Epic Tweet Storm about Apple’s Development Process

This is an epic tweet storm about Apple’s development process by Steven Sinofsky. If you don’t know him, he ran the Microsoft Office business unit for over a decade. This rant touches on how to balance quality, launch dates and features, IBM, iPhone dominance and more…

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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.

Three Excellent Movie Spoofs

In the past two weeks, i’ve seen some great movie spoofs.  It seems that online video is getting better and better and the content is coming form all over the place.  I love these videos.  Check ’em out:

A Batman spoof:

A Point Break spoof. I love how Aziz does Keanu by just shouting.

A video describing all the ambiguous endings of movies. If you were unsure how they ended, now you know:

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The iPhone and the world of computers

I’m an iPhone users and i love it.  It has transformed my mobile phone usage and dare i say, my life.  With the internet at my fingertips, i no longer go more than 10 seconds without knowing the answer to a question.   I have come to realize that the world of computers and the internet will always be with me, following me around and enriching my life.  It also makes me realize that my relationship with my computer is going to change.  Because i can Google, email, YouTube, Facebook, and check sports scores from my cell – my desire to have my computer near me is dwindling.

The new iPhone 3GS makes me think about the landscape of the computers out there.  If you don’t know it, there’s a new type of machine that’s becoming popular called The Netbook.  It’s a $200-400 machine that is quite small and sometimes comes attached to a wireless contract so it can be connected at all times.  In this regard, it is very similar to a cell phone purchase except in a bigger form factor. (click here to check out HP’s 200 dollar machine)

When i think about the machines out there, i think of this continuum:

Picture 8One thing that is interesting is how Apple is has high priced machines in their Macbook Pro’s and Air devices and “lowend” machines in their iPhone.  Whatever market you’re at, Apple will have the slickest machine.  Microsoft, on the other hand, has less slick highend machines, and netbooks on the lowend.  Personally, i like Apple’s direction more but it’d be even better if they had a tablet or smaller sized laptop that was an iPhone/laptop hybrid for $400. I think the regular PC starts to disappear and all sales are Netbook sales.  Why would anyone pay $1000 when they can get a decently powerful machine for $200?

Picture 9

What will be great is the day day when all i have is my cell phone and i just plug it into monitors and keyboards when i want to work at a desk.  My iPhone cradle gets a lot more functional and my need for a second machine disappears.

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Mobile World Congress wrapup

I spent the week at MWC in Barcelona this past week.  I made my way to a bunch of booths and companies.  It was a huge show.


Here are some thoughts:

  • Phone Operating Systems
    • There were many new phones released at the show.  LG announced 50 phones, Samsung had 22 more, Sony/Ericcson announced a new suite of walkman phones, and even Acer announced new phones.  Which each new announcement, you saw that they are all using Windows Mobile.  Windows mobile is EVERYWHERE.  Regardless what you think about it, you can’t deny its traction in the marketplace.  It seems again that Apple will be the better device but Windows will be on more.
    • Windows Mobile is not a good OS for the phone.  It’s bloated and has way too many menus but there aren’t alot of options.  For this reason, i’m hopeful for Android.  Even the new 6.5 still uses 8-bit graphics.
    • There were barely any Android phones at the show and almost no coverage about it – if it’s the new phone of the future, you wouldn’t know it by this show. It seems that very few handset manufacturers are planning on using it. I was surprised
    • Nobody wanted to say it, but the iPhone still kicks the crap out of almost every phone at the show.  Only Blackberry is close. Nokia is getting there too.
  • Microsoft – I went to their booth to check out Live, Windows Mobile 6.5 and My Phone:
    • Microsoft Live – i aksked their expert to give me the demo and explain to me why i should care.  He showed me MSN messenger, Hotmail, their photo tool and i kept asking, “why should i care?” and he could never give me an answer.  There is nothing special here.  I think this suite is a good metaphor for the company itself.  Internet 1.0
    • Windows 6.5 – It is an improvement over 6.1 but it’s still worse than iPhone. They tried hard to make it like the iPhone but worked just as hard to make it not exactly like it.   Instead of a grid of applications, it’s a honeycomb layout.  My big disappointment is that 6.5 isn’t released until mid 2009.  That’s exactly 2 years after the iPhone launch and it’s still inferior.  I don’t think they’ll ever get it together.
    • The App Store – i was equally excited about this but the big problem is that this isn’t even scheduled to be ready untl late 2009.  They didn’t even have screenshots of it.  Even the MS rep joked that it was typical Microsoft vaporware.
    • My Phone – this is the one thing that i liked from Miscrosoft. It sends all your information from your phone up to the cloud.  You can access it online (numbers, calendar, messages).  You can even search your text messages online.  That’s cool. Of course it’s not tied into Live (see above) because that would make too much sense.
  • Yahoo!
    • they have an app for Blackberry and iPhone.   The app has a “Pulse” which can connect to other social networks and list your friends’ status and activity.  Very much like Plaxo Pulse – even the same name (although nobody in the Yahoo booth had heard of Plaxo).   it’s pretty cool but nothing revolutionary.
    • Remember the days when Yahoo was competing with Google? They are now so far behind that it’s not even funny – especially on mobile. Google has an mobile OS, location-aware apps, Maps on every device, and mobile sites for mail, docs, and tasks.  Yahoo! on the other hand has a huge booth to announce that they now have an application that displays news, mail and RSS feeds.  I’m not impressed.
  • Some other companies i saw:
    • ARM – this is a British company that makes processors.  They compete with Intel but on small devices like cell phones and mp3 players.  Among their typical devices, they also looking to get the chips into laptops.  Not as a replacement processor but as an addition.  The idea is that if you are only going to be surfing the web, you can switch to the ARM processor and get around 19 hours of power.  Whoa
    • Omnifone – this is a Rhapsody type service specifically for mobile phones. They have worldwide liceses from the labels and is working on all Sony/Ericcson phones.  They claim to have a US service at the end of ’09.  I was also amazed how uninformed they were about Rhapsody.
    • TruPhone – a great skype-like app.  It’s an app that that lets you make international calls from your  phone over the internet to get low rates.  It’s a good integration in that if you call someone’s TruPhone app, it rings your regular phone and if both people have the app, it’s completely free.  It’s like Skype but made specifically for phones rather than desktops.
    • Samsung.  They have a Blue Earth phone which is a very cool environment friendly phone.  It has solar panels on its back and is made out of recyleable materials.  I was excited to see it but was pretty disappointed to find that it was only a prototype and they haven’t actually made any of these phones.

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Recording Life

I just read a great article by Clive Thompson called “Head for Detail” about Gordon Bell‘s latest experieement.  Please just read the first 2 paragraphs.  It’s about Gordon and how he is recording everything he’s doing (video, audio, emails, web, everything).  He’s been doing it for the past 14 years and is able to bring up almost eveyrthing.  Clive writes about Bell, saying:

He[Bell] had a tiny bug-eyed camera around his neck, and a small audio recorder at his elbow. As we chatted about various topics–Australian jazz musicians, his futuristic cell phone, the Seattle area’s gorgeous weather–Bell’s gear quietly logged my every gesture and all my blathering small talk, snapping a picture every 60 seconds. Back at his office, his computer had carefully archived every document related to me: all the email I’d sent him, copies of my articles he’d read, pages he’d surfed on my blog.

This really resonated with me as i am already trying to record my life. I have photos up on Flickr, i have my ideas going to my blog, i have my mundane thoughts going to Twitter, my videos going to YouTube, and my friend interactions recorded on Facebook.  I’m already on the web but just in the totality that Bell is.  Storage is getting cheaper and cheaper it’s gone from $233,000 for a gigabyte in 1980 to less than $1 today.  Soon there will be enough storage in your cell phone for your entire life to be stored.  I do this because i want to remember. I want my memories to be accesible all the time and reading the article made me realize how inefficent i’ve been in capturing them.

I really like articles like this becaues they make you think about where the world is going and wonder how human interactions and functions will change.  It touches on how humans will change when we no longer have to remember stuff.  I already don’t remember phone numbers beceuase of your cell phone. What if you don’t have to remember people’s names and interactions and you free you mind to be more creative.  Just imagine – that’s what i’m doing now….

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New Microsoft Services

Image representing Microsoft as depicted in Cr...

Image via CrunchBase

I’ve been pretty anti-microsoft for a while because it seems that they always miss the boat.  However, they do have LOTS of cash (40+ billion) and a huge development force.  Becauase of this i was surprised they didn’t get more press for the news they spit out last week.  Four big things appeared out of last week’s Professional Developer Conference (PDC):

  1. They announced Azure, a set of cloud services that competes with Amazon’s S3.  Another big player will really solidify the category.
  2. They showed off Windows 7 which is getting high good hype from the blogosphere.
  3. They showed off new Web-based versions of Microsoft Office that were really nice.  They are really late here but if they can get up to parity with Zoho they could dominate
  4. They also released new Mac and Mobile versions of Mesh and further explained how that’ll enable new kinds of Internet-connected apps to be built.

All in all it was a HUGE week for Microsoft. I just don’t know why nobody noticed.  It is because we’re all Mac fanboys and want them to fail (I know i do)?  What do you think?

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Analysis of Chrome

A few weeks ago Google release a product called Chrome which is their own web browser. Only it is really so much more. At first it doesn’t look like much – and it isn’t, just yet. However it’s the direction Chrome is going and the intent behind the release that matters. Google doesn’t want a competitor to IE or Firefox, they want a new OS – a web OS that competes and beats Microsoft Windows.

Chris Messina who worked both a Mozilla and Flock – both browser companies – has a great post about how Chrome came to be and what it means (post is here). Chrome is the future of browsers. It’s one that embraces web applications and has Gears, an engine that enhances the internal code of apps to make them more powerful and quick.

On interesting piece of the post is pointing out WHO is working on Chrome. He paints Google as cohesive team of folks in the pennisula who are laser focused on delivering a next generation browser:

Google is a well-oiled, well-heeled machine. The Webkit team, as a rhizomatic offshoot from Apple, has a similar development pedigree and has consistently produced a high quality — now cross-platformopen source project, nary engaging in polemics or politics. They let the results speak for themselves. They keep their eyes on the ball.

Ultimately this has everything to do with people; with leadership, execution and vision.

When Mozilla lost Ben Goodger I think the damage went deeper than was known or understood. Then Blake Ross and Joe Hewitt went over to Facebook, where they’re probably in the bowels of the organization, doing stuff with FBML and the like, bringing Parakeet into existence (they’ve recently been joined by Mike Schroepfer, previously VP of Engineering at Mozilla). Brad Neuberg joined Google to take Dojo Offline forward in the Gears project (along with efforts from Dylan Schiemann and Alex Russell). And the list goes on.

A few more points he expands in the original and subsequent post:

  • One unique feature of Chrome is that it auto-updates without any notifications (with obvious security issues). Chris writes: “if you’ve read the fine-print closely, you already know that this means that Chrome will be a self-updating, self-healing browser….. by using Chrome, you agree to allow Google to update the browser. That’s it: end of story. You want to turn it off? Disconnect from the web… in the process, rendering Chrome nothing more than, well, chrome (pun intended).”
  • Another interesting point of note is that Google evolved the UI of the browser and “went ahead and combined the search box and the location field in Chrome and is now pushing the location bar as the starting place, as well as where to do your searching” This is interesting as it was a logical trend that no browser has yet picked up on

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