Tag Archives: steve

Photos from inside Apple Headquarters

It’s the Chocolate Factory for tech nerds.

Search the web for “Apple HQ,” and most of the results you get will be pictures of Apple’s Cupertino headquarters — from the outside. Usually with some fanboy standing next to the “1 Infinite Loop” sign. But what we really want to see is what’s inside the ultra-top-secret place where all our favorite gizmos are dreamed up.

This discussion will be moot a few years down the road when Apple opens its gigantic new wheel-shaped campus. But for now, this is the ultimate Nerdvana.

via Apple Gazette (w/ 20+ more photos)

Reception Desk
Wireless Testing Lab

Continue reading

Steve Jobs is a tweaker, according to his flawed biography

I’m hating the Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson. It’s like an art novice trying to explain Monet’s brushstrokes.

I’m not convinced that Mr. Isaacson understands the topic all that well. It almost seems that he rushed the book out after Steve’s passing.

Finally, somebody respectable agrees with me, John Gruber of Daring Fireball, who calls the biography flawed:

Exhibit A in the case against Walter Isaacson’s flawed Jobs biography: Malcolm Gladwell in last week’s New Yorker, arguing that Jobs was “a tweaker”.

Gladwell, alas, takes Isaacson’s portrait of Jobs at face value:

“In the eulogies that followed Jobs’s death, last month, he was repeatedly referred to as a large-scale visionary and inventor. But Isaacson’s biography suggests that he was much more of a tweaker. He borrowed the characteristic features of the Macintosh — the mouse and the icons on the screen — from the engineers at Xerox PARC, after his famous visit there, in 1979.”

I suggest reading John’s full piece: Getting Steve Jobs Wrong

For me, it’s just a sign that my own feelings are justified. Anyone else out there feeling the same way?

Tim Cook: 5 things about Apple’s new CEO

From the Onion:

New Apple CEO Tim Cook: ‘I’m Thinking Printers’

Following the resignation of Apple founder Steve Jobs, incoming CEO Tim Cook called a meeting…to announce that he envisioned printers as the company’s future. “Laser, ink-jet, double-sided, color, black-and-white—the future of technology is in printers. I am absolutely convinced of that…

Cook concluded his remarks by assuring investors the release of upcoming Apple products such as the iPhone 5 would be postponed for at least four years so the company could throw all its time and resources into the creation of high-quality printers for the home and office.

lol

It certainly touches on the fears that every Apple fanboy (myself included) harbors. So I ask, who is this guy, what is he like, and how is he likely to run the company?

Here are 5 quick insights to answer those questions:

1. He’s single (aka gay). An insightful article from Felix Salmon talks about the spicy world of gay executives. How coming out can hurt the brand image while not doing so can get you into trouble. He still hasn’t come out yet and is officially listed as a lifelong bachelor, but there is a printing of him in Out magazine as the most powerful gay man in the world.

2. Jobsian Temperament. If there is anything you know Tim Cook for it is his famous rant on how Netbooks suck, back in 2009:

“When I look at netbooks, I see cramped keyboards, terrible software, junky hardware, very small screens. It’s just not a good consumer experience and not something we would put the Mac brand on.”

To which Apple promptly released the 11-inch MacBook Air and then the iPad (definitely not Netbooks but directly competing with them).

It’s interesting to note that this comment occurred the last time Cook took over for Jobs as CEO.

A Forbes piece from 2008 discusses his personality, stating that his “default facial expression is a frown…his humor is of the dry variety…(and he) is cool, calm, and never, ever raises his voice”. Which would give you the idea that he is the opposite of Jobs until you read this:

“Cook can be brutal in meetings. “I’ve seen him shred people…He asks you the questions he knows you can’t answer, and he keeps going and going. It isn’t funny, and it’s not fun.”

If these remarks are true then it’s easy to see why Jobs named him sucessor. Another “smartest person in the room” who is not afraid to cut through the crap for success.

3. The operations to my design. Cook is generally considered an operations genius. He famously cornered the market on flash memory from 2005 to 2010. He revolutionized Apple’s supply chain, modernized the retail stores, and took over Mac and iPhone telecom operations.

Yeah, when it comes to running the business he is it. Filling in for Jobs greatest weakness, operations. The problem is that Cook’s own weakness’ are design and new products. One has to hope that he is aware of this and actively recruiting a snotty design genius to fill in his gaps.

4. Outside of work. He is the only Apple executive to sit on a board and he sits on Nike’s board of directors. Which means he wears Nike shoes to Jobs New Balance. He does sport jeans like Jobs but thankfully no turtleneck, just a spiffy dress shirt.

After a ridiculous misdiagnosis for Multiple Sclerosis he is a fitness nut, to include cycling and riding in fundraisers for MS. To replenish himself he eats energy bars, a lot of them. Nearly every article talks about how he downs them like candy.

5. Southern charm. Tim Cook grew up in Alabama and went to school in Alabama, at Auburn university. His office is said to be decorated with memorabilia from Tigers football (Auburn).

So you can see him live, here is a video of him giving the 2010 Commencement speech at Auburn.

Other. He is rich, really rich. Last year his salary was more than $50 million (including benefits and stock options). But, that doesn’t matter because he has acquired several hundred million dollars worth of Apple stock in his 13 years at Apple. In his new post as CEO, the Board voted to give him one million shares, but they have to vest. Half of them are his in 2016 and the other half in a decade.

 

Tim Cook: 5 things about Apple's new CEO

From the Onion:

New Apple CEO Tim Cook: ‘I’m Thinking Printers’

Following the resignation of Apple founder Steve Jobs, incoming CEO Tim Cook called a meeting…to announce that he envisioned printers as the company’s future. “Laser, ink-jet, double-sided, color, black-and-white—the future of technology is in printers. I am absolutely convinced of that…

Cook concluded his remarks by assuring investors the release of upcoming Apple products such as the iPhone 5 would be postponed for at least four years so the company could throw all its time and resources into the creation of high-quality printers for the home and office.

lol

It certainly touches on the fears that every Apple fanboy (myself included) harbors. So I ask, who is this guy, what is he like, and how is he likely to run the company?

Here are 5 quick insights to answer those questions:

1. He’s single (aka gay). An insightful article from Felix Salmon talks about the spicy world of gay executives. How coming out can hurt the brand image while not doing so can get you into trouble. He still hasn’t come out yet and is officially listed as a lifelong bachelor, but there is a printing of him in Out magazine as the most powerful gay man in the world.

2. Jobsian Temperament. If there is anything you know Tim Cook for it is his famous rant on how Netbooks suck, back in 2009:

“When I look at netbooks, I see cramped keyboards, terrible software, junky hardware, very small screens. It’s just not a good consumer experience and not something we would put the Mac brand on.”

To which Apple promptly released the 11-inch MacBook Air and then the iPad (definitely not Netbooks but directly competing with them).

It’s interesting to note that this comment occurred the last time Cook took over for Jobs as CEO.

A Forbes piece from 2008 discusses his personality, stating that his “default facial expression is a frown…his humor is of the dry variety…(and he) is cool, calm, and never, ever raises his voice”. Which would give you the idea that he is the opposite of Jobs until you read this:

“Cook can be brutal in meetings. “I’ve seen him shred people…He asks you the questions he knows you can’t answer, and he keeps going and going. It isn’t funny, and it’s not fun.”

If these remarks are true then it’s easy to see why Jobs named him sucessor. Another “smartest person in the room” who is not afraid to cut through the crap for success.

3. The operations to my design. Cook is generally considered an operations genius. He famously cornered the market on flash memory from 2005 to 2010. He revolutionized Apple’s supply chain, modernized the retail stores, and took over Mac and iPhone telecom operations.

Yeah, when it comes to running the business he is it. Filling in for Jobs greatest weakness, operations. The problem is that Cook’s own weakness’ are design and new products. One has to hope that he is aware of this and actively recruiting a snotty design genius to fill in his gaps.

4. Outside of work. He is the only Apple executive to sit on a board and he sits on Nike’s board of directors. Which means he wears Nike shoes to Jobs New Balance. He does sport jeans like Jobs but thankfully no turtleneck, just a spiffy dress shirt.

After a ridiculous misdiagnosis for Multiple Sclerosis he is a fitness nut, to include cycling and riding in fundraisers for MS. To replenish himself he eats energy bars, a lot of them. Nearly every article talks about how he downs them like candy.

5. Southern charm. Tim Cook grew up in Alabama and went to school in Alabama, at Auburn university. His office is said to be decorated with memorabilia from Tigers football (Auburn).

So you can see him live, here is a video of him giving the 2010 Commencement speech at Auburn.

Other. He is rich, really rich. Last year his salary was more than $50 million (including benefits and stock options). But, that doesn’t matter because he has acquired several hundred million dollars worth of Apple stock in his 13 years at Apple. In his new post as CEO, the Board voted to give him one million shares, but they have to vest. Half of them are his in 2016 and the other half in a decade.

 

The origin of Steve Jobs turtlenecks

I was looking at this incredible collection of Apple Computer ads and noticed that the very first one in 1977 has this smart-looking fellow in a turtleneck. Scroll down to the second ad from 1977 and there it is, another turtleneck.

Lol, right, at least they’re not black. Maybe Steve Jobs was more colorful in those early days? After these two ads no turtleneck ever appeared in an Apple ad (as far as I can tell). I’m guessing some one took over the marketing from Steve…

if you really like these ads then take a look at this September 1977 issue of Scientific American. It has some awesome detail on the first ad, “Start by playing PONG. Then invent your own games using the input keyboard…”

How could Apple spend its $51 billion cash?

The common advice would be to acquire some hot property like Twitter, Pandora, or Hulu. Doing so would satisfy Wall Street’s insatiable hunger for greedy growth, but wouldn’t be all that strategic.

Another idea would be for Apple to invest in itself. A post over on Business Insider highlights this using a thread on Quora.

It started with this question, “What would make sense for Apple to use its $51+ billion in cash for a strategic acquisition?”

The two most interesting answers present inspired analysis of the company.

One has a list of Apple acquisitions since 1997 and points out that all have been small, with most in the $10-20 million range. The biggest on record was over a decade ago with the “purchase of NeXT that brought Steve Jobs back to Apple”.

1997 Next (programming services). Value: $404 million
1997 Power Computing (cloned computers). $100 million
1999 Xemplar Education (software). $5 million
1999 Raycer Graphics (graphic chips). $15 million
2000 NetSelector (Internet software). Value: NA
2001 Astarte (DVD authoring software). Value: NA
2001 bluebuzz (Internet service provider). Value: NA
2001 Source Technologies (graphics software). Value: NA
2001 PowerSchool (online info systems services). $62 million
2002 Nothing Real (special effects software). $15 million
2002 Zayante (software). $13 million
2002 Silicon Grail Corp-Chalice (digital effects software). Value: NA
2002 Emagic (music production software). $30 million
2002 Propel Software (software). Value: NA
2005 Fingerworks (gesture recognition). Value: NA
2006 Silicon Color (software). Value: NA
2006 Proximity (software). Value: NA
2008 P.A. Semi (semiconductors). $268 million
2009 Placebase (maps). Value: NA
2009 Lala (music streaming). $17 million
2010 Quattro (mobile advertising). $275 million
2010 Intrinsity (semiconductors). $121 million
2010 Siri (software). Value: NA
2010 Poly9 (Web-based mapping). Value: NA

The second, even more insightful, points out that the majority of Apple’s cash is used for strategic capital investment. They find a new technology they want in on and buy the factory, patent, or supply chain and then secure exclusive contracts for them.

Even writing in first-purchase clauses, where they get exclusive production discounts by fronting some start-up costs for the new factories.

Read the full answer for more details on how this world-class supply chain operates:

Apple actually uses its cash hoard in a very interesting way to maintain a decisive advantage over its rivals:

When new component technologies (touchscreens, chips, LED displays) first come out, they are very expensive to produce, and building a factory that can produce them in mass quantities is even more expensive. Oftentimes, the upfront capital expenditure can be so huge and the margins are small enough (and shrink over time as the component is rapidly commoditized) that the companies who would build these factories cannot raise sufficient investment capital to cover the costs.

What Apple does is use its cash hoard to pay for the construction cost (or a significant fraction of it) of the factory in exchange for exclusive rights to the output production of the factory for a set period of time (maybe 6 – 36 months), and then for a discounted rate afterwards. This yields two advantages:

  1. Apple has access to new component technology months or years before its rivals. This allows it to release groundbreaking products that are actuallyimpossible to duplicate. Remember how for up to a year or so after the introduction of the iPhone, none of the would-be iPhone clones could even get a capacitive touchscreen to work as well as the iPhone’s? It wasn’t just the software – Apple simply has access to new components earlier, before anyone else in the world can gain access to it in mass quantities to make a consumer device. One extraordinary example of this is the aluminum machining technology used to make Apple’s laptops – this remains a trade secret that Apple continues to have exclusive access to and allows them to make laptops with (for now) unsurpassed strength and lightness.
  2. Eventually its competitors catch up in component production technology, but by then Apple has their arrangement in place whereby it can source those parts at a lower cost due to the discounted rate they have negotiated with the (now) most-experienced and skilled provider of those parts – who has probably also brought his production costs down too. This discount is also potentiallysubsidized by its competitors buying those same parts from that provider – the part is now commoditized so the factory is allowed to produce them for all buyers, but Apple gets special pricing.

Apple is not just crushing its rivals through superiority in design, Steve Jobs’s deep experience in hardware mass production (early Apple, NeXT) has been brought to bear in creating an unrivaled exclusive supply chain of advanced technology literally years ahead of anyone else on the planet. If it feels like new Apple products appear futuristic, it is because Apple really is sending back technology from the future.

Once those technologies (or more accurately, their mass production techniques) become sufficiently commoditized, Apple is then able to compete effectively on cost and undercut rivals. It’s a myth that Apple only makes premium products – it makes them all right, but that is because they are literally more advanced than anything else (i.e. the price premium is not just for design), and once the product line is no longer premium, they are produced more cheaply than competitor equivalents, yielding higher margins, more cash, which results in more ability to continue the cycle.

Here is one of those famous Apple production videos which highlights the aluminium machining technology.

 

Steve Jobs Health, Forced Sabbaticals, and His Brilliance

“No one wants to die,” said Steve Jobs. “And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new.”

Those words are from a famous keynote Steve gave at Stanford in 2005, nearly a year after his brush with cancer. It is well worth a listen to for it’s inspiring message of Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish (text version). A message that Steve says he wishes for himself and perhaps one he now is forced to live by.

Last week on Jan 17, 2011 Steve announced that he is taking a medical leave of absence from Apple. This is his third medical leave, with the previous two for removal of cancerous tumor and a liver transplant. One can only guess what painful problem the man is facing now. You could also guess how this changes a person, what it does to you. Facing death and triumphant returns over and over. It got me thinking what Steve has accomplished after each of these bouts with death.

To uncover this I did a little research and the story starts on July 9, 1997, when Steve was named interim-CEO of Apple. It was the first of his triumphant returns. Twelve years earlier he had been forced out of the company and watched it slowly turn into a disaster. Facing crippling financial losses, record low stock prices, and even a denouncement from Michael Dell, “I’d shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders.”

Then in 1997, an acquisition brought Steve back into the company and he quickly took the reigns as CEO. Not long after things starting happening like small tectonic shifts. Three major products were announced and soon the world was dramatically altered:

  • 1998 – iMac
  • 2001 – iPod
  • 2003 – iTunes Store

All three were huge successes and quickly put Apple back on top. The iPod sold over 100 million units, the iTunes Store sold over 10 billion songs, and the iMac breathed life back into their computers. Together they brought the company back to profitability and, individually, they revolutionized computers, consumer electronics, and music.

Then in July of 2004, Steve was again forced to leave Apple, this time due to a cancerous tumor. After having it removed via the  Whipple procedure, Steve triumphantly returned and released the following:

  • 2005-06 – MacBook
  • 2007 – iPhone
  • 2008 – App store

Three even more successful products. Each one revolutionizing laptops, mobile phones, and, for the app store, creating a whole new paradigm. At this point the company was on the move with the stock price catapulting and revenues soaring.

Then, in 2009, Steve’s third forced sabbatical hit. This time it was a liver transplant, a common ailment arising from the Whipple procedure. Upon returning he released the:

  • 2010 – iPad

Another extremely successful product which appears to be revolutionizing computer operating systems and the entire computer industry.

This takes us back to the present day and the announcement of Steve’s fourth sabbatical. To which many are predicting not a another leave of absence but a final departure into the sunset. After all, Tim Cook is at the helm as he has been in the two previous sabbaticals. Plus, Steve has no need to keep going since he has already accomplished so much and left the company in such a profitable condition.

I can see that happening, but I can also imagine another possibility. One that is in line with the “stay hungry, stay foolish” mantra. Is it possible that Steve has come to love these vacations?

I mean look at what he has accomplished after each one, not even a delay in success or a few years for the product “to hit.” The gratification is so instant it’s like a perfect test for Dr. Pavlov.

I’m not being callous about his health either. Pancreatic cancer is one of those rare, one-in-a-million forms that is completely curable. Most patients are known to have perfectly normal, healthy lives nearly indistinguishable from any other patient. However, there can be complications like liver failure, and this latest medical leave means something else is wrong.

All of these are painful problems and I empathize for Steve, but it does point out that he could likely be poised for another triumphant return.

Why not? Sabbaticals exist for this very reason. Leave at a point of high success and/or anxiety to recover and recoup. It’s a time honored tradition that is too often derided by others. Our community spirit says to work, work to death.

In some ways the move is inspiring. A CEO taking off time to improve his health, be with his family, and then return to change the world.

That is awesome. How many other examples like that do we have?

Have you ever taken a sabbatical?

What would it take for you to take some time off and recoup?

Photo by Peter Denton