Tag Archives: Steve Jobs

Tuesday Talk ~ Trying Times

Steve Jobs, 1955-2011 (Image from the Mac Observer)

We sure live in trying times. We have tin-pot depots not only controlling odd minor states like North Korea, but major powers  (Russia and the US). We live in the kind of surveillance state that would have made Orwell and other visionaries wretch with anxiety, and this surveillance state has only one redeeming feature: we can also surveil. When you walk down the street, there may be multiple surveillance cameras handing you off one to another and tracking your progress, but if something happens in front of you, you can whip out your smartphone and record it too, and in this way these very surveillance authorities can also be held to account.
This continues in other ways, too. Even your innocent Snapchat or Insta video could record and reveal details about your life and experiences, if collected or inspected by someone else.

One of the men responsible for our personal surveillance tools (iPhones) is Tim Cook. In many other ways, Tim Cook has to contend with issues his predecessor and mentor Steve Jobs never had to contend with. Jobs may have put money into, for example, democratic presidential campaigns, but he never had to deal with a president attacking the immigrant worker base, for example, which may result in nearly 800,000 Americans being cast out of the only country they’ve ever called home, or trying to pass phobic anti-transgender measures while generally just being an ill-tempered big-mouthed gobshite. I mean, we’re used to Republican presidents who appear a bit thick, like Reagan and Bush, but demonstrably deranged heads of major states? Not really since Roman times.

It’s hard to say if Steve Jobs would have tried to do anything concrete about these things, but Tim Cook is a very different kind of person. Morally and as an example of human kindness, Cook has it in spades over Jobs’ public persona, at least (I imagine Jobs could be kind in person).
You might criticise Cook as lacking product vision (we have to expect Cook is smart enough to employ those, of course) but Tim Cook didn’t elevate himself into the position of Apple CEO: it was Steve Jobs who did that. And Jobs absolutely was a visionary, so we should trust his judgement on that.

So, Tim Cook: all the best, good luck and kia kaha. 

Tuesday Talk ~ When enemies are good, and Apple succession

When Apple was an underdog fighting the Wintel hegemony, Steve Jobs believed it was good to have an enemy. In Apple’s early days, Steve Jobs had IBM as the enemy, which seems odd now that the companies collaborate so much. Having an enemy keeps employees and fans alike focused on the company and the platform, which can be a dream scenario. Steve Jobs was expert at stoking those fires, and then reversing course and embracing the enemy as a long lost – and necessary – friend. There’s no tech company Apple is particularly disenchanted with now, so no obvious enemy – Apple has been working with Microsoft, for example, for years, and even when the incendiary Balmer was it’s CEO it never got really bad. Now collaboration is even better thanks to CEO Satya Narayana Nadella.

An obvious foe, you’d think, would be US President Donald Trump. He’s anti-gay, anti-foreigner, retrogressive, aggressive, big-mouthed and, most likely, mentally unbalanced (or at least mentally inadequate), yet even Apple isn’t game to take him on. Although honestly, I suspect Jobs may have been obstreperous enough. (Jobs’ father was a Syrian refugee, but Steve was born in the US and adopted out). Yet Tim Cook has worked with Trump’s advisory teams on occasion, despite abhorring Trump’s anti-gay stance and his anti immigrant bias and, I’m sure, quite a lot more. Apple has also pledged to guard its users privacy while Trump calls for tools to decrypt everything, or at least encrypt data less (all of which may complicate Apple’s push into Artificial Intelligence, which you have to admit looks more attractive in the light of where so-called ‘human intelligence’ appears to be leading us these days).
While Tim Cook has made veiled references to Facebook and Google’s harvesting of data for profit, they’re, you know, veiled: “They’re gobbling up everything they can learn about you and trying to monetize it,” he said in a 2015 speech. “We think that’s wrong.” My italics – “They”being mostly Google and Facebook.

I’m not criticising Cook – I think Jobs made a great choice in him. And succession can be such a poison chalice. Just look how badly the New Zealand Labour Party has handled that over the last ten years, and where that’s got us: National is floundering and there’s no one able to capitalise on it.
But who would succeed Cook, who has piloted Apple through stormy waters while continuing to make vast profits, while growing Apple’s services into a money-making behemoth?
Tim Cook was already Chief Operating Officer and essentially running Apple during the illness of Steve Jobs in 2009-11, learning every aspect of the company while being groomed to take the helm. If the only candidates are Phil Schiller and Jeff Williams, they’re gifted and very competent, sure, but also both very ‘white bread’.

I think Apple needs to keep promoting diversity within the company to stay successful in this divisive world  If either of these guys end up in charge, they need a strong, connected and diverse management team under them to keep engaging with world concerns – and world markets.

Tuesday Talk ~ On September 7th, what’s the story, Apple?


Tuesday Talk is a series of occasional pieces of commentary I write on quiet (Apple news-wise) New Zealand Tuesdays.

Widely tipped as the day Apple would reveal a new iPhone, the 7th September has been confirmed as an Apple Event to launch something with the tagline ‘See you on the 7th’. Which pretty much tips that it will, indeed, be called iPhone 7, anyway.

Inevitably, in these quiet weeks and days leading to Apple announcements, all the Apple commentators try to imagine what the future will bring us from Apple, and they stray to deeper, more searching questions about the whole ethos of Apple Inc and where it’s going.

Tim Cook has now been Apple CEO of five years, and the whole culture of Apple changed around him. Apple under Jobs was virtually impenetrable. Questions from journalists used to be ignored completely, or if you were lucky, you got a short corporate-speak reply that told you nothing at all, except you were chuffed someone had bothered to respond at all. Now things are more open, people are more friendly and – appear, at least – less guarded.

Steve Jobs always said Apple was about stories, not things. People didn’t buy products, they bought stories. It’s an interesting concept, and one I have come to believe in more. Humans are deeply influenced by the stories they believe in – religious, cultural, historic stories, stories of struggle, stories told by politicians. It’s stories that motivate people. Jobs was definitely on to something, and his ethos is one of the reasons Apple never used the specs of devices as the primary marketing tool. (See Apple’s education stories, for example.)

We don’t know what Apple will release on the 7th. Apple has been known to plan 25 years ahead. What we do know is what Apple spends its research money on, and a lot can be told from the sorts of companies Apple acquires: for example, Apple recently bought Turi, a machine intelligence company. Virtual and augmented reality are also well in Apple’s sights.

However, other stories threaten Apple’s these days too. The wilder environment and more open world of Android, for instance. It’s nowhere near as safe as iOS, but it’s more attractive to developers. Microsoft is taking the battle to Apple’s tablets and smaller laptops with one device: Surface Pro.

Apple needs to tell a good story on the 7th.
A clear and decisive one which includes hope.

Tuesday Talk ~ Where to, Apple?

A new column, since there’s hardly ever any Apple news on Tuesdays …

(Image from the MacTracker software, that features the salient points of every Mac ever made)
(Image from the MacTracker software, that features the salient points of every Mac ever made)

When Steve Jobs returned to Apple, almost the first thing he did was rationalise the Mac product lines (remember, there was no iPhone or iPad in those days – Apple just made Macs). He cut products by 70% – it was such a good idea. In those days, there were so many flavours of Macs, it was really hard to work out which ones to buy: the Performa 6300? 5320CD? 6360? Or Power Macintosh 72300,? 8500? 6400? (That’s the other thing – they had meaningless names that told you nothing.)
This was a very smart business move, and thousands of people around the world – me included – heaved a huge sigh of relief.

Meanwhile, all sorts of processes and operating procedures changed, too. I interviewed a former Apple engineer once. He told me that the main difference between Microsoft’s approach and Apple’s was that Microsoft listened to all the product feedback (hardware and software) and on the next release, tried to add in every feature request. It sounds like a sensible approach, but leads to ‘feature bloat’. One person in Qatar wants their word processor to indent, bold the first character and italicise the initial word at one command? Put it in … meanwhile, 99.99% of users don’t know, don’t care, and would never use it even though it’s there. But they soon bemoan the milliseconds the new feature adds to loading and operation time. And all those other features hardly anyone cares about add up to serious lags and the predilection to crash with even more lines of confusing code for the software to wade through to achieve anything.

Apple’s approach, he told me, was to work on the percentage of feature requests that added up to a significant user group and ignore the rest, leaving it up to users to work out how to get what they want, and this was apparent in hardware and software. Consider the amount of ports a Mac could have, for example. Surely it’s better, for weight/power/sleekness, to just have a few ports you can plug expanders and adapters into?

But look at what we have now: instead of a desktop Mac and a laptop mac, we have six types of Mac – the MacBook Air in two sizes. There’s the MacBook which inhabits the same niche (ultraportable, sleek, light, not very powerful) – and you can get this in several colours.
Then the MacBook Pro, which comes in two sizes and several configurations … for desktops we have the Mac mini (in three configurations), iMac (in two sizes and several configurations each) and the Mac Pro. We don’t just have an iPad and an iPhone, we have iPad in four sizes and in varieties of specs, and we don’t just have iPhone 6s on sale in two sizes, but the iPhone 6 is still available (in two sizes), plus smaller all round iPhone SE. Five models!

Confused? You should be. It’s getting hard to advise people what to buy again.
What would Steve Jobs say?

[Should I include these columns in the monthly MagBytes? Please let me know what you think.]

RED Apple, BBEdit, more Jobs’ patents

Apple has turned its Store logos red for World AIDS Day
Apple has turned its Store logos red for World AIDS Day

Apple Store logos tinted red worldwide in support of World AIDS Day — Apple brick-and-mortar retail outlets around the world (starting with Australia – please remember, NZ does not have any Apple Stores, only licensed resellers)  on Monday changed their iconic Apple logos red in recognition of World AIDS Day, which in 2014 is commemorating its 26th year of supporting those affected by the disease.

BBEdit 11 review: more productive for coders and writers alike — BBEdit 11 modernizes key systems under the hood, and adds a select few features that make it easier to use and more productive.

Steve Jobs has been awarded almost 150 new patents since his death — Steve Jobs died on October 5, 2011, in Palo Alto, California, leaving behind a legacy of technological innovation and having built one of the largest companies in the world. At the time of his death Jobs had been awarded 317 patents over the course of his life, an incredible portfolio for anyone. But something interesting as happened since then; Job’s number of patients now stands at 458 – in the years since his death Steve Jobs has been awarded 141 additional patents.

Early Jobs, lots of Mac how-tos, free video converter

Yosemite added the ability to voice-command your Mac
Yosemite added the ability to voice-command your Mac

Photos from Silicon Valley’s early years show Jobs in his natural habitat — If you want an unfiltered glimpse into the early days of Silicon Valley, you might like the recently released Doug Menuez book Fearless Genius. A photojournalist in the thick of the early tech revolution, Menuez spent much of his time from 1985 to 2000 documenting the companies and faces that would eventually become household names.

OS X Yosemite: bringing back Finder window search options, and Spotlight efficiency — Prior to OS X Yosemite, performing a search from a Finder window gave you to option to quickly add additional search criteria to narrow down the list of files you’d see, but now that’s gone — or at least hidden away. Bringing back the missing search criteria only takes a couple mouse clicks. And while Spotlight is a fantastic tool, sometimes it needs a little maintenance to keep it in shape. An option in Yosemite helps keep Spotlight humming.

Connect a MacBook to an iMac’s Display with Target Display Mode — It’s not well known, but, a MacBook Pro/Air can connect to, and drive, a 27-inch iMac display either as an additional display or in mirror mode using what’s called Target Display Mode (TDM). However, specific hardware and cables are required.

Download MacX Video Converter Pro for free, courtesy of Digiarty — Digiarty is giving away 1000 free copies of its MacX Video Converter Pro app (usually US$49.95) to TUAW readers, and all you have to do is click a link and enter a promo code. Better be quick …

How to make the best use of Mail Drop — The Mail Drop feature uses an attachment analogy so typical users don’t have to be confounded by talk of ‘cloud intermediaries’. If they have Yosemite is appears as if it’s an attachment, if they’re not, they get a link to the file (even if they have a PC).

How to command your Mac with your voice — With Yosemite, Automator introduces a cool new feature: the ability to command your Mac with your voice. (Christopher Breen gives you step by step instructions.)

Cook email on Jobs, Mac rumours, Apple Support Page

Tim Cook sends letter to employees on third anniversary of Steve Jobs’ death — Apple CEO Tim Cook  sent an email to Apple employees on Friday to honour the third anniversary of the passing of co-founder Steve Jobs, saying the late tech guru’s legacy lives on through their work.

Grading the rumours on Mac mini updates, iPad delays, and MacBook colours — Apple might update some of its products soon, or it might not. Here are some updates on these possible updates as update rumours come in.

Apple Support Profile works for everyone
Apple Support Profile works for everyone

How to use Apple Support Profile, and why — Apple rolled out the Activation Lock tool last week and it received a fair amount of press, but there’s another tool that’s also really useful which also needs attention. It’s the Apple Support Profile. You access this super useful page at http://supportprofile.apple.com, and all you have to do is log in using your Apple ID, and any hardware you’ve registered using that Apple ID will appear as if by magic. Kelly Guimont at Mac Observer explains it.