Did we just see the future of Apple? Project Liam?

Hola Todo! How are we doing?

Of all the interesting stories from what seemed like a low-key Apple keynote event, I thought Liam – the iPhone recycling robot – was the most interesting. Liam was introduced by Lisa Jackson, VP of Environment, Policy, and Social Initiatives, during the CSR portion early in the keynote. (See major Mashable feature here).

Liam can disassemble an iPhone 6s in 11 seconds, meaning the 29-armed warehouse-sized robot can recycle 350 iPhones an hour or potentially, 1.2 million iPhones a year (although Liam doesn’t work on weekends). While some are skeptical that the Liam prototype “doesn’t scale,” is limited to the 6s, or is too small of a percentage of Apple 230 million iPhones sold last year to be meaningful, I think this a classic head fake in Apple’s future plans.

In sum, Apple has not been in the final assembly business for their products in a long time (except the super high end – low volume Mac Pro). If Liam can disassemble an iPhone in 11 seconds, how long will it take it to assemble an iPhone? Is the Liam prototype more about Apple’s environmental plans or more about Apple learning to manufacture again? Apple can dramatically reduce their carbon footprint in the supply chain if they do final assembly in their major markets instead of shipping everything out of China. Don’t forget that Apple is also working on a car. Is the robotics and engineering that when into Liam something that can be applied to autos?

It may be the case that we will be able to look back at that 3-minute preview in the keynote and a 60 second video and say “Yup, Apple can do that…they showed us that Liam prototype 3 or 4 years ago.”

Something to think about today…

Best regards,

Dr. Dan-o

 

 

Daniel M. Ladik, Ph.D.,

Associate Professor of Marketing

Director, MBA Program

Stillman School of Business

Seton Hall University

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Apple Watch: Did You Order Yours Today?

Hola Todos!

As I mentioned in my last post, Apple Watch is the most anticipated Apple product since the iPhone and Apple has gone to unprecedented lengths to promote this new product leading up to the April 24th launch. This week, two full days in advance of online pre-ordering, all the reviews hit the blogosphere and here a few of the best ones:

Re/Code’s Lauren Goode

Daring FireBall’s John Gruber

Yahoo Tech’s David Pogue

The Wall Street Journal’s Joanna Stern

Australian Financial Review’s watch editor Bani McSpedden

These last two have excellent short videos that give you a good feel for what the watch can do now.

What I found most interesting with all the reviews I’ve checked out over the last 48 hours is even these Apple experts are having a difficult time deciding what it is and what it can do. Everyone says the same thing: It’s a beautiful product unlike anything Apple (or any tech company for that matter) has ever produced – yet even with paragraph after paragraph of text, no one is really comfortable with Apple Watch (yet).

[UPDATE 4/16 – almost a week later, the tech press is still not any clearer on what they thought about the Apple Watch – as per Philip Elmer-DeWitt of the Apple 2.0 blog]

And I guess that understandable as they only had one week to use Apple Watch while they have had 7 plus years to figure out iPhone. It’s just too new of a category for everyone to fully get something as new or “different” as Apple Watch.  Wired magazine more than hinted that even Apple doesn’t have it all figured out yet.

Just as iPhone is much more than a phone, Apple Watch is much more than a watch and it’s going to take some time for everyone to get comfortable with it.  Am I going to buy one? Sure – eventually.  I waited a year to buy my first iPhone.  As intrigued as I was with the iPhone when it was released, version 2.0 in 2008 was way better than iPhone 2007 as the ecosystem around iPhone blossomed.

More than anything else, I think the fans of Apple made the decision for me. Last night, Apple’s entire allotment of Apple Watch sold out in less than 6 hours.  This product will be in high demand and limited supply leading all the way up to the holiday shopping season.

Something to think about today…

Best regards,

Dr. Dan-o

 

Daniel M. Ladik, Ph.D.,

Associate Professor of Marketing

Director, MBA Program

Stillman School of Business

Seton Hall University

 

Apple Watch: The Most Anticipated Apple Product Since The iPhone

Hola Todos!

Sometime later today, we will finally learn some hard details on Apple’s most anticipated product since the iPhone: Apple Watch. Last week, I was asked for some comments by the media and the text below were my thoughts in advance of today’s event. Beyond my comments, you can find some interesting roundups here and here, as well as, a solid profile of Jony Ive.

 

I believe there are a number of challenging angles on selling this new device from Apple’s perspective and I truly believe that getting the store experience right is one of them.  Granted, Apple has not reveled their Apple Store plans (I’m really hoping they talk to this point on Monday) but getting the channels/retail strategy wrong could easily doom a successful launch. This should be the first time we see Angela Ahrendts on stage and for Apple watchers – this is a HUGE deal. Jony Ive may be the designer for Apple Watch but Angela and her new team of fashion executives are the ones that will make it a sales success.

 

First, the price: this will be Apple’s most complicated product and pricing in the history of the company with one product going as low as $349 to as high as $15,000. I’m very curious on the pricing of the Edition category –  agreed that there may only be an ounce or two of gold in the Watch and even with their margins, Apple probably could have an Edition starting price in the ballpark of $4,995, but that is not the watch market they are going after.  The Edition is aiming for the Super-Premium crowd where gold watches cannot be found for under $20,000 (try and find a gold Rolex for under $25,000). I’m thinking $9,995 with some of the bands/options bringing it closer to $15K.

 

From the perspective of a consumer tech product, Apple Watch will be ‘shockingly’ high – from the perspective of high end watch marketplace – it was be ‘shockingly’ disruptive.

 

Second, I expect the watch to be modular – meaning the S1 System on a Chip can be replaced and upgraded – unlike current Apple tech.  It fact – its has to be – not even the filthy rich are going to drop $10K on something that in 2 to 3 years, would have 10% of the performance of what’s currently available.

 

In sum, I honestly believe that this platform will change/develop the wearables market the way iPhone changed the cell phone market.  I fully expect there to be loads of media attention on Apple Watch on Monday but at the same time, most saying this will NOT be a runaway hit like iPhone.  Now new Apple category introductions consistently have a slow first year.  Apple always keeps supplies low of new products to keep demand high.  Year 2 – after 12 months of everyone being comfortable with the idea of an Apple Watch – it will explode and then all those naysayers will say “I told you so…”

 

Something to “watch” out for this afternoon…

 

Best regards,

Dr. Dan-o
Associate Professor of Marketing
Director MBA Program
Stilton School of Business
Seton Hall University

WWDC 2014: We Just Saw the Future of Apple

Hola Todos!

It been two days since Tim Cook and company took the stage in San Francisco and to be honest, I’m still trying to wrap my head around all that was discussed.  The keynote went 2 hours; the longest Apple keynote I can recall. And not a leisurely two hours at that either as Tim and mostly Craig (AKA “Superman” at an hour and 17 mins) quickly highlighted the major updates to Yosemite and iOS 8.  As John Gruber said; “So much to digest in one day.”

Here’s some useful links:

-The full two-hour keynote

-A 90-second version of the keynote

-Reviews by two of the best journalists who have their pulse on Apple – Walt Mossberg and Philip Elmer-DeWitt (here too)

-An overview of 8 key iOS 8 features

Too much for one blog post to review, here are three key nuggets from the keynote:

(1) Apple is positioning itself to be the “home base” of the “Internet of things” – Earlier this year, Apple introduced CarPlay and yesterday, Apple introduced HomeKit and HeathKit.  In short, Apple, with its iOS powered devices wants to be the center of all your Internet/Bluetooth connected “things.”  Apple does not have to make all these devices but Apple is providing the platform for all of your devices to connect to or to be monitored by.  So Apple has a platform for the car, the home, and your health; if I were a betting man, I’d say Apple would go after your wallet/finances next with mobile payments.

(2) Apple took multiple shots at Google yesterday – While most tech journalists noticed the Android pie charts during the keynote, the vastly improved Spotlight in both Yosemite and iOS practically eliminate the need to do a Google search for anything.  Moreover, Apple is even modifying the URL coming into both mobile and desktop Safari showing only the main domain as opposed to the main domain and all its assorted extensions.  While we do not know the full ramifications of this yet, it very well could make the SEO in Google’s search universe less accurate (read=very bad for 96% of Google’s revenue stream).

(3) The other major shot Apple took at Google is the fragmentation if its ecosystem.  One of Google’s strength is that anyone can make an Android powered device and Android market share has been climbing ever since. The downside is anyone can make an Android device and quality and user experience varies greatly. Apple, with control of both the operating system and the hardware, can do things that Android cannot such as take a call from your computer or hand documents/emails/texts to you iPad or laptop or with new iCloud Drive, sync all your photos/music/documents across multiple devices without having the files on anyone of them or buying apps/books/music that can be used across multiple devices (and synced single credit card purchasing). Apple is positioning the iPhone to be the center of everything you do – it will be the ultimate linchpin.

Bonus Nugget! Again we do not know the full ramifications of this yet but the new software code announced Monday, called Swift, appears to have superior performance implications – in both speed and battery life. In other words, iOS powered devices will have the speed with greater battery life then most current laptops running a full OS.  Apple started calling the iPad – the iPad Air last year.  It very well might be the case that the iPad Air might have the same performance capabilities as the best selling laptop on the market – the MacBook Air – at half the price and sooner than anyone expected.  I can easily see these two product lines converging as A8/A9 ARM chips running Swift arrive in the near future.

Check out some of those links when you get a chance…

Best regards,

Dr. Dan-o

 

Daniel M. Ladik, Ph.D.,

Associate Professor of Marketing

Stillman School of Business

Seton Hall University

 

Steve Jobs Book Summary: I Wonder if Yukari Iwatani Kane Should Be Afraid of the Ghost of Steve Jobs?

Hola Todos!

In the previous post, I more than suggested that Tim Cook is not afraid of the ghost of Steve Jobs.  After reading all the reviews, I wonder if Yukari Iwatani Kane should be afraid of the ghost of Steve Jobs?  If anyone could figure out a way come back from the dead and haunt someone, Steve would.

Let’s just say that Yukari Iwatani Kane was not kind to Apple and Company in her book “Haunted Empire” about the post-Steve Jobs era.  Apple CEO Tim Cook called it “nonsense” and I knew she would show up as a talking head on CNBC. Yukari Iwatani Kane reacted “surprised” by the comment and said “I must have touched a nerve.” As, John Gruber of Daring Fireball interpreted:

Somehow I doubt she was surprised by her conclusions. As for why Cook saw fit to comment, sure, it could be because her book hit painfully close to home. Or, it could be that it truly is nonsense. Reviews thus far clearly suggest the latter.”

I’m still debating whether I’m going to pick up the book and give it a good read but for now, here’s a few “Haunted Empire” book summary links:

-Philip Elmer-DeWitt – Apple 2.0 Blog 

-Seth Weintraub – 9to5mac.com

-Rene Ritchie – imore.com “Haunted Empire review: It’s the book about Apple after Steve Jobs that’s the real horror story

-Jason Snell – Macworld

 

Best regards,

Dr. Dan-o

 

Daniel M. Ladik, Ph.D.,

Associate Professor of Marketing

Stillman School of Business

Seton Hall University

Yukari Iwatani Kane Has it Wrong – Tim Cook is NOT Afraid of the Ghost of Steve Jobs

Hola Todos!

Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion and that is truly a wonderful thing. Within the Apple blogs, Wall Street Journal Apple beat reporter Yukari Iwatani Kane is getting slammed for her new book Haunted Empire (see Philip Elmer-Dewitt’s Apple 2.0 blog).  The basic premise of the book is: Apple is doomed, Steve Jobs was Apple, since his death Apple has been less innovative, and once Apple runs out of iOS, iPhone, and iPad steam, it will become a shell of it’s former glory.

In my eyes, Yukari Iwatani Kane is a very smart reporter.  She knows this is the dominant storyline – myth – mantra – or whatever you want to call it in the business press and if she wants to sell a truckload of books, this is the best storyline to go with. The zealot Apple fans will go nuts, the blogosphere will blow up, and she will be on endless cable TV shows (CNBC – start warming up that chair as your talking heads LOVE this storyline) from here to eternity as she will always be called to argue against Apple. If you look at this story from her perspective, this is the most profitable angle to write an Apple book, regardless if it’s factually correct.

To be direct, I could not disagree more with the Haunted storyline.  In other words, I believe in the significantly less profitable storyline and I have been writing about it for some time: Tim Cook is NOT afraid of the Ghost of Steve Jobs.  For instance:

-February 7th, 2014 – Steve Jobs Was Wrong About the Beatles

“I am optimistic on Apple’s future, as I believe Cook is unafraid of ghost of Steve Jobs.  While Forestall’s ousting was clearly a major indicator of Tim’s willingness to do what is best for the future of Apple, it is also a major indicator that Tim does not envision himself as just the torch carrier of Apple’s past. Beyond the October 2012 senior management shakeup, there are other indicators as well such as, Apple’s corporate social responsibility in China, the disbursement of dividends, taking on debt, and charitable giving just to name a few.  Cook knows the Apple of the past cannot be the growth engine of the Apple of the future. If the rapid and radical update to iOS 7 is any indicator, I am optimistic that Apple will not be resting on its laurels in the Tim Cook era; Cook wants the tension to be healthy, the collaboration among the band leaders to be strong, and most important, the songs to be amazing for years to come.”

Similar thoughts could also be found in:

-June 27th 2013 – Apple Social Responsibility in China: An Update

-June 11th 2013 – Apple 2013 WWDC Round-Up: Welcome to the Post-Steve Jobs Era

February 26th 2013 – Is Apple Cursed? An Intriguing Conversation…

October 5th 2012  – The Legacy of Steve Jobs: One-Year Out…

All of the links above argue strongly against the premise of Haunted Empire. In fact, if a journalist were to do their homework, the biggest nugget into the psyche of Tim Cook was expressed in a 2009 quarterly earning call with financial analysts. It was Tim Cook (a full two years before he would replace Steve Jobs as CEO) who best articulated Apple’s modus operandi:

“We believe we are on the face of the Earth to make great products, and that’s not changing.  We are constantly focused on innovating.  We believe in the simple and not the complex.  We believe that we need to own and control the primary technologies behind the products that we make, and participate only in markets where we can make a significant contribution.  We believe in saying no to thousands of projects, so that we can really focus on the few that are truly important and meaningful to us.  We believe in deep collaboration and cross-pollination of our groups, which allow us to innovate in a way that others cannot.  And frankly, we don’t settle for anything less than excellence in every group in the company, and we have the self-honesty to admit when we’re wrong and the courage to change.  And I think, regardless of who is in the job, those values are so embedded in this company that Apple will do extremely well” (Isaacson 2011, pg. 488).

I understand that it will take much more than a few posts from a small blog like DigNuggetville to change the tide and shift the dominant logic of the business press to think differently. However, all is takes is one new product launch in 2014 – a new product that was clearly not on the drawing board during the Steve Jobs era and I expect that Haunted tide to slowly shift in the opposite direction.  Luckily for Yukari Iwatani Kane, she released Haunted Empire a few months before WWDC 2014 because I have hunch that she will need brush up her debating skills.

Something to follow in 2014…

Best regards,

Dr. Dan-o

 

Daniel M. Ladik, Ph.D.,

Associate Professor of Marketing

Stillman School of Business

Seton Hall University

What Does Tim Cook…Cooking? Apple Will have New Product Lines in 2014

Hola Todos!

Sorry for the pun…but as the expression goes, “where there’s smoke, there’s fire” and Apple does has a number of things cooking at the moment. Not even going out on a limb with the title of this post; first up – Apple announced this week at the Geneva Auto Show  – CarPlay – as described by Apple CMO Philip Schiller “CarPlay: iPhone on Wheels.” (See Apple official press release – a video demo – commentary from MacWorld.) While this is a new product, the impact on the balance sheet will be negligible: Apple sells more iPhones in a month than total yearly auto sales and this is probably some small nominal fee to the auto manufactures to get iOS in the dashboard.

In other Apple news from the most recent Annual Shareholders Meeting, CEO Tim Cook slipped out that Apple TV had revenue of over $1 billion last year; that’s starting to sound less and less like a hobby.  This could be the year Apple takes the training wheels off Apple TV and gives us a better remote control and interface, as well as, an App store of unique Apple TV Apps.

Perhaps the most interesting of all is what Apple has up its sleeve (sorry, bad pun again) with wearables. To say the least, I would be stunned if Apple did not do something in this space this year.  Just look at the people Apple hired in the last 12 months: 

  • Kevin Lynch: Former chief technology officer at Adobe. Joined Apple last March. Now manages a large in-house team of former iPod and iOS developers.
  • Jay Blahnik:  Fitness expert. From Nike. Worked on the FuelBand; known in the field as a trainer and motivational speaker.
  • Roy Raymann: Scientist. From Phillips. Expert in non-pharmaceutical methods for improving the quality of sleep; developed miniature sensors for monitoring sleep.
  • Paul Deneve: Former CEO, Yves Saint Laurent. Worked at Apple for several years before leading one the most valuable brands in fashion.
  • Angela Ahrendts: Former CEO, Burberry. Credited with Burberry’s tech-heavy turnaround. Tapped to head Apple retail, both brick-and-mortar and online.
  • Ben Shaffer: Designer. He was the director of Nike’s “Innovation Kitchen,” the R&D lab that produced the FuelBand and the Flyknit shoe.
  • Ueyn Block: Was director of engineering at C8 MediSensor, which developed a non-invasive way to glucose levels and other vital signs.
  • Nancy Dougherty: Hardware engineer. At Proteus Digital Health she worked on smart patches and ingestible, Bluetooth-connected smart pills. Most recently, she worked as a hardware lead for Sano Intelligence, whose tagline reads “the API for the bloodstream.”
  • Todd Whitehurst: Hardware development. As Senseonics’s VP of hardware engineering, he  ran the engineering team for a wireless, smartphone-connected body sensor for monitoring glucose levels in real time.
  • Michael O’Reilly: Former chief medical officer for Masimo, which markets a wireless pulse oximeter for the iPhone.
  • Ravi Narashamian: Expert in biosensors and wireless communications. At Vital Connect he focused on sensors for measuring respiration and activity levels with wearable devices.

I would call this a lot of smoke!  Moreover, this is on top of a leaked report from the New York Times that Apple executives were in Washington DC in December 2013 to get FDA approval for some medical functionality for an Apple device.

To wrap up – wearables and TV will definitely need new App platforms and I believe CarPlay would also need some modification as well.  That means, Apple will have to make a number of announcements around early summer for their World Wide Developers Conference to get the Apple software community on board.

Something to watch this year…

 

Best regards,

Dr. Dan-o

 

Daniel M. Ladik, Ph.D.,

Associate Professor of Marketing

Stillman School of Business

Seton Hall University

 

 

The Life and Times of Steve Jobs: Happy Birthday

Hola Todos!

If Steve Jobs were still alive today, it would be his 59th birthday.  To reflect of the life and times of Mr. Jobs, here’s a few nugget worthy links:

-Perhaps his best talk ever: the 2005 Stanford Commencement speech

-Steve Jobs Legacy: Inspirational Leadership 

-A history: the development of the iPhone

-A recent one from Dr. Dan-o: Steve Jobs was wrong about the Beatles

 

All neat stuff to check out today…

Best regards,

Dr. Dan-o

 

Daniel M. Ladik, Ph.D.,

Associate Professor of Marketing

Stillman School of Business

Seton Hall University

 

 

 

Steve Jobs Was Wrong About The Beatles

The Beatles were four of Steve Jobs’ favorite musicians; perhaps only Bob Dylan could rank higher. Jobs confirmed this fact at the end of the famous 2007 All Things D Steve Jobs/Bill Gates interview stating, “I live my live though either a Beatles or a Bob Dylan song” (1 or 1a). It was one of his life’s works, despite all the legal turmoil he experienced with Apple Corps (the music publishing arm of the Beatles), to finally get the Beatles on iTunes in 2010.  Yes, the Beatles were a passion of Steve Jobs; so much so that on more than one occasion, he likened his management philosophy to that of the Beatles.  While he was right about so many things throughout his career, Steve Jobs was wrong about the Beatles.

The following paragraphs will first outline Steve Jobs’ management philosophy and then detail two fatal flaws in his Beatles worldview.  The article will conclude with a glimpse into Jobs’ true intent with his “brutally frank” nature and how Apple has adjusted in the post-Jobs era under Tim Cook’s leadership.

 Steve Jobs’ Beatles Management Philosophy

Perhaps the best exemplar of Steve Jobs’ Beatles management philosophy was expressed during a 2003 60 Minutes interview (2). In brief, Jobs said:

“My model of business is the Beatles.  They were four very talented guys who kept their negative tendencies relatively in check. They balanced each other and the total was greater than sum of its parts. And that’s how I see business.  Great things in business are never done by one person; they are done by a team of people and we’ve got that here at Pixar and we’ve got that at Apple as well.  So that’s what lets me do this. Well you know, when the Beatles were together, they did truly brilliant innovative work and when they split up, they did good work but it was never the same.  And I see business that way too.  It’s really always a team.” 

Jobs was a master storyteller as any of his keynotes or the 2006 Stanford graduation speech will attest. Many of his stories had reoccurring themes, although Jobs often retold these parables with slight variations. In 2004, Jobs’ Beatles management philosophy resurfaced in an interview with Fast Company journalist Brent Schlender (3):

“My model of management is the Beatles. The reason I say that is because each of the key people in the Beatles kept the others from going off in the directions of their bad tendencies. They sort of kept each other in check. And then when they split up, they never did anything as good. It was the chemistry of a small group of people, and that chemistry was greater than the sum of the parts. And so John kept Paul from being a teenybopper and Paul kept John from drifting out into the cosmos, and it was magic. And George, in the end, I think provided a tremendous amount of soul to the group. I don’t know what Ringo did.”

While Ringo may have got short-changed in this version of the story, one can see some common themes in Jobs’ Beatles metaphor.  First, the team is stronger than the individual as the sum is greater than the parts. Second, individuals may have bad tendencies and there is a need for those negative tendencies to be kept “in check.”

The most interesting variant, as well as, the most unique, can be found in Robert X. Cringely’s 1995 “Lost Interview” (4).  After a back and forth conversation on product development and the evolution of an initial concept to final product, Jobs says:

“…when I was a little kid, there was a widowed man that lived up the street and he was in his 80s and he was a little scary looking and I got to know him a little bit – I think he might have paid me to mow his lawn or something.  One day he said, “Come into my garage I want to show you something.” He pulled out this dusty old rock tumbler with a motor and a coffee can and a band between them and he said, “Come out with me.”  We went out to the back (yard) got some rocks – some regular old ugly rocks.  And we put them in the can with a little bit of liquid and a little bit of grit powder and he closed this can up and turned this motor on and he said, “Come back tomorrow” and this can was making a racket while the stones were (banging around).

I came back the next day and we opened the can and we took out some amazingly beautiful polished rocks.  The same common stones that had gone in, through rubbing up against each other, creating a little bit of friction, creating a little bit of noise, had come out these beautiful polished rocks.  And that has always been my metaphor for a team working really hard on something that they are passionate about.  That it is through the team, through that group of incredibly talented people bumping up against each other having arguments, having fights sometimes and making noise, and working together they polish each other and they polish the ideas and what comes out are these really beautiful stones.” 

Even in this early version of Jobs’ Beatles management philosophy, some common themes reoccur; team over the individual, the sum is greater than the parts, and there needs to be some tension or conflict to achieve the best result.

Two Fatal Flaws

There are two fatal flaws in Steve Jobs’ Beatles management philosophy: first, Jobs only viewed the Beatles from a fan’s perspective, that is, looking from the outside in. The second fatal flaw is that “keeping each other in check” can equates to… “It’s OK to be an asshole to other people.” Each of these fatal flaws will be discussed in turn.

The opposite perspective of outside in, is naturally, the inside looking out and even a causal Beatles historian would say that keeping each other “in check” or the existence of a “healthy tension” among the “Fab 4” would be a gross understatement, particularly in their later years.  In a Jobsian worldview, strong tension, heated discussion, and/or multiple disagreements among the leadership team would eventually produce a result that would be significantly better than if everyone had just sat around and blindly agreed with each other.  The Beatles did have a healthy tension during their earlier albums, particularly between John and Paul, but that tension went unchecked, turned toxic, and eventually stifled collaboration among the four Beatles leading to the band’s break up.

Once the Beatles grew beyond their chart-topping, pop-friendly albums, the boys from Liverpool created three albums, namely Rubber Soul, Revolver, and Sgt. Pepper that can easily be described as “greater than the sum of its parts.”  In other words, at this time in the band’s history, the Beatles were still collaborating as a team and it was rare to have a song completely dominated by one member of the band.  At that time, there was a healthy collaborative tension and the Beatles pushed each other to create the most cutting edge music in their field.

Unfortunately for the fans, the health tension did not last, turned toxic and the Beatles stopped working as a team.  While Pepper can be listed in the “the sum is greater than its parts” category, the landmark album represented a turning point in the history of the Beatles.  In multiple interviews describing the milestone album, George and Ringo confessed that their involvement  was not the same as previous Beatles works.  In other words, Paul’s or John’s individual dominance, as well as the tipping point from healthy tension to unhealthy tension, was the beginning of the end.

Post Pepper, that period (the critical misstep of the Magical Mystery Tour EP & Film, The White Album, Yellow Submarine, Let It Be, and Abby Road) can be characterized, as the parts are greater than the whole. During this time in the band’s history, it was rare for the band to create a song together.  Rather, it was much more common to have individual band members write and record songs and lobby to get them on the record.  Despite their team enhancing “corporate retreat” to Rishikesh, of which most of the White Album was produced during this time, the lads soon fell into old habits of back-biting and snarking each other’s work.  At one point during the production of the White Album, producer Sir George Martin recalled, “I remember having three studios operating at the same time.  Paul was doing some overdubs in one.  John was in another, and I was recording some horns…in a third” (5).

During the White Album sessions, a famous story in Beatles lore perfectly illustrates the parts are greater than the whole argument.  George was so upset with John and Paul after a 14-hour session where they half-heartily played on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” that he asked Eric Clapton to play on the track.  Clapton recalls, that he knew the other Beatles “wouldn’t like it” but George insisted stating, “It’s nothing to do with them.  It’s my song, and I’d like you to play on it.” (5).

Please understand, some of the most beloved songs by the Beatles occurred during this later time period.  In reality, however, these were not really Beatles songs but rather a Paul, or John or George song completed with the world’s best backing band.  Jobs’ management philosophy emphasizes the team over the individual, yet for the latter half of the Beatles existence, there was no team; the tension and the infighting were too strong for that to happen.  No one was able to keep each other in check, their negative tendencies were not balanced out and only Paul wanted the band stay together.  With the inside out view of the band, Jobs’ Beatles management philosophy does not hold.

Jobs second fatal flaw is well documented, as it was not uncommon for Steve to verbally cut someone down (6).  This second fatal flaw in his Beatles management philosophy is that “keeping each other in check” equates to… it’s OK to be an asshole to other people.  Jobs was famous for his brutal honesty which we know he used for effect to add some grit power into a conversation.  In the authorized biography, Walter Isaacson gave Jobs the last word at the very end of the book.  In his commentary, Jobs called his brutal honesty “the price of admission” (7):

“I don’t think I run roughshod over people, but if something sucks, I tell it to their face.  It’s my job to be honest.  I know what I’m talking about, and I am usually turn out to be right.  That’s the culture I tried to create.  We are brutally honest with each other, and anyone can tell me they think I am full of shit and I can tell them the same.  And we’ve had some rip-roaring arguments, where we are yelling at each other, and it’s some of the best of times I’ve ever had.  I feel totally comfortable saying “Ron that store looks like shit” in front of everyone else.  Or I might say, “God, we really fucked up the engineering on this” in front of the person that’s responsible.  That’s the ante for being in the room:  You’ve got to be able to be super honest.  Maybe there’s a better way, a gentelmen’s club where we all wear ties and speak in the Brahmin language and velvet-coded words, but I don’t know that way because I am middle-class from California (page 567). 

Perhaps it was Jobs’ outside in view of the Beatles that formed his brutal honest equals to being an asshole view of dealing with people.  He was a big Beatles fan had to be aware of the conflict among the Fab 4.  As a passionate fan, however, Jobs could have mistaken that the reason the band created such amazing music was because of the tension or the forceful nudging of each other; they kept each other in check.

I could not disagree more on this point.  I believe in honesty and I believe in being direct, but at no point do I believe anyone has to belligerent to get one’s point across. In an interview with the Harvard Business Review, perhaps Dr. Maya Angelou said it best (8):

“I know there are people who say, I’m brutality frank. Well, one doesn’t have to be brutal about anything. One can tell the truth and tell it in such a way that the listener hears it and really welcomes it.” 

A plausible theory is that the Jobsian brutal honesty was more a management tactic than pure personality. To further emphasize this point, a recent 60 Minutes interview with David Kelly, founder of IDEO and dear friend of Steve Jobs touched on this issue (9).  In the interview, Charlie Rose asked:

What is the biggest misconception about him?”

And Kelly responded:

I think the misconception about him was…he was kind of malicious.  He was not trying to be mean to people.  It wasn’t…he was just trying to get things done.  And you just had to learn to react to that.”

Apple in the Post-Jobs Era

As an academic interested in leadership, I have been studying Apple for the better part of two decades. I believe that Kelly’s assessment is the more accurate picture of Jobs. That said, I am not so sure Jobs understood the downside effect of this tactic. In other words, as with the Beatles, brutal honesty could break up the band. Tim Cook has the same view as David Kelly and learned to translate Jobs’ brutal honesty.  In a handful of times in the authorized biography, but particularly when Jobs returned from the Liver transplant, Cook often called Jobs’ brutal honestly “his passion” and attributed it to Jobs always striving for the best. On his first day back from second major medical leave, Jobs called a meeting and ripped into the upper management team.  As described by Isaacson (7):

“But was truly telling was the pronouncement he made to a couple of friends late that afternoon. ‘I had the greatest time being back today, he said.  “I can’t believe how creative I’m feeling, and how the whole team is.”  Tim Cook took it in stride.  ‘I’ve never seen Steve hold back from expressing his view or passion,” he later said.  “But that was good.” (489)

The Apple of today does not operate in the Beatles management philosophy; that was Steve’s mental model, not Tim’s (10).  Over the past 18 months but particularly in October 2012 when Apple and Scott Forestall parted ways, Tim Cook has been striving for more honesty and less brutality. Forestall is a brilliant engineer and was one of the key architects of Apple’s iOS mobile operating system, yet Forestall (sometimes called mini-Steve) was more interested in politics, power and fiefdoms.  Since iOS powered devices are responsible for over 80 percent of Apple’s revenues, Forestall felt he was more important than the team (i.e., the parts are greater than the whole).  Other influential managers, by their actions, indirectly confirmed Forestall’s worldview.  For instance, Bob Mansfield unexpectantly retired in early 2012 then un-retired to another senior manager role once Forestall was ousted.  Jony Ive did not want to be in the same room nor work with Forestall.  In a Jobsian worldview, Forestall was the tension, the grit powder that Jobs believed would eventually result in a better song. Cook sacrificed Forestall for the sake of the team, as the tension was unhealthy, unchecked and holding Apple back from its next stage of new songs.

I am optimistic on Apple’s future, as I believe Cook is unafraid of ghost of Steve Jobs.  While Forestall’s ousting was clearly a major indicator of Tim’s willingness to do what is best for the future of Apple, it is also a major indicator that Tim does not envision himself as just the torch carrier of Apple’s past. Beyond the October 2012 senior management shakeup, there are other indicators as well such as, Apple’s corporate social responsibility in China, the disbursement of dividends, taking on debt, and charitable giving just to name a few.  Cook knows the Apple of the past cannot be the growth engine of the Apple of the future. If the rapid and radical update to iOS 7 is any indicator, I am optimistic that Apple will not be resting on its laurels in the Tim Cook era; Cook wants the tension to be healthy, the collaboration among the band leaders to be strong, and most important, the songs to be amazing for years to come.

 

Best regards,

Dr. Dan-o

 

Daniel M. Ladik, Ph.D.,

Associate Professor of Marketing

Stillman School of Business

Seton Hall University

 

 

The Mac at 30…And Still Growing

Hola Todos!

I was hit with a boatload of nostalgia this weekend as pretty much every major news outlet ran a story on the 30th Anniversary of Macintosh.  I started my freshmen year in college with a Mac Plus and I thought I was cool because I ordered an external 3.5 floppy drive so I could run the program in one drive and save files to the external drive….cool. By my sophomore year, I bought a 20-megabyte external hard drive –  it was so large, that the entire base of the Mac Plus, of which the Mac sat on top of, was the same size.  I now carry around a 16-gigabyte flash drive that is smaller than my thumb and $2,400 less than what I paid for the Mac Plus.

Yesterday, Apple reported their financial results for last three months of 2013 and it was a record quarter for the company.  Wall Street was not happy, but that’s nothing new as most traders have a pessimistic view of Apple.  Apple did report sales of 4.84 million Macintosh computers in the last quarter, up 17% from the same quarter a year earlier.

In my eyes, that really amazing; how many products can think about that are 30 years old and are still relevant? Particularly in a category where innovation is as rapid as the tech industry; we are not talking about Coke or Pepsi here.

So if you searching for a little nostalgia or would like to learn a little history, here are some cool links:

-Apple’s self-produced 30-year highlight reel

-From NPR – The Macintosh is still an archetype of innovation

-Also from NPR – some excellent “claim chowder”

 “The standard is five-and-a-quarter inch. And they have made a corporate decision that the 3-1/2-inch drive is going to make it. I don’t see it myself. But this whole computer is a calculated risk on Apple’s part. If the world is ready to accept a brand-new standard, this machine will make it. If it’s not, the machine won’t make it.”

-One of the earliest Steve Jobs showmanship exemplars – A video on the debut of the Mac

-In a Super Bowl week, how can one neglect the original Mac Super Bowl ad – perhaps one of the greatest ads ever created

Something to reflect back on today…

Best regards,

Dr. Dan-o

 

Daniel M. Ladik, Ph.D.,

Associate Professor of Marketing

Stillman School of Business

Seton Hall University