Tag Archives: steve jobs

Apple: The Thrill Is Gone

Apple LogoBack around 2006 when Apple switched the Mac to Intel processors, Apple started to gain my attention, and several thousands of my dollars.

The Mac was not only a more secure computing alternative, but it also offered fun. Apple computers of about 2006 to 2011 were just plain fun devices.

Sure, Macs were always more expensive than their PC counterparts, but it was arguably a better platform, offering genuine value with those higher prices.

In one of the Steve Jobs biographies, it was said that after he knew he was dying, Jobs worked to leave Apple with about 5 years’ worth of guidance.

Unfortunately, the 5 years is expired. And it is showing. A few years ago I published an article here predicting that Apple would morph into a caricature of Jobs’ worst traits – knowing what the customer “needed” more than the customer, cutting useful features and calling it innovation, etc. Sadly, my prediction has come true. Steve Jobs was brilliant in being able to predict and surf the waves of the parts of the ever-changing consumer electronics market that he chose to compete in. Steve Jobs was successful despite his worst character flaws.

The Apple of 2016 is no longer fun. Something has gone missing. If Apple were your surgeon, you would likely start missing fingers and limbs.

The Apple of 2016 is obsessed with cutting useful features and then making the excuse that they are doing it because they have “courage.”

Up until about 5 years ago you could plunk your pile of money down on a high-end Mac without knowing a thing about it, and rest assured you were getting all the latest and greatest hardware. In 2016 that is no longer true.

The Apple of 2016 is no longer fun.

Was Steve Jobs Right? iPhone 5c Not Selling As Well as Expected

iPhone 5c
iPhone 5c

One thing I liked about Steve Jobs philosophy – he never looked backwards. When he put out a product, the version lines were drawn and you would either pay for quality or go without. Maybe his ideals were based on more than feeling. Just today, Business Insider reports that Analyst Ming-Chi Quo just slashed their estimate of iPhone 5c by one third. The phone isn’t selling that well even with the high-profile colors.

If you notice in the market, the 5c is getting some discounts. Best Buy is the first to offer a $100 trade-in credit of any smartphone for an iPhone. With contract, that makes the iPhone 5c free.

But why would you want a 5c for free when you can get a 5s for $100?

The Steve Jobs Days at Apple

Jobs focus was on the quality of a product. After all – he wanted to change the world. You don’t change the world by moving backwards.

Back in 1989, Jobs told Inc. magazine, “You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new.” So when you take an iPhone and make it affordable and looking good, then dangle a better iPhone in people’s faces for only $100 more, which phone would the public end up choosing?

That is why Apple didn’t have 3rd party computer manufacturers. That is why Apple fought tooth and nail when hackintosh maker Psystar tried to force their way in the market.

Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs photo: Matt Yohe

iPad Mini the Exception?

When Kindle came out and everyone was clamoring for a smaller iPad, Jobs was very vocal about it. He even said the iPad mini was not in Apple’s focus. From an article on AllthingsD: 

“The reason we [won’t] make a 7-inch tablet isn’t because we don’t want to hit [a lower] price point,” Jobs said. “It’s because we think the screen is too small to express the software. As a software driven company, we think about the software strategies first.”

When the iPad mini came out, it had the older processor and no retina screen – like an iPad2. The response was decent enough to keep it going – but it really felt like Apple was taking a small chance since it didn’t put the power in the mini that the 4th generation iPad had.

Why the iPhone 5c Isn’t Doing Well?

The reality is this: iPhone 5c was nothing more than the iPhone5. It would have been better to just re-issue the 5 with less internal memory like they did with the previous releases.

Some are also disappointed that Apple didn’t move past the 4″ screen. Even Steve Wozniak has been vocal about the display size. Rumors piqued of Apple trying different options and left people scratching their heads when it didn’t happen.

Now, rumors are flying again – maybe the next model will have it… maybe.

So should Apple look back? They haven’t on their Mac lines and the new Mac Pro looks very impressive – as long as it performs as good as it looks. The iPad mini does fit a niche but it shouldn’t be a step back. Most important – the case change is only important if it has features we never expected we needed – giving it that “Wow” factor that takes it one step past the consumer expectation. That is Apple in Steve Job’s eye.

First Trailer for Jobs – The Story of Steve Jobs and Apple

The first trailer for the anticipated Steve Jobs movie came out today. What they call the “Original Visionary”, the trailer shows Apple from inception to death.

Simply titled “Jobs”, this is a quick two minute look at Apple’s history. Although some people have mentioned it is not entirely correct on the facts. Even Steve Wozniak said in an interview it was “awful and atrocious”. He noted that was not the way he worked with Steve at the beginning.

A better potrayal of Steve Jobs is in the TNT movie “Pirates of Silicon Valley”, which was released 14 years ago yesterday.

Jobs is getting a 43% on Rotten Tomatoes. Jobs stars Ashton Kutcher and Josh Gad, with Matthew Modine as John Sculley. Jobs hits theaters August 16th.

Oh Apple, Splendid Acephalous

We’ve all seen the pattern and can recognize it. Successful organization has successful charismatic leader. Something happens to remove successful charismatic leader from organization. Then, organization looses coherence and suffers, or worse. This seems to be a very common pattern that occurs with most leaders and most organizations.

Even Mom and Pop restaurants suffer this fate. Restaurant does great as long as Mom and Pop are directly involved. Once Mom and Pop are removed (or remove themselves) from the picture, the business is never the same and may well fail.

When Sam Walton died back in 1992, I was certain that Walmart as an organization would probably either suffer some sort of meltdown or even outright failure. I turned out to be wrong. The thing that Sam Walton was highly effective at was that he was able to inspire as many of his employees as possible to make his dream of Walmart their own dream and put something of themselves into making that dream happen. With this structure, the organization did not depend on Sam Walton as its motivating identity force. Sam Walton inspired his employees to make their own success of Walmart.

Steve Jobs did exactly the opposite. Steve Jobs set himself up as THE motivating entity at Apple, with everything revolving around him. He not only was the primary motivating force for his employees, but incredibly this sense of identity also extended to customers. Steve was able to take Apple to heretofore unknown heights.

Unfortunately, it all depended on his continued existence.

Oh Apple, Splendid Acephalous

Corpulence Unmatched, Clinging To Dysfunction

Best Of Everything

Alas, No One Now To Point The Way

An Open Letter To Apple CEO Tim Cook

ear Mr. Cook,

Like many people, I converted to Apple products because it represented real value. My first Apple computer was a second-hand Mac Mini with a Power PC processor. I was impressed by the fact that a clearly obsolete machine could remain so useful and usable at several years of age, when other older computers of the same vintage were long gone.

My next Apple product was a white plastic MacBook with an Intel processor, which is now six years old. Impressively, the machine still remains highly functional today.

Since then, I went on to get a seventeen inch MacBook Pro, two Intel Mac Mini machines set up in home theater configurations, two iPod Classic MP3 players, an iPad 2 and an iPod Touch.

Apple purchases were easy to justify. An Apple computer might cost three times as much as a competing piece of hardware, but the Apple operating system could usually be counted on to continue to function years longer than a competing Windows counterpart. Back in those days, Apple machines were also repairable. My seventeen inch MacBook Pro has been repaired twice, and I’ve replaced the battery myself once.

In my mind, the Apple brand represented usability, innovation, and long-term value. It was easy to recommend Apple products to friends and family, because genuine value was present.

Unfortunately, in the past year or so there has been a change. Recent product releases have failed to excite me. New Apple laptop computer designs present hardware that is close to being non-repairable and disposable. Apple has become a high-end disposable Bic computer. In the realm of phones, Apple, once the innovator, is now failing to catch up to competing Android phone features. Apple seems to be preferring to go down the path of suing competitors such as Samsung in a desperate attempt to cling to past glories, rather than continue to experiment and innovate towards future effulgences.

Apple founder Steve Jobs was a brilliant innovator, albeit with some flaws – i.e., he tended to be controlling and manipulative. As a genuine innovator Mr. Jobs was ultimately successful in spite of those flaws, not because of them. It’s been a year since the death of Steve Jobs. I fear the remaining imprint of Steve Jobs on Apple as his personal innovation fades is deteriorating into Apple embracing the skeleton of the dysfunctional parts of the Jobs personality. The genuine innovator at Apple died a year ago. Growing tendencies toward control and manipulation remain.

Steve Jobs created an unprecedented amount of momentum, which Apple still benefits from today. Apple, now at its pinnacle has reached unbelievable heights even as there is an unnoticed malignancy.

For me, the thrill is gone. IOS 6 diminished my iPad 2 experience. I rely heavily on Google Maps, including both the satellite view and Google Street View. The new Apple satellite images in IOS 6 are clearly inferior and fuzzy when compared directly to Google’s superior satellite images. Street View is gone. The YouTube app is gone. Apple has embraced Steve Jobs’ desire to punish Google for coming up with Android and daring to compete with the iPhone. The removal of Google Maps and the YouTube app in IOS 6 is a move born out of spite, not innovation. Actions taken out of spite are always a mistake.

In Apple’s more humble past there has always been a core of users, often dubbed the “Mac Faithful” that would stick with Apple and buy their products no matter what. In recent years, under the renewed leadership of Steve Jobs, Apple was able to finally move into the mainstream, picking up a vast bulk of new customers that lack this zealous loyalty. People like me were enticed to buy Apple products by the genuine value they offered.

As a long-time consumer of technology, I lack this Apple zealoutry. My loyalty extends only to products that offer good value. I can only speak for myself, but at the present time I don’t see myself buying any additional Apple products anytime soon. I am wondering how many other recent Apple customers share my lack of loyalty?

What has befallen Apple is unfortunate. It was always fun watching the presentations of world-changing innovations. These days, not so much.


A now-unhappy customer.

Television by Apple

The rumor mill has gone full tilt the last few days that Apple is in the process of developing a smart TV.   According to Walter Isaacson, Steve Jobs told him that Apple had “finally cracked it” a way to make TV, that is simple and elegant. I have to admit I am not holding my breath. I have seen too many of these attempts to make the next TV, somewhere in the back of my closet is a Web-TV.  I purchased and sold the older Apple TV and currently have the Apple TV 2 and a Roku on my desk. They all worked and yet none of them have replaced the TV for the average household. Some like the Web-TV were far too complicated and ahead of their time. Others like the Apple TV, the Roku, and even the Google TV are limited by the agreements they can make with media providers. Plus no one has been able to solve the issue of live sports or live events.

Before we can have the right answers we need to know what the problems are. That got me thinking what do we want from our television sets. The first thing we want is ease of use, anything that is too complicated will fail. Maybe the idea of channels need to be rethought, why not clearly group channels by providers or content. Why do we insist on using the same system we did fifty years ago when most people had less than 6 channels. Why can’t something like Netflix or Amazon video just be a part of the normal guide. The ability to switch from application to application needs to be quick and intuitive, the fewer buttons that need to be pushed the better. I know from personal experience if my husband has to push more than three buttons he is not going to use it. Which leads directly to how is the system going to be controlled, will it be by a remote control or will something like Siri be involved. At this time I don’t think a voice command has evolved far enough to work with a television set in a noisy living room. The remote control must have a keyboard and the fewer buttons the better. I believe that in today’s world social media integration must be available. Can a system be created that doesn’t force people to get content they don’t want? As long as that content is being controlled by the cable or satellite companies I am afraid the answer will be no. Unfortunately Apple may run into many of the same problems that Google has, the ability of the content providers and the cable companies to block content. The final problem is should the system be integrated into the TV or should it be a separate box that can be used with all modern televisions. If Apple chooses to go with an integrated system, will they integrate the system into a monitor they make themselves or will Apple work with other manufactures. Knowing that Apple likes to control things as much as they can I suspect they will want to make everything themselves.

I don’t have any answers to these questions and I am not sure Apple does either. I believe this involves rethinking the whole concept of television from the ground up. Perhaps even the name television is too limiting, perhaps video entertainment system is a better name for what we are talking about. From the iPod, through the iPhone and the iPad, the engineers and creative team at Apple have shown the ability to think outside the box. Maybe they can do the same thing with television, I certainly hope so, but I suspect the journey will be long and rough.

The iPod is 10 Years Old Today

First Generation iPod
First Generation iPod

As I reported on my Day in Tech History show, the iPod was introduced on this day in 2001. Steve Jobs got up on stage and talked about a change. They wanted to get into the digital music revolution, which was not doing too well. Jobs stated that Sony and Sonic Blue were trying their hands at this genre, but there was no real market leader.

Then Apple became that market leader.

The “First Generation iPod” came in models of 5 GB and 6 GB starting at $399. At the standard MP3 rate of 128 kbps, you could put 1000 songs on the device (as Steve put it – “That is some people’s whole music library”). The iPod connected to iTunes (which was a program you could only get on the Mac at the time) and used the Firewire port for connection.

Jobs also called the device the “Ultra-portable”, whereas the (then) iBook was the mini-portable. The first iPod was the size of a deck of cards, so you could easily put it in your pocket.  With the 100 hour battery life, you could listen to music hours on end.

How iPod Changed the Mobile Landscape

Even though Kramer created the first one, Steve Jobs and Apple changed the landscape. It was amazing how this little device shaped the 21st century. Records, cassettes, 8-tracks and CDs would soon start to give way to the digital download.

Legal Issues with Apple

The company was in battle from three main angles – One, for download piracy issues and the other from Apple records (the Beatles record label). Apple records made an arrangement with Apple computers that since they didn’t do the same thing, Apple records would not go after them. However, that all changed when the iPod came out. Eventually they settled, and in 2010, the Beatles finally appeared in the iTunes store.

The third was for the iPod itself. The idea actually was first created in 1979. British inventor Kane Kramer put together the first digital audio player, which he called the IXI. The device could only play one song. He patented the idea, but did not renew in 1998. However, Kramer did eventually get credit for his creation.

So here we are, ten years later. This version of the iPod has made it’s way as the iPod Touch, iPod Nano, iPod Shuffle, iPhone and iPad have joined in this “Digital music revolution”. You can still get what is now called iPod Classic with 35x more storage and a color screen for $249. But it really was on October 23, 2001 that Steve Jobs turned this market upside-down.