This is from last fall, and the specifics have changed slightly, but I liked this idea of what Apple could do with all its money. (Excluding, perhaps, the Facebook idea.)
They don't need all that cash. But think of this in terms decades, in terms of the ultimate legacy of Steve Jobs. He is certainly the tech zeitgeist of our era. But he also has built Apple to survive for many, many years, many decades. What if they have $100 billion on the balance sheet in a year's time, and, following the endowment model, they spend just 5% to 6% per year of that. That's more than enough for them [to cover investment and R&D needs]. Now think about a couple years from now, when they have maybe $200 billion on the balance sheet. That would be maybe $10 billion to $12 billion per year they could spend. They have such an endowment if you will, so much money, it keeps them in the game forever. They could be swept away by some tech trend we can't even imagine in the next 5 to 10 years. And if so, they could buy a company, or buy a collection of companies. It gives them optionality, in other words. If they decided social media is going to be a key part of things, they could buy Facebook. But it keeps them in the game like very few other tech companies.
This piece about Steve Jobs' admiration for Edwin Lands, the founder of Polaroid, had a bunch of interesting bits to pull out.
At Polaroid, Land used to hire Smith Collegeâ€™s smartest art-history majors and send them off for a few science classes, in order to create chemists who could keep up when his conversation turned from Maxwellâ€™s equations to Renoirâ€™s brush strokes.
Most of all, Land believed in the power of the scientific demonstration. Starting in the 60s, he began to turn Polaroidâ€™s shareholdersâ€™ meetings into dramatic showcases for whatever line the company was about to introduce. In a perfectly art-directed setting, sometimes with live music between segments, he would take the stage, slides projected behind him, the new product in hand, and instead of deploying snake-oil salesmanship would draw you into Landâ€™s World. By the end of the afternoon, you probably wanted to stay there.
The two men met at least twice. John Sculley, the Apple C.E.O. who eventually clashed with Jobs, was there for one meeting, when Jobs made a pilgrimage to Landâ€™s labs in Cambridge, Mass., and wrote in his autobiography that both men described a singular experience: â€œDr. Land was saying: â€˜I could see what the Polaroid camera should be. It was just as real to me as if it was sitting in front of me, before I had ever built one.â€™ And Steve said: â€˜Yeah, thatâ€™s exactly the way I saw the Macintosh.â€™ He said, If I asked someone who had only used a personal calculator what a Macintosh should be like, they couldnâ€™t have told me. There was no way to do consumer research on it, so I had to go and create it and then show it to people and say, â€˜Now what do you think?â€™â€
The worldview he was describing perfectly echoed Landâ€™s: â€œMarket research is what you do when your product isnâ€™t any good.â€ And his sense of innovation: â€œEvery significant invention,â€ Land once said, â€œmust be startling, unexpected, and must come into a world that is not prepared for it. If the world were prepared for it, it would not be much of an invention.â€ Thirty years later, when a reporter asked Jobs how much market research Apple had done before introducing the iPad, he responded, â€œNone. It isnâ€™t the consumersâ€™ job to know what they want.â€
I don't often feel sad or feel sadness, but I do sometimes in times of collective sadness. I'm not sure why. Last night I was on an airplane when it was announced that Steve Jobs had died. When I saw 4 random posts about Jobs on Tumblr, I knew right away. Growing up, the first computer I remember using was a IIgs, but we had at least one model before that. We also had a Performa after that. My first computer at college was a black and white Mac laptop with a 500 MB HD. Etc etc.
I sometimes collect as much about a story in one place as I can, almost as a personal reference for the future. (The Comprehensive Election Reactions Round Up from Obama's election is a good example). I haven't done it recently, but figured now would be a good time. Here's most of what I looked at yesterday, loosely sorted. You've probably seen some of this stuff, but probably haven't seen all of it. The sources are Twitter, Stellar, and Tumblr, along with just clicking around.
RIP, Steve Jobs. Peace and strength to your family and loved ones.
Steve Jobs isnâ€™t the problem here. The music industry is the problemâ€”too many bad songs are the problem. Itâ€™s the reason the audience doesnâ€™t roar when you talk about playing a new track or two that were added for a re-release of your greatest hits. If your greatest hits were from the last three years, imagine how much money youâ€™d be making on album sales even beyond your touring.
Daring Fireball recently linked to a New Yorker article about the interesting corporate structure of the Green Bay Packers. In it, this sentence:
Shareholders receive no dividend check and no free tickets to Lambeau Field. They donâ€™t even get a foam cheesehead. All they get is a piece of paper that says they are part-owners of the Green Bay Packers.
"Huh", I thought, "Just like Apple." But then I found this:
People who own shares of of GBP stock cannot be sold to others--it can only be sold back to the team. The stock doesn't appreciate in value, no dividends are paid, and there are no season ticket privileges. However, the stock certificate is really cool, and you can proudly say you own part of a professional football team!
In September, I made the mistake of upgrading my iPhone 3G from OS 3.1 to OS 4.0, making the phone a lot less useful and losing visual voicemail as a feature. (I had a big event coming up and Eventbrite told me their app would allow me to scan tickets with my phone. I said, "Really? It will work on a 3G running 3.0?" They said, yes, really. The event was looming and I needed to test the app ahead of time and so when it didn't work with 3.0, I upgraded to 4.0. Come to find out, the scanning didn't work on a 3G at all. Thank you, Eventbrite.) Since I upgraded, my 3G has been beset with some minor and major issues that make it much less useful than before. Some tasks, like browsing are usually OK, but Safari sometimes takes a while to load, other tasks like using Google Maps go from horribly slow to completely useless. Foursquare check ins can take minutes. The phone app stalls a lot when trying to make a call and, most importantly, visual voicemail does not work at all. I can still get voicemails, but there is no notification of their presence.
Yesterday, at Tim's suggestion I decided to try downgrading my phone. It did not go as planned. Recboot didn't work the way it was supposed to, and at one point, my phone was a brick for an hour. Immediately after downgrading to 3.1.3, I was left with a phone that didn't have any of my data, but did give me visual voicemail. The back up I made before starting was gone so I used a back up from 9/17 running 3.1.3.
The phone functions as it did then, much faster on Foursquare and Google Maps, and tethering works again. This would all be wonderful except I again don't have visual voicemail. I'm opposed to wiping it clean and starting over because I don't think I'll be able to download working versions of the apps I use.
I'm going to try to hang on for the iPhone 5, which will hopefully come out in July. Any ideas? Would jailbreaking the phone give me visual voicemail back?
Update: Visual Voicemail is back after 4 months. After trying to reset the settings, I removed the AT&T Profile in the Profiles section of the Settings (I think Settings ---> Network Settings ----> Profiles). I restarted the phone after that and some test VMs I'd been leaving the last couple days showed up. I guess I don't have an excuse for not calling you back now.
This 1985 Playboy interview with "Steven" Jobs is long, but fascinating. It's from 25 years ago! This was a time where the "mouse" had to be explained to the readers because most people wouldn't know what it was. ("a "mouse" (a small rolling box with a button on it)"). I pulled out a lot of excerpts I thought were interesting:
The Apple offices in 1985, the forerunner for dotcom offices later on:
"The Apple offices are clearly not like most places of employment. Video games abound, ping-pong tables are in use, speakers blare out music ranging from The Rolling Stones to Windham Hill jazz. Conference rooms are named after Da Vinci and Picasso, and snack-room refrigerators are stocked with fresh carrot, apple and orange juice. (The Mac team alone spends $100,000 on fresh juice per year.)
On Andy Warhol and Keith Haring using the first Macintosh that Jobs had brought to a birthday party for a 9 year old:
Two other party guests wandered into the room and looked over Jobs's shoulder. 'Hmmm,' said the first, Andy Warhol. 'What is this? Look at this, Keith. This is incredible!' The second guest, Keith Haring, the graffiti artist whose work now commands huge prices, went over. Warhol and Haring asked to take a turn at the Mac, and as I walked away, Warhol had just sat down to manipulate the mouse. 'My God!' he was saying, 'I drew a circle!'
On why Jobs was more interested in talking to the 9 year old than the celebrity artists (emphasis mine):
"But more revealing was the scene after the party. Well after the other guests had gone, Jobs stayed to tutor the boy on the fine points of using the Mac. Later, I asked him why he had seemed happier with the boy than with the two famous artists. His answer seemed unrehearsed to me: 'Older people sit down and ask, "What is it?" but the boy asks, "What can I do with it?"'"
On what technology the computer compares to:
The most compelling reason for most people to buy a computer for the home will be to link it into a nationwide communications network. We're just in the beginning stages of what will be a truly remarkable breakthrough for most peopleâ€”as remarkable as the telephone.
PLAYBOY: Aside from some of the recurrent criticismsâ€”that the mouse is inefficient, that the Macintosh screen is only black and whiteâ€”the most serious charge is that Apple overprices its products. Do you care to answer any or all?
JOBS: We've done studies that prove that the mouse is faster than traditional ways of moving through data or applications. Someday we may be able to build a color screen for a reasonable price. As to overpricing, the start-up of a new product makes it more expensive than it will be later. The more we can produce, the lower the price will getâ€”â€”
PLAYBOY: That's what critics charge you with: hooking the enthusiasts with premium prices, then turning around and lowering your prices to catch the rest of the market.
JOBS: That's simply untrue. As soon as we can lower prices, we do. It's true that our computers are less expensive today than they were a few years ago, or even last year. But that's also true of the IBM PC. Our goal is to get computers out to tens of millions of people, and the cheaper we can make them, the easier it's going to be to do that. I'd love it if Macintosh cost $1000.
On the iPhone:
JOBS: The developments will be in making the products more and more portable, networking them, getting out laser printers, getting out shared data bases, getting out more communications ability, maybe the merging of the telephone and the personal computer.
The big villain in this article is IBM. It's sort of jarring that Microsoft isn't mentioned once:
All these things show that it really is coming down to just Apple and IBM. If, for some reason, we make some giant mistakes and IBM wins, my personal feeling is that we are going to enter sort of a computer Dark Ages for about 20 years. Once IBM gains control of a market sector, they almost always stop innovation. They prevent innovation from happening.
PLAYBOY: Which brings us full circle to your latest milestones, the Mac and your protracted shoot-out with IBM. In this Interview, you've repeatedly sounded as if there really are only two of you left in the field. But although the two of you account for something like 60 percent of the market, can you just write off the other 40 percentâ€”the Radio Shacks, DECs, Epsons, et al.â€”as insignificant? More important, are you ignoring your potentially biggest rival, A.T.&T.?
JOBS: A.T.&T.. is absolutely going to be in the business. There is a major transformation in the company that's taking place right now. A.T.&T. is changing from a subsidized and regulated service-oriented company to a free-market, competitive-marketing technology company. A.T.&T.'s products per se have never been of the highest quality. All you have to do is go look at their telephones. They're somewhat of an embarrassment. But they do possess great technology in their research labs. Their challenge is to learn how to commercialize that technology. Also, they have to learn about consumer marketing. I think that they will do both of those things, but it's going to take them years.
Please, don't let this happen to you. Next time your Software Update tells you there are new updates to install, make sure you uncheck the update to Time Capsule. Otherwise, look what happens when Time Machine next runs:
See that second sentence in the second paragraph? Yeah. What kind of incompetent company quietly releases a software update to its backup product that deletes its customers' backed up data without clear, repeated, and obvious warnings?
I want to punch Steve Jobs in the nuts.
(We now return you to your regularly scheduled Aaron-related awesomeness.)