Another Celebrity Seeker…and the Apple Culture

As far as I can see the whole mess with Mike Daisey is the common American confusion between celebrity and profundity.  The Wikipedia entry above starts out :

“Mike Daisey (born 1976) is an American monologist, author, and actor best known for his full-length extemporaneous monologues…”

And that sums it up, he’s not a reporter, does not purport to be one and yet his monologuing is taken as a serious expose of Apple’s factories in China.  The whole problem is that NPR got confused about what they had, it was in some ways not even Daisey’s fault…until he denied any fault as with so many things today, “..it wasn’t the break in it was the coverup…” inept spinning.

Now Apple knows that its old core and even its younger adherents are biased to the progressive/lefty “down with capitalism” side.  Apple is also forced to build their products in China these days, they could not keep their products in the painfully but not prohibitively expensive category otherwise.  They will not purposely turn a blind eye to abuses at their Chinese factories, especially as they know that they are likely to depend on Chinese customers for a lot of growth in the not too distant future.  

Victor Russell Mead at Via Media has the best overall take on the Daisey mess, I won’t go into it any more.

However thinking about Apple and China does bring up other issues about manufacturing and the outsourcing of said.  Two Questions of Apple: 

  1. The iPad, iPhone, iPod are all flat, sandwich build products, why not automate the production and do it in the US?
  2. Aren’t you  afraid of giving your products intellectual property to the Chinese, who have quite blatantly set about appropriating everything they can from anyone with good ideas?

And the answer is the same in both case.  Apple has an extremely short product cycle most of the time and tries to keep their products under wraps until the last second. They use a very deep supplier base on the Asian shore to the fullest extent, the parts are cheaper and more available there, and Apple parcels the parts out so its hard for their competitors to figure out what’s coming until the last month or so before introduction.  Final assembly of many gadgets is the most labor intensive part of the process and the hardest to automate, it can be done but if you are only going to build the product for a couple of years then completely rejigger why put the capital into a fixed site?  And its the Social IP of how you design and proof out a product like the iPad in a very short time that is the secret sauce as much as anything else.  And that IP the IP of the Apple way, the Apple Corporate Society, that gives them the edge, and its not one that anyone can copy easily.  The whole infrastructure of design spin, parting out, having multiple products at various levels of development at one time, and staying mum, that keeps Apple ahead, their competitor’s head’s spinning and the Apple paparazzi merrily dancing in trail.

Advertisements

Creative destruction in it’s meme’s

20120110-232657.jpg Steve Jobs, our Guttenburg, RIP

VodkaPundit, via Instapundit, has a very good point to bear in mind in this the season of CES(RIP?)

When jobs came back to Apple he brought a self operational version of Creative Destruction, the dynamic heart of real capitalism we saw at work in the late eighties to early oughts, the idea that products, product lines even companies do not, should not, live forever but be overtaken by better solutions.

The iPhones 5 years old, it seems reasonable to think there is something next and no reason for it not to be targeted at eventually gobbling the iPhone as we know it.

What set of features would you build into a new personal product that might change the world?

Apples iEmpire

I’m sure what I’m going to say has been said before, I intimated it the other day for that matter, but Steven Jobs left Apple with an iMpire (i Empire)  that no one has been able to keep up with.  One way of seeing his legacy, the way he and others may have seen it was as the tools required to interact with the world of data.

Our world (in the metaphysical sense) started out as a place of brute  physicality.  As society developed and technology humans began to plan, and then we began to record information remote from our brains, and then ideas and concepts, some of them completely disassociated from the physical world we lived in.  Some people began to ‘live in their head’ could do so without getting eaten or starving because society could afford to support them, and even awarded them for some of the things they could bring forth (art, science, technology in the abstract.)

This evolution has continued to the point where a large part of our world has become intellectual, it is now a world of data that can only be accessed with the right tools.  But this world is not a static one where you just look in and pull out what you want, there is a vast amount of creation and manipulation required.  But this requires a set of tools that provide mirror simple access to the world of data.  Mirror simple, because all you need to do with a mirror is hanging it up and look into it and it does its job.  If technology requires you to carry out arcane incantations and hand motions to provide access to the data world then its to some extent impeding you.

Look at it another way, there is ongoing work in the DoD that eventually will allow a pilot to look around and see the world outside the cockpit as if the aircraft were not there.  We need the inverse, the ability to peer into the data world and do what we need, from any point at any time, for an uncountable multitude of reasons…

  • On the Go Data Access + Comms
    • iPad (Fire hose of access, lite content creator, iPhone in chief?)
    • iPhone
    • iPod, Touch (can we see this as the low end iPhone) Nano (does this eventually become the iPhone Nano, the iWatch….which it already is, almost)
  • The Links
    • Commercial Front End
      • ITunes
      • AppStore
    • The Linking memory
      • iCloud
  • Content Creation
    • Mac
    • Mac Mini (beginner)
    • MacBooks
    • AirBook (on the go content creation, iPad with keyboard)
  • Home Data Center, access heavy, creation light
    • Apple TV
    • Mac Mini
    • iPad

 So Apple as a complete iCology now; the problem is that we really need the rest of the tech world to catch up.

iPad, BeBot, Pandora and the ‘tech’ industry

iPad wallpaper

Jobs Motto

So I haven’t said much about my constant companion, the iPad, recently. 

  • I updated to iOS5 the day it released, of course on an Orig, it’s not  the same as it probably is on a 2 but it’s still good.  I think iCloud’s (base) is going to work out well and the iMessage etc look interesting.  The tabs in Safari took a few hours to get used to but they are an improvement.
  • Other than a pretty good hand holding experience during set up I haven’t had much ‘contact’ with the new.  Which in my experience is actually a good thing.  I may be a fantasist and romantic but I’m als a bit of a stick in the mud, if something works, why change it for the sake of change?
  • Biggest headache was having to update what seemed like umpteen Apps but as usual it happened pretty seamlessly. 
  • My biggest iPad laugh was taking it(them actually) to my sister in-law’s and I think her little grand son(4?) whose had an iPad longer than I have, flipped the selector switch on the side of my wife’s iPad, muting it.  It took me an HOUR and several hard boots and harder words, to figure out the poor thing was doing what it was told, I just didn’t understand.  
  • So at the same meeting of iPad carriers, we were introduced to BeBot, a simply wonderful time sink, and maybe the closest thing to a new instrument I have seen in a long time.  It’s just an App but it turns the iPad into a synthesizer with a pure touch interface, you run your finger(s) over the screen to make synth music.  Quite a few interesting base options and lots of ways to vary them.  I could see someone becoming a professional BeBotist in the future, or BeBot Groups getting together.  It’s currently only an instrument, it does not record, I hope they come out with a version which lets you ‘lay tracks’ etc. 
  • Pandora, the phenomenon, I listen to little else these days, on my iPad or laptop.   I have found music that I love, that I had never heard or been able to follow up on before.  This is by far the best way to listen to music.  As I have said elsewhere, the fact that I cannot absolutely control what I am listening to but can make my opinion ‘heard’ is simply a phenomenal breakthrough in listening pleasure.

And so to the Tech industry, who is finally settling into a funk over the dominance of Apple, iOS, the iPad, and to some extent the death and ascencion to TechSaintHood of Steve Job’s (that’s a comment on others, not a slam at Mr.Jobs who was as human as they come but the right gifted man at the right pivots of  [tech] history.) 

It seems to me that anyone out there who looks at the industry with a reasonably open mind will see that pervasive lacks have impaired broad swaths of the industry

  1. originality
  2. innovative risk taking
  3. long-range vision
  4. middle distant financial horizons. 

Jobs seems to have recognized these things and was able to use Apple and the experience he gained while in the wilderness to build a product platform + family + business-model that others seem unable or perhaps unwilling to compete with. 

Most fundamental to the paralysis is item 4 above with a lot of 3 in support. Jobs was able to keep building his model over a long period of relatively lack luster performance.   He was lucky, in that no one really expected great things of Apple but it had a dedicated customer base and no one in a place to counter or make use of the knowledge understood what he was doing till it was too late.  He was cagey and secretive, probably because that was just the way he was, but also because he knew that if some of his business partners understood what he wanted to do and came to believe in it like he did, he’d probably have a harder time making enough money to keep the project going when he needed cash flow to push some of the concepts forward. He was also like most visionaries and his understanding of his own  vision evolved and developed detail over time.  And of course, no one else knew what they should be watching for. 

So now we have people talking up Amazon’s Fire as a competitor.  Why, because its Amazon and Amazon had the Kindle.  I’m not sure but I think they miss the point.  The Kindle was the front end of a digital book store.  The Nook showed that with color and the right price you could have a bit more than that.  The Fire is a shopping window and digital sales point for Amazon, yes it’s also a reader and a tablet, but its main purpose is as a shop window. 

The iPad is a more general purpose tool than Fire.  IPad is part of a larger tech infrastructure from the iPod Touch to the top of the line Mac workstations. This is essentially an intellectual interface infrastructure for creation and consumption, with a powerful shopping window built in.  The Fire is never going to compete with that.  And neither is the Android platform by the way.

Android is like Linux it has a good chance of lasting a long time because it is widely dispersed and open for people to build on and use.  It is also likely to be very important, but as an also ran competitor in all but the phone space, where in some senses it may already dominates because of the variety of companies and price points it supports. 

So is this bad….yes because Apple is not going to be able to carry the ball forever and maybe not for very long unless Jobs trained his heirs well and left them with the tools to control the kingdom.  It’s bad because competition is good within reason and no one is competing with Apple at the moment which will weaken them eventually  The competion seem to be in a ‘waiting out the deluge’ mode.  Waiting for Apple to stumble giving them the opportunity to pull it down to their own level. if (when) that happens then the leaps we have seen recently may end as the industry falls back into the frothy stagnation it suffered from the later nineties to mid noughts. 

Lets hope not….

My cute little assistant

The introduction of Siri on the iPhone 4S could be another defining moment for tech. I hear some pundits deride the move but I see it as a bit like the transition to a graphical user interface. Believe it or not there were those who derided that change (a few of them are still out there.). There are things that the modern human to data net interface device (pick your type) should be able to do better with a verbal interface. This is not to say we’ll do it all that way, most of us type faster and more succinctly than we speak, I’d hate to think I’d start getting raw transcript output in text it would rapidly drive me to Ludditism! But the types of things Apple and others demonstrated seemed pretty much on, have Siri make the call, have Siri set the wake up time, have Siri check the weather. These are all things I can do but having Siri do them while I do other things, like a human assistant can, will make me more productive and perhaps less stressed.

Who knows miracles probably do happen. I am certainly looking forward to trying Siri out when she comes to iPad 3…

Steve Jobs. 1955-2011 (edit)

20111005-232206.jpg

Steve Jobs has died.  A visionary, futurist and industrialist of remarkable scope, his passing is a profound loss to the tech world and the wider world which he had changed several times in his too short life. He stood on the shoulders of giants and made them look small as he pushed us upward. He was ‘at’ if he wasn’t ‘the’ pivot of change a remarkable number of times since the 80’s. and while at times he was almost pushed aside his vision and drive always showed through and thrust him back onto his world changing course.  There are no better words than ones that have been said before for other great men:  Our world is poorer for his leaving it and I fear we will not see his like again in this age.

Rest In Peace