I used to hate Bill Gates, along with everyone else. But I’ve also grown less fond of Apple uber chief Steve Jobs over the years as well.
It was always cool to hate Bill. His control issues, his company’s lack of innovation, his copying and imitating and what some would call outright theft of others’ ideas, the spectacular and endlessly irritating flops. Microsoft was a postal box for royalty cheques people said. And he looked hateable too, like Nixon.
Steve, on the other hand was always viewed as the antithesis of business blue Bill. A cultural creative and orphan, with a messed up personal life, he was a blueprint for the tortured genius. For years, guessing Steve’s genetic origins was a Silicon Valley parlour game. And he was a rebel to boot. Remember Apple’s famed Orwellian television ad in 1984 showing the robot slaves of Microsoft paying homage to a nondescript black box, until one breaks ranks and throws a spear through it, freeing them all? Investors mothered him.
But then something changed. After Job’s caprices at Apple got him bounced from the board and the fortunes of the company turned sideways, it was Bill Gates of all people who rode to the rescue, providing a much needed cash infusion in a late night phone call to Jobs, who was later quoted as having said, ¨Thanks Bill. It’s a better world.¨ I’m not sure if that conversation really happened or not, I merely remember reading about it in the newspaper. But I did notice that Apple seemed to grow more litigious after Jobs was anointed CEO in the late 1990s. Suddenly there were stories about lawyers in black suits with briefcases showing up at high schools to threaten kids with lawsuits.
Nevertheless, over the following decade Apple reached that golden intersection of narcissism and creativity that makes for business success on a huge scale. And if some like myself became increasingly irritated by Apple’s attempts to control the mobile world, even to the extent of forcing users of the ‘USB and card slot free’ iPad to purchase adapters, well there that Bill/Steve configuration at work I suppose.
However, I think Apple shareholders are in a complete state of denial with respect to the future of a Job less company. Apple stock is little unchanged since the news of Jobs departure, an event which I believe has been grossly underestimated.
I suppose with millions of iPhones and iPads rolling down the chutes investors think there is no need for for a creative genius at the helm in the foreseeable future.
But in fact, I think there is greater need for Jobs at the helm going forward than ever before, which is why I haven´t been tempted to run out and buy Apple stock even on recent dips.
Because the million dollar question now is whether Apple’s heavily proscribed product universe and pricing will survive a serious economic depression. Creativity is nice, but it’s usually optional — and in the case of Apple products it’s not cheap either. The strategic blend of mobile business tool and toy, the sexy branding and sleek unisex designs are pretty compelling in a status conscious market. But what’s staring us in the face is a potential race to the bottom to capture a bigger share of dwindling sales. That’s not exactly Apple’s tasse de thé …
However, even though I hate Steve Jobs, and as stink eyed as I am over the company’s near term future, I still want them to win. I’m still rooting for them, because everyone loves a winner. Apple now has a place in the pantheon of American business innovation, along with Ford and GE. It’s simply too famous to fail. We won’t let it.
But it’s sure going to get bumpy ..4
Apple’s iPhone 4S has been unleashed upon us, and though consumers will be disappointed to learn it falls well short of a fully-fledged redesign of the world’s famous smart phone, there are enough new features to make it a worthwhile addition to your mobile toolbox.
The 4S looks and feels identical to its predecessor, retails at $649 from the Apple store, and comes in black or white. Those are the similarities. The glaring differences? The camera and antenna have been improved and the processor is faster, which is nice but probably won’t inspire recreational smart phone users to get out their wallets.
Perhaps most impressive is the model’s dual core GPU which reportedly delivers high performance graphics up to seven times faster, which is great for the swelling numbers of visually oriented smart phone users out there. The chipset also includes Apple’s A5 dual core 1GHz microprocessor which renders twice the processing speed overall, while offering up to 8 hours of talk time over 3G and up to 40 hours of music playback.
The key feature here of course is the enhanced performance and speed, and without sacrificing battery life, making the 4S a must have for those who truly rely on it for business or spend their working days remotely connected to their office from the field. It also doesn’t hurt that it has dual band capability which runs CDMA or GSM, making it a global phone.
Morever, the 4s offers some nifty other features including the Siri voice assistant, handy for those who cherish keyboard free functions for information delivery and commands for setting appointments and the like. Siri can be activated with a bluetooth head set.
Conspicuously absent of course is 4G capability, which Apple is no doubt holding in the wings as the main incentive for acquiring the widely anticipated iPhone 5, if and when it arrives. But customer disappointment in the 4S over that is mitigated by other factors, including the improved antenna which appears to eliminate the reception problems of its predecessor. Leading tech news portal CNet summed it up nicely in a recent review, saying ”..the lack of highly anticipated features like 4G and a revamped design can be hard to swallow. But as long as the “antennagate” problems that we saw on the iPhone 4 don’t return, we can live without a new design.”
Others apparently agree. Preorders for the 4S reached the 1 million mark the day the product was announced October 4th. However, not all reviewers are praising it, and some such as the U.K.’s Guardian among others are lamenting a reduction in stand-by time, up to 100 hours less than the iPhone 3GS and 4 in fact. But something had to give somewhere, given the multiple high-performance enhancements of the 4S, including the 8-megapixel camera which comes with autofocus, colour filtering, and a back lit CMOS that grabs high quality photographic images from the dark by absorbing 73% more ambient light. It’s faster too.
Perhaps what the 4S demonstrates most of all is the marketing savvy of its manufacturer. Apple has reasoned, correctly as it turns out, that there is enough pent up demand for the iPhone to make multiple versions of the same basic unit not only possible, but profitable. Why offer 4G until they need to?0