Jobs – a movie review

My review of Jobs, the movie

I watched Jobs this weekend with my 12-year-old iPod Touch-wielding daughter. By now, you’ve read several negative reviews, including Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak’s on Gizmodo. Or that the movie was buried by Oprah Winfrey’s The Butler on opening weekend.

I’m one of the few who enjoyed Disney’s much ballyhooed John Carter, having read the entire series of Edgar Rice Burroughs novels when I was my daughter’s age. And I’ve lost count of the times I’ve watched the original Tron. So I may not be the right person to ask for movie recommendations. But I enjoyed the Jobs movie and recommend that you watch it and form your own opinion.

I believe critics are reacting to the film the same way technology analysts react to an Apple product launch – with unrealistic expectations. Have you ever heard anyone complain about Dell putting PC’s in the same boring boxes year after year? Just as Walter Issacson’s biography of Steve Jobs was criticized as incomplete despite its 656-page length (see John Gruber’s review as an example), this movie is faulted for trying to put into 2 hours what even Ken Burns would struggle to put into a 10-hour miniseries.  Robert X. Cringely, despite disliking the movie, put this idea into words.

The great failing of this film is the same failing as with Walter Isaacson’s book… we don’t really understand [Steve Jobs] any better.

Robert X. Cringely
Ashton Kutcher’s Steve Jobs somehow misses the whole point

Even the mediocre reviews give Ashton Kutcher much (deserved) praise for his portrayal of Steve Jobs, including his mannerisms. Whatever the final box office success of Jobs is, I believe the movie is Ashton Kutcher’s “Philadelphia moment” that will propel the actor best known for That ’70s Show and Two and a Half Men into a new series of roles, just as the 1993 film Philadelphia propelled Tom Hanks out of comedies like The Man with One Red Shoe into dramatic films like Saving Private Ryan and The Da Vinci Code.

I did not leave the theater counting the days until The Social Network director Aaron Sorkin’s take on Steve Jobs arrives. I left the theater asking myself “can’t we do both”?  Can we create companies that build insanely great products without creating insane cut-throat work environments? For now, the answer is apparently still “no”.

If you are looking for the “real” Steve Jobs, check out Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview on Netflix. Or any number of books, including Issacson’s (see my book review in related article, Steve Jobs). But Ashton Kutcher’s portrayal is worth a ticket stub and some popcorn.

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.”

Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview

Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview is now on Netflix

Last year, former Apple employee and technology columnist Robert X. Cringely unearthed a VHS copy of a presumed lost interview with Steve Jobs that was recorded in 1995, the year before he would return to Apple through Apple’s purchase of NeXT. After a theatrical release last year and arriving on iTunes earlier this summer, it is now available on Netflix.  I’ve watched it twice and highly recommend it.

Disclosure of Material Connection: 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.”

I Can Live Without Apple’s Latest Glass Rectangle

Sure you can buy the latest Apple gadget. But you don’t have to.

As a “fanboy” who’s doing just fine with a 3-year-old 2009 iPhone 3GS, late-2010 Mac Mini, and 2011 iPad 2, this recent article about planned obsolescence by New York Times technology writer Nick Bilton really bothered me.

It’s part of a strategy that Apple has perfected. How else can the company persuade people to replace their perfectly fine iPhone, iPad, iMac and iEverything else year after year?

From Disruptions: You Know You Can’t Live Without Apple’s Latest Glass Rectangle

It’s true that Apple (and “other vendors”, but hey, let’s rag on Apple because it gets more page views) create sexy new products each year that make the old ones look obsolete.  But I’ve purchased Apple products knowing that they will have a long and productive life, not just a 12-month lifespan until the next model is released.  Not only will these products be supported by Apple, they’ll be upgraded as well.

My late-2010 Mac Mini is running Mountain Lion 10.8, the latest version of Apple’s Mac OS X operating system.  In contrast, the $500 Dell i3 laptop that I purchased last year barely ran Windows 7 well and is now struggling to run Windows 8 (see related article First Impressions of Microsoft Windows 8).  But PC’s are cheap and Macs are overpriced, right?

My 3-year-old iPhone 3GS and 2-year-old iPad 2 are both running the latest iOS 6.  In contrast, many Android tablets and phones neither ship with the latest Android OS or ever get upgraded to it.  And the iPad 2 is so great, Apple continues to sell it even though it recently discontinued the 3rd generation iPad in favor of a much better 4th generation model.

And while PC vendors are shamelessly copying most of Apple’s designs, nobody is copying the great Mac Mini.  Yesterday, I took a quick stroll down the desktop PC aisle at Best Buy (where I purchased my Windows 8 Pro upgrade). There’s nothing but over-sized yet underpowered traditional PC enclosures. Sorry, Nick, the Cadillac fins are stuck on PCs, not Macs.

This year, I’ll be replacing my iPhone 3GS with an iPhone 5. My 3GS runs iOS 6 surprisingly well, but the battery on my beloved 3-year-old phone is toast. Eventually, I will also want to replace my Mac and my iPad with newer models. But I’ll be handing them down to my children, not to the local recycling center.  Which is a different fate than Nick Bilton’s article will have.

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson, a review

Here’s to the crazy one. Walter Isaacson’s biography on Steve Jobs.

iFinished.

That was my first reaction when I finally finished all 656 pages of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson (Simon & Schuster, 2011, ISBN 978-1451648539), a Christmas gift from my brother-in-law. Despite the book’s length, it was a difficult one to put down.

I followed Steve Jobs long before I owned an Apple product. I was in college learning to use UNIX when Steve Jobs and NeXT released the first NeXT cube. With it’s distinct appearance and Mach microkernel, the NeXT workstation turned UNIX from a geeky operating system to a cool one. Even its trade publication, NeXTWORLD, was a hip coffee table magazine. I still have my collection of NeXTWORLD magazines. The NeXTSTEP operating system was groundbreaking, and it’s rapid development environment gained fans in unlikely places like Wall Street. Tim Berners-Lee used it to create the World Wide Web. (Did anyone else notice his appearance, along with a NeXT black cube, in the opening ceremonies of the 2012 London Olympic games?)

When Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1996, he brought NeXTSTEP and his eye for product design with him. In 1998, the original Bondi Blue iMac was lampooned for its lack of legacy ports and floppy disk drives. But this reaction became part of a familiar pattern— Apple releases a product, its competitors immediately trash the product, then mimic the product within 6-12 months. With varying degrees of success, as Samsung has recently learned.

While Steve Jobs was a fascinating man, he certainly wasn’t a perfect one. With his obsessive work habits and penchant for tearing down his employees, he wasn’t the ideal manager or father.

On the one-year anniversary of his death, it’s worth reflecting that all of us desire to live more than 56 years. None of us know how much time we really have to make a dent in the universe. But whether you have ever owned an Apple product or watched a Pixar film, your life has been profoundly affected by the legacy of Steve Jobs.

Which is why you should read this important book.

Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. While some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do. – Apple Inc.

We miss you, Steve.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book as a gift, but not from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. 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.”

Did you read Steve Jobs by Walter Issacson? What did you think?

Number Five is Alive!

The mysterious number 5 on Apple’s event invitation.

Why let the pundits have all the phone fun? Here’s my best guess. Giving out the model number of the next iPhone is too generous for a company that prides itself on secrecy. My vote is on five product announcements:

  • Redesigned iPod Shuffle
  • Redesigned iPod Nano
  • Redesigned iPod Touch, rebranded as the iPad Nano (see my February 2012 article, The iPad Family)
  • The Amazon Fire-breathing iPad Mini tablet
  • And one more thing, the new iPhone

“Five” may also refer to the number of aspirin Andreas will be taking on September 12 to ease the headache caused by the noisy din of his coworkers talking about Apple’s latest product announcement.

On an unrelated note, is anyone else surprised that Short Circuit is actually available on Blu Ray?

I’m excited – the replacement for my trusty Apple iPhone 3GS is soon at hand. Number Five is Alive!

What do you think Apple will announce next Wednesday?

Goodnight iPad

A great gift idea for gadget geeks who need to learn to power down.

Goodnight iPad by Ann Droyd is billed as “a parody for the next generation”. This parody of the popular children’s book Goodnight Moon is wonderfully written and illustrated, making it a great gift idea for gadget geeks who need to learn to power down.

Highly recommended.

Purchase Goodnight iPad on Amazon.com

Disclosure of Material Connection: I purchased this book 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.”

The Apple Experience

A review of The Apple Experience by Carmine Gallo

If you’ve never ventured into an Apple Store, today’s announcement of new Apple laptops might make you want to visit. And a visit to an Apple Store is quite an experience. While not every location is as visibly dramatic as Apple’s Fifth Avenue store in New York City with its impressive glass cube, Apple Stores are always located in the most fashionable retail locations. But what is it about these stores that can make the most die-hard Microsoft or Android fan want to buy a MacBook Pro, a new iPhone, or an iPad?

The Apple Experience by Carmine Gallo is the third book of a “trilogy” that includes The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs and The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs. The focus of this title is about the inner workings of Apple’s retail stores, which generate more revenue per square foot than any other retailer. But Apple hasn’t reached lofty revenue goals by focusing exclusively on revenue. In fact, the Apple retail store concept was widely ridiculed almost immediately as the first store opened in 2001. Instead, the focus of Apple’s retail stores is “enriching lives”. Apple understands that customers don’t just want to purchase a computer. Customers want to know how to use a computer to achieve their goals.

A key lesson that Apple learned in the development of their retail concept was to look outside of their industry for inspiration. So instead of looking at Gateway Computer, whose retail stores were permanently closed in 2004, Apple looked to the Four Seasons Hotel and its fantastic customer experience.

And just as Apple looked to other sources for its inspiration, so has author Carmine Gallo. While Apple’s logo graces the cover and many of the book’s major themes, he also profiles companies such as AT&T, Lush, Starbucks, and Zappos.

The 256-page book is organized into three parts: Inspiring Your Internal Customer, Serving Your External Customer, and Setting the Stage. I expected the book to focus on typical retail concepts like selling skills or product placement. But I was surprised that Mr. Gallo devotes nearly 90 pages to Inspiring Your Internal Customer – your employees. Hiring and training are a big part of creating the Apple experience.

At first glance, it might seem like this book is only relevant to people working in the retail industry. But as the author writes,

This book is for anyone who has a business that deals with people. Sure, it includes retailers in any category. But… it’s for anyone who is serious about reimagining the customer experience, because at its core, this book is not about Apple. It’s about the soul of Apple – it’s people.

Most people don’t know why they feel good in an Apple Store, they just do. But it’s people who elevate the customer experience – people who are inspired, are passionate, and have been given the resources and taught the communication techniques required to turn transactions into experiences…

Apple inspires and creates a happy place for people to work and for customer to learn. Inspire people and anything can happen.

So where is the value in this book for business intelligence professionals? Business intelligence is more than “big data” or “sexy visualization tools”. It’s about helping people solve business problems with technology- about enriching lives, just like Apple Stores. And just like Apple learned a lot about customer service by studying organizations outside its industry, I believe that you’ll learn a lot about improving your business intelligence organization’s customer experience in a similar way.

BI managers, in particular, should definitely read this book. Then take the whole BI team to a nearby Apple Store. Take a look at those iPads and their possibility for mobile business intelligence. Deliberately engage with the Apple Store employees. Then take some time afterward to discuss the store visit with your team. What impressed them about their experience? What, if anything, was unremarkable or undesirable?

Then ask the bigger questions. What would a business intelligence genius bar look like? How can our organization implement training similar to the Apple Store’s One-to-One program to increase user adoption? How can we employ Apple’s Five Steps of Service and rethink how we engage our users? How do we make the experience memorable and not the usual “oh crap, I need to go talk to somebody in IT”?

These are important questions. And I believe this book can help inspire you to find some answers.

For More Information

True Story

I had never heard of Lush soaps until reading this book, which inspired me to get some of their products for my wife. An interesting company with an unusual approach to beauty products. Worth checking out both for the products and the in-store retail experience. Their “About Us” video is pretty funny as well as informative.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from McGraw-Hill, the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. 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.”

What do you think a genius bar for business intelligence would look like? Does your organization have one?

Jonathan Ive interview: simplicity isn’t simple

Jonathan Ive interview with The Telegraph.

Jonathan Ive on his role as a designer at Apple in The Telegraph:

“Designing and developing anything of consequence is incredibly challenging,” says Ive. “Our goal is to try to bring a calm and simplicity to what are incredibly complex problems so that you’re not aware really of the solution, you’re not aware of how hard the problem was that was eventually solved.”

Simply a marvelous interview, in two parts: Part One & Part Two.

 

SAP BusinessObjects Mobile BI Updates

SAP BusinessObjects Explorer 4.0.4 and Mobile BI 4.1 are available in the Apple iTunes store.

Although Christmas was three months ago, today (March 29, 2012) certainly feels like it as SAP delivers updates to its mobile business intelligence applications.  SAP BusinessObjects Explorer 4.0.4 and SAP BusinessObjects Mobile BI 4.1 are available for download in the Apple iTunes store.  These apps are beginning to show the first signs of how SAP’s “Mobile First” strategy will unfold, with the mobile applications providing new features and functionality rather than simply replicating what’s available from the desktop or web.

The release summary and links to the documentation are below.

NOTE: Both apps only indicate support for iOS 5.  I’ve already upgraded my iPad 2 to iOS 5.1, so I hope SAP will quickly test that version.

Apple iTunes Store Updates for SAP BusinessObjects

What’s New in SAP BusinessObjects Explorer Version 4.0.4

  • HTTPS support through email bookmark for corporate connection
  •  Support of iOS 5
  • Bookmarks for offline usage
  • Save password feature

What’s New in SAP BusinessObjects BI Mobile Version 4.1.0

  • Integration with Sybase Unwired Platform
  • Support of SAP Crystal Reports content
  • Support of SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence functions, like drill, sections, input controls
  • Integration with the SAP StreamWork application for improved collaboration
  • Annotation capabilities for richer collaboration
  • Improved security options, like document time-to-live, and disablement of password and data saving
  • Data overlay on Google maps

An in-depth description of the new features and capabilities can be found in the User Guide.
For a brief tutorial, check the SAP YouTube channel.

NOTE: Although BI Mobile works with SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.1 SP5, SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence Support Pack 2, and SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence Feature Pack 3, you’ll need to patch your server to the latest patch level to take advantage of new features and functionality. Otherwise, there will be no perceptible difference in the app from its previous version.

You can find all the documentation on the SAP Help Portal – https://help.sap.com/boall_en
or via SAP Notes – http://service.sap.com/notes
User guide: SAP Note 1696768
Administrator and Report Designer’s guide: SAP Note 1696764
Release Notes guide: SAP Note 1696771
Security Guide: SAP Note 1696770
Error Messages guide: SAP Note 1696772

How quickly will you patch your server to start using the new goodies?

The iPad Family

As my family contemplates multiple iOS devices, is Apple doing the same?

My oldest daughter turned eleven over the weekend.  As a sign of growing up, she asked for money instead of gifts.  Her goal is to save enough money for either a Kindle Fire or an Apple iPod Touch.  We are an iPad family, having acquired an Apple iPad 2 when they were first introduced in April 2011.  But like the Coke bottle in the cult film The Gods Must Be Crazy, we only have one tablet that is unhappily shared amongst three children.  My wife and I have iPhones, hers is an iPhone 4 and mine is an aging iPhone 3GS. So it makes sense for my daughter to stay in the Apple ecosystem to share our existing app and music collection.  Currently she is giving the iPod Touch a slight edge over the Kindle Fire (games, sigh), so I started doing a bit of research over the weekend.

With any high-tech gadget, one has to evaluate whether to buy the current model or wait for the next one.  With Apple, you’re never sure when the next model is going arrive, despite all of the rumor and speculation. Whether or not it arrives on March 7, everyone is expecting the iPad 3 sometime before May 2012.

But what about the iPod Touch?

I’ve never been interested in owning an iPod Touch before, so I turned to Wikipedia.  The first iPod Touch was introduced in September 2007, shortly after the original iPhone was launched in June 2007. The second generation was introduced in September 2008, a few months after the iPhone 3G.  The third generation was introduced in September 2009, a few months after the iPhone 3GS.  The fourth and current generation was introduced in September 2010, a few months after the iPhone 4.  The iPhone 4S was released in October 2011, a few months later than the typical June release.  Although the iPod Touch would benefit from the faster dual-core processor and improved graphics of the 4s, the fifth generation iPod Touch is nowhere to be found.  Wouldn’t it have made sense for Apple to simultaneously introduce a new iPod Touch going into the 2011 Christmas retail season rather than waiting a few months?

So I started thinking to myself, what if Apple introduces the fifth-generation iPod Touch along side the iPad 3? Then I had a weird idea.

So here’s my prediction.

When iOS 5 was released last year, the iPod app on the iPhone was renamed to simply “Music”.  Clearly, the iPod revolution is winding down and so is the perceived value of the iPod brand.  Therefore, Apple will not only release a successor to the iPod Touch during its iPad 3 event, but the new device will be rebranded as an iPad, possibly the “iPad Nano”.  I’m undecided if Apple will introduce a medium-sized tablet to “compete” with the Kindle Fire. If there is a mid-sized iPad (let’s call it the “iPad Mini”), I predict that the iPad 2 and its inferior camera will disappear from the model line-up. If there isn’t, then the iPad 2 will remain at a lower price point to the iPad 3’s (and possibly refreshed with a better camera).  I wouldn’t expect more than 3 members to the Apple iPad family.

In any case, I think I’ve convinced my daughter to wait for the iPad 3 event before purchasing an iPod Touch.

Related Links

What do you think Apple’s future iPad plans are?