he found out that the CD-ROM drive of a Mac was a tray instead a slot and it brought him to tears.

It was also fascinating to hear about the infant PC industry.  I had no idea how the PC industry started. I knew there was Apple and i knew there were was IBM but i didn’t understand how it emerged.  The narrative of the hobbyists building the board in garages makes sense to me, and i now understand.

I also didn’t understand how Jobs could get kicked out of his own company by a CEO and board that he selected.  But, after reading the story, i’m surprised he didn’t get kicked out sooner.   To hear of his return and his path back towards success was riveting.  Just a great story.  I highly recommend this book to anyone who’s enjoys Apple even a little bit.  Most people didn’t revere Jobs that much when he was alive (except, obviously the fanboys) but looking back at his accomplishments and commitment to excellence and innovation, we have to place him in the pantheon of business and product innovators.
I do think the world is a better place for having him here and i wish more people followed his path and held on to their dreams and reached for the stars.  It’s a great thing when it happens and actually works.

Steve Jobs is Shocking in his Biography

I’ve got the mp3’s of the Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson and i’ve been listening on my daily commute for the past few weeks. So far, i’m 25% through the book and loving it. Here’s what i like about the book so far.

  • Describing the social, music, and industry scene of Silicon Valley in the late 60’s and early 70’s is fascinating. The confluence of hippies, technology and drugs must have been amazing.
  • The hobbyist movement around electrical engineering. What people thought of computers and how the PC emerged from microprocessors and silicon. It’s so hard now, in a world where there’s a computer on every shelf, to imagine how people didn’t logically think of the PC.
  • Steve Jobs vs. Woz. It was an interesting partnership and highlights how you need different people with different talents to get a business off the ground.
The main plot of the book is around Steve Jobs and his rise as the leader of Apple. I’ve been pretty shocked about what i’ve read so far. I’m shocked by his demeanor and his behavior. The book does a good job of showing his passion, and his attention to detail. But i’m amazed about the amount of abuse he dished out to his colleagues. The book describes how each engineer, although degraded and demeaned regularly by Jobs, holds up that period as one of the most memorable is his life. The book attributes this to Jobs. I disagree. These guys were at the perfect moment of time where technology was making this type of a product possible- and were designing a product that didn’t yet exist. The market was poised to explode and did. What Jobs did was bring the right list of specifications but did it for a product that the world was clamoring for.

So far this book has increased my respect for Jobs ability to intuitively know what people want but i’ve also amazing how bad he was as a manager, friend and as a person. He seemed so erratic and awful.

I’ve yet to read about his exile, his days at Pixar and Next days, or his Apple comeback. i’m sure he gained perspective and some humility but man, in those early days of Apple he seems brutal.

My thoughts on Steve Jobs

I’ve been reading all the news about Steve Jobs’ death these past few days. It’s one of the few stories that i can’t get enough of.  Because of all the articles, i didn’t want to post anything about it and be just another post about a topic that everyone knows about.  But i’m going to anyway.  I’m going to post for myself and because i think it’s important to write about people that impact you.

Steve Jobs was a hero of mine.  Not in a childish Superman-y way, but in a real day-to-day way. I spend my days discussing, inventing, reviewing and managing the production of online products.  This is what i do.  Every day.  Lots of people do this.  I’m friends with hundreds of them. Steve Jobs also did this.  But Steve did it differently. He was able to make products that came directly from his imagination and make them real.  This is something that is amazingly hard to do.

I also admire him as an entrepreneur.  He had a passion and a vision that was rare.  He envisioned 30 years ago a world where hardware and software met.  A world where the public can get excited about technology, where technology achieves cult status.  He got fired for thinking this way.  Seriously, read this article.  This thinking got him canned.  The CEO who replaced him said this of Steve’s thinking in the 80’s,

But Steve was thinking about something entirely different. He felt that the computer was going to change the world and it it was going to become what he called “the bicycle for the mind.” It would enable individuals to have this incredible capability that they never dreamed of before.

He got fired and regrouped.  Talk about a 2nd act.  First Pixar and then NEXT and then back to Apple.  His passion and focus made him successful every step of the way.  You can’t be an entrepreneur and not be inspired by his story.

I remember the first time i put the iPhone in my hand and used it. I was sitting at the Washington Nations game with Drew Mowery.  He had one and showed me.  Using it was like a window into the future.  That’s a rare feeling to have. It happened over 4 years ago and i still remember it.  I feel lucky to have been alive when he was around and building products.

As an innovator and as an entrepreneur, I’ll miss Steve Jobs.


Apple is Crushing It

Say what you will about Apple’s product and their company culture.  They can be closed (vs. Google’s “open”) and the company can be arrogant, but you have to admire how successful they are right now.  Their domination of the consumer electronics industry is just staggering.  Never before in my life have i seen a company firing on all cylinders like this.  It truly something to witness.

Let me give you some facts from their latest earning’s call this week.

  • The first astonishing statistic, is that Apple’s revenue grew 71% in the past year.  Large companies like Apple’s just don’t grow 70% year over year.  Apple is now on a revenue run-rate of more than $100 billion a year.  Just as amazing, it is expecting to grow another 60%+ in the first quarter of this year.

All their products are crushing it.

Continue reading “Apple is Crushing It”

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.

Microsoft vs. Apple

There’s been lots of talk about how Apple’s market cap is about to equal Microsoft’s.  People love to discuss this because of the battle the two companies have fought over the past 3 decades.  Microsoft famously beat out Apple for PC dominance in the 80’s and 90’s by being open while Apple remained stubbornly closed.  Today, many people look at the Android/iPhone battle in the same light: one company with a superior product (Apple) and another that may be less polished but open to be used on other people’s hardware (Google’s Android)

I’ve heard quite often over the past year how Apple is crazy to go down the same path again.  However, i read a good summary today by Mark Sigal on O’Reilly’s blog about why this isn’t the case.  His five main points are:

  1. Retail Distribution: During the PC Wars, everything came down to distribution and presence on limited retail shelf space. To be successful, you had to be on the shelves of retailers like ComputerLand, CompUSA, Circuit City, Office Depot and MicroAge. Given the wide variety of hardware OEMs making Wintel-based PCs, both shelf-space for Macs and the technical know-how to sell them were severely limited, making a differentiation story like Apple’s a hard sell. Today, Apple Stores drive a superior environment for consumers to experience hardware hands-on and get educated about the full breadth of Apple products. An aside, this is a consumer touch point that Google absolutely lacks.
  2. Pricing overhang: A primary reason for Apple’s crushing defeat by Microsoft was Apple’s misguided notion that it could charge grossly higher dollars for Mac products than Windows-based PC offerings. Contrast this with the present, where Apple is consistent in their assertion and awareness that it cannot and will not leave pricing overhang (i.e. a sufficient pricing gap between its products and the competition). This avoids the past dynamic where consumers saw picking Apple products as an either/or decision, in terms of price vs premier experience. iPod, iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad all have followed this course.
  3. Developer ecosystem: It is a truism that in platform plays he who wins the hearts and minds of developers, wins the war. In the PC era, Apple forgot this, bungling badly by launching and abandoning technology initiatives, co-opting and competing with their developers and routinely missed promised milestones. By contrast, Microsoft provided clear delineation points for developers, integrated core technologies across all products, and made sure developer tools readily supported these core initiatives. No less, Microsoft excelled at ensuring that the ecosystem made money. Lesson learned, Apple is moving on to the 4.0 stage of its mobile platform, has consistently hit promised milestones, has done yeomen’s work on evangelizing key technologies within the platform (and third-party developer creations – “There’s an app for that”), and developed multiple ways for developers to monetize their products. No less, they have offered 100 percent distribution to 85 million iPhones, iPod Touches and iPads, and one-click monetization via same. Nested in every one of these devices is a giant vending machine that is bottomless and never closes. By contrast, Google has taught consumers to expect free, the Android Market is hobbled by poor discovery and clunky, inconsistent monetization workflows. Most damning, despite touted high-volume third-party applications, there are (seemingly) no breakout third-party developer successes, despite Android being around two-thirds as long as the iPhone platform.
  4. Consumer technology adoption: During the PC era, large enterprises essentially dictated the industry winners by virtue of standardizing on a given vendor or type of solution. This created a winner-takes-all dynamic, inasmuch as consumers would ultimately buy the same solutions that had been blessed by large enterprises. By virtue of its conservative nature (remember the motto, “No ever got fired for buying IBM”?), staid Microsoft always felt like a safer choice than crazy Apple. And besides, accounting could solicit bids from multiple hardware vendors, which they liked. By contrast, today’s breakthrough adoption begins in the consumer realm and filters back to enterprises, not the other way around.
  5. Microsoft-like resilience: I remember too well the Microsoft mantra “Embrace-Extend-Extinguish,” which basically meant that any segment worth owning Microsoft would ultimately dominate by the 3.0 version of its competing product.  They were ruthless in squeezing the lifeblood out of competitors through any means necessary. But, give Microsoft full props for manifesting an unyielding resilience to keep working its product offering and market assault until victory was at hand. Considering Apple’s rise from the ashes to re-create a very profitable Mac business — the dominance it has created with iPod and iTunes; the powerhouse iPhone and iPhone platform and the ambitious, and already well-regarded iPad — does anyone wonder about Apple’s resilience? By contrast, Google remains almost completely dependent upon search and advertising, despite launching so many new product offerings and seriously pursuing M&A over the past several years. Arguably, Google’s famously loosely coupled structure leads to a lot of seeds being planted, but so too, it seems to a less than laser-like focus on seeing those seeds to cultivation and full harvest. It begs the question, “Can a tiger change its stripes?”

I carry around both an iPhone and a Droid so I’m witness the battle every day when i pull both out and decide which to make a call or text on.   They are both good phones.  The Android phones get refreshed every month when a new manufacturer comes out with the latest, whereas i have to wait a year for each new iPhone.  That said, the iPhone is better and because of points 1-5 above, i suspect Apple will clean house for at least a few more years.