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Category Nostalgia

In memoriam: Dennis Ritchie

Dennis Ritchie created C and co-created Unix. One of the unsung heroes of the modern world. He died yesterday.

His “The C Programming Language” was my bible during a formative period of my life.

In his memory I re-link a post I wrote a little over a year ago.

Unix’s Revenge | asymco

 

Visualizing the Steve Jobs era

On October 4th, Tim Cook will take the stage at Apple’s fall event. With Steve Jobs’ transition to head the Board of Directors of Apple and after serving as CEO for fourteen years, it is time to take a look at his reign.

Looking at his performance vs. peer companies from a capital market performance, I have composed the following two charts:

Market capitalization of selected peer companies by calendar quarter in USD million sorted by most recent market capitalization (1997-2011)

Market capitalization of selected peer companies in USD million sorted by recent market capitalization (1997-2010)

Market capitalization as share of combined market capitalization by calendar quarter sorted by most recent market capitalization (1997-2011)

Polymath

In a rare reflective moment Steve Jobs, after the launch of the iPad, mentioned Apple’s DNA. He said:

“Technology alone is not enough. It’s technology married with the liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields the results that makes our hearts sing.

Nowhere is that more true than in these post-PC devices…that need to be even easier to use than a PC, that need to be even more intuitive than a PC; and where the software and the hardware and the applications need to intertwine in an even more seamless way than they do on a PC.

We think we are on the right track with this. We think we have the right architecture not just in silicon but in the organization to build these kinds of products.”

Steve Jobs’ legacy in product development has been clearly established and celebrated. What remains now is to determine his legacy in company development. If indeed Apple has the “right architecture in the organization” to serially build disruptive products. The collection of evidence begins today.

If Apple has indeed become Jobsian then it will have been a grand achievement. John Gruber is already convinced. He points out

Jobs’s greatest creation isn’t any Apple product. It is Apple itself.

If indeed he has built Apple sufficiently well to last then he has built an admirable process and not just a product. But this would not be a unique achievement. There have been other companies which preserved their founders’ cultural imprints, at least for significant periods beyond their departure. Consider that Disney, Ford and even HP and IBM remained successful for many years after the departure of their founders operating much the same way. They were infused with an indelible culture and preserved it for some time.

But a leader should aspire to do more. A leader should claim to have left a legacy not just on their company but on all companies.

Is it not more worthy to have changed civilization than the fortunes of a few?

I believe that Steve Jobs has actually sought just that. He put it as “making a ding in the universe.” This can be interpreted as developing products that “change everything”. But if the thing that Steve Jobs should be most proud of is the creation of Apple Inc. then how exactly could an Apple Inc. benefit the world?

This is where Jobs’ quote above strikes me as valuable. The lesson the world should take from Apple is that a company needs to become multi-dimensional. It needs to mix the core business with the disruptive innovation. It needs to combine the intellectual with the artistic. It needs to maintain within it the rational and the lunatic.

Apple’s violent success should serve as a powerful beacon that others should follow. Rather than copying its products other companies should copy Apple’s processes–its way of thinking. They should copy how Apple harbors the creative process and the technology processes under the same roof.

If they do heed this call then we should look forward to the the post-Jobs era as that time when large companies gained the ability to intertwine multiple core competencies. A time when humanism balanced corporatism. A time when we came to reconcile the rational and spiritual.

This post has be re-published in The Harvard Business Review Blog as: Steve Jobs’s Ultimate Lesson for Companies – Horace Dediu – Harvard Business Review

The Allegory of Treo

The following is a work of fiction.

The combination seemed unthinkable just a few years ago. Nokia envisioned itself as a substantial rival to Redmond, threatening to head off its computing dominance as the power of desktop computing shifted to pocket-size devices. But a series of miscues substantially weakened the company, leaving it little choice but to team up with the world’s largest software maker.

Flummoxed, again

The last time I took a snapshot of the iPad death watch it was March 9th, 2010. Almost a year ago. The now-classic quotes are reproduced here.  Last May I wrote:

Apple keeps a tight lid on new products so that competitors don’t get a head-start on copying, but in the case of the iPad, advance knowledge would not have had any impact. Competitors look at the iPad and see nothing.  They’ll only react once the market explodes and they start to feel belated pain.

I thought that would be that. As the success of the product would become self-evident, predictions of imminent demise would trail off. The pain of share loss would prompt a wave of challenger copycats. Imitation would be the the best form of flattery.

But no.

Critics were not silenced. One year, 15 million units, and $9.2 billion later I went back to the source of the quotes and found the following (published quotes dated after March 9th 2010). (Cited from aaplinvestors.net with some editing for brevity and relevance):

In memoriam: Microsoft's previous strategic mobile partners

Microsoft’s new “strategic partnership” with Nokia is not its first. For a decade the software company has courted and consummated relationships with a variety of companies in mobile and telecom. Here are the ones I can remember:

  • LG. In February 2009 Microsoft Corp. signed a multiyear agreement for Windows Mobile to be included on devices from LG Electronics Inc. LG would use Windows Mobile as its “primary platform” for smartphones and produce about 50 models running the software.

What happened?

The (iPod)Touch(i)Pad

The world’s largest PC company just launched a “media tablet[1]”. Conflating the iPod Touch and iPad brands into “TouchPad” HP joins RIM in announcing an integrated OS/device product to compete as a platform vs. iOS and Android (and to some degree even against Windows).

There are others waiting in the wings. Presumably, Microsoft is hard at work to release a tablet-compatible Windows sometime near the middle of this decade. MeeGo is also going through its gestation period targeting Atom-based tablets. John Gruber notes the excitement around tablet platforms in his article about this post-PC renaissance in computing alternatives. I also noted that the end of the PC era was marked by the end of WinTel at CES.

Steve Jobs on Apple's priorities

To me, Apple exists in the spirit of the people that work there, and the sort of philosophies and purpose by which they go about their business. So if Apple just becomes a place where computers are a commodity item and where the romance is gone, and where people forget that computers are the most incredible invention that man has ever invented, then I’ll feel I have lost Apple. But if I’m a million miles away and all those people still feel those things and they’re still working to make the next great personal computer, then I will feel that my genes are still in there.

Jobs Talks About His Rise and Fall – Print – Newsweek

In the language of innovation theory that Clayton Christensen created, companies are characterized by three attributes

  1. Resources
  2. Processes
  3. Values (or Priorities)

Resources come and go, typically arriving every morning and leaving every evening.

Processes take a lot of hard work to change but they can be changed.

Values and priorities are almost immutable. They are what Jobs refers to as the “genes”.

The fact that Steve Jobs said these words about Apple in 1985 after his first departure gives one hope that in 2011 (after his return and departure and return and departure again) the genes are still in there.

Unforeseeable growth: Analyst failure on iPad as indicator of disruptive change

Professional analysts’ first year iPad unit forecasts (sourced from TMO Finance Board)

  • Brian Marshall, Broadpoint AmTech   7.0
  • David Bailey, Goldman Sachs           6.2
  • Kathryn Huberty, Morgan Stanley     6.0
  • Shaw Wu, Kauffman Bros.              5.0
  • Mike Abramsky, RBC Capital Markets   5.0
  • Gene Munster, Piper Jaffray           3.5
  • Ben Reitzes, Barclays Capital           2.9
  • Keith Bachman, BMO Capital         2.5

Nokia's UK managing director resigns

Nokia’s Uk managing director Mark Loughran reckons that the Nokia N97 will prove superior to the iPhone due to its significantly better camera sensor, lower tariffs and its radical change in styling and especially form factor from the company’s ex-flagship the Nokia N96.

Loughran said: “The new iPhone is an evolution rather than a revolution and for people trying to decide whether to get a Nokia N97 or an iPhone, it comes down to a decision on performance and value for money.”

Loughran added: “the new iPhone seems to have the same design and colour, upgrading froma sub-standard two-megapixel camera to a still low 3.2 megapixel camera, and is probably a disappointment.”

Nokia General Manager Believes N97 Will Beat The iPhone

Good times…