Peter Elkind of Fortune just wrote a scathing article about Steve Jobs in Fortune Magazine, but this post isn’t really about this. It’s about this included quote from former Apple CEO (and sacker of Steve Jobs), John Sculley:
“Apple was supposed to become a wonderful consumer products company. This was a lunatic plan. High tech could not be designed and sold as a consumer product.”
This wasn’t just an offhand comment to the press. It’s committed for posterity in Sculley’s memoir: “Odyssey” (13 used copies are currently available for $0.01 if you’re looking for further inspiration.)
And this is why he really should have stuck with selling “sugared water”.
It has nothing to do with OS X. Well, not in the way most Apple fans think.I recently stumbled across two different, unrelated articles which point to the same conclusion. In order for comptuters to truly shine, the software MUST be tied to the hardware.The first article, “Has Vista Lost all Credibility?” talks about how product development and product marketing conflicts between Intel, Dell, and Microsoft led to a lot of the faults of Vista (and provides 158 pages of internal email evidence backing it up).The second article, “Why I Quit“, by former Linux kernel developer Con Kolivas, talks about how even with complete control over the software, the PC platform architecture has become so convoluted over the decades that machines that are technically 1,000 times faster, they’re 10 times slower in “doing stuff”, like playing audio or moving windows.This problem is only getting worse, and Vista has proven it once and for all. The open “Wintel” architecture used to matter, when people were regularly building and upgrading their own systems, but those days are long gone. With $250 PC’s at Wal-Mart, the average user is as likely to upgrade their own computers as they are their pocket calculator. PC’s are disposable commodities now, and people are fine with that.Apple knows this, which is why they developed the Macbook Air the way they did. You can’t even (officially) replace the battery in this thing. It’s a sealed, black box for the average user, and even though it comes at a premium price, people don’t care. They want the illusion that the computer is just a single thing that just does what you want, whether it’s powered by Intel, Motorola, or magical fairies.True innovation in computing (in this day and age) will only come from an integrated hardware and software platform. The Amiga was a quantum leap ahead of its contemporaries (as Con Kolivas points out) because of its hardware innovations. Apple is currently the only company following this path, and this is why Macs will become the defacto home computer within 20 years, regardless of how cool OS X is.
“FREE” sounds like a fantastic upcoming book discussing the problems of making money from digital content. It’s not out yet, but BoingBoing.net reviews an accompanying Wired article. The key thesis is this: There is no such thing as a market for digital goods, only a market for digital services.
The book/article also discusses the huge psychological gap between products that cost nothing, and products that almost cost nothing. I can certainly attest to this, as I recently signed up for JungleDisk, a data storage service backed up by Amazon.com’s “pay-as-you-go” S3 storage service. Their rates are extremely low, and I haven’t really started using it, but I did rack up a $0.02 bill thus far (you’re charged a penny per 1,000 requests to list your files, a penny for 10,000 get requests)
Even though these three cents probably have me covered for months of requests, my first reaction when seeing the two cents on my account was an instinctive “Uh-oh, am I sure I want to commit to do this?”. All over TWO CENTS. Money I would hesitate to pick up off the floor. Eventually common sense prevailed, but something in my “lizard brain” was triggered.
I’m definitely looking forward to this book. As DRM dies a quiet death, the time is ripe for this book.
[Photo credit: me! I’ve been waiting for an excuse to use it…]
I randomly stumbled onto Sphinn.com and was about to write a snarky blog post (or at least a tweet) about it being yet another unpronounceable Web 2.0 site name. Then I hung around for a bit and realized it was actually a pretty informative site. Basically, it’s a Digg clone devoted to online marketing content. Now, since 99.999% of “internet marketing” content is total crap, this is actually a pretty useful service, and I’ll be visiting frequently.
And it’s not that hard to pronounce… Just like “sphinx” without the “x”, I guess.
A while ago I posted about Cecropia, a game company which had pioneered a totally unique video game called “The Act“.Using a simple knob, the player smoothly adjusts the silent protagonist’s personality, causing the characters around him to react accordingly. All the action takes place in ultra-smooth Disney-quality animation, with absolutely no UI elements – creating the first true interactive cartoon.Unfortunately, Cecropia has had a real problem with “The Act” – namely, how to market it. It’s far too short to make into a console game, and the knob (which most users don’t have) is pretty much critical to the experience, which would require a special hardware investment for most people. The animation quality is far too high to package into some kind of Flash game. It really would make a perfect arcade game. Unfortunately, the market for this kind of arcade game died out in the early 90’s.So, anyway, they’re taking their technology in a new direction, facing up to the realities of today’s gaming market, and trying their hand at interactive Flash “advergaming”. They’ve put up a demo on Cecropia.com. I won’t tell you how it works (figuring it out is part of the fun). If you’re at all involved in interactive marketing, get in touch with these guys. What they’re doing is truly groundbreaking, and they deserve a lot of attention (and money). And, who knows, maybe someday The Act will see the light of day, in some form or another.
Niall Kennedy demonstrates a very clever trick for spying on a user’s browser history. You can’t actually retrieve the list (thankfully), but you can compare it to a known set of links. How? By exploiting the way CSS applies different styles to visited links! He recommends it as a way to selectively display social networking links which you have evidence the user actually uses, but the possibilities for creative evil helpfulness here are endless.