We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Our Recent Essays Behind the Front Page
Monday, October 31. 2011
Recently, I posted about Steve Jobs. I believe, despite faults which he undoubtedly possessed, Steve was a visionary who radically altered our lives for the better over the last thirty years. Were it not for his untimely passing, he may have altered them further in the next twenty to thirty years.
It was part of his lifestyle, his mission, to look at things in a manner which was different from everyone else. He took computing from the realm of technology and moved it into culture and fashion. He did this without moving out of forward thinking technology. This kind of transformative behavior is unusual. Very few entrepreneurs are able to retain a firm hold on massive corporate structures. Even fewer can hold on and maintain a sharp entrepreneurial vision.
Now that Jobs is gone, Apple will be left to see if Jobs' vision was his alone or if someone else can pick up the slack at the company. However, in terms of personalities which society perceives as 'transformative', we are left with a gaping hole. There doesn't appear to be anyone quite like Steve Jobs.
I read this article recently, suggesting Jeff Bezos could be the "next Steve Jobs". I think he's definitely in the running. Jeff has changed the way people think about buying things. Like Jobs, I'm sure he's got flaws and faults, but I'm curious to see if he can be transformative. Even today, mom and pop shops in towns across the US are cursing firms like Amazon and Wal-Mart. But this isn't a fault of Bezos, it's simply the nature of the economy, which is one of change.
Are there other personalities out there who could be the "next Steve Jobs"? Certainly there are, and we may not have even heard of some of them yet.
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I don't think the problem is a lack of personalities, there were plenty of such folks in back in the late 1800's and early 1900's. What is generally missing is opportunity. I would put this down to the vast number of laws and regulations now in place, together with the narrow slice where innovations take place, namely the digital/communications area. I suspect we would see similar innovation based on modern biology If the regulations were less onerous. Not everyone working in a garage has a few billion bucks and a workforce dedicated to filling out forms and providing reports.
Of course, modern schooling tends to discount ambition and initiative, but I don't know that that is a major factor. Gates and Jobs managed to avoid university degrees.
Generally, I agree. With your points about schooling, rules, and regulations.
Not so much about opportunity. I know your point is that the opportunity is killed by the paperwork, and your reference to schooling is geared toward universities.
I'm referring to something slightly different.
I think school is a problem at the Elementary through High School levels. It's actually the University level I believe is fine (assuming you can afford it and deal with the pressures). Certainly Universities are beginning to 'dumb down', but for now the US still is pretty well acquitted.
What I see, at the lower grade levels, are teaching resources that gear themselves more toward getting the 'right answer' as opposed to generating questions and curiousity. This is what sets people like Gates, Jobs and Ellison apart. They are curious about 'things'.
I try to fill that gap with my kids by handling their questions in a unique fashion. Sometimes, when the time and resources are available, I won't answer them directly but pose a related or different question that will lead them to the answers they are seeking.
As for rules, regulations, and paperwork....well....that's an issue of public policy and I'm afraid we have politicians who love that stuff and are jealous of the entrepreneurs.
If the states, with the Feds intervention, work out a compact on the Internet sales tax issue, I'd expect Amazon to take a huge hit. There will still be a need for an on-line merchandiser who offers an enormously wide range of goods that no local store (or stores) can match, but Amazon's sales tax advantage is not negligible either. If there is a resolution to this issue and a uniform Internet tax agreement is reached, consumers will eventually adapt to the changing conditions, but Amazon will probably suffer a significant downturn in business in the short-term.
"Recently, I posted about Steve Jobs."
Ah, I love cultists. So young, so fresh, so eager, so optimistic!
So undaunted in the face of blinding adversity.
Honestly, folks, you have to give people in fringe cult groups the credit they deserve. Bulldog, since you seem to know, was this Steve Jobs guy one of their tribal leaders? It must be fun to metaphorically dance around the fire at night and exchange secret signals and handshakes that only your clan knows. A real feeling of bonding and togetherness in an otherwise disparate and heartless world.
And while I was impressed with the research you must have done to dig up these arcane tidbits, I'm a little confused by this:
"Steve was a visionary who radically altered our lives for the better over the last thirty years."
I looked over that list of Apple products on the page and I have to confess I thought most of them sounded like feminine sanitary products. All I know is that I've never owned any of these products, much less the Intel-driven PC in the middle of the page that had a funny piece of fruit with a bite taken out of it as a logo. I'm sure it's just me, but using something that someone else has already taken a bite out of strikes me as extremely unsanitary. Perhaps that what those other products are for.
Keep up the good work,
Doc--you are way off base. It is not JUST about profit and taking over markets. This man created a quality product, had the courage to defend quality v. profit on several occasions and most of all made the engineers come out from hiding behind their "risk assesment" formulas. THIS MAN more than any other encouraged good DESIGN. You might do a search on Google and see if you can get your mind around the concept of "good design" and quality of intention.
Second--Bezos is a profiteer that is much different than designer/entrepreneur. There are always way more opportunities in the profiteering section of town than at the drawing board.
I think Doc was posting for reaction more than anything else.
I'm hardly an Apple guy. In fact, there only Apple product I have ever owned is currently in my pocket - an iPhone - and I didn't even buy it, my company did.
But I have quite a bit of respect for what Jobs did to the industry. While many of his products never got past 5% acceptance in the market, the impact of his approach to marketing received 100% acceptance.
Not to mention that it was Apple's introduction of many products (the mouse, GUI, the Newton) which may not have made them money, but certainly altered the direction of the industry (even if some of those products were taken from the geniuses at Xerox PARC).
The point of Jobs wasn't about technological brilliance. It was about his ability to see the technological application and bring it to market.
Which brings me to your second point. Bezos is more than a profiteer. He altered patent law forever by patenting the one click purchase. That's not all. He altered retail sales and inventory forever. Sure, he made a profit doing it, but so did almost any other successful business person. I don't see that as a problem or a downfall. Being a profiteer is a compliment in my house (my mother tried to use terms like that to make me feel bad about myself when I was younger).
I can appreciate Doc's POV, though I think it's misguided. Our society seeks out people like Jobs. We need people like Jobs. They help progress.
Personally, I think Doc is really just a tad jealous I didn't put his name on the list of potential replacements for Jobs.
Doc - I didn't see the need to make a list of products or "prove" any points. In my industry, Jobs is appreciated for his marketing genius, not so much for his product development. Though he was fairly proficient at both.
Home computers were, for all intents and purposes, started by him.
Handheld computers, and eventually iPods/iPhones.
Pixar and animation.
Next Computers, from what I remember, was a bust, but without the advanced technology it created, Pixar would have been a dud.
But what I find fascinating is his skill at convincing people they need a product. We all remember the "1984" ad. The iMac changed Apple's fortunes and altered how computers were marketed. The iPod "Silhouette Ads", the current marketing trend of seeking out little known bands with catchy tunes and making them instant hits to push a product.
Basically, he had it all. Listing all these things in an article, when it's generally accepted that he was the Madonna of business, capable of remaking himself and his business over and over again, seemed a bit unnecessary.
Speaking of Next, Tim Berners-Lee used it to develop html and the first web browser:
" Mike Sendall buys a NeXT cube for evaluation, and gives it to Tim [Berners-Lee]. Tim's prototype implementation on NeXTStep is made in the space of a few months, thanks to the qualities of the NeXTStep software development system..."
So you can thank Jobs for that. Later, Silver had to beat Microsoft over the head with a 2x4 to get them headed in the right networking direction. I don't think they get it yet. You might describe them as a company of Doc Mercurys, bit slow on the uptake and dedicated to half assed operating systems ;) Hell, I worked with an SDS 940 whose OS was almost as advanced as Microsoft's.
Wow. Interesting stuff. I wasn't sure if anyone used NeXT at all. I just knew it was a very advanced computing system.
In my job, I'm responsible for setting prices, monitoring inventory and overseeing marketing. I learned through experience that doing this job is pretty simple. People purchase everything based on 3 rules:
2. Ease of Use
These rules aren't in any particular order. Some other rules can play a role, but by and large these 3 are the only ones which are meaningful.
Gates focused on 2 of these, mostly price and ease of use, and created a formidable corporation. Jobs focused on one, and created one formidable corporation and several other respectable firms.
It was the UN*X-based OS that Jobs chose for NeXT and carried back with him to Apple that allowed Apple's fortunes to revive when Jobs returned there as its CEO. I'm convinced that had he merely picked up where he left off just before being kicked out of Apple, we wouldn't be seeing such effusive praise for Steve Jobs, and Apple would be as much a fond memory as Compaq is.
There is no way of telling who is next - hell, if you knew that, you'd never have to work again in your life just by betting on a sure thing. :>)
I would take issue concerning Jobs as a "transformative" figure. Was he driven to succeed? Certainly. Did he pay attention to detail? Of course. Did he understand the nature of a closed system and the advantages from a business standpoint - well duh.
The problem with the Jobs reverence is a complete and total misunderstanding of how he came to develop the iconic iPod which was the touchstone of his success at Apple. The iPod wasn't strictly an Apple invention nor did Jobs "conceive" the project. It came from a guy called Jon Rubinstein with two Apple engineers, Tony Fadell, Michael Dhuey and design guru Jonathan Ives. Rubinstein found a company called PortalPlayer who had developed a "system on a chip". It had very simple software as a ops system so Apple went to a company called Pixo to develop and refine the PortalPlayer software into something more usable. Legend has it that Jobs was personally responsible for working with Pixo to develop the interface, but it was really Ives who drove that project to completion under the guidance of Rubenstein. Jobs certainly had input, but he wasn't the main motivator.
It was from the point that the iPod was released that Steve Jobs became the Mighty Morphing Apple Genius - the rest is history. Admittedly, Jobs came up with the whole closed marketing eco system, but again, this was not a foreign concept the computer industry. Prior to the emergence of MicroSoft as the dominant player in the mini and desktop computer operating system space, everybody and the monkey's uncle who made a computer had proprietary software that would only work on their machines and there wasn't any cross pollination. Jobs caught on real quick to the emergence of gaming consoles and their closed environments after having had the same system with Mac for all those years - it was a simple thing to just move that model over to iPod. The iPhone, iTouch, iPad are all just bigger and fancier iPods.
So, Jobs as transformative? Meh - not so much in my opinion. Certainly he became a cult figure with his loyal acolytes who would buy deep fried meadow muffins on a stick if Jobs declared it the "one more thing". When you really think about it, Apple's equipment is no better or no worse than any other type of computer or entertainment device. It has it's bugs, twitches, brain farts and software indigestion just like any PC has. It is just that the loyal Apple base is more forgiving of the foibles of Apple equipment than PC users are.*
Now Bezos? He is somebody properly described as transformational. He basically reinvented the whole concept of sales and marketing - think about it - you can go to Amazon and buy practically anything sitting buck naked at your computer without ever having to interact with any human being. That is transforming a whole paradigm from one form to another.**
*I have a long time close friend who is a Apple fanatic. Apple this, Apple that - she has every single Apple product that has ever been made. She stands in line to be the first one on her block to own the latest and greatest Apple product. She is also the first to bitch and moan when she has a hiccup. She is constantly complaining that this or that won't properly plug and play with her Mac's. She was one of the ones who found the antenna bug in the iPhone 3 and cursed that from day one, but was first in line for the iPhone 4s. Apple users are what they are - cultists first and foremost. The fact that there is attached technology is a bonus. :>)
**Apple is about to get knocked off by Samsung and Amazon. Both are running stiff iPad competition under the Android platform and Android is getting to the point where it is becoming the defacto operating system platform for mobile phones and devices. The next transformative figure may not be a person, but an operating system.
The only reason I (and practically everyone I've read...or anyone I know) believe Jobs was transformative had nothing to do with the iPod or the iPad.
It was Jobs devotion to product and marketing. He was a rare case of someone who recognized quality, and figured out a way to push it.
I don't believe he 'started' any of the projects or products that his acolytes list as 'his'. It was his company that made them what they are, however. And it was he who developed the processes and marketing to make them what they are.
As I said above, he (as in Apple) shifted product focus away from product for product's sake and into the 'socially cool' realm. He was part fashion designer, part businessman, part tech geek. That was transformative.
Not to mention he and Wozniak (who he ripped off pretty badly) really started the home computing revolution, which in itself is transformative.
I agree about Bezos, though.
I am very interested in seeing what other people step up. I don't see Zuckerberg as a game changer. He lacks the personality and the forward vision. Similarly, the two at Google, Page and Brin, aren't compelling enough to be interesting except to their cult followers inside the company.
By the way, if you think Apple is cultish, you should spend time with people from Google. Yikes. Some serious deprogramming will be needed....
Well my bad - I sort of misunderstood what you said. I just have this "thing" about Jobs being the be all and end all of marketing and development. He was never a tech genius - the original Apple was Wozniak's from the git go. I will concede that Jobs did have a certain touch, but futurist? Nah.
With respect to Android - tell you the truth I think it's the operating system of the future. It was an absolutely brilliant move on the part of Google to develop it and then just let it loose on the world and see what shook out. I was an early adopter of Android with an original Motorola 'Droid. I liked it then and when they released Frodo (Android 2.2), wow is all I have to say and I really liked it even more. And it's kept pace with the 4G world which is nice. I understand that Ice Cream Sandwich (a combination of the best features of Frodo and Honeycomb their tablet op system) is going to Samsung (as a reward for their Galaxy tablet) first on the Nexus with Motorola 'Droid Razr, Razr, 'Droid Bionic and the Xoom tablet being next for updates.
Just to show how versatile Android is, Amazon's (our good friend Bezos again) Kindle Fire is running a very early version of Android customized to Amazon's spec, but compatible with newer versions of Android's aps. Cool huh?
I heard something on CNBC the other day about Android being the #1 mobile device operating system in the world selling some ridiculous amount of devices per day - it has seriously outpaced Apple's iOS.
Page and Brin? Nah - it took that neo-Nazi creepoid Eric Schmidt to make it all work in the fashion that it did. That guy is seriously disturbed.
Apple's major flaw, originally, and possibly now, has always been the "made by us, made better, nobody else gets to do it or make money from it" mentality.
Gates didn't want to build computers, he just wanted to own their operating system because he knew that's where the money making capabilities would be. IBM missed that. Apple didn't miss it, but felt they needed to own both the software and the hardware. When they finally started licensing outsiders to build their hardware, it was already too late and was a bust for them. I assume they took this to mean setting something out in the wild was 'bad'.
I originally felt this would be the downfall of the iPod/iPhone, but for so long it simply wasn't the case. When Verizon finally managed to get the rights to sell the iPhone the most intriguing bit of information in the announcement was how Android literally owned the mobile smartphone market.
This makes sense, intuitively, because of the limitations Apple put on the original sales of iPhones (only AT&T), but it wasn't the way the media played the story, up to that point.
In the end, the original Apple 'flaw' may well be what does them in.
Unless they are able to take it to the next level. Which they've done several times already. The big question, to me, isn't who will own the tablet or smartphone markets, but what the next iteration is and who markets it successfully (not necessarily who is first).
My guess would've been Apple. Now I'm not so sure.
The one thing Jobs' life completely proved was that Jean Baudrillard's concept of simulacra and simulation is correct. In mastering this concept, he was able to set himself and Apple apart and take the rather boring and drab tech business to another level.
Bezos is intriguing to me for only one reason. He gets very good at whatever it is that he chooses to do and builds on it. This isn't 'transformative' in the sense that it alters how people think about things or even necessarily do them. But it is transformative because it makes whatever he is doing altogether better and easier. The fact he likes to remain quiet and out of the spotlight also means that the changes he introduces get overlooked.
Marketing, sometimes, is what makes the perception even if the reality behind the perception is just marketing. Circular, to be sure - but because so many people believe perception is reality, it works.
My understanding of Android is that it isn't the operating system (Linux, GPL2) that makes it special, it's the development environment build on top of it.
Also, I wrote this based on another article I read about Google Android and some interesting things they are doing.
It's another post I'm writing about the future of media.
You may be right about the transformative figure being an Operating System. Or some other program.
Oh boy--this is going to date me and thereby for all intents and purposes make my statement of fact not important. HOWEVER, I will tell you this we bought our first MAC in 1984 (way before Ipod). We chose that machine, because it did not require us (the average consumer) I repeat DID NOT require us to know CODE! It point and click from the beginning. IT Was not IPOD that created the millions of users around the world. We lived in Seattle during those early years and I saw very closely the greed for power that dominates that city. Microsoft never cared about being a human place to work, or to produce a product for the masses. That is just not the quality of their being. Jobs stood up to their incredibly global consuming, valueless ethics and beat em at the game! That was a long time before IPOD. We have had in this house seven Apple computers and one HP since then. We still do not own an IPOD.
You're still a teenager then huh? I go all the way back to the Altair 8800 which was the absolute start of the mini-computer industry. It used the Intel 8080 CPU with what became the defacto standard S-100 bus running Microsoft's Altair Basic - Bill Gate's very first programming software. I had the 4096 word Memory Board (think about that for a minute) and two serial bus I/O boards - RS-232 and Teletype. I used an old Navy surplus Model 15 TTY (5-level Baudot at 60 wpm (45.5 baud*) and a homebrew interface for the 60 mA current loop command cycle.
Now that's real computing. :>)
GUI my....never mind.
*Both my Dad and Mom were ham radio operators, I was licensed in 1962 as a Novice, General shortly after. Back in those days, SSB was just coming into general use so Morse Code was the usual mode of communications. Like most hams with musical talent I have an affinity for high speed code. I was so at ease with it in fact that I could read 60 wpm Baudot without the use of a TTY machine. I still can catch a word or two to this day.
...4096 word Memory Board...
Well not everyone back then could afford those high end computers with tons of memory. ;-} Some of us had to make do with 1024 (1K)! The wonderful Sinclair Z-1000, I remember that I paid more for that first additional 4K memory module than I paid last year for a 1 Terabyte hard drive. I needed that huge amount of memory to write a check printing program, written in Sinclair Basic.
Ah! Those were the days.
Oh gosh yes - when I was at Data General, I remember our very first standalone disc drive - a whopping 25 mb of storage with multi platter discs. The size of a washing machine, the head motor looked like a 12 pound Naval mortar from the days of sail, the read/write heads were the size of half dollars and it weighed a ton - literally. :>)
I still have a Z-1000 - also have a Commodore 64 that still works. I understand the Commodore 64 is making a comback of sorts.