Choosing Sides

If I had to pick, it’d be the iPad. That’s the device that has changed my world more than any other. In the morning I pull the iPad off the charger, I use it all day to answer email, read, follow the news, do work, and then put it back on the charger at night, a full 16 hours later.

When I travel I used to carry all kinds of stuff with me — books, laptop, CD player, DVD player — all to keep me entertained. Now, my iPad does just fine [1]. I load it with movies and off I go. Generally I don’t even bother carrying a laptop with me, unless I know I will need to write code while away. Otherwise my iPad does the trick for me.

I never run out of battery. In fact, I don’t even notice the battery meter anymore. I have been trained that my iPad’s battery will easily last until the next charging cycle.

Most people I know say their iPhone is their most prized device. I use my iPhone, too, but a simpler, smaller device would suit me just as well. For years I carried a PalmPilot and dumb phone, even long after the smartphone category was invented. I never cared much about the phone. And it still annoys me that even a day of light use drains the battery on my iPhone down to nothing. I spend all my time calculating and worrying about running out, which is just plain annoying.

We are all different. Everyone has their own preferences. No matter what your choice, it strikes me that we are living in the golden age of technology products. Maybe there’s an amazing future of voice activated, monitoring devices that can tell me what I need before I need it. But if what we have today is the zenith, I’ll take it.

[1] The other device I love is also a device I carry with me when I travel: a Kindle Paperwhite. All the books I can read, extremely lightweight, a subtle backlight that doesn’t wake up my wife when I can’t sleep and need to read in the middle of the night, and a battery that lasts a month!

Innovation Illiteracy

Earlier this morning I tweeted the following:

Who said invention was easy? Oh, right. No one. Damn.

Then I read a great article from Horace Dediu about innovation illiteracy, something he coins as innoveracy. Horace said,

Rather than defining it again, I propose using a simple taxonomy of related activities that put it in context.

  • Novelty: Something new
  • Creation: Something new and valuable
  • Invention: Something new, having potential value through utility
  • Innovation: Something new and uniquely useful

To illustrate, here are some examples of the concepts.

  • Novelties: The choice of Gold as a color for the iPhone; the naming of a version of Android as “Kit Kat”; coining a new word.
  • Creations: The fall collection of a fashion designer; a new movie; a blog post.
  • Inventions: Anything described by a patent; The secret formula for Coca Cola.
  • Innovations: The iPhone pricing model; Google’s revenue model; The Ford production system; Wal-Mart’s store design; Amazon’s logistics.

I thought this a rather unique approach and was very happy to see that I had used the right word. Equals is an invention right now. With more time, I’m hoping it will prove an innovation as well.

Why A Healthy Microsoft Is Important For Software Developers

I’ve read quite a bit about Microsoft’s Build developer conference and listened to others talking about it. I’ve also been watching Microsoft’s moves very closely. All I am seeing is positive signs.

The release of Office for iPad and its immediate success is a very good thing. 12 million downloads in the first few days is absolutely amazing for any product, and while I’m sure a lot of people are only kicking tires, there are also a lot of people who rely on Word, Excel and PowerPoint for their every day activities.

Even more subtle moves are a good sign. Changing the name from Windows Azure to Microsoft Azure is fantastic news. It is clear that if Microsoft wants to remain relevant then minimizing the impact of Windows is a good thing. What Microsoft should be asking is what’s the operating systems [1] for the next generation of devices, not the last ones? The last ones all ran Windows. The next ones all run browsers and apps. Yes, browsers and apps run in an OS but the OS they run in is less and less important as time moves on.

 

It seems Microsoft gets this. From what I heard there were plenty of Windows 8 tablets on stage during the Build presentations, but there were also tons of iPads, iPhones and other devices too. Azure is a very interesting service to power the next generation of software and software services. Moving toward cloud-based developer tools and more services provided around Bing are exceptionally interesting moves. I’d like to see web-supported systems as easy to develop as desktop software used to be. That would be a huge step forward for us developers.

But this isn’t the only reason why Microsoft’s success is important for us. The reality is that Microsoft’s interests are the only ones who align with us developers, at least those of us who want to charge customers for the products they use. None of the other major platform players do that. Amazon charges for media. The apps — all free and on as many platforms as possible — are only how that media is delivered. Google and Facebook give away their software to get more eyeballs. Those ads are worth billions to them. Apple makes their money from hardware. Only Microsoft sells software, previously one-off but now as a subscription. And that’s how most software developers make money, too.

Remember, the key to success is to make money from your revenue stream and commoditize all the supporting elements. Amazon, Google, Facebook and Apple all aim to commoditize software.

The latest moves are a positive sign for Microsoft. I believe a resurgent Microsoft is also a positive sign for us.

[1] Yes, plural.

What I’m Reading: The Technology and Business Book Collection

Yesterday I mentioned I watched the movie Jobs on the plane ride back from vacation. I believe it is based on the Isaacson book Steve Jobs. As I mentioned the movie was mediocre. The book was mediocre, too. A couple of other Apple non-fiction books I’ve read over the last couple of years:

The Steven Levy books were the best, the Isaacson book was one of the most mediocre. I enjoyed the Lashinsky book as well. Hackers is about far more than Apple. It’s an incredibly fascinating book about the early computer pioneers.

Other business and technology books I’ve read recently:

These books were all good. I especially enjoyed Make Art Make Money. I’ve even given it as a gift to a few people. Still on my list are Startup CEO and Dogfight. I’ve debated whether I want to read Hatching Twitter or not. I really like Fred Wilson and I’m worried the book will change how I feel about him. I don’t think it’s fair to sum up a man based on a book written by someone who was not there and didn’t get Fred’s involvement. There are a few additional books I started and haven’t finished for various reasons. I won’t mention those.

It’s kind of funny. I work all day at a computer and then, for fun!, pick up books about what I do for a living. I must be doing what I love to make it a 24-7 affair.

Would love to know if you’ve read something I haven’t. I always love a good book about technology or business.

Waiting For Something Amazing

I watched the movie Jobs, about Steve of Apple fame, on the way back from vacation this past week. Doing so made me realize something I’m not certain I have figured out before about myself. Maybe it is the fact of watching a movie, a condensing of his life down to bullet points, in essence, that brought this to light for me, but it is clear now. What the world lost when Jobs died was inspiration.

There has been a hole in my life since Jobs past away two and a half years ago. I think that’s why most people are clamoring for something new from Apple. Somehow, by releasing something new, we can all have that feeling of inspiration again [1]. Even this mediocre movie made me feel that way.

By the end of the movie all I can think was who is going to inspire us to be greater than ourselves?

It seems like the tech industry is all about the bottom line anymore. This ability to inspire great things seems to have past this generation of tech companies by. Maybe that could have been Google, but Google decided that the ad was greater than the relationship long ago. Same for Facebook and Twitter. They would just as soon sell our souls to make another dollar.

Maybe we can turn back to hardware. The closest we may have is Elon Musk, a man who dreams about cars and trains and spaceships, but his inventions don’t touch us like Jobs’ work did. Most of them are literally beyond our grasp financially, and the rest are dreams, something that Jobs rarely let us see.

One of my favorite scenes in any movie ever happens to be in a Pixar movie, The Incredibles. Earlier in the movie the father pulls in the driveway and, upset, lifts his car above his head. Turning he realizes a small boy on a Big Wheel bike is watching him and gently sets it down. Later, after being fired, the father pulls in the driveway in the same car, turns to see the boy, and asks, “What are you waiting for?” The boy replies,  “I don’t know. Something amazing, I guess.”

All the doubters say that Apple has lost its edge, that time has passed it by. I doubt that. I doubt that a company can just lose its edge over night like that. Maybe over time it will fade but that’s inevitable for everything. Once great things tumble all the time. I also think the doubters know that.

So what makes them doubt? Why so negative about a company that hasn’t missed a beat since Jobs’ resignation? I think the doubters are mad. We’ve all lost inspiration and we don’t know where to get it back.

[1] Whether you like it or not, you are inspired by Apple. Even if you don’t like Apple products, all the other consumer tech companies seem to follow Apple’s lead, which means at a minimum Apple inspired you by proxy.