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.
There are a lot of times in the world where people tell me what to do. Things like, “I need the deck by tonight.” or “Can you meet me on Sunday to talk about the deal?” Sometimes i like doing it and sometimes i don’t. Here’s what i do know though: I always like doing what i believe in and i always hate doing what i don’t think is right.
This is why i love stories about people who were told they were wrong and they persevered and proved their naysayers wrong. Three stories stick out in my head:
Steve Jobs got forced out of Apple because he had a crazy idea that hardware can be beautiful. Years later he came back to prove that he was right 20 years before. Now he’s dominating the music industry, the largest shareholder of the largest media company (Disney) and revolutionizing the mobile technology industry
In-N-Out Burger was a fast-food joint just like all the others in the 50’s. Ray Kroc wanted to buy it and franchise it. That was the thing to do. McDonald’s was doing it, so was Taco Bell and Wendy’s and everyone else. But Harry Synder (the founder) of In-N-Out told Ray to pound salt. He had a different idea. Instead of “lower costs and increase sales” it was “do one thing and do it as well as you can.” That one thing was the In-N-Out burger. He never sold. The Synder family has purchased every In-N-Out with cash. He wanted to know every meat distributor by his first name. That’s why the #1 requested meal backstage at the Oscars is In-N-Out and why there’s over an hour wait at a place where burgers are $2.
John Lasseter lost his job at Disney back in ‘86. He was fired by an old line animator who said there was no future in computer animation. Lasseter slept under his desk, and a decade later delivered Pixar’s first hit, “Toy Story”. After story he and Pixar have gone for 10 for 10. Nothing is a sure thing in media. And John is 10 for 10.
All of these guys did it their way and the world is a better place because of it. We can only hope that we have the conviction and passion and talent of them in our own lives.
Apple keep talking about a tablet to be released
sometime soon. What i really want is an AppleTV – and i don’t mean the box that attaches to the TV. I want an actual TV created by Apple that’s an LCD or Plasma that runs OSX.
The levels of convergence would be ridiculous. You could use it as a Time Machine device to back up all your machines in your house. It could have a built in cable modem and airport so it could broadcast wireless everywhere. You’re basically converging Time Machine, Airport Express, the AppleTV box and adding a device that has a screen and processing power. The different models will vary by harddrive size.
The experience would be sick. The TV would, of course, have an App Store so people could make living room applications. This could be anything from a Party Playlist to Pictionary, or Charades. The remote could be an iPod or an iPhone.
Apple tried to integrate iTunes into Motorola phones (such as the Rockr) and found it to be such a horrible experience that they just built the entire stack and worked with a service provider (AT&T) for the iPhone. They’ve been doing the same with television. They have the AppleTV which is an add-on and can never get into the experience.
There are so many possibilities. Come on Steve Jobs. Make it happen
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:
One 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?
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.
There’s a new book by Seth Godin called “Tribes” which talks about the startup culture and out-of-the-box thinkers. Two interesting parts of the book are the parts about followers and the parts about Leaders.
A good question exists talking about the difference between employees and followers. Employees show up each day and do their tasks whereas a follower is someone who is following a calling. Followers work because they believe not because they are told to do so. Great companies illustrate this. You can see people flocking to Facebook and Apple because those companies inspire. They don’t recruit but spread gospel. It’s interesting.
This relates directly to the talk about Leaders. The following characteristics were thrown out in the book:
- Leaders challenge the status quo.
- Leaders create a culture around their goal and involve others in that culture.
- Leaders have an extraordinary amount of curiosity about the world they’re trying to change.
- Leaders use charisma (in a variety of forms) to attract and motivate followers.
- Leaders communicate their vision of the future.
- Leaders commit to a vision and make decisions based on that commitment.
- Leaders connect their followers to one another.
Makes me think about how i interact with my coworkers and how i behave at work. Some people are better than others at finding a vision and staying focused on it. What do you think? Is this hard for you to do? Do you know some people who are particularly good at it?