Tag Archives: Steve Jobs

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Apple product launch punditry bingo

Everyone loves predicting the death of Apple. Especially when they launch a new product. They’re no longer the underdog, they’re top dog – and the clattering chattering android masses and tech journalism establishment are longing for a fall.

Apple products may have lost their luster – being ahead of the pack and revolutionary has a law of diminishing returns if you’re just updating your current pack of products. But they still sell truckloads. And controlling both the ecosystem and the distribution of media to your millions of products is a nice long term move. Anyway. Here’s a bingo card that you can keep with you as you read stories about the iPad mini – or whatever Apple product has been launched the day you arrive here… the commentary will no doubt be the same. It pretty much always is.

Apple Bingo

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Reviewing Steve Jobs: Not the Messiah, just a naughty boy

I did a little bit of flying during the last weekend – and I’m rubbish at writing at airports and on planes, so I chose to do some reading. My book of choice was Walter Isaacson’s fascinating biography of Steve Jobs.

It was an interesting read, the carefully cultivated messianic myth came up against an access all areas account of Steve’s life. He was, as it turns out, a nasty and deliberate man. He had an incredible knack for understanding people and culture and using that to his advantage. This worked in his favour in business, he was constantly ahead of the curve – able to anticipate desires before we knew we had them. That was one of his significant mantras – people don’t know what they want until you give it to them. But this same ability meant that he was able to crush people, and did, just for kicks. He had poisonous relationships with lots of people who used to be his friends, and with members of his family, because he believed the myth. Essentially. He believed he was different, that he was special, and that his vision would change the world. And while he fostered a culture of robust discussion, and could have his mind changed, he’d immediately take the ideas of others and claim them as his own.

This is a fascinating exercise in anti-hagiography. It’s not a victor’s history. It’s a picture of a deeply flawed man who embraced his flaws to change the world. Like him, or hate him, and it’s hard to love him after reading this book… Jobs changed many industries, designed products that are being copied by all sorts of other people, and brought a new approach to business, especially the computer business, where everything was managed by one company (ie hardware design, manufacture (to an extent), software, retail, post retail (by providing a closed system). The open systems v closed systems thread that ran through the book, and Jobs’ interactions with Bill Gates provided an interesting picture into Silicon Valley and the technology we use. I enjoyed that. I learned lots. There are things Jobs did that are definitely not things I’d want to implement in my home life, or in my church life, but his pursuit of excellence, and his unrelenting confidence in the “truth” even in the face of opposition and rejection were in a sense, inspiring.

The great thing about the book was that it totally humanised Jobs. He was flawed. He wasn’t Nietzsche’s Übermensch, even if that was his self perception for a while. He wasn’t particularly smart – outside of his industry (and even within it) he did some really dumb stuff, that wasn’t skirted around in the book, it was a no-holds-barred treatment of his life. An example of his less than optimal decisions included not treating his cancer because he believed he could get rid of it just by drinking juice and applying some internet remedies. While he wasn’t particularly likeable, he had some redeeming features, and he was passionate. He was human. He was vulnerable. He wasn’t the messiah, just a naughty boy.

It was kind of sad that the tone of the book, and the editorialising at the end, seemed to excuse some of Steve’s behaviour on the basis of his achievements, as though the ends justified the means. It’d be interesting to hear from Steve’s neglected children, and from the friends and colleagues he left scattered in his wake, in twenty years – to see if they agree. There was a very real human cost to his decision to build a life around himself and his vision.

He told his biographer, in the months before he died, that he was “50-50” on the question of God. He wanted there to be something else. He seemed to think his achievements would be works that God might judge him on. Apparently his last words were “oh wow, oh wow, oh wow” at least according to his sister’s more hagiographic eulogy (but who doesn’t say nice things at that point).

Here are some of the snippets from the book that I thought were particularly interesting insights from a man gifted with the ability to make particularly interesting insights…

On God…

“Reflecting years later on his spiritual feelings, he said that religion was at its best when it emphasized spiritual experiences rather than received dogma. “The juice goes out of Christianity when it becomes too based on faith rather than on living like Jesus or seeing the world as Jesus saw it,” he told me. “I think different religions are different doors to the same house. Sometimes I think the house exists, and sometimes I don’t. It’s the great mystery.””

And later…

“I’m about fifty-fifty on believing in God,” he said. “For most of my life, I’ve felt that there must be more to our existence than meets the eye.” He admitted that, as he faced death, he might be overestimating the odds out of a desire to believe in an afterlife. “I like to think that something survives after you die,” he said. “It’s strange to think that you accumulate all this experience, and maybe a little wisdom, and it just goes away. So I really want to believe that something survives, that maybe your consciousness endures.””

On designing with the end user(s) in mind…

““If it could save a person’s life, would you find a way to shave ten seconds off the boot time?” he asked. Kenyon allowed that he probably could. Jobs went to a whiteboard and showed that if there were five million people using the Mac, and it took ten seconds extra to turn it on every day, that added up to three hundred million or so hours per year that people would save, which was the equivalent of at least one hundred lifetimes saved per year. “Larry was suitably impressed, and a few weeks later he came back and it booted up twenty-eight seconds faster,” Atkinson recalled. “Steve had a way of motivating by looking at the bigger picture.””

On Apple’s Design philosophy…

“Apple’s design mantra would remain the one featured on its first brochure: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Jobs felt that design simplicity should be linked to making products easy to use. Those goals do not always go together. Sometimes a design can be so sleek and simple that a user finds it intimidating or unfriendly to navigate. “The main thing in our design is that we have to make things intuitively obvious,” Jobs told the crowd of design mavens. For example, he extolled the desktop metaphor he was creating for the Macintosh. “People know how to deal with a desktop intuitively. If you walk into an office, there are papers on the desk. The one on the top is the most important. People know how to switch priority. Part of the reason we model our computers on metaphors like the desktop is that we can leverage this experience people already have.””

On Marketing…

““The Apple Marketing Philosophy” that stressed three points. The first was empathy, an intimate connection with the feelings of the customer: “We will truly understand their needs better than any other company.” The second was focus: “In order to do a good job of those things that we decide to do, we must eliminate all of the unimportant opportunities.” The third and equally important principle, awkwardly named, was impute. It emphasized that people form an opinion about a company or product based on the signals that it conveys.”

On applying this philosophy even to the smallest of things…

“People do judge a book by its cover, so for the box of the Macintosh, Jobs chose a full-color design and kept trying to make it look better. “He got the guys to redo it fifty times,” recalled Alain Rossmann, a member of the Mac team who married Joanna Hoffman. “It was going to be thrown in the trash as soon as the consumer opened it, but he was obsessed by how it looked.” To Rossmann, this showed a lack of balance; money was being spent on expensive packaging while they were trying to save money on the memory chips. But for Jobs, each detail was essential to making the Macintosh amazing.”

A Twitter tribute to Steve Jobs

People are saying that Steve Jobs is our John Lennon. Or something. I can sort of see it. But cancer isn’t a gunpoint assassination. And technology isn’t music. Anyway. Watching the outpouring of grief on social networks surrounding the death of this admittedly pretty amazing guy has been pretty culturally revealing. Christians fall into a few camps – some have expressed hope that Jobs found Jesus, some have pointed out that a life lived for success on this earth is hollow, I did both. Some have thanked Jobs for the impact his products had on their ability to do ministry. I don’t think the Westboro Baptists are Christians. But they announced via iPhone on Twitter, that they’d be protesting Jobs’ funeral because he had a man made platform and didn’t acknowledge God, and he promoted immorality. Or some rubbish like that, pretty much ignoring any positive moral contribution Jobs may have been responsible for with his long term opposition to pornography.

Anyway. Those reactions are neither here nor there, so far as this post is concerned. Apparently more people tweeted about Jobs than about any other celebrity who has died in the Internet age. The tweets came faster, and lasted longer… Twitter made this graphic, posted on Flickr, using tweets about Jobs from yesterday, as their tribute. And I think it’s an interesting use of data.

#thankyousteve

If you check it out in its original size you can read the tweets.

Goodbye Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs died today. That’s sad. I’m probably more shaken by his death than any other celebrity death in my lifetime. It’s final. It means there’ll be no more Steve Jobs creations. He was a brilliant man, an innovator. A game changer. If I had to pick a CEO style hero, it’d be Jobs. What he did with Apple, and with Pixar, is amazing. He leaves a legacy – people love his products, people love his approach to business, everybody has learned a lot about the importance of design in production from him. And his death will rightly dominate internet discussions for the next few days, and you’d expect the business pages of most papers as people speculate…

From the media release:

Statement by Apple’s Board of Directors

CUPERTINO, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–We are deeply saddened to announce that Steve Jobs passed away today.

Steve’s brilliance, passion and energy were the source of countless innovations that enrich and improve all of our lives. The world is immeasurably better because of Steve.

His greatest love was for his wife, Laurene, and his family. Our hearts go out to them and to all who were touched by his extraordinary gifts.

Many people have commented suggesting Jobs is some sort of Messiah. But unlike Jesus – death is it for Jobs, which was what motivated his success. These words, from a speech Jobs gave to some uni students, are a pretty powerful expression of his worldview now.

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

I hope that Steve got to know Jesus in his last few weeks of his life, but this is a stark reminder for all of us that it doesn’t matter how brilliant you are, how much you revolutionise life for millions, death is waiting for all of us. Here are some more words from Steve Jobs from the same speech…

“No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

Reflections on John Piper and Steve Jobs

So yesterday was a big day for two American guys I admire. They even kind of look the same, but they’ve got some antithetical stuff going on – Jobs is all hip with his black turtlenecks and sneakers, while Piper, well, he wore a black shirt last night – but it appeared his top button was done up. He’s a little daggy. But otherwise they’re more or less exactly the same.

Their binary opposition goes a little further. They essentially have the same outlook on life, but for Jobs this outlook meant making fun toys for people to play with, and computers that make people more efficient at making money. It also meant making a lot of money.

For Piper, his outlook on life is well summed up by my liveblog of his Don’t Waste Your Life session in Brisbane last night.

Anyway. With Jobs resigning the internet is full of buzz about his life and times. Lifehacker featured this quote that reminded me a lot of Piper last night:

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

Here’s the video of the speech that quote came from…

Lifehacker, in a post featuring that quote, summed up his message as:

“There are many diverse opinions about Steve Jobs, and that’s the kind of result that generally follows a person who goes after what he or she wants and finds success. Regardless of how you feel about what he’s created, he had a vision, set out to achieve it, and did. As he notes in this quote and many others, this is your one chance at life. Don’t waste it.”

Here’s a few snippets from Piper last night:

Our lives go fast. The older you get the faster it rushes by. Our lives don’t consist in the abundance of our possessions. No one gets comfort from their bank balance as they lie dying. It’s really not about what we own and what we strive to own.

The pursuit of possessions ends in frustration because of the impending reality of death. Laying up treasure for ourselves, without being rich towards God, is foolishness. You’re a fool if you treasure up the world and don’t count God as your riches, as your treasures. A life devoted to amassing stuff is a life wasted.

Bizarrely similar. I guess the question for me is do I want to spend my life excited by the products of Steve Job’s approach to the dilemma of death, or standing beside Piper and magnifying Jesus. Hopefully it’s the latter.

Steve Jobs is Ninja

You knew Steve Jobs was cool. But you didn’t know how cool. It seems Jobs tried to carry some ninja stars, called shuriken, onto a private flight out of Japan.

If he was a real ninja he wouldn’t have been caught.

From Bloomberg:

Apple Inc. Chief Executive Officer Steve Jobs said he’ll never return to Japan after officials at an airport barred him from taking Ninja throwing stars aboard his private plane, SPA! magazine reported in its latest issue.

A security scan at Kansai International Airport, near Osaka, detected the weapons inside the executive’s carry-on luggage in July as he was returning home to the U.S. from a family vacation in Kyoto, the Japanese magazine reported, citing unidentified officials at the airport and the transportation ministry.

Jobs said it wouldn’t make sense for a person to try to hijack his own plane, according to the report. He then told officials he would never visit Japan again, the magazine reported.”

For those wondering, here’s how to throw a ninja star (from Slate).

“It’s all in the wrist. Place a stack of shuriken in the palm of one hand—ninjas used to carry nine, an auspicious number. Brush the thumb of your opposite hand across the top star. The inside of your knuckle should catch in the center hole, enabling you to bring the star in between your thumb and index finger. From there, it’s sort of like throwing a frisbee. Bring your arm forward and flick your wrist to spin the star. Just don’t move your arm across your body in an arc—that would ruin your aim.”

What would Steve Jobs Do

This is probably a good question to ask yourself if you’re a product designer or an aspiring billionaire – it’s not going to get you anywhere in the long (eternal) term like the original FLAW (four letter acronym wristband). But it’ll only cost you $5.

YouTube Tuesday: Steve Jobs should cut the adjectives

Why don’t we all pretend, for a moment, that it’s Tuesday – and not Thursday. Because you are a gracious readership.

Steve Jobs’ product launch speeches are truly superlative… or full of superlatives.

You’ve seen almost the same video before (here somewhere). Here’s the launch of the iPad. Reduced to adjectives.

Incredible Apple

Apple launched some good stuff this week. Like iTunes 9. And new iPods, with cameras. But don’t let me tell you how good they are. Let them – at their launch…

Someone needs a speechwriter…