Tag: Steve Jobs

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The iPhone Metaphor

Today we arrive at the first of two 10-year anniversaries regarding iPhone: Steve Jobs unveiling the handset six months before its release—unusual for Apple’s then-CEO to pre-announce something, but necessary, with the federal regulatory rigmarole that cellular devices go through. Jobs and his management team brought the smartphone to market at great risk: Established and entrenched manufacturers, mainly Nokia, had huge distribution channels and massive amounts of research and development invested in their cellulars. iPhone debuted in one market (United States) and on a single carrier (AT&T, which concurrently rebranded). By most measures of business strategies: Insanity. But risk was a defining characteristic of Jobs’ leadership style running the company.

You will read many “state of iPhone” analyses and commentaries this week spotlighting slowing sales, as buying growth plateaus in major markets (China, Europe, and the United States) and observing that Android continues to gobble global market share. The problem with iPhone is something else, and it’s a metaphor for what’s desperately wrong at Apple as 2017 starts: Loss of innovative mindshare; obsession with an outdated design motif; unwillingness to take meaningful risks. The company’s fortunes rose with iPhone, and they will fall with it. 

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Apple Store Then and Now

Fifteen years ago today, the first Apple Store opened at Tysons Corner Center in McLean, Va. I was there, covering the event for CNET News. Four days earlier, then CEO Steve Jobs briefed journalists—bloggers, bwahaha, no—across the way at upper-scale Tysons Galleria. Most of us thought his scheme was kind of nuts, as did analysts, and news stories reflected the sentiment. Recession gripped the country and rival Gateway was in process of shuttering more than 400 retail shops. Timing was madness.

But companies that take big risks during economic downturns are most likely to reap rewards later. Retail would be Apple’s third walk across the tightrope during 2001. The others: iTunes (January); OS X (March); iPod (October). I’ve said before that these four are foundation for all the company’s successes that followed, including iPhone. But 15 years ago, battling the Wintel duopoly with less than 2 percent global PC market share, Jobs figuratively walked a tightrope across the Grand Canyon carrying original Macintoshes in each arm. 

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Photo Credit: Julia Folsom

Hehe, This is How You Report About the Consumer Electronics Show

Engadget features editor Joseph Volpe buries the lede, so I fix it for him by posting over at my new project, Frak That!, headline: “Steve Jobs calls Apple Watch a ‘Joke’“. Oh, the clickbait accusations will fly from some, and the Apple Faithful will fling rotten fruit for my irreverence, but the post fits the site’s core editorial principle of pointing out the absurd—in this case the otherwise lack of original reporting about the Consumer Electronics Show, to which the somewhat oddball Engadget story affronts.

Joseph rises above the CES 2016 public relations cluster-fuck to write something really original. He consulted a “higher source” to get the lowdown on the year ahead in tech: Las Vegas psychics. Brilliant! And it’s something I actually read in all the dribble designed to self-flagellate corporate egos. 

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The Holy War Against Apple Lightning

A recent SumOfUs petition begins with those magnanimous words: “Apple is about to rip off every one of its customers. Again”. Ha! The sentence is Holy Writ. Canonize it into the Gospel of Tim Cook, who, extending the metaphor. is like the Apostle Paul, whose discipleship took Christianity forward but beyond Christ’s shadow. We all know the hallowed story of the Jesus Phone, and how humbly Steve Jobs saved humankind from Satan (Bill Gates) and ushered in the post-PC era. Snicker. But only under Cook has Jobs’ aspiratonal doctrine spanned the globe, under the glow of a billion bitten-fruit logos.

That, my friends, is how you offend two religious groups, with the Apple Faithful the more-likely vengeful. Hell hath no fury like—you know the rest. But seriously, I mean no disrespect to the esteemed Jobs (God rest his soul) but to his successor, who made Apple a giant among publicly-traded  corporations, and you pay the price for it. 

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Apple’s Two Vulcan Problem

Back in April 2013, when Forbes ran a commentary asserting it was time for Tim Cook to go, I forcefully responded that “Apple needs a COO, not new CEO“. The day has arrived, with the company announcing this morning that Jeff Williams fills the vacant chief operating officer position. Eh, that’s not what I had in mind, and Apple investors should question the wisdom of the appointment, too.

I mean no slight towards Mr. Williams, who looks more the adequately competent to handle the job. Like Cook, when COO, Williams is a manufacturing and logistics leader—excellent credentials to manage day-to-day operations over the world’s wealthiest tech company as measured by market cap and quarterly net income. The problem: Cook and Williams are questionable pairing, because their backgrounds and skillsets are too much alike. You got an electron circling another electron in the atom’s nucleus. 

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Steve Jobs Who?

I shouldn’t be surprised, but…While in Apple Store the other day making a purchase, I chatted with the staffer helping me about the retail shop’s legacy. I don’t remember what influenced me to mention being at the original store’s opening in May 2001, which I covered for CNET News. “In Virginia?” She asked. I affirmed, Tysons Corner. “I have a picture”.

After which I fumbled like an old fart bringing up the image above from Flickr on my phone. She politely suggested the app, which wasn’t installed, as I clumsily used the browser. When I finally got the image on screen she asked, with some giddiness: “Is that Tim Cook?” Not cofounder Steve Jobs, who sits next to Apple’s current CEO. 

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How Does 'Incremental' Define Apple?

I would like to discuss how Apple innovates, which I understand very well. I posted about Apple’s incremental product strategy last September at Apple Watch: “Apple Demands a High Price to Be Cool.”

The pattern is consistent: Apple launches a “one more thing” product with modest hardware features but something else nevertheless killer—something people want. During the launch, Apple CEO Steve Jobs performs his marketing magic, demonstrating how this “one more thing” product will make peoples’ lives better.