Making computers more human at Universe. Previously built Lore.

  1. The Apple Machine

    Apple is getting closer to perfection than ever before. Today’s products are extremely well designed, manufacturing quality is unbelievably good, and its retail operation is second-to-none. The Apple machine is working flawlessly.

    Credit goes to Tim Cook. He’s isolated the elements that make Apple great and positioned them so that they can perform better than anyone else. Today’s Apple stands for the intersection of technology and design. From personnel to marketing to supply chain, Cook has put all of the company’s weight behind that mission.

    But the question remains—can it still invent? You can be the best executor in the world, but unless you do things differently, it’s not very interesting.

    TAGGED: writing apple tim cook

  2. Apple.com, Year 2000

    I found some cool Apple product videos from the early 2000s. Here are the highlights:

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    TAGGED: tech apple startups writing

  3. Steve

    Tonight, for the first time, I feel that strange, deep sadness for someone I’ve never met. It’s the sadness people feel when their favorite musician passes away, when a captivating president dies. It is a unique sorrow, of both selfishness and altruism. 

    Steve Jobs is not dead. But he has famously said that there is no Apple Steve Jobs and Steve Jobs the Person. They are one. Apple was as much in Steve’s DNA as he was in the company’s. He would only leave Apple if he was leaving this earth altogether. His life is his work.

    I was probably around 8 years old when I discovered Steve Jobs. Steve answered the question of what I want to do with my life. It all made sense. We’re here to make a difference. To create something extraordinary.

    I’m part of the Apple religion. I love their products, yes, but more importantly, I try to look at the world in “The Apple Way.”

    Having a Mac in 2000 was weird, as a third-grader. Everyone had PCs, and gradeschoolers want to be like everyone else. But my dad persisted. “We’re a Mac family,” he said. And then I fell in love with the company. It represented the things that I wanted to be: different, creative, smart. 

    Steve defined that vision. The press speaks of him as a tech mogul and the man who reinvented the music business. But I bet Steve doesn’t think of himself that way. It’s not about the money. It’s about building amazing things and changing the world.

    I’ve dreamt of meeting him, but that doesn’t seem likely. Whatever wisdom of his is available online has inspired and guided me.

    While his story as the leader of Apple is certainly his biography, his influence extends far wider. He personifies startup culture and a generation of innovation. The idea that one person can start something extraordinary. The idea that the entrepreneur is an artist. 

    Whatever happens, he will live on in the millions he’s inspired. Thanks, Steve.

    TAGGED: steve jobs apple tech entrepreneurship writing

  4. Lion

    Apple’s latest desktop operating system is a big deal. When the company announced Lion, I thought the iPad-inspired enhancements were gimmicky and underwhelming. But after using it for a week, I’ve realized that this latest OS is truly the start of a profound shift from the classic desktop OS to the world of gesture based computing. 

    Swiping between full screen apps. Zooming with your fingers on the trackpad. Double tapping the mouse for Mission Control. These things make the experience better. It’s quicker to use, more pleasant, and most importantly, it’s more intuitive. 

    We know that iOS represents the most natural computing platform in history. Instead of directing a small black triangle on a screen that’s 12 inches away from your hand, you just tap whatever you want. 

    The challenge has always been: how does this control mechanism translate to desktop computing? We know that touchscreen desktops won’t work because our arms will tire from holding them up throughout the day. What Lion shows us is that there can be an intuitive, natural way of using a computer by gesturing – even if you’re not touching the content itself. 

    They reversed the direction of mouse scrolling! Crazy! But really, they needed to. With Lion, Apple is trying to change the user experience metaphor that has governed OS design since the 80s. It was a symbolic move, but one, to me, that ties together the new interaction paradigm – you interact with the content, not the OS. 

    Lion - at $29 - seems like an incremental upgrade. But I guarantee that it will prove to be one of Apple’s boldest moves in defining how we interact with computers of the future. 

    TAGGED: lion os x apple mac tech product design writing

  5. Thoughts on Today’s Apple Announcements

    I haven’t had a chance to watch the full Keynote, but I’ve watched snippets and followed along with the liveblog. A few observations:

    ON JOBS:

    Steve Jobs looks and sounds bad. I’d imagine this is why the stock went down. It’s very sad. 

    I think he showed today that the company will be fine without him. Schiller and Forstall took up 2/3 of the keynote. I wonder if Tim Cook’s going to be the CEO and master of ceremonies, though. To me it just feels like Apple needs a product-focused CEO, no matter how good an operator Cook is. 

    ON THE CLOUD:

    Today marks the greatest tech bet Apple has placed in a long time. They’re finally embracing the cloud, and they’re doing it all at once – music and calendar and files and email. I think for this to work, it’s going to be a classic example of Apple’s “it just works.” Most users won’t even know what iCloud is. 

    It does risk trying to be too much and too hard to understand. Each one of the components of iCloud could be its own Google product. I’m curious about why they’re rolling out all these services at once. I guess the idea is that in order for it to be a paramount shift from PC to cloud, it’s got to be an all-encompasing experience. 

    This is Apple on the offensive. With the App Store, there really wasn’t much invention – Apple went where the market wanted to go. But now they’re setting a strict, defining path for their future. Because iCloud is so integrated, if they do screw it up it could have huge implications. 

    John Gruber talks about Apple defining its cloud strategy for the future:

    This is a fundamentally different vision for the coming decade than Google’s. In both cases, your data is in the cloud, and you can access it from anywhere with a network connection. But Google’s vision is about software you run in a web browser. Apple’s is about native apps you run on devices. Apple is as committed to native apps — on the desktop, tablet, and handheld — as it has ever been.

    Google’s frame is the browser window. Apple’s frame is the screen. That’s what we’ll remember about today’s keynote ten years from now.

    I haven’t made up my mind on that. Do I really see native apps in 10 years? Right now I don’t think there’s a comparison between the experience on a native app and that of a mobile site – apps kill websites. But there’s a lot of huge players trying to make the browser the primary computing platform. 

    Gruber’s last line about the frame is interesting. We’ve always thought of the cloud as within-browser. It doesn’t have to be, apparently. Intuitively, it doesn’t even make sense for everything you do on a computing device to happen within a browser frame with an address bar.

    I just don’t think that we’re going to have to wait to install an app in the future. I think it’ll “stream,” just like music does on Spotify. I think that a lot of computing will happen server-side, whereas with today’s apps a lot of the processing happens on the device.

    I do, however, see app discovery and onboarding as more like websites and bookmarks, albeit with a definitive inventory that’s browseable. It should be more lightweight and web-like. The bet on apps is very interesting – Apple has the market position to influence the course of things (at least for now), so we shall see. 

    That said, does Android v. iOS become about browser v. apps? Google could leverage its Android position (on smartphones and its currently non-existant tablet presence, which I think’ll be huge) as the vehicle for its computing vision. Android is still app-heavy now, but I’d imagine with stuff like Chrome OS, that will change. 

    ON 5:

    I got iOS 5. It’s really cool. One of the best parts was unplugging the phone mid-sync too see that my apps kept syncing. I didn’t have to set anything up. Notifications are also awesome – as is iMessage. I think Newsstand will huge. 

    It’s interesting: today’s features satisfied geeks like me, but I doubt most users will even notice what changed. That’s the beauty of the system Apple’s designed. It’s deep for me and simple for my mom. 

    TAGGED: apple tech steve jobs writing

  6. The Cult of Mac

    Fast Company:

    “Apple-y thoughts apparently inhabit the same part of the brain of Apple fanatics as religious thoughts do in religious folks. Scientists using MRI scanners to see what parts of the brain “lit up” as volunteers viewed Apple imagery found that radical fanboyism is close to a religion in the minds of the afflicted” 

    I can’t say I’m surprised. Actually, a friend commented privately on my last post, which was on Apple University, about how packaging and preaching an ideology sounds eerily like a religion. It does. It’s something I’ve thought about – to me, as weird as it is, that’s the ultimate objective for a company and brand. It should have followers, fans, believers, and not just customers. 

    To me, cult-like organizations have a few similarities: a fundamental philosophy that impacts many parts of one’s life, an inspiring and charismatic leader, credibility and conviction, and  this innate feeling that this is the way the world should work.

    Steve Jobs has developed an ideology that millions of people have bought into (yes, a pun). I sure have. And just look at the lines around the block for the next iPad.When the company does something controversial, its fans defend it as if the criticism were personal. 

    But what I think is fascinating is that Steve Jobs isn’t the God here. He’s the Jesus. The guy here to evangelize a philosophy and bring it to the masses via nicely packaged and freely shipped iPads. I think this idea of a human carrying out an idea is pretty standard in religious affairs: Jesus, Moses, the Lubavitch Rebbe, Jim Jones, Joseph Smith.

    It’d be cool to see a true academic study on the intersection of religious behavior and business. 

    TAGGED: apple religion branding marketing writing

  7. It’s About the Brand

    Apple royally teased the Internet on Monday. Its homepage read “Tomorrow is just another day. That you’ll never forget.” The company said to “check back here tomorrow for an exciting announcement from iTunes.” The “you’ll never forget” + “exciting” got me, and what seemed like the rest of the web, dreaming.

    Were they going to announce a new streaming-based iTunes, where you wouldn’t buy each song, but rather you’d subscribe to an all-you-can-eat listening service? Was it a new file format? New iPods? Is Apple buying Pandora (which they should)?

    But then some Beatles news started to circulate. The rumors resurfaced: “sources” claimed that the Beatles, the greatest and bestselling act of all time, would finally be available on iTunes, the world’s largest music store. 

    And it was true. Apple announced their arrival with a bang on Tuesday. Apple.com had an awesome black and white of John, Paul, George, and Ringo on the homesite. They put up five TV Ads. Every publication was on it. 

    But people were dissapointed. They were expecting something more newsworthy. Big deal, an artist’s music is now for sale digitally. Who doesn’t already have the Beatles on their computer?

    Yet Apple’s making a really big deal about the whole thing. Why?

    I think it’s a signature move. Apple is all about the brand. This is an opportunity to associate with a music brand that represents the ultimate dream, timeless, brilliant music, great memories, cultural identity.

    Apple is all about being part of culture. And this is how it does it. It puts together ads that look like mini Beatles documentaries. Its site is dedicated to the band for a few days. We now associate the brands together. It’s like a free endorsement.

    When we think Apple, we now think Beatles. Apple isn’t a computer company. It’s a cultural landmark, a company that merges technology and the arts. It enables creatives.

    In other words, if John Lennon were around, he’d probably use a Mac. 

    TAGGED: beatles on itunes technology apple itunes marketing branding writing

  8. The Future of Advertising

    Earlier in the year, Apple launched iAds, it’s own advertisement platform for the iPhone. This is how Steve Jobs announced it, via TechCrunch:

    Developers [of free apps] need to find a way to start making their money. A lot of developers turn to advertising – and we think these current advertisements really suck.

    If you look at advertisements on a phone, it’s not like on a desktop. On a desktop, its about search. On mobile, search hasnt happened. People aren’t searching on their phones. People are spending their time in apps

    And so they went out and built an ad product. This is one of those things that Apple’s masterfully designed. The ads have been trickling through some apps. I was reading through the NY Times app yesterday and I saw an iAd for the new BMW X3. It wasn’t obtrusive, but just looked really cool.

    It was by far the most engaging, entertaining, influential, thought-out ad I’ve ever encountered. You click it and it brings up an intro video. Everything looks gorgeous and crisp — the car, the text, the photos. 

    You can then build a car. This is something that’s been done on auto sites for ages now, but it’s so, so much better with touch. Look at the above photos. Instantly, change the color of the interior, the rims, the wood trim. 

    Browse photos and videos. Build your dream car. Find a dealer. What more could you want in a mobile app? It’s like a mini app for each advertised product.

    First off, I didn’t even know about the new X3 before the ad. I’m now thoroughly familiar with it.  I even know that it’s delivered in two weeks and that it comes with a video of the actual vehicle’s production. It’s also made in America (which apparently is a good thing because this was a key ad point).

    Some more photos after the break. Check out the Times app to see some ads. This is the future of advertising, my friends. 

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    TAGGED: iad iads product design apple iphone ads interactive ads most engaging ads ever tech marketing writing

  9. The Implications of Today’s Smartphone War

    The smartphone operating system battle is in full swing. It has huge implications for the future of computing. I think we’re in a transformative period that will determine how computers look in the next 15 years. 

    Apple had the first mover advantage. It created the first modern phone OS. It stuck it into the iPhone and sold millions of units. Then it built the App Store. The Store is a marvel in distribution — a guy in his bedroom can build a million-download game.

    But Google took a different approach. It built the OS — which isn’t as good as the iPhone’s, but it’s close — and then gave it away for free to phone manufacturers like Motorola and HTC, who had forever made their own crummy software or licensed it from Microsoft.

    Naturally, by building a good operating system, making it open source, and distributing it for free, it’ll be used by millions of hardware manufacturers. It’s impossible for one device — the iPhone — to compete with the army of Android devices on multiple platforms and carriers. There are simply different price points and customers that Apple doesn’t hit. And while the Apple has the number-one selling smartphone, it will never again have more collective market share than Android. 

    Apple’s philosophy with its Macs has been profit, not market share. They make a lot of money selling computers, but they have less than 10 percent of the market. And if they stick to their current strategy, they’ll make more money on phones than Google will. They perfect the whole package, hardware plus software, and don’t compromise at all. And this is Steve Jobs’s mantra. He wants to be the BMW of consumer electronics. A big profitable brand that stands for quality and good design.

    But the problem is that if Android’s vastly more popular, developers will choose it as the first place to distribute their apps. And that will affect Apple’s sales, because no one wants to buy a phone with a limited software selection.

    It’s a repeat of the Mac OS vs. Windows war. But the kicker here — the thing that’s going to allow Google to come back from behind — is that the its software is free to manufacturers.

    Apple has a real problem here. I can’t imagine they’ll ever license out their OS, but how can they compete? The next year or two will shape how smartphone platforms look in the next ten years. And smartphone-style computing is the future of computing. So this battle has very true implications for the whole computer industry.

    I don’t know what’s going to happen. I love the iPhone. I think it blows away any Android device, both in hardware and software. But will iPhone owners become the equivalent of today’s Mac owners — a small group of creative, design-minded, young, affluent users? Or will it continue to be the mass market success that it’s been?

    I don’t think it’s okay for the iPhone to be a Mac-caliber success. It needs to be an iPod-caliber success. The iPhone is the biggest part of Apple’s business. The stakes are a lot higher than they were with the Mac. If the iPhone’s mass popularity wanes and it doesn’t continue to lead growth in the smartphone space, this could be a serious problem for Apple and its shareholders.

    TAGGED: ios vs. android iphone vs. android google vs. apple smartphones tech apple google mobile computing future of computing writing


  10. Apple's Attention to Detail →

    In July 2002, Appled filed a patent for a “Breathing Status LED Indicator” (No. US 6,658,577 B2). They described it as a “blinking effect of the sleep-mode indicator in accordance with the present invention mimics the rhythm of breathing which is psychologically appealing.”

    The average…

    Amazing, but really, not surprising. Apple is all about Bits of Genius. I’m sure that there are tons of the ingenious little nuggets that go unnoticed. And I guess that’s the idea — to create a seamless, perfect experience. 

    Ever wonder why the iPad press shots show time 9:41 am? See this post from FastCompany:

    They rehearse the presentation with Steve Jobs, Phil Schiller, and whoever else will be speaking, and time it so the big announcement comes 40 minutes in. They add a couple minutes to be on the safe side.

    That means that when Apple puts that most important slide up, the one introducing the new hardware, the time on the static image of the device will be damned close to the time the packed room of journalists sees it for the first time.

    It’s quite remarkable how the company’s been able to create this culture of detail where even PR people are on top of every little thing. 


  11. Apple’s Black Curtains

    I doubt many other retailers do this – black out their stores with large curtains. This is probably because: a) they don’t make iPhones b) their stores aren’t all glass. I took this photo last night, while employees were prepping the store for today’s iPhone 4 launch. 

    TAGGED: bits of genius apple new york tech technology retail marketing writing