There is an entire cottage industry growing up around the iOS eco-system. One such product category has to do with integrating the iPad into your home with as little fuss as possible. A new entry in that field is the LaunchPort. Check out the video for a quick overview of this system. While Steve Jobs would no doubt have approved of the clean and wire free look, most people will balk at the price tag: the PowerShuttle that snaps onto the iPad itself is $149 while the two docks on offer, the WallStation and the BaseStation, are $199 each. Not for everyone.
Like most Apple products users, I have never met Steve Jobs. I have never even seen him. I went to a few MacWorld Expos in my day, but I never ran into the man. And yet, like many people across thre world, I am walking around with some sadness in my heart. Millions of people seem to feel this way about a man they didn't really know, let alone ever meet.
But in some ways we have all come across the man's work, one way or another. In my case it started early on. I read about the introduction of the first Macintosh computer in a French montlhy comics magazine in 1984, two years before I moved to the States. In 1986, after I moved, I got my hands on a friend's "FatMac" (the 512k model) and it was love at first sight. I ended up buying a brand new Mac Plus in January of 1987 and it changed my life. Other Apple products, both hardware and software, have had that effect over the years. And so I have spent some time today thinking about what it was that I loved so much in these products and what I appreciated so much in Steve's work. And then it finally hit me: Steve Job was an ENABLER (in the positive sense only, of course). What he was creating enabled me to be my best, to strive further, to try harder, to better myself and learn new skills. It allowed me to express myself to my fullest.
In my case the biggest breakthrough was probably video. In 1999 Steve Jobs presented to the world his second iteration of iMacs: the iMac DV (by the way the link goes to a very cute short video). It was the first FireWire enabled consumer Apple model. It came bundled with a new program called iMovie. When Steve explained what the program could do he said something like "we feel video is going to be a big thing on the Mac" (apologies if I didn't get his words exactly right, chances are that footage is alive somewhere on YouTube). I have since graduated from iMovie to Final Cut Pro and am still involved in a learning process that I am absolutely passionate about. And all of that happened because Steve Jobs enabled me to find in myself something I didn't even know was there. He allowed me to channel my creativity in a direction that I didn't even know I was interested in exploring. That's not to say that I am any good at any of it, but that's not the point. He enabled this by handing us the tools. And he chaperoned other such projects in other fields for others as well. Starting with desktop publishing in the 80s and including music throughout his career. He made it possible for the doctor to check his patient's MIR results on an iPad and for comics readers to obtain their favourite hero's adventures over the air the same day it comes out in print.
We all have our own story about the ways Steve's creations affected our lives, and that is why we feel the way we do and it explains the outpouring of sentiment we have seen online these past 24 hours. Expressions of feelings about a man we never met, a man we didn't really know, but one who somehow managed to touch each of us individually.
Tim Cook, Apple CEO, sent the following email to Apple employees on Wednesday:
I have some very sad news to share with all of you. Steve passed away earlier today.
Apple has lost a visionary and creative genius, and the world has lost an amazing human being. Those of us who have been fortunate enough to know and work with Steve have lost a dear friend and an inspiring mentor. Steve leaves behind a company that only he could have built, and his spirit will forever be the foundation of Apple.
We are planning a celebration of Steve’s extraordinary life for Apple employees that will take place soon. If you would like to share your thoughts, memories and condolences in the interim, you can simply email firstname.lastname@example.org.
No words can adequately express our sadness at Steve’s death or our gratitude for the opportunity to work with him. We will honor his memory by dedicating ourselves to continuing the work he loved so much.
I am going to do something I never have before: make predictions about tomorrow's iPhone event. Judging by the invitation Apple sent out last week (appearing above) here are my own conclusions. First the obvious stuff: the Calendar icon shows Tuesday the 4th. Simple enough: the event takes place tomorrow, October 4th. The Clock icon shows 10 o'clock. No problem there either. The Maps icon shows the location which is inside the Apple campus. And finally the Phone icon shows a "1". This is where the confusion starts. We have heard so many rumours of two new iPhones coming out: an iPhone 5 and a "cheap(er)" model, maybe called the 4s. Case manufacturers have gone so far as to create cases using a brand new form factor that does not correspond to the iPhone 4 size, simply based on rumours and inuendos, and all so that they can be first to market with a product and hope to cash in that way. Quite a gamble if you ask me.
Personally I don't think we are going to see two models, and I have a feeling that the number 1 in the phone icon is exactly that: 1 model. Furthermore I believe that the form factor will be identical, externally at least, to the iPhone 4. There is really nothing wrong with that form factor. We can surmise that one or maybe both cameras will get an upgrade, most likely to 8 megapixels for the outward-facing camera. And chances are the processor will be the A5 dual core chip we know from the iPad 2. It is also possible that this new model will work on both GSM and CDMA networks. The fact that the event is taking place at Apple's campus also points, in my opinion, to the fact that this is not viewed by Apple as a "revolutionary" event but rather an evolutionary one. Hence my thought about the form factor again. And maybe low key enough that the name of the new product will actually not be the iPhone 5 but something like an iPhone 4S or 4GS.
But maybe most importantly we should read a lot into that little line of text at the bottom: Let's talk iPhone. It would appear that the biggest news about this particular new iPhone will be the Nuance technology built in. They might as well have written: Let's talk TO the iPhone. Rumours are rife with news of advanced tech built into the phone that might turn it into the first phone people talk to regularly. We had seen some of it a while ago when some other Nuance software was announced. But this time it looks as though Apple may have gone all out, and we might not be far from those images seen anywhere from "2001 A Space Odyssey" to shows like "Star Trek", however for now we shouldn't expect our phone to talk back to us much...yet.
Two anouncements will surround the Jewish New Year: tomorrow morning, hours before the start of festivities, Amazon will anounce their new touchscreen media consuming iPad competitor believed to be called the Kindle Fire, and a couple of days after the holiday, Apple are set to anounce on October 4 what is expected to be the next iPhone, believed by some to be called the iPhone 5 and others the 4s (or will it be both ?). A great number of tech luminaries feel very strongly that if there ever was a company capable, and well enough positioned, to give Apple a run for its money, it is Amazon. And I tend to agree with that opinion. Both companies will have the hardware and the content, and in essence will control their entire eco-system, which is exactly what HP, RIM and countless other tablet manufacturers, be they android-based or otherwise, were not bringing to the table.
Our inclination would be to believe that Apple and Amazon are going to butt heads in this business. Interestingly enough their approaches are diametrically opposed. Of course both companies are looking to make this a succesful business, but each of them are looking to sell something else entirely. Amazon will in fact sell a tablet, but they are not looking to make money on the tablet. Amazon are in the business of selling content, of driving customers to their online store for stuff, be they bits or widgets. Their tablet(s) are just a means to an end. Apple, however, do sell content, but only as a means to sell more tablets. They offer the content as an enticement, to justify laying out the big bucks for the iPad, the iPod touch, the iPhone. I would not be surprised if at some point certain Kindle models are given out for free. As is, the current Kindle3 is sold at slightly over $100. Apple regularly offer free stuff on the iTunes store. Why not, if it means you'll be more eager to buy their hardware.
And so it is clear that things are about to get a lot more interesting in the world of Tech. Which leads me to wish us all a happy, sweet New Year.
I am looking forward to the amazing opportunity of serving as CEO of the most innovative company in the world. Joining Apple was the best decision I've ever made and it's been the privilege of a lifetime to work for Apple and Steve for over 13 years. I share Steve's optimism for Apple's bright future.
Steve has been an incredible leader and mentor to me, as well as to the entire executive team and our amazing employees. We are really looking forward to Steve's ongoing guidance and inspiration as our Chairman.
I want you to be confident that Apple is not going to change. I cherish and celebrate Apple's unique principles and values. Steve built a company and culture that is unlike any other in the world and we are going to stay true to that-it is in our DNA. We are going to continue to make the best products in the world that delight our customers and make our employees incredibly proud of what they do.
I love Apple and I am looking forward to diving into my new role. All of the incredible support from the Board, the executive team and many of you has been inspiring. I am confident our best years lie ahead of us and that together we will continue to make Apple the magical place that it is.
Sometime around 3:30 AM Israel time, just as news of Steve Jobs' resignation hit the airwaves, Rafi sat down to write the thoughts that were going through his mind.
Just a few thoughts:
1) Why did Steve Jobs resign?
a - because his health doesn't allow him to continue - in that case, even as Chairman we cannot expect him to stay for too long
b - in order to make the unavoidable move in a time of success and prosperity for the company so as to minimize the negative effects of such a move. That would show that there is a clear succession, he remains somewhere at the helm, and all is good. Also, leave enough time before the next keynote.
2) AAPL: I expect it to fall and then rise again when a) people will realize that the company is still a great one and b) when people will start re-buying the stock at a "bargain" price which will drive its price back up. If the next products will continue to be bestsellers and quarterly results will be as before then there's no reason it wouldn't be less good than any other company if not, of course, much better.
Regarding buying AAPL stock, I was always worried about the day Steve Jobs will pass. But I didn't expect him to resign before. So now this unfortunate event is still something to come, even after his resignation. So if his role as chairman will still give him a heavy weight in the company's decisions then his passing may still cause yet another stock fall. Otherwise, the stock should not be too much affected by it.
Let's just hope Steve will continue to live for many more years and have a lot to say at the company so that we, the customers, will continue to enjoy from their great "magical" products.
3) What will change?
I think that's really the most interesting question of all. Steve has instilled his managerial ways into the company. Apple operates according to certain rules which will certainly continue to exist. Steve even created a course to learn "his" ways of managing the company. So I'm assuming that in the big picture we won't see too many changes.
I think it's not clear to us how much influence he really had in different areas of the company. He was clearly involved in everything, but did he come up with all these ideas? Certainly many different engineers came up with bright ideas, but Steve was probably the one to decide "which idea would live and which idea would die" or which should be changed (that option is missing from "Unetane Tokef") Could someone else make those decisions as "correctly" as Steve? And by "correctly" I mean his knack for knowing what the customers really need or what the customers would really prefer.
I actually think we will see the changes more in the little things. My feeling is we will have less of those drastic overturns where something you were trusting for years will suddenly no longer be supported because the new way is the "right" way (floppy disks, .mac, MobileMe - just to name a few). Or iOS apps rejection rules changing all the time and angering many developers and other similar brutal rejections which you can take or leave.
Another thing we will probably miss is what he certainly does behind the scenes when closing deals with mega-companies, and by that I mean what he did with the music labels, the movie studios, and now with books and magazine publishers. Certainly he played a big role in negotiating lucrative contracts for Apple.
So let's wait and see the history unfold. It will certainly be interesting.
Let's just hope that the way history will unfold will also still remain favorable for us, the customers.
Tough to see this headline in the news. Here is the full text of his resignation letter. He will continue on as Chairman of the Board of Apple Inc.
To the Apple Board of Directors and the Apple Community:
I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come.
I hereby resign as CEO of Apple. I would like to serve, if the Board sees fit, as Chairman of the Board, director and Apple employee.
As far as my successor goes, I strongly recommend that we execute our succession plan and name Tim Cook as CEO of Apple.
I believe Apple’s brightest and most innovative days are ahead of it. And I look forward to watching and contributing to its success in a new role.
I have made some of the best friends of my life at Apple, and I thank you all for the many years of being able to work alongside you.
Not one, but TWO revolutions in one week. Yes, denizens of Planet-Tech, within one week we have seen one of the largest software companies in the world enter the hardware business, and one of the world's number one hardware companies get out of a huge chunk of theirs. I am of course talking about Google acquiring Motorola's mobile phone business, and Hewlett-Packard getting out of the tablet and cellphone business (and, who knows, maybe even out of the PC business altogether ) and taking the IBM-approach of software-services instead.
The Google decision must not have been an easy one. They had had no intention of getting into the phone manufacturing business, that is for sure. On top of that they will now have to do something they had foresworn years ago: provide telephone customer service. The patent debacle of the last few weeks pushed them into an impossible situation and really left them no choice. Their entire Android business was in danger of collapsing if they didn’t act quickly and got their hands on some intellectual property they could call their own. Having missed out on history’s largest sales of patents, they turned towards Motorola and made the deal that will force them to forever change the way they have been operating. They may even have to start paying attention to “design” from now on. We all love our Google products, that is for sure, but none of us are bowled over by their “pretty lines” or their industrial design. Google will be forced to “think different”(ly) from now on. It won’t all just be about functionality anymore.
The HP story actually makes me a little sad. As big a fan of iOS products as I am, I was kind of looking forward to getting my hands on some webOS products like HP’s TouchPad. Here was a credible competing operating system to iOS that looked neat, functional, effective and even pretty. And having been an early adopter of the Palm machines back in the 90’s I was happy in 2010 to see that platform finding a home that could help it thrive and succeed. But it would appear that the hardware division of HP lacked some of the talent that the webOS software guys possessed in spades. The hardware was unworthy of the software that was to inhabit it. And so it seems that rather than first looking for a credible hardware partner to take on webOS together with HP, CEO Leo Apotheker made a drastic announcement stating that HP would terminate its webOS hardware business and most likely would spin off its PC division.
And that’s the part that really struck home with me. Back in 1987 when I started my first job, the company I was at had no personal computers to speak of. Everyone just had a dumb terminal hooked up to some mini-computer on their desk and it was all very dreadful, especially to someone with a Macintosh Plus at home. So one day I announced that I thought we should all get Macs at work and start doing things a little differently (the Macintosh II had just been introduced a couple of months earlier). I might as well have said that I wanted to bring Barbie and Ken dolls to the office, or that I wanted to use a Lego set to get my work done. Let’s not mention the fact that, on my Mac Plus, I was using a little piece of software that until shortly before that had been a Mac-only program: a little something called Microsoft Excel. On PC’s in those days serious number crunching was achieved with Lotus 1.2.3 and very few people used Microsoft products yet beyond MS DOS. To placate me, the head of the IT department took me on a visit to the HP headquarters in upstate New York to look at some of the new PC hardware they were coming out with. Needless to say I was left staring at a screen with a command line interface flashing a C-prompt and the only “exciting” option I had was what color that C-prompt would be displayed in. I ended up with an IBM PC on my desk, one of the very first in that office, running some version of the very ugly Windows 2.x (don’t ask me what version it was, it is irrelevant, just trust me when I say it was horrific)
And here we are so many years later, and HP is getting out of that business, and Apple is going strong and doing better every day. Michael Dell even sent a tweet about the HP development that was meant to poke fun at them. The tweet read: “If HP spins off their PC business….maybe they will call it Compaq?”. Having completed with Compaq/HP for so many years, Dell was happy about this development. But Mr Dell should remember his comment from October 1997 about Apple. When asked what could be done to fix Apple, he infamously said then: “What would I do ? I’d shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders”. Chances are he has been eating his hat ever since.
Chinese and Hong Kong customs have just arrested a smuggling ring that specialized in getting Apple products across the border from northern Hong Kong into the Chinese city of Shenzen. Funny enough, these products were actually making their way back inot the country they had been manufactured in.
But what is most fascinating about the story is how they got the goods across. In essence a cable was shot across the border using a crossbow and was then suspended to a high rise building on the Chinese side. The goods were then moved using some sort of old-fashioned pulley system.
In all 6 smugglers were arrested holding 50 iPads and 50 iPhones with a total worth in excess of $45,000. The video has no subtitles but, rest assured, you will get the gist of the story being told.
When Apple finally released OSX Lion last week, they also announced some new hardware. We will most likely get back to Lion at a later stage (it is starting to grow on me the more I use it) but if there is one thing that we learn from the hardware releases, one clear message Apple are sending to the public at large, it has to do with optical media.
First of all we got the updated MacBook Airs. I happen to be a MacBook Air user myself, the 13 inch variety from late 2010, and for those of you who are familiar with that machine, you will remember that it comes with no optical drive whatsoever. When I ordered the machine I automatically included the external DVD drive in the purchase. My thinking was: I am going to need a drive to put discs in. Logical right ? Well, here's the thing: more than 7 months have gone by and I have yet to attach that drive to the computer.
The Mac mini was updated as well. Did you happen to see that little beauty ? Great looking machine. Notice something different on this new arrival ? You got it: no optical drive.
Anyone remember the introduction of the first iMac in 1998 ? Remember what was missing from that machine ? Apple dared introduce a new computer "sans" floppy drive. Everybody said they were crazy. How could people possibly use a computer without a floppy drive ? Well, they're at it again. It is no coincidence that the new Mac mini has no optical drive. The same goes for the MacBook Air. And I will go as far as venturing that pretty soon the new MacBook Pros won't have any either (in fact I am fairly certain that the next iteration of the 15 inch MacBook Pro will look a lot more like the Air than like the current Pro).
How have I been living without an optical drive ? Very simple really: everything gets downloaded. Between the App Store, iTunes, Amazon mp3, Netflix, Apple TV, Hulu, Dropbox and soon iCloud, there is no point to burning shiny little discs anymore. Let's not even talk about more questionable methods like peer to peer services. Everything is a lot more instantaneous. Lion doesn't come on a disc. Apps get updated over the internet. And now with Lion's cool new AirDrop feature, even the old sneakernet method is "out the window".
So my advice is: embrace this brand new world of discless machines. One day we will look back on a past in whcih we carried around these shiny little things and smile at how primitive they were.
It was so long ago. It was only yesterday.
A while ago I wrote a piece about the importance the Inbox Zero method has had in changing the way I work, communicate and generally address issues on a day to day basis. It is surprising to what extent an inbox with 10,000 messages can make you feel totally out of control of your life. You know you are addressing SOME of the issues that come up, but you also realise that there are countless matters that have been left unresolved, people who have been waiting for answers, isuees that have been left unattended. Taking control of that mess is a huge task and while the Inbox Zero method is not the perfect solution (let's face it, there is no perfect solution to a situation that can never be resolved: while you were cleaning up your inbox two dozen more messages arrived) it is the closest thing to taking control you will ever find.
It is interesting to note that a great number of tech pundits have been declaring email "dead" as of late. Whether as a result of social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Google+ (my kids refer to email as something you check for homework) or simply because people tend to opt for instant messaging systems, be they on computers or smartphones, the point they are making is that pretty soon email will no longer be around. Personally I disagree, if only because of the sheer number of email messages that still come into my inbox on a daily basis and the extent to which my entire business is driven by this medium. But it is not too crazy to imagine a nearby future in which the importance of email will fade and other means of communications will take its place. Personally I just hope it won't be something like Facebook.
For those of you who are still plagued by the "living in your inbox" disease, here is another interesting piece that gives some thought to implementing "the method", with special emphasis on the fact that ultimately everyone devises their own system within the method.
Star Trek fans have always dreamed of the time they could just to turn to their computer and say "Computer, tea, earl grey, hot" in the manner of Jean-Luc Picard. Those of us who are a little more paranoid will have images of HAL 9000 in 2001 A Space Odyssey trying to take control of the Discovery One spacecraft while speaking in a soft conversational manner.
Talking to our computers is becoming a reality and nowhere is it more obvious then with our smartphones. Here is one example of this sort of interaction entering our daily lives. Nuance has just released Dragon GO, a free iOS app. Check out the video to see this little beauty interact with other apps on the phone to produce immediate results.