Like many, I was deeply saddened by the recent passing of Steve Jobs. Like many, I spent the evening of his passing looking at clips of his speeches on YouTube, chief among them is his commencement address to the Stanford University, and his more recent address to the Cupertino City Council. The humor of his self characterization “I am a simple man…” served only to punctuate his point of “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s”. Is there any doubt what the lord of Infinite Loop’s new spaceship-like campus will be named?
And like many, Apple Computer is a very personal journey for me:
1986 – A close friend and I used to get in heated debates over the Mac vs. PC discussion long before the “I’m a Mac, I’m a PC” television advertisements became mainstream. As a promising (and rather fetching) graphic designer, she lauded the elegance of her Mac, the design elements, etc. I would counter that it was a fine platform, it was just too bad that there was little software available for it. I married that friend 10 years later.
1989 – As a fresh faced, energetic, soon-to-be-business school graduate, I was given the opportunity to view the world and air my views without impunity or business consequence in several capstone exercises. My final thesis advocated for Apple opening up it’s operating system to allow MS applications to run on the Mac platform. I still have the paper, I received a B…my financial analysis was based on a few curious assumptions. I composed the paper on a Macintosh SE, which was quite an upgrade from my first PC foray, a Commodore TRS-80 with cassette tape drive memory. Years later, I was immensely gratified when I learned that Apple came to the same conclusion. “There is no better platform to run Windows applications than a Mac” I heard Jobs’ recorded voice assert on the afternoon of October 5th.
1999 – I learned that Kodak, the world largest consumer of silver in its photographic processing, was discontinuing its offering of film-based cameras and focusing on digital platforms. I had seen the first charged coupled devices chips while working in distribution in Silicon Valley. Although I couldn’t imagine the resolution improvements that would enable the current generation of cameras in converged devices such as the cell phone, I wanted to be a play a role in that revolution. I joined Intel’s Connected Products Division, a team of very talented individuals who were leveraging the chip maker’s skills in silicon chip manufacture in consumer products including PC connected cameras, educational toys for children, and a digital music player. Perhaps the highpoint for me was when CEO Craig Barret introduced Lenny Kravitz at an evening event during the 2001 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. What an energizing performance to announce its newest digital audio player! Market share gains were inevitable…who wouldn’t want 128 MB of crystal clear audio in the form factor of a deck of cards. Interestingly enough, these products weren’t designed to drive revenue, but brand preference. Senior leadership had realized that the current PC processor would do just about everything the user wanted it to do: MS Office applications, emails, gaming, etc. The strategy was to focus on the bleeding edge applications (enticing digital audio and video products) to guide the mainstream consumer to cross the chasm. The trick was in the fine print on the box “this product is optimized for a Pentium processor”. It was much harder to measure, and took longer to see results than with monthly reported market share. In October 2001, Apple called an interesting press conference to talk about something other than the Macintosh…the iPod had arrived. I wasn’t about to let Apple take the precious planogram space for which I had negotiated in major retail stores, no sir! But by the end of the year, Apple had 26 retail stores open selling everything Apple, and opening more daily. The next spring was spent “gracefully exiting the consumer product business” and buying my first of more than a dozen iPods, iPads, and the like.
2005 – “How can I make my target market feel the same way about HP peripherals as they do about their Mac peripherals?” was a challenge I faced as a marketer. The short answer was it is impossible without a cultural change. And a change came, in the form of the ouster of Carly Fiorina and the end of HP branded Apple products.
And so goes my love/hate relationship with Apple. Rather than offer some sage summary of convergence of the IT and consumer electronics industries gained over the years, I will rely on one of those closest to Mr. Jobs. cnet recently posted an under the kilt list of 12 things (and a bonus) former Apple evangelist Guy Kawasaki learned from years at Apple, and here is a summary:
1. Experts are clueless
2. Customers cannot tell you what they need
3. Jump to the next curve
4. The biggest challenges beget best work
5. Design counts
6. You can’t go wrong with big graphics and big fonts
7. Changing your mind is a sign of intelligence
8. “Value” is different from “price”
9. A players hire A+ players
10. Real CEOs demo
11. Real CEOs ship
12. Marketing boils down to providing unique value
Bonus: Some things need to be believed to be seen.
Mr. Kawasaki spares us the carnage of the buckets of buckets of blood, sweat, and tears and cuts to the gems. If I could write a note and send it back in time to that fresh faced, business school graduate, I would include at least a few of these (along with the names of the Kentucky Derby winners). Which of these gems resonate with you?