Becoming Steve Jobs

He loved his children, but he’s still the guy that illegally parked in handicapped spaces.

Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli had front-row seats to the career of Steve Jobs. Their new biography, entitled Becoming Steve Jobs (Crown Business, 2015, ISBN 978-0385347402), combines nearly twenty-five years of their personal interview notes with some great photos and new interviews with current and former Apple employees as well as Steve Jobs’ widow Laurene Powell Jobs. Brent Schlender interviewed Steve Jobs and Bill Gates in the August 1991 edition of Fortune magazine that I still have on my bookshelf. And Rick Tetzeli has spent many years covering technology for Fast Company.

Becoming Steve Jobs by Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli

A lot of the media coverage surrounding Becoming Steve Jobs implies “he wasn’t so bad,” no doubt influenced by the book’s subtitle, “The Evolution of a Reckless Upstart into a Visionary Leader”.I don’t disagree that Walter Isaacson’s biography was flawed (see related Daring Fireball article, Walter Isaacson’s ‘Steve Jobs’). Much of the “growth” narrative from the “wilderness years” at Pixar and NeXT is beautifully captured in Ed Catmull’s Creativity, Inc. (see my related book review, Creativity, Inc.) and often cited by the Becoming Steve Jobs authors. Dr. Catmull also contributes to the “growth” narrative from the book’s back cover.

After working with Steve for over twenty-five years, I feel this book captures with great insight the growth and complexity of a truly extraordinary person. I hope that it will be recognized as the definitive history.

Ed Catmull, president, Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios

So we learn that Steve Jobs had close friends and loved his children, but he’s still the guy that illegally parked in handicapped spaces. As a father, I was particularly moved by the CEO trying to stay alive from incurable cancer long enough to attend his son’s graduation. As an employee, I was discouraged by a CEO who discarded strong contributors when he determined they outlived their usefulness. But Becoming Steve Jobs displaced several other interesting books on my bedside table. Its 464-page account of a one-of-a-kind Silicon Valley pioneer was impossible to put down.

What did you think about Becoming Steve Jobs?

Disclosure of Material Connection: I borrowed a copy of this book from a public library and did not receive it free from its publisher. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

All I want for Christmas is an iPad Air 2

Thoughts on Apple’s latest mobile devices.

Apple released iOS 8.1 yesterday along with a smaller update for the Apple TV. I updated my iPad 2 and iPhone 5, both previously running iOS 8.0.2. Both of my devices have struggled with Apple’s new mobile OS, so my wife’s iPhone 5 and mom’s iPad 2 remain on iOS 7. I’m grateful that iOS 8.1 arrived so quickly after last month’s release of iOS 8. Last year, Apple mobile users had to wait until March- several months after iOS 7.0 was released- for iOS 7.1 (see related article, Still Waiting for iOS 7.1). But this year there was urgency to introduce Apple Pay, Apple’s new mobile payment system. I’m hopeful that iOS 8.1 also contains some performance and battery life improvements.

2014 Apple iPad Air 2

For the second year in a row, I’m on the fence about replacing my aging iPad 2. Last year, I avoided the iPad Air due to its lack of Touch ID sensor and stingy storage capacity (see related article, Why I won’t buy this year’s iPad). This year’s new iPad models add Touch ID, but the storage on the base models is still a puny (by 2014 standards) 16 GB even though the storage has been doubled in the mid-tier and top-tier models, just like the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. The situation is even more pronounced if you want a smaller iPad Mini 3. While updated with Touch ID, the new Mini has the same A7 processor as last year’s iPad Mini 2, not the new A8 processor available in the iPad Air 2. Three years ago, I spent $499 US on an iPad 2 with 16 GB of storage and am just a tad bitter that today $499 US will get me an iPad Air 2 with- sigh- still a whopping 16 GB of storage. I’ll look for loose coins in my sofa so I can spend an additional $100 US for an iPad Air 2 with 64 GB, but expect me to complain (loudly) about it.

Enterprises should be thrilled that Touch ID is now standard across new iPhone and iPad models. And I’m hopeful that SAP will soon release updated apps like Mobile BI that eschew clunky application passwords in favor of Touch ID authentication. But developers such as Allen Pike have lamented that customers can still buy new products like the iPad Mini and iPod Touch that still use the three-year-old A5 processor designed for the iPad 2 (see his related article, The iPad Zombie). There’s a huge gap in performance between the A5 and A8 that app developers will have to manage for several more years. And I’m personally starting to notice increasingly sluggish performance from the apps I use every day.

Traditionally, Apple keeps older models on the market at lower prices. And this year is no exception. The two-year-old iPad Mini is $249 US to introduce iPad to a larger, more budget conscious set of consumers. But this year is the first that Apple’s new models have been deliberately crippled to encourage customers to upsell to pricier models. Whether it’s the iPhone 6, iPad Air 2, or even the new Mac Mini, the low-end models of each product have been designed like an automobile parked in the dealer showroom. You know, the standard model with the attractive price that the salesperson tells you to avoid because it has a lackluster engine or no air conditioning. John Gruber had a similar reaction on his Daring Fireball blog:

16 GB iPads work against the foundation of Apple’s brand, which is that they only make good products. Apple has long used three-tier pricing structures within individual product categories. They often used to label them “Good”, “Better”, and “Best”. Now, with these 16 GB entry-level devices, it’s more like “Are you sure?”, “Better”, and “Best”.

I’m an Apple shareholder and I love hearing about gross margins during quarterly analyst calls. But it seems that this year’s margins will grow not only due to increased sales volume, but due to Apple’s new upsell strategy. Apple Store employees will no doubt be coached to display more tact than “Well, you could buy the 16 GB model. If you’re an idiot.” But regardless of the tone of the messaging, I believe that is the message.

Will you purchase a new iPhone or iPad this year?

Other voices on the new Apple iPads


Today is a big day for tech news.

On September 9, 1956, Elvis Presley appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show for the first time. Today, SAP Mentor and my friend and co-worker Greg Myers will appear on a #askSAP webcast for the first time alongside SAP’s Jayne Landry, Ty Miller, and Blair Wheadon. Big news is also expected from Apple and Tableau.

Sounds like a good day to take a long lunch. At a place with great wi-fi bandwidth.

Blackberry (remember them?) isn’t jumping on the September 9th bandwagon, but will have its own See The Bigger Picture event (giant phones?) on September 24.

Apple Retires the iPad 2

After 3 years, Apple retires the iPad 2.

Today, Apple officially retired the 3-year-old iPad 2 and replaced it with last year’s iPad 4, or possibly a slightly tweaked (cost reduced) version of it. Apple also introduced an 8 GB iPhone 5c in multiple markets although the iPhone 4S is still in the United States product lineup. My iPad 2 has been a close companion for three years. I purchased it shortly after Apple introduced it in March 2011. I’m grateful that it’s capable of running iOS 7.1 and SAP BusinessObjects Mobile BI runs great. But I am starting to notice some of my favorite apps like Evernote are running slow. I’m guessing that app vendors are spending less time tweaking performance on older tablets when the newer models have much faster processors- this year’s iPad Air runs up to 7x faster than an iPad 2.

What does Apple’s latest product shuffle mean?

First, the legacy 30-pin connector has been phased out of the product line-up. I expect Apple to introduce the 8 GB iPhone 5c in the US once the iPhone 4s supply chain has been fully depleted.

Second, I’ll predict that the next iPad Air, expected around September 2014, will only be a modest bump in speed and capability to the current model. So instead of two very similar models being sold side-by-side when this year’s model is depreciated, Apple has instead reintroduced a clearly lower-performing less-desirable model (although clearly superior to the iPad 2 it replaces) at the bottom of the line-up.

Third, the original iPad Mini and its non-Retina display remains on sale. I hope that is an indicator that I’ll be able to upgrade my iPad 2 to iOS 8 later this year, as it shares the same processor and screen resolution.

I’m really looking forward to this year’s revised iPad lineup (see related article, Why I won’t buy this year’s iPad). But for now, my iPad 2 is within arm’s reach.

Still Waiting for Apple iOS 7.1

Apple iOS 7.0.6 is here, but I was hoping for iOS 7.1.

UPDATE: Apple released Apple iOS 7.1 on March 10, 2014.

Today Apple released iOS 7.0.6 for its line of iPads and iPhones with a security update for SSL connection verification.


Like many, I’ve been waiting for iOS 7.1 to correct some minor problems. Last month, MG Siegler wrote an article entitled I Got Bugscritical of the quality of Apple iOS 7.

I remain convinced that in just about every way, iOS 7 is a huge upgrade over the previous iterations. Except one. And it’s a big one. The software is so inexplicably and inexcusably buggy.

My biggest gripe is my iPhone 5 can’t decide if the battery is charged or not, especially once the battery level falls below 50%. iOS 7.1 is currently in beta and currently expected in mid-March. I hope that the release of today’s minor (albeit security related) bug fix isn’t an early warning that we’re going to have to wait even longer.

Apple is expected to soon unveil the next chapter of its television strategy, which is assumed to be a revised Apple TV. Apple TV has its own variant of iOS and the new model most likely has dependencies on the upcoming iOS 7.1. It’s rumored that the next Apple TV may be integrated with an Airport Express, Apple’s entry-level wi-fi router that is due for its own upgrade (see related 9-to-5 Mac article, Apple TV graduates from hobby/accessory to product line ahead of major changes). Another item overdue for a product refresh is the Apple Mac Mini, last updated in October 2012. Because it has found a home in many living rooms as a media device, it’s plausible that the Mac Mini could be refreshed alongside the Apple TV as part of a broader array of offerings for the living room.

For now, I’ll be keeping an eye on my iPhone 5 battery indicator.

The Price of Early Adoption

There’s always a price to be paid for early adoption of technology.

Earlier this week, MG Siegler wrote an article entitled I Got Bugscritical of the quality of Apple iOS 7.

I remain convinced that in just about every way, iOS 7 is a huge upgrade over the previous iterations. Except one. And it’s a big one. The software is so inexplicably and inexcusably buggy.

I experience some minor issues with iOS 7 on both my iPhone 5 and iPad 2. But the experience has been largely positive. Besides, like everyone else I really wanted to be an early adopter to start using new features, assumming Apple would fix anything “critical”. They have – we’re on 7.0.4. We haven’t seen iOS 7.1 yet (although it’s now in beta) because it’s a more substantial release. And like most companies, Apple slows down for the US holidays in November and December. We don’t hear as much about Android bugs because so few Android devices are running the latest Android 4.4 OS (aka KitKat). And there’s not enough users of Microsoft Windows Phone, Microsoft Windows RT tablets, or Blackberry 10 devices to bother writing about.

Apple iOS 7 Adoption Is Unprecedented

But we hear about Apple iOS 7 not only because of the volume of users but also because of the velocity of their adoption of the new OS.

Apple iOS 7 Adoption

Apple’s own statistics, posted on the Apple developers web site, show that iOS 7 adoption is at 78% as of the end of December 2013. That’s very impressive for an operating system that was only released in mid-September. Although there is criticism of iOS 7 and the new versions of iWork applications, Apple is to be commended for how much hardware, software, and iCloud services were shipped last September. Due to their tight integration, everything from iOS 7 to OS X Mavericks‎ to Safari to iTunes and iWork apps had to be released simultaneously. I’m sure there are many in Cupertino grateful that no “antennagate” (see related Daring Fireball article, Antennagate Bottom Line) or iOS 6 Maps fiasco (see related Daring Fireball article, Pogue on iOS 6 Maps) has emerged from this year’s updates (I’m not sure iWork frustration counts as a fiasco). Although adoption is very high, it’s still not 100%, with 18% of users still on iOS 6 and 4% on an even earlier version (the latter most likely due to device incompatibility, such as the original iPad).

Count my mom among the iPad users still using iOS 6. Although I updated her MacBook Air to Mavericks 10.9.1 over the Christmas holiday, I’m keeping her iPad 2 on iOS 6 until iOS 7.1 is released. My mom will appreciate the automatic app update feature, but I’m waiting for a more stable version before having to explain to her the nuances of the revised multitasking, notification center, and command center features.

Consumer Adoption vs. Enterprise Adoption

There are no parallels for the rate of user adoption seen with iOS. Consumers largely remained on Windows XP, avoiding Vista in favor of Windows 7. But many users are staying on the 12-year-old OS even though it will be officially retired in April. Enterprise adoption tends to be even more conservative than consumer adoption. “Dot-zero” releases are routinely shunned until not only the “dot-one” release appears, but enough early adopters have taken the plunge and given their blessing. (Although most Microsoft users are sticking with Windows 7 even though Windows 8 recently received a “dot-one” 8.1 update).

SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0 Adoption

Consider SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0, the first major release of the platform since SAP’s 2008 acquisition of BusinessObjects. The product went through a lengthier than usual ramp-up period during 2011 before becoming generally available on September 16, 2011. The product received a lot of new features with the introduction of Feature Pack 3 on June 15, 2012. Originally intended to be called BI 4.1, I’m still unsure if the release was renamed “Feature Pack 3” to increase adoption or to suppress it until the more stable BI 4.1 was released on August 29, 2013.

As a consultant, I’ve been grateful to work on several BI 4.0 projects instead of being stuck on XI R2 or XI 3.1. But there have been adoption hurdles. And although any customer is frustrated when a project is delayed due to software bugs, most adopters of BI 4.0 understood the risk and perceived enough benefits from upgrading to take that risk.

But the “dot-one” release isn’t always a panacea for user adoption. Although BI 4.1 has both more stability and features than it’s now two-year-old predecessor, it isn’t without issues. After releasing a glowing endorsement of the new Support Pack 2 on Monday (see related article on the EV Technologies blog, State of the SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.0 Upgrade, January 2014), I discovered on Tuesday that even the most basic of publications using the sample eFashion universe won’t work properly, let alone mission-critical publications (see related article on the SAP Community Network, Publications Fail). And no scheduled documents, publications or otherwise, can be sent to the Mobile BI Inbox (see related SAP KB 1967424- Reports scheduled to BI inbox not visible in SAP BI app for iOS in BI 4.1). Ouch!

Should customers kicking off BI 4.1 migration projects apply the brakes? Absolutely not. There’s a lot of work to be done regressing testing existing content on a BI 4.1 development platform, which will most likely be patched between project kickoff and go-live anyway. And administrators, developers, and power users need at least a BI 4.1 sandbox to start exploring the new platform’s features. But unfortunately, BI 4.1 is starting to show more in common with Windows 8.1 instead of iOS 7.1.

The introduction of iOS 7 brings an extra adoption wrinkle for both SAP and the organizations that deploy SAP BusinessObjects Mobile BI (see related article, SAP BusinessObjects Mobile BI 5.1 for iOS). Because iOS 7 can automatically update a user’s apps, mobile app quality has to be guaranteed on day one of its release. And the product documentation should be ready, too.

There’s Always a Price for Early Adoption

Bottom line, there’s always a price to be paid for early adoption. In many cases, it’s a price worth paying. But always be prepared for the risks, seen and unseen.

Are you an Apple user on the iOS 7 bandwagon? Or a SAP BusinessObjects user on the BI 4.0 or BI 4.1 bandwagon? Would love to hear your comments, as always.

What Apple’s new Mac Pro Teaches Us About BI Power Users

Power users may be few in number but large in business impact.

Today, Apple began accepting orders for its latest computer, the Mac Pro. The new Mac Pro was unveiled last summer at Apple’s 2013 World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC). An unusual computer even had an unusual promotional campaign, as Apple released the following WWDC teaser video in movie theaters.

Apple’s computer lines are organized into “consumer” and “professional”, a practice that began in 1996 shortly after Steve Jobs returned to Apple. A product line previously filled with a glut of overlapping offerings was simplified to just four. A consumer desktop and laptop and a professional desktop and laptop. Apple’s product lineup is an acknowledgement that consumers and professionals not only have different budgets, but different requirements as well.

Apple Product Matrix 1997 PocketNow
Image credit: Pocketnow

The new Mac Pro was created as a response to (valid) criticism that the previous model was stale and in need of an update. But at the same time, many pundits have questioned the need for a professional desktop due to the increased capability of the consumer-level iMacs.

A similar distinction exists for business intelligence users, typically organized with the terms like “casual user” and “power user” or “analyst”. As with Apple’s pro users, business intelligence power users are typically a small number of the overall user base. However, by definition, these are the people that are identifying and exploiting new business opportunities for the organization.

Power Users Need Bigger Software

Apple provides Logic Pro for professional musicians but GarageBand for home and amateur musicians. Similarly, it provides Final Cut X for professional movie makers but iMovie for home and amateur movie makers. The products are built around a common core, but the feature set is tailored for each audience.

Power users typically work with larger volumes of data than casual users. That is because they are performing analysis, looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack as opposed to running daily or month-end reports that return smaller data sets.

After years of replacing desktop software with web-based software, the pendulum is once again swinging in the other direction with software vendors providing a new breed of desktop applications known as “data discovery” software such as SAP Lumira, Tableau Desktop, and QlikView.

Regarding older tools such as Web Intelligence, organizations should give their power users with the desktop edition, the Web Intelligence Rich Client. The Rich Client offers a more responsive experience with larger data sets and can interact with local data sources such as Microsoft Excel. Because power users often work in Excel, IT organizations should make available Excel plug-ins such as Live Office or Analysis for Microsoft Office and allow users to discover which data access tool best suits their work habits. And even if you disable certain features of browser-based Web Intelligence for casual users, power users should have unrestricted access to all Web Intelligence features.

Power Users Need Bigger Hardware

Power users also need bigger and better hardware. In many organizations, I’ve seen power users struggle to use underpowered and aging “standard” desktops. Although the new breed of data discovery tools run on 32-bit Windows, power users will have a better experience if they are given fast desktops with 64-bit Windows and larger amounts of RAM (typically 4 GB or more) than the typical desktop worker. Executive sponsors and BI Competency Centers should work with desktop PC support teams to insure a second tier of more powerful desktop machine is available to their power users.

Power Users Need Enhanced Support

Lastly, power users need enhanced support. A customer ordering a Starbucks Triple Grande Skinny Vanilla Latte gets more attention from the barista than a customer that merely orders brewed coffee. Unlike a casual user’s standard routine of daily and monthly tasks, a power user’s “typical day” is often atypical, filled with special projects and short deadlines. These users need a higher level of responsive support than casual users who have fairly routine and predictable use of the BI system.

BI competency centers should be staffed with analysts that have bandwidth to address the needs of power users. In some cases, BI organizations have found that embedding and co-locating BICC staff members with users, especially power users, results in higher productivity and higher customer satisfaction for the BI system.


Just as Apple’s consumer-level iMacs now have performance that satisfies “pro-sumers”, today’s BI tools satisfy the needs of a broader audience than they did 10 years ago. But there will always be power users— users that are always pushing boundaries. And there will always be a need to create experiences— with software, hardware, and customer service— that make them as productive as possible.

The new Apple Mac Pro is breathtaking, both to the eye and to the wallet. But it is a serious computer for demanding users. I predict that in the coming year, the Mac Pro will the de-facto choice for product placement on television shows, movies, and software vendor demonstrations. Next year, Tableau will introduce a new version of Tableau Desktop for Mac OS. Perhaps we will see SAP Lumira on a Mac Pro at next year’s SAPPHIRE?

Video – Making the 2013 Mac Pro