Turbotodd

Ruminations on tech, the digital media, and some golf thrown in for good measure.

Posts Tagged ‘steve jobs

Scrolling Down iPhone Memory Lane

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I heard it was the 5th anniversary of the introduction of the iPhone, which, first of all, just freaked me out, because how could it have been five years already!

But, once I was over that, I realized I have a record of my thoughts and observations back them in the form of this blog.

So, I went back and weaved together the following based on my observations in and around that year on the topic of the iPhone.

Read at your own peril. Accessories not included.

June 4, 2007 (25 days prior to the iPhone Launch)

Headline: Why I Won’t Be Getting An iPhone

Well, at least not yet, anyhow.

First, as I think I’ve explained in the past, I’ve been burned too many times on early adoption.

The only early adopting I’ll be doing moving forward is for small canine creatures I keep as pets.

Second, I just got my Blackberry Pearl.

It seems to do most everything I need it to do, for now.  Everything except allow me to successfully browse the Internets.  It used to do that, too, until the IBM internal software installation corrupted the browser.

They tell me I can fix it by wiping the Blackberry hard drive and starting from scratch.

Let me get this straight: I bought a Blackberry so I could check my corporate email and calendar (which I can successfully still do) and to surf the Internet.

But in order to successfully surf the Internet, I have to wipe the Blackberry hard drive and reinstall from scratch, in the process giving up my ability to successfully check my corporate email and calendar?  And this is supposed to be productivity enhancement???

Three, the iPhone costs in the neighborhood of $600.

My Blackberry Pearl cost me $99.  I can think of another $501 reasons I’ won’t be waiting for a new iPhone to ring.

Four, I don’t like grovelling or begging, nor do I like sleeping overnight on sidewalks outside the Cingular store, not for concert tickets and certainly not for a new cell phone.

When I bought my Pearl, I called ahead, had ’em charge the Pearl in advance of my getting to the store, and by the time I arrived, simply did a quick run through and check out.  I liked the Cingular retail people veddy much.

On June 29th, I will be staying as far away from the Cingular Web site and retail stores as is humanly possible.  The core Appleites (pun intended) will be out en masse, they will be single minded of purpose, and they will have great anxiety over whether or not they’ll be one of the lucky ones to win the iPhone lottery.

I will stay as far away from them and their mob as is humanly possible.

That is, unless they are willing to give me a personal tour of their new iPhone, in which case I’ll be happy to oblige their momentary lapse of reason.

June 18, 2007 (11 days prior to the iPhone Launch)

Headline: Eight Hours Of Apple Talk

Me, I’m still trying to recuperate from my U.S Open anxiety, but the rest of the blogosphere is all Apple iPhone talk all the time, apparently now eight hours at a burst.

The latest headline: iPhone is expected to deliver up to eight hours of talk time.

That’s a big deal, at least in terms of expectation setting, because there’s been tremendous criticism about the built-in battery that a user couldn’t replace with an already charged backup.

It also helps if you got yourself a long-winded teenager stuck at the mall…be sure to upgrade that ATT plan!

Me, I hope never to have to abuse my Blackberry Pearl with an 8-hour conversation, but then again, nobody really wants to talk to me, and I can always buy a backup battery, so this isn’t an issue pour moi.

As if Apple and the iPhone wasn’t already sucking up all the oxygen on Planet Earth (what’s left of it), and if you’ve not read or heard enough about the cult of Steve Jobs lately, New York magazine has a great feature by Silicon Valley journalistic hit man John Heilemann entitled “Steve Jobs in a Box.”

“Steve!  Are you in there!?  Steve??!  Do you need help getting out of the box, Steve?!!”

It’s juicy, long format, going-deep-into-Steve’s ego id and psyche kind of stuff technojournalism, complete with Heilemann’s breaking out Jobs’ career into three “acts.”

Could there be a Metropolitan Opera version waiting in the wings, complete with Bill Gates starring as the Devil himself?

Wait a minute, this oughta be a Pixar/Disney film, NC17 edition.

Oh well.  You’ll just have to head over to New York mag online for the current installment.

June 25, 2007 (4 days prior to the iPhone Launch — I was on a business trip out in Silicon Valley, and actually visited the Apple campus just a few days prior to the iPhone debut)

Headline: I Want My iPhone

Rumors abound of Apple employees publicly flouting units from the first manufacturing run, and I have no doubt the lines will start forming at the AT&T stores for we plebes sometime today.

You can get your first reality check and low, lowdown on the iPhone around 6 P.M. Pacific Standard Time this evening, which is when Walt Mossberg’s and David Pogue’s first reviews are expected to strike.

Word on the Business2.0 blog street is the early reviews are “generally positive” but that “downloads are sluggish” over AT&T’s current cellular network and that there are “typing difficulties.”

Well, uh, yeah.  There’s no friggin’ keyboard on the thing (well, not the keyboard as we typically have known it)!

That’s like saying there are steering difficulties on a Lamborghini with no steering wheel (and on Highway 101, I’m certainly beginning to wonder if a steering wheel is really even necessary).

This is a whole new computing paradigm, people, and, it’s from Apple: You have to will the thing to do what you want.

It’s all about the human mind telepathic connection interface!  Don’t you get it??!!

June 29, 2007

Headline: The New Chic: Geeks Waiting In Line

First off, this post is NOT being written while waiting in line at an Apple retail outlet, an AT&T store, or elsewhere.

Second, thank Heavens, I was rescued from out of the heart of Silicon Valley, where iPhone fever has reached new heights (remember when people waited in line for Windows95?), and safely back in Austin just in time for the flooding to recede.

But clearly, I’m in the minority.

Supergeek blogger Robert Scoble is waiting in line with all his other geek friends (see the pics here….wait a minute, doesn’t Scoble qualify as Mr. Supergeek Celebrity to get a free iPhone in advance?).

Kevin Rose and the Diggnation crowd were podcasting in line.

Just in case you wanted to read about or listen or watch what it’s like to wait in line to get an iPhone.

I know I was wondering.

Which makes me wonder something else: Maybe waiting in line for the latest geek gadget is the new chic.

Pulling an old Coleman sleeping bag out of the closet and investing in a solar battery generator to keep the G4 crowd in power, maybe this is the thing, and the iPhone is just part of the overall package, almost a mere afterthought to the status reserved for those who waited.

I wait, therefore I am.

“Dude, what did you do Friday night?”  “As if, dude.  What do you think I did??  I was waiting in line to get my iPhone.  Where the —- were you?!!”

Wait not, want not.

That sense of Burning Man iPhone collegiality is the only thing that explains this phenomenon.

Because here’s the deal: The thing goes on sale online at the very same moment it can be bought in the retail  outlets and, guess what?  Regardless, it has to be activated online through the iTunes store to get the service up and running.

Until such time, you’ve got a really pretty Apple artifact.

But who’s to argue with reason.  I wish them all well and the very best of luck.

Me, I’ll be sitting in my nice air-conditioned condo, doing some work, maybe throwing on a little AppleTV in the background.

On second thought, maybe I’ll go out and join ’em.

Not to get an iPhone, mind you.

Just to hang out with the geeks where I belong.

December 26, 2007

Headline: Year of the iPhone

Looking back on 2007, there’s but no question in my mind that Apple’s iPhone dominated much of the tech conversation.

I opted for a $99 Blackberry Pearl instead (partially because of its form factor, partially because it’s what allows me access to needed IBM resources like email and calendaring), and it’s done me just fine — especially considering it was about 5X cheaper than the iPhone.

But, the iPhone cultural phenomenon and technology footprint couldn’t be escaped, nor questioned.

I was at the Apple campus in June visiting with a friend, just before the first iPhones went on sell, and I didn’t see a single iPhone unit while on the Apple campus (allegedly only top execs had them prior to the launch), they were so tightly held.

No big surprise, considering Apple’s tight grip and embargo on its launches. But the phenomena that was the pending iPhone couldn’t be constrained.

Months prior to the launch, Google and other search engines were inundated with search inquiries about the iPhone…blogs were abuzz about the product features…podcasts explained its virtues…the mass media mass brainwashed the masses about its planet-saving capabilities.

For weeks after, the halo of the afterlaunch melted into the tech landscape, complete with new tech lore about being the first in line, or waiting in line with one’s Apple brethren, or etc ad nauseum ad infinitum.

When was the last time you bragged about waiting in line?

I succumbed to the hype myself, long enough to go into the store and touch an iPhone firsthand.

It was all I could do to leave the store without buying one.

But then I came back to my senses and started thinking logically about the problems that an iPhone would or would not solve for me personally (what a concept! Purchase a product only because it actually solves a problem!), and the Blackberry Pearl would do just fine.

And it has.

So I wouldn’t be the coolest kid on the cubicle block…so I wouldn’t be able to personally extol the virtues of the new touch screen interface…so I wouldn’t be able to becoming a walking, talking Apple salesperson in my spare time, despite all the constant complaints about the lethargic AT&T Edge network (which never seemed to slow me down much with the more text-oriented Blackberry).

Life would go on.

And it has.

But the milestone it demarcated would be clear.

Because the real phenomena behind the phenomenon for me around the iPhone was not the device itself, but rather the notion that mobile IP-based multimedia computing was finally coming into its own.

After years of the U.S. lagging behind the SMS craze in Europe (which launched well before most Americans knew what a text message was), or the DoCoMo iMode craze in Japan in the late 1990s and early 2000s (which was how many Japanese first experienced the Internet), I felt as though the U.S. was getting a clue and catching back up.

If nothing else, the iPhone demonstrated what was becoming possible at the intersection of mobile data and voice, of mobile computing, after years of overpromising and underdelivery.

That a cell phone didn’t just have to be a cell phone, but that it could evolve into a true multimedia personal information manager and portable computing and communications device, using an interface that we mere mortals could understand and learn quickly.

It was the opportunity presented by the possibility of a nuclear intersection between computing, communication, collaboration, personal entertainment, and mobility.

That we could use it to communicate and get directions and do work and listen to music and watch videos and find somebody’s phone number.

No, for my money, the iPhone was only a starting place, the beginning of something much, much bigger to come. A mile marker on the way to a much more promising land.

It was the Star Trek communication device brought down to reality here on earth.

“Beam me up, Steve.”

It was a great start, but it was only that.

So, go ahead, use your index finger to scroll down. It works well enough.

Me, I can’t wait to see where that scrolling finger might take us next.

IBM Impact 2012: A Q&A With Steve Jobs’ Biographer Walter Isaacson On Steve Jobs And Innovation, The Renaissance In New Orleans, And His Forthcoming Book On The History Of Computing

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The opportunity I had to sit down and interview Steve Jobs’ biographer Walter Isaacson last week at IBM’s Impact 2012 event in Las Vegas was a kind of career denouement moment for me.  Let me explain: In 1994, as I was finishing work on my Master’s degree in Radio/TV/Film (they hadn’t yet added “Internet” to the RTVF degree in 1994) at the University of North Texas, I distinctly remember sending my resume off to the new inner digital sanctum of Time magazine, “Pathfinder,” which had recently been started to put some muscle behind Time’s digital presence.  They didn’t hire me, but they did hire Walter Isaacson, who would be asked to run the groundbreaking digital media organization for a short period before he was later promoted to editor of Time and, later, chairman of CNN.  

As for me, information technology, and the Internet in particular, would become central to Isaacson’s life, first at Pathfinder, later at Time magazine, and of course as the biographer of great figures ranging from Albert Einstein to Benjamin Franklin to Steve Jobs, all of whom were unique innovators in and of their own right.  What’s not as well known about Isaacson is that he is a Renaissance Man of sorts himself.  To read his biography (see below) is to witness the firsthand account of a personal witness to and participant in American life over these past forty years, one whose own accounts will be cherished for many years to come. I hope you enjoy reading the interview as much as I did conducting it!

(Photo by Patrice Gilbert) Walter Isaacson is the president and CEO of the Aspen Institute, a nonpartisan educational and policy studies institute based in Washington, DC. He has been the chairman and CEO of CNN and the editor of TIME magazine. He is the author of Steve Jobs (2011), Einstein: His Life and Universe (2007), Benjamin Franklin: An American Life (2003), and Kissinger: A Biography (1992), and coauthor of The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made (1986). Isaacson was born on May 20, 1952, in New Orleans. He is a graduate of Harvard College and of Pembroke College of Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar. He began his career at The Sunday Times of London and then the New Orleans Times Picayune/States-Item. He joined TIME in 1978 and served as a political correspondent, national editor, and editor of new media before becoming the magazine’s 14th editor in 1996. He became chairman and CEO of CNN in 2001, and then president and CEO of the Aspen Institute in 2003. He is the chairman of the board of Teach for America, which recruits recent college graduates to teach in underserved communities. He was appointed by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the Senate to serve as the chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which oversees Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, and other international broadcasts of the United States, a position he held until 2012. He is vice-chair of Partners for a New Beginning, a public-private group tasked with forging ties between the United States and the Muslim world. He is on the board of United Airlines, Tulane University, and the Overseers of Harvard University. From 2005-2007, after Hurricane Katrina, he was the vice-chair of the Louisiana Recovery Authority. He lives with his wife and daughter in Washington, DC.

Turbo: First of all, thank you for taking the time to speak with me, I know you’re very busy. You’ve now written biographies across a range of iconic figures of American life — Einstein, Franklin, Kissinger, and now Steve Jobs — I’m curious across all of these if you start to see some common traits and characteristics?

Walter Isaacson: Yeah, well like I said in the speech today, curiosity, a passion for what you do, an ability to think different, an ability to be imaginative and to think out of the box. You know Steve’s great mantra was “Think Different.” He also loved “Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish.” The fact that Einstein and Benjamin Franklin, even in their final years, were thinking different, being creative, being innovative….to me, that’s the goal of life.

Turbo: Were there other characteristics? Some not so positive?

Walter Isaacson: They were different in some ways.  Benjamin Franklin is a nice counterpart to Steve Jobs, because Steve was more of a genius, more creative…but Franklin was more collaborative, kinder to the people around him, and more open to different viewpoints. So, Benjamin Franklin was really great at collaborating with other people. Franklin tells a wonderful story in his autobiography of listing all the virtues you need to have to be good in business: industry, honesty, frugality…and after he has all twelve of the virtues and he practices them, a person in the club he’s formed, called the “Leather Apron” club, says “You’re missing a virtue.” And Franklin says “What’s that?” And the friend says “Humility, you might want to try that one.”

Turbo: (Laughs)

Walter Isaacson: And Franklin says, “I was never very good at the virtue of humility, but I was very good at the pretense of humility…I could fake it very well. And I learned that the pretense of humility was as useful as the reality of humility. Because it made you listen to the person next to you, it made you try to see if you could find common ground.” And that was something that was part of the nature of Benjamin Franklin.  It was not part of the nature of Steve Jobs.

But, that’s why biographies are not how-to manuals…they’re tales about real people.  And you have to extract the lessons from each character that you think might apply to you. So for me, I’ll never be a genius like Steve Jobs…I’ll never drive to the concept of an iPad, drive into existence an iPad…I’m just not that genius…but I try to think about Steve’s passion for perfection, and I also try to think about Ben Franklin’s ability to bring people together, and be very nice and kind to people of all walks of life.

Turbo: I know you conducted 40-something interviews with Jobs, and I know you spoke with a lot of his friends, his family members and even his rivals…Was there anything that they all consistently said when they talked about Jobs as a person?

Walter Isaacson: I think that they consistently said that he was on the surface, very impatient and petulant. But once you got to know him, the important thing to understand, was that the petulance, that brattiness at times, was connected to a passion for perfection, and that’s what the narrative of the book is about, which is anybody can be a jerk.  It wasn’t that Steve was a jerk, it was that he had a passion for perfection and that’s why by the end of the book, you should be admiring him.

Turbo: We got to speak with Steve Wozniak at our IBM Pulse event earlier this year, and I asked him…and I’d like to ask you the same question I asked him, which is what do you think the world lost with him leaving us so soon?

Walter Isaacson: I think Steve was a person who reinvented at least seven industries: Personal computing, the music business, retail stores, digital animation, tablet publishing, journalism, phones…he would have reinvented more industries — digital photography, textbooks, television — we lost with Steve somebody who, because of his ability to think different, was able to transform industries. And that’s what the book is about: Sometimes you have to have a driven, intense personality in order to have the passion it takes to change industries.

Turbo: Okay, thank you for that.  I wanted to now take a step back in time to 1995-1996…I don’t know exactly what year it was, but I believe it’s when you took over the Time digital arm, Pathfinder.

Walter Isaacson: Yeah, actually it was a couple of years before that…when I took over Time, the magazine, at the end of 1995…

Turbo: Could you just describe for me that time at Time?

Walter Isaacson:  It was very interesting during that period.  In the early 1990s, there was a sea change happening. The Internet up until then had been based on community and networking and chat.  It had the BBS boards of the original Internet, you’d had the communities like The Well, and you had online services like CompuServe and AOL, where people gathered in chat rooms and on bulletin boards.

In the early 1990s, there was a shift from that type of Internet to a web-based Internet. That had some great advantages, but a few disadvantages.  The Web became a place that we could put all of our content up on Web sites, but it was more of a publishing medium than it was a community medium. You know, comments got relegated to the bottom of the page, as opposed to the smart bulletin boards and discussion groups, and Listserves, we used to have before the Web dominated the Internet.

Secondly, the business model for putting up your content online with a service like CompuServe or AOL, you would make money because people paid to be on those services, and people shared the money with you, if you were Time magazine. But once you started to put stuff on the Web, it sort of became free, and it undermined to some extent the business model of having journalists and bureaus around the world.

Of course it had much more of an upside than it had a downside, because it opened up reporting and journalism and commentary to everybody, not just those who owned a magazine.

Turbo: What are your thoughts on the greater impact of not only the commercialization of the Internet, but some of the trends it has enabled.  If we look at some of the workforce dislocation, and creating new market opportunities in countries like India and China, because of this wonderful connection via first satellites and later the Internet…When we’re looking back 100 years from now, what do you think historians will be saying about this time?

Walter Isaacson: They will be saying that the Internet was, like every information technology starting with the invention of papyrus and paper and Gutenberg’s movable type, that it empowered individuals. The free flow of information tends, over the course of time, to take power away from authorities and elites and empower individuals. The Internet’s role 100 years from now will be this transformation that not only did it take power away from the elites and mainstream media, but also the people running authoritarian regimes around the world.

Turbo: So, in looking at some of what we’ve seen with the Arab Spring….and China now trying with this recent situation (the social media crackdowns by the Chinese government)…

Walter Isaacson: I don’t think that it’s a simple process where free flow of information automatically leads to democracy. Because you’ll have a lot of back and forth. But, it does bend the arc of history towards empowerment and democracy and, eventually, whether it takes 10 or 50 years, what’s happening with the Arab Spring, what’s happening in China, what’s happening in many places, will be a trend towards more personal freedom and more democracy.

Turbo: You were chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, and for people who don’t know them, they oversee Radio Free Europe and the Voice of America.  What’s the changing role of the Board and the VOA in this increasingly Internet connected world?

Walter Isaacson: I think that if, sixty years ago, when VOA and Radio Free Europe were being created, if they had had the ability to sketch out on the whiteboard what would be the perfect technology to help their cause, they would have invented the Internet. Something that doesn’t respect national boundaries that well, that allows people to find proxy servers to get through to information they need. So there will be a big shift towards digital information. And I hope towards community and discussion, not just handing down information the way Edward R. Murrow would have done when he ran Voice of America but creating communities and discussions that can be facilitated by the Internet.

Turbo: A couple of other quick questions…You have deep roots in New Orleans: You grew up there, you went to school there.  And after Hurricane Katrina, Governor Kathleen Blanco appointed you vice chairman of the Louisiana Recovery Authority.  We’re now seven years on — how do you feel New Orleans is doing?  Have you been back recently?

Walter Isaacson: I go back all the time.  And New Orleans has not only come back, but in most ways, it’s better than before the storm.

Turbo: How so?

Walter Isaacson: We have a better school system. More choice for kids in the schools.  More than 70 percent of the kids are in charter schools which allows innovative, entrepreneurial people like KIPP Academy to create schools that stay open until seven in the evening, eleven months a year, which is the way we should have education in our society. Likewise, there’s more entrepreneurship in New Orleans.

I think Forbes magazine called it maybe the best city for startups and entrepreneurship because so many young people are coming in. There’s a brain magnet in New Orleans.  Teach for America has almost tripled in size in New Orleans since before the storm, bringing young people in who want to be part of the educational renaissance there.  Tim Williamson has created Idea Village, which is an incubator for start-ups right in the heart of New Orleans. Tulane University has three times as many applicants as it did before the storm because eager, adventurous, entrepreneurial people want to be part of a city that’s rebuilding.

Mitch Landrieu is a great mayor — we have a political system that is much better than it was before the storm. There are even more restaurants than there were before the storm, probably more bars. So, for those of us who were worried that New Orleans would never come back, it is a great case study not only in resilience, but in reinvention — to say, if we were to build a school system from scratch, would we build it the same way we had it before the storm? No.  Let’s start a more entrepreneurial school system where the schools are open later, they spend more of the year where they compete for students, and you’ve had double-digit test score gains, every year for the past three years.

So, these are the types of things that keep me coming back to New Orleans, but also make me glad that so many young tech and web entrepreneurs have moved to the city to create this vibrant start-up community there.

Turbo: That’s great.  My ears perked up in your keynote when you talked about how you’re working on this new book about the information revolution.  Any themes you’re starting to see in your research that you can share with us in advance of its publication?

Walter Isaacson: One major theme, which is the theme of the Steve Jobs book and everything else I’ve written, which is innovation comes where there’s an intersection between the arts and the sciences. When there’s an intersection between poetry and microprocessors. Where a great feel for beauty and design is connected with a great feel for technology and engineering. That’s what Steve Jobs is all about, that’s what Ben Franklin was all about, that’s what Einstein was about.

So it starts with Ada Byron Lovelace, the daughter of Lord Byron, who becomes a great mathematician, because her mother doesn’t want her to grow up to be like her dad. And, she also has within her the poetry of her genetic code, of her heritage. And so she works in the 1830s with Charles Babbage, who creates the first prototype of a computer, and she helps describe and envision how computers can become universal machines, and not just mathematical calculators.

And then it leaps forward from that chapter to Alan Turing, who also has a great feel for beauty, but helps invent the first computers at Bletchley Park when they’re breaking the German Enigma codes in England. And then to places like IBM, which is doing the Mark I computer at Harvard, and the University of Pennsylvania where they’re doing the Eniac, and the University of Iowa where John Atanassof is creating in the basement of the physics building an early version of the computer.

The computer and the Internet are the two most important inventions of the modern era. And yet most people don’t know how poetic, ingenious, and creative the people who invented those things were. In fact, most people don’t even know exactly who invented them.

And so this is a tale of inventiveness that will take us from Ada Lovelace all the way to, I hope, people who are doing social networks, mobile computing, and artificial intelligence today. It starts with Ada Byron Lovelace concluding that machines will never think, they will never originate their own creative ideas, and that’s certainly something that Alan Turing explores, but now it’s something that with Watson at IBM, and with the notion of artificial intelligence, is still something we look at and wonder will it ever happen?

(Blogger’s Note: I wanted to extend, as always, a special thank you to the consummate professionals with Drury Design Dynamics, a family business whose primary focus is nothing less than excellence. In particular, I’d like to thank Chris Drury and Mark Felix — they always keep me on my toes and are integral to making these Q&As happen at IBM customer events.) 

Walter Isaacson: The Stuff Of Great Innovators

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Former CNN head and noted biographer Walter Isaacson captured my attention from the moment he walked on the IBM Impact 2012 stage and announced his next book would be a history of the computer age.

Walter Isaacson takes the stage at IBM Impact 2012’s opening general session, where he explained to the Impact audience what he believes are common characteristics shared by some of our greatest innovators.

Then, Isaacson launched into an explanation of what attributes great innovators shared throughout history — Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs.

Though Isaacson’s keynote at times seemed like an uncoordinated symphony, the words of wisdom and insight, and keen observations into the lives of his subjects, made his talk both compelling and inspirational.

Isaacson paid homage in his opening comments to IBM’s 100-year history of innovation and contributions to the information age, but it was his most recent biographical subject, Steve Jobs, that he let serve as the channel behind  the magic of an unwavering and driven innovator.

“Don’t be afraid,” Isaacson said in describing Jobs at his persuasive best. “You can do it.”

Whatever it might be really depended on the situation and circumstance — once, it was Jobs convincing Steve Wozniak to write some game code in four days.  Another time, it was convincing Corning CEO Wendell Weeks that he could manufacture his “guerrilla glass — which, at that point, had never actually been manufactured — in time to support the first iPhones.

Jobs, of course, was an exemplar of the great American creation myth, but behind the mythology there were lots of life lessons learned, particularly in childhood, another universal Isaacson observed about his innovators.

“The most important thing is not making a great product,” Jobs explained to Isaacson in one of his nearly 40 interviews, “but rather a company that will continue to make great products.”

Jobs and Wozniak started their empire in their parents’ garage, and went on to change the world and, over the course of his life, Jobs’ changed multiple industries: personal computing, the music business, digital animation…the list goes on.

Childhood curiosities, Isaacson observed, shared by Franklin and Einstein.

That was another unique characteristic that they all shared: The curiousity and persistence to try and solve problems and look for new ways of thinking up until their last breaths.

Smart people are generally a dime a dozen, explained Isaacson, but the innovative people, the imaginative people — they’re the ones who change the world.

But they also shared an ability to quickly get to the heart of the problem, and to encourage others to find their way to simplicity.

Isaacson quotes Einstein this time, but he just as well could have once again been referring to Steve Jobs:

“Any damned fool can make something complicated…it takes a genius to make it simple.”

Perfect case in point, the “on/off” switch for the iPod, which was in one of the original early designs, but which Jobs pointed out was unnecessary when he reviewed a prototype with his designers.

“You don’t need an on/off switch,” he explained. “When you quit using the iPod it just powers down.”

And so it was.

Isaacson shared another revealing anecdote, this time about Benjamin Franklin’s participation in the drafting of the Declaration of Independence and, later, the collaboration on the drafting of the U.S. Constitution.

The original Declaration read: “We hold these truths to be sacred,” but Franklin, sensitive to the divine implications of such a phrase, and sensitive to the need for church/state clarity, suggested a re-wording: “We hold these truths to be self-evident.”

And so it was.

Yet years later, benefiting both from experience and having developed a sense of humility along the way, Franklin was more accommodating and facilitated a critical discussion centering on the inequities of power between the big states and little states in the nascent U.S. Union.

His urging to compromise led to the genius that became the U.S. House and Senate, where one body was proportional to the population, and the other was equitable regardless of state size. When a lady later asked him what he had “given them,” Franklin explained “A Republic, madam…if you can keep it.”

Yet despite all of their incredible accomplishments and breakthrough innovations, each of these giant men were, in the end, just that, men, people, humans — filled with the same kind of self-doubts and wonderment at the universe as all the rest of us.

Isaacson reminded us when Jobs returned to the helm of Apple in 1997 that he green-lighted a new ad campaign from Chiat/Day that celebrated the spirt of the great innovators. The slogan went like this:

“People who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”

He was.  And he did.  Einstein was.  And he did.  Franklin was, and he did.

Each in their own unique way, but with underneath each a connecting thread of a drive towards perfection, an insatiable amount of unsated curiosity, and always looking for a way forward.

Isaacson closed his talk with a beautiful and reminiscent story of Jobs, who knew he was nearing his last days on earth.  He asked Jobs, with all his Zen Buddhism training, what he felt spiritually, and did he feel there was something larger in this world than the moments we spend on this spinning globe?

Jobs explained that he liked to think so, that our spirits live on, and all that accumulated spiritual wisdom somehow benefits us moving forward.

But then, after a pause, he explained that at other times, he felt that death is just like one of those on-off switches.

Like the ones he didn’t want included on the iPod.

BLOGGER’S NOTE: I had occasion to interview Walter Isaacson on the key themes behind his keynote just after he was finished speaking. Among other things, I questioned him about his early work in digital media at Time’s Pathfinder group in 1994-1995, the impact of the Internet on the global economy, his work with the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe on the Broadcasting Board of Governors, and his perspective on the renaissance New Orleans is currently enjoying.  Stay tuned to the Turbo blog for more on this far-ranging and compelling Q&A. 

Written by turbotodd

April 30, 2012 at 5:26 pm

Live From Pulse 2012: Turbo Interviews Apple Co-Founder Steve Wozniak On Life, Loss, & Android v. iOS

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I had about seven and a half minutes to interview Steve "Woz" Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, here during the IBM Pulse 2012 event. It just so happened it was the very same day, March 7, 2012, that Apple was introducing the iPad HD out in California. Steve indicated he may or may not wait in line all night this time around when the units go on sale next week!

There’s a lot of cool things about my job. But today had to have been one of the cooler opportunities I’ve had, and that was to sit down for a few minutes and chat with Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak.

So many of us of my generation, and those that came after, owe a debt of gratitude to Steve and Steve and the revolution they helped create in computing. What they unleashed upon the world was nothing short of amazing, and it’s easy to take the technologies they and their company created and let it get lost in the fog of history. But I still remember the first Apple II I ever saw, on the campus of my home university. And I can still remember the first time I used an Apple Computer (a Macintosh SE) in 1987 for doing productive work. It was a thing of beauty.

And yet here we are, 25 years later, and I’m writing this blog post introduction on probably my favorite computing device of all time, an 11″ MacBook Air. That’s over a quarter century of innovation! So, after a brilliant keynote discussion between IBM’s Grady Booch and Steve Wozniak on the main stage here at Pulse 2012, I decided I had to take my allotted seven minutes before Woz fled for the airport, and really make them count with the questions I wanted to hear the answers to most. Nothing like the clock of a gun to your head to make the seconds count.

All this, on the very same day that Apple was out in California introducing the new iPad HD…Which is precisely where we started with on my first question for Woz:

Turbo: What in the world are you doing at an IBM event the very same day that Apple is introducing the iPad HD?

Woz: Everyday of my life is full of conflicts. It’s the problem with being popular, and they always want me to come and speak at all these different places. If you saw my calendar, you would die.

Turbo: I can only imagine.

Woz: I don’t know how I keep up with it.

Turbo: So I’m curious when you began this adventure long ago starting Apple, you and Steve, if you had any inkling as to the potential change you were about to unleash on the world.

Woz: We were just gonna try and start a little company just like anybody might, and we didn’t even think we’d make a profit. But we justified it as having a company having two best friends who had done so many things together. And then we thought well maybe we’ll have a company with this Apple II product, and we’ll make a million dollars or something. Well, our investor came in and said this is going to be one of those rare times when a product that’s gonna make a billion dollar company in five years.

I mean, he talked those big numbers, and I just assumed, well, you learn to talk those bigger numbers. But he really knew what he was talking about. And, it’s such an important part of our life…our total life is involved in our computers. Especially our mobile devices today…could we have envisioned that? No! We weren’t even talking about how a computer could have enough memory even for a song! So, where they (computers) went in the world was much greater than we ever thought, but we wanted to have a stake in it and we did.

Turbo: So my friend Noah wanted me to ask you what kind of wood did you use in the Apple I, do you remember?

Woz: No, because I didn’t build the case myself. My friend Randy Binghamton..his father or his brother built the case…but I am gonna say it was mahogany.

Turbo: Mahogany, okay. So flashing forward a bit, what are your thoughts on all these consumer-centric devices making their way into the enterprise? I use my iPad now inside IBM, for example, so Apple’s “disruption” seems to continue on and on.

Woz: Apple is…the technology is there for everyone to do it. But Apple sort of sets the direction so strongly with so many faithful followers because of one good product after another good product after another, that when Apple takes a direction, all of a sudden, all the other companies in the world are gonna go in that mode. And that lets a lot of things happen in our life that wouldn’t if all the companies were struggling to find a formula that would be popular enough. So Apple’s more of a standard setter. Moving to mobile technology coming into the workplace, it’s sooo much a part of our life. It’s like you get used to a certain kind of clothes, you kinda got wear those kinda clothes to work. It’s almost that ingrained.

Turbo: In Helene Armitage’s keynote this morning, that was one of the things she mentioned, that consumer devices are driving the way data centers are going to be.

Woz: Look at personal computers. All of a sudden, when the spreadsheet came out, you went into all these companies that had big huge mainframes and it took them forever to write programs and put them in punchcards into a window, and printouts would come back a day later, and all of a sudden someone had a little computer on their desk and could whip out answers very quickly and instantly, and it was like all of a sudden a little computer could do something a big one couldn’t: The spreadsheet.

And that’s sort of what these mobile devices have got. They’ve really given us a lot of abilities that didn’t make sense in a real computer. Even in my personal life, I still have a lot of apps on my iPhone that let me do things wherever I am. They’re important apps. They could be written on a computer, but they wouldn’t make sense, because when I’m by a computer, these aren’t when I need them. So that’s why the mobile explosion has changed our lives so much, and yet they’ve changed it in ways that we just expect everything in the world to work that way.

Now I finally have a computer in my pocket instead of a phone in my pocket!

Turbo: Speaking of which, you’ve talked about how you’re testing out Android. I’m doing the same thing, by the way. I had an iPhone 4 for a long time, and still do. IOS versus Android: Is it going to be a horse race? Is there a stalking horse we don’t even yet know about being built by some kid in a garage out there somewhere?

Woz: You can even go back and look at Macintosh versus Windows. And there wasn’t one way you could say one did something the other couldn’t do. Maybe certain pieces of software got written due to market share. One thing I’ve learned is you can’t go and say is “Oh my gosh, one platform is superior and the other is bad, and anyone that uses it isn’t very smart.” You can’t say that. They’ve both very good platforms. The guy that brought Android to Google, Andy Rubin, was a very good friend of mine. I served on his board at Danger, where they developed the Sidekick, which was like a smartphone before this era.

Turbo: I remember.

Woz: His thinking is so Apple-like! So much…like Apple DNA and Apple products, and that kind of thinking about human approaches to things that are really trust…in other words, they aren’t in the place that Microsoft was, which was trying to avoid the step toward humanism.

Turbo: You said in your keynote you want “answer engines” not “search engines.” I was wondering if you could elaborate on that.

Woz: It turns out that once I had certain abilities on my phone..of course, you’ve always got Google on your phone. You can Google it…you can even speak to it…but I want to just speak in a question and get answers. All day long, my wife and I…like, I think most educated people, that’s how they run their families….An idea comes up…what color is such and such…how high is Mount Everest…You used to look it up in an encyclopedia…now you look it up online with a search, that gets you a link to a site, that tells you the answer.

But I have so many questions that I just want the answer. “What are the five largest lakes in California?” I don’t want links to articles about lakes in California that don’t even have a list. I want my answer! So this is where something like Siri represents answer engines, and to some extent when you use Wolfram Alpha, and Google is more like search engines. So it’s almost like Apple is superior over Google. Except look at Google’s search engine. If I type in “What is Apple” in Spanish, it comes back with a whole bunch of links, but at the top, it gives you the answer: “Manzana” in Spanish. So, actually, Google is partly an answer engine.

Turbo: Okay, one last question, and this is kind of a bittersweet one. You said in the keynote you miss Steve, and I think a lot of us miss him, even those of us who didn’t know him personally but miss him through his communications. I was just wondering what do you miss most about him, and also, how much do you think the world lost by having had him be taken so soon?

Woz: I very much worry about the future of the great products that Steve was in control of and caused to happen. That if we stopped to innovate as much, that would be a bad thing in life. But I have personal things that I miss…just car rides that we took driving him up to college and things like that…and talks we did…and little pranks that we’d work on night after night…and little extreme things and almost being afraid we were going to get caught by the cops for things…those kind of personal stories…you know you’re going to lose every friend you have, too….everyone’s going to die.

Blogger’s Note: A very special thank you to Chris Drury and Mark Felix with the Drury Entertainment Group team. They make the magic happen at IBM events, and they always make the magic appear to make these kinds of interviews possible, even under the most challenging and pressing of circumstances. Thank you, as always.

Written by turbotodd

March 7, 2012 at 10:44 pm

IBM SmartCamp Global Finals: Guy Kawasaki On Twelve Lessons He Learned From Steve Jobs

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In the last keynote session before Profitero was announced as the “IBM Entrepreneur of the Year,” Garage.com founder, VC, former Machead, and all around tech cheerleader Guy Kawasaki paid a visit to speak to the gathered IBM SmartCamp finalists.

In classic Guy Kawasaki fashion, the renowned tech thought leader, former Apple employee twice-over, and celebrated speaker completely overhauls his presentation to the IBM SmartCamp finals just moments before he went onstage. The audience was certainly NOT disappointed in the change of topic.

Though his talk was entitled “The Art of Enchantment,” Kawasaki, in typical Kawasaki fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants fashion, announced he was supplanting that canned pitch with one more geared towards the gathered entrepreneurial masses, “12 Lessons I Learned Working With Steve Jobs.”

Kawasaki started his pitch by joking that he’d just been in the greenroom where the judges for the competition were gathered, and that there were five bottles of wine in there, so don’t expect a verdict anytime soon!

Then, he got semi-serious and explained he’d worked from Apple on two different occasions, 1983-1987 and again in 1995-1997, so he was uniquely positioned to comment on what all he learned from Jobs.

Before he turned to the lessons, Kawasaki suggested “the world is a lot less interesting without Steve Jobs. Most entrepreneurs would be fortunate to create one standard…Jobs created five or six (the iPhone, the iPad, the iPod, etc.)

Kawasaki went on: “I’m sure right now he’s up there telling God how to run the universe.”

Then, on to the lessons.

Number one.  “Experts” are clueless.  As entrepreneurs, if you start listening to all the experts, you will be led wrong.  Time and time again people told Steve Jobs nobody would buy an (insert Apple product here)…At one point, even Michael Dell told Apple they should dissolve the company and give the money back to shareholders.  Ignore the experts. Correlation and causation are not necessarily the same thing.

Rich and famous often equals “lucky.”

Number Two. Customers can’t tell you what they need.  If you ask customers they’ll say give us better, faster, cheaper, and status quo.  Build the product YOU want to use, and that you think the world can use.  Fact: Nobody told Apple to build the Macintosh…iPod…iPad…

Number Three.  Jump to the NEXT curve.  He then explained a simple but revealing analogy.  Ice 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0

Ice 1.0 was when ice harvesters sawed blocks of ice out of the lake when it was frozen and then distributed it.

Ice 2.0 saw the advent of the ice factory, so you could get ice any time of the year, and didn’t have to be in a “cold” city.

Ice 3.0 saw the advent of the “ice box,” better known as the refrigerator.

The ice harvesters did NOT embrace the ice factory, and the ice factories did NOT embrace the refrigerator.  Yet, all served the same purpose: Keeping your food fresh.

So, if you want to be successful, put your solution to the problem in terms of the benefits, NOT the process you use to get there.

Number Four.  The biggest challenges beget the best work.  Ram a big challenge down the throat of your employees.  The challenge Steve Jobs gave us was to compete with IBM.  Remember the print ad we ran. It’s headline was” “Welcome, IBM.  Seriously.” IBM was a magnificent competitor, and it was a great challenge for us to take them on.

So, find a mighty opposite for yourself.

Number Five. Design counts.  Don’t think it’s all about price.  Most people also care about design, and Apple’s premium pricing has proven that over and over again.

Number Six.  Use big graphics and big fonts.  Consider this slide when Jobs introduced the Windows version of iTunes.  It had a massive Windows logo, then underneath the following headline: “The best Windows app ever written.

Number Seven.  Changing your mind is a sign of intelligence, not a sign of stupidity or lack of conviction.  When things change, you have to react and reform.  Steve Jobs demonstrated this when he evolved from accepting no independent applications for the iPhone one year, to fully embracing them the next.

He saw which way the wind was about to blow, and he realized to bolster the iPhone app ecosystem, he needed to open it up to outside developers.

Number Eight.  Value is NOT equal to price.  Nobody ever bought an Apple piece of equipment because it was the cheapest thing.

Number Nine.  A players hire A+ players.  You should always be hiring someone as good or better than you in your own field.

Number Ten.  Real CEOs can demo.  They can run the product, show the product, build stuff with the product.

They don’t hand it over to someone else.  They DO the demo.

Number Eleven. Real entrepreneurs ship.  Don’t worry, be crappy.

Imagine you were the first refrigerator company.  The first fridge had to be better than the best ice factory, but it didn’t have to be perfect.

Once you jump curves, that’s when the real excitement begins. When you ship, you’ll learn more in two weeks from your customers than you will sitting in a dark room.

Number Twelve.  Marketing equals unique value.  Pets.Com was a classic example where that rule did NOT apply.

You have a dog.  You have a cow.  You kill the cow, put it in the can, and give it to the dog.

That was the Pets.com business model.  Shipping dog food. The problem was, it’s dead cows in cans. It weighed a lot.  It was less convenient and just as expensive to order it via the Internet.  It wasn’t unique.  It wasn’t valuable.

And finally, number thirteen. (Never mind Guy said there would only be twelve).

Some things need to be believed to be seen.

But sometimes you also need to believe in things before you will see them.

Written by turbotodd

February 3, 2012 at 6:46 pm

IBM SmartCamp Finalist Profile: Localytics — Everything You Needed To Know About Your Mobile App, But Were Afraid To Ask

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One of our San Jose State University interns for the day asked the most basic of questions, but it elicited the most elaborate of responses: What do you like most about being an entrepreneur?

Raj Aggarwal, CEO of Localytics, one of the nine IBM SmartCamp Global Finalists, learned a few lessons from Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, whom Aggarwal once consulted with on the iPhone strategy. Aggarwal's firm provides what the company describes as the "most powerful mobile application analytics platform."

Raj Aggarwal, CEO of Localytics, a real-time analytics platform for mobile application developers answered this way: “Because you can have an impact you couldn’t have otherwise have had.”

He went on to explain: “Different people have different paths.  Some get out of college and do a startup.  For others, being in the industry and in an environment gives real exposure to what the problems were, real insight we wouldn’t have otherwise have had.”

Not unlike the current Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, Aggarwal had worked at Bain Consulting and had, in fact, spent some time counseling Steve Jobs and Apple on their iPhone strategy back in 2005, well before the iPhone launched.

Aggarwal said he learned a lot from his interactions with Jobs, namely, how important it was to be hands on and involved in the critical details, and also his willingness to take risks.  “What I learned [from Steve Jobs] is how important it was to actually be there and driving the process, how much impact one individual could make in an organization.”

Aggarwal has brought those lessons forward into Localytics, a tool that offers most powerful application analytics platform for mobile app publishers. Localytics works across the iPhone, iPad, Android, BlackBerry and Windows Phone 7 platforms, making it platform agnostic and creating an instant broad market opportunity for the startup.

In fact, Localytics prides itself on being the only real-time service, providing the session-level detail and data access demanded by the top mobile app publishers in the industry.

Aggarwal’s not opposed to even spreading a little FUD to get folks hooked on his product.  He explains from looking at his own service’s data that “26% of users on mobile devices use those apps only once!”

The more you know about your mobile apps, he seems to suggest, the more you have the opportunity of NOT being among that 26%!

Flash In The Pan

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I started reading Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs the other day.

No, I’m not reading it on the iPad.  This one, I picked up the actual pulp edition. The weight of the book (it’s some 600+ pages) feels suited to the task of conveying Jobs’ complicated and complex and marvelous life.

And after Adobe’s announcement yesterday that Adobe would no longer use Flash for the browser programs used for smartphones and tablets, you could hear Jobs laughing from his grave.

Surely you remember when Jobs purposely prevented Flash from working on iPhones and iPads — I certainly couldn’t forget, as I have both devices, and the Flash gap on the iPad became obvious very quick.

But there was a lot of history behind this strategy, and Jobs had a long memory. In the book, he recounts the story of asking Adobe to make a Mac version of Premiere back in 1999, and Adobe refused.

Jobs was more than ever convinced he needed to build a strategy that would allow him to tie the hardware and software together, and control the entire ecosystem.

The next thing you know, we had the iPod, iTunes, the iTunes store, the iPhone, the iPad…you get the picture.

But Adobe’s sudden detour, in which they announced they’re instead going to embrace HTML5, could signal a new kind of platform war, one led by programming excellence rather than proprietary regimes.

As more and more of the once open-standards Web starts to see the return of walled (or, at least, semi-walled) gardens, it’s refreshing to see an expanded embrace of HTML5. I believe this will drive innovation and force the mobile and web experiences to compete on usability, merit, and utility, as opposed to plug-in dominance and proprietary lock-in battles.

Of course, there are significant economic benefits this move as well, as Adobe can help its clients develop once to run applications across multiple platforms, eliminating the need for costly platform adjustments and tuning, and freeing up time and energy to focus on innovation.

It’s too bad Steve Jobs wasn’t around to witness this firsthand.

But something tells me he would probably have approved…even if might have done so wearing a big, wide smirk on his face.

Written by turbotodd

November 10, 2011 at 3:43 pm

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