The MFA is the New MBA: Illustrations by Steve Jobs and Apple

In March 2005, Dan Pink asserted “… the MFA is the new MBA”.
Why?

… businesses are realizing that the only way to differentiate their goods and services in today’s overstocked marketplace is to make their offerings physically beautiful and emotionally compelling. Thus the high-concept abilities of an artist are often more valuable than the easily replicated L-Directed skills of an entry-level business graduate.

I can’t think of a better illustration than Steve Jobs’ story of how the Mac became the first computer with beautiful typography.
And of course, true to form, Jobs illustrated Pink’s assertion more than two decades ago.
And since 1984, Jobs and Apple have made the illustration even more compelling with the current generation of Macs, the iPod, and most recently the iPhone.
Note-to-self: Look into MFA programs!

Aside: I’ve blogged previously about Pink’s book and its implications for displacing knowledge workers.

On Discovering Steve Jobs’ June 2005 Commencement Address at Stanford

If you haven’t already read the commencement address that Steve Jobs gave to Stanford graduates in June 2005 I strongly suggest you do read it.
I was only made aware of this address earlier today. And although I already admire the man as one of the key people that has brought me the technology I embrace the most, after reading this speech my admiration of Jobs has escalated a few quantum levels.
For example, much is rightly made of Apple’s user interfaces. In this speech, Jobs provides some insight on how this came about:

Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn’t have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can’t capture, and I found it fascinating.

None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, its likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later.

What a wonderful way to, as Jobs describes it, connect the dots.

Browser Wars Revisited: Safari vs. Firefox?

Seemingly not to be out-done by all the buzz surrounding Firefox 3, Apple today (March 18, 2008) released version 3.1 of its Safari Web browser.
Apparently, we’ll love Safari because:

  • It’s fast – Up to 3x Firefox 2 on page loads and 4.5x on JavaScript execution. And although that’s impressive, performance is definitely coming across as one of Firefox 3’s core competencies. It’d be interesting to run the same tests with Safari 3.1 and even Firefox 3 Beta 4.
  • The UI – Of course. However, this is another area where Firefox 3 has made significant headway. Even on a Mac, Firefox 3’s UI is also elegant and clean. (For an amusing take on the Apple UI paradigm, have a look at this Eric Burke cartoon. I’m not sure how Burke would represent the Mozilla UI … However, one thing’s for sure, it’s become a lot more elegant and cleaner over the years.)
  • Find – The Firefox 3 implementation looks remarkably like Safari’s.
  • Resizable text areas – Excellent. Not sure if Firefox 3 has this.

Safari 3.1 also presents a twofold irony with respect to Web standards:

  1. You need to do a little digging (page 8 of the Safari Product Overview) to determine what is meant by Web standards support. And once you do, you’ll learn that it relates to CSS, HTML 5 and SVG. Of these, “HTML 5 offline storage support” has the potential to be most interesting, as Google is analogously demonstrating with Google Gears. So, it’s ironic you need to dig for something that has such value.
  2. In it’s support of HTML 5, we have a commercial entity (Apple) leading the way in terms of implementing standards. This is refreshing in general, and in particular in Apple’s case, as traditional expectations would have the Open Source implementations (e.g., Firefox) ahead in this regard. To quote Alanis Morissette: “Isn’t it ironic… don’t you think?”

When you factor in support for Windows, and apparently frequent releases, it’s no wonder that Safari is gaining momentum at the expense of Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) and Firefox.
And not that I’ve been following developments with IE, but one has to wonder, if we are to re-visit the IE vs. Netscape browser wars of yesteryear, might the combatants this time be Apple Safari 3.x and Mozilla Firefox 3.x?
One can only hope!

BlackBerry Rules the Back Office – For Now …

I’ve had a BlackBerry 8830 for a few months now. And I must admit, I’m getting over my iPhone envy. (iPhone’s still aren’t officially available in Canada!) The 8830 has the tactile keypad I’ve grown to love, a (two-dimensional) trackball in place of a (one-dimensional) thumbwheel, GPS-based mapping, etc. This means that built-in WiFi is about the only capability for which I find myself wanting.

But enough about the client-side device (CSD).
So much of the value delivered to the CSD is because of what’s in the back office – behind the scenes, as it were.
In writing a book review on BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) installation and administration, I was reminded of this aspect on the ongoing BlackBerry vs. iPhone battle.
What’s in the BlackBerry back office?
Allow me to itemize:
  • Integration – The BES integrates the CSD with the enterprise messaging platform (e.g., Microsoft Exchange, IBM Lotus Notes, etc.) and the rest of RIM’s BlackBerry universe. In addition to email and calendaring, this has the potential to include instant messaging (e.g., MSN, IBM Lotus Sametime, etc.) and more.
  • Security – Because the BES provides a single locus of control (the BlackBerry domain), it can and has been leveraged extensively to deliver an industry leading environment for end-to-end security. Encryption, authentication, plus six levels for administrative roles, are all present.
  • Policies  – To quote from my review:

The BES ships with over 200 policies that can be applied variously to users, groups and devices … The ability to administer users, groups and devices with respect to policies (including software), from a single point of control (i.e., the BES server), speaks volumes to the appeal and value that this offering can deliver to corporate enterprise environments. 

  • Provisioning – The BES facilitates provisioning of users, groups, devices as well as associated software. Software can even be bundled and targeted to specific CSDs.
The back office supporting the iPhone has a long, long way to go to catch up with all of this – if that’s even a plan that Apple has.
In fact, a far greater threat to the back-office portion of RIM’s BlackBerry universe is the ecosystem developing around Google Android.

Giving Up On Leopard … for now

Got my DVD on the release date.

Had a few minutes to do an install this past Sunday morning.

Spent 1.5 hours with Apple Support. No progress.

On hold with them again this morning as I blog …

Symptoms? During the installation-initiated reboot, my Leopard DVD is ejected. After I log in I see a Finder screen with two disk icons and nothing more.

My platform? A MacBook Pro laptop.

(And BTW, I’ve been able to reproduce this on two such laptops!)

Given it was from Apple, I just expected this would be a smooth transition.

At this point, I need to get back to work. I’ll wait for the re-release.

If you Google “Leopard installation issues”, you’ll get a lot of hits.

I’m very disappointed. I expected more.

iPhone Envy? Live Vicariously!

Canadians are faced with the ongoing reality of iPhone envy.

And although we’re not alone, the iPhone feels so close …

Therefore, in the interim, I’m living vicariously by channeling experiences from those in the US.

I recently asked a tech-savvy, former-coworker, who actually has an iPhone: “How do you like your iPhone?”

Here’s what he had to say:

My wife and I both bought an iPhone. She is madly in love with hers. I really like mine. Occasionally, email doesn’t work the way one would expect which can be frustrating. The problems are related to 1) yahoo.com problems, 2) timing issues of using pop or 3) cannot connect to edge/wifi. But it hasn’t dampened our overall satisfaction with the phone.

Also, I can’t get work email as our exchange server doesn’t have IMAP enabled, but that’s cool since I don’t want work email on my personal phone. 🙂 Everyone who see’s the phone oohs and aahs about it even if they don’t realize that its an iPhone. It just has a really slick appearance to it. In particular, when you bring up photos or a web site and you turn the phone and the picture automatically reorients itself and then you use gestures to move around or to move to the next picture and resize the picture, they REALLY get excited.

Mostly, I just appreciate it because the interface works the way you would expect/want it to.

It is definitely 1.0. Can’t wait for 1.1 both to fix small issues and to see what features it brings along!

I heard rogers is supposed to carry it, but there have been issues in the negotiations.

Ten Tips for iPhone Competitors

The iPhone’s out!In no specific order, here are ten tips for competitors:

  1. Reaffirm your position. In the best-case scenario, this requires you to provide evidence or facts that your business is great. RIM provided a text-book example by boasting better-than-anticipated profits, a stock split and a new product offering the day before the iPhone was released. Nice work. Excellent timing.
  2. Ride the marketing tsunami. You have the market’s ear, so it’s an excellent opportunity to be heard. Take advantage of it. Again, RIM’s day-before triple play provides an excellent illustration.
  3. Flaunt the imperfection. Apple likes to make a big splash. And although the iPhone will offer a lot on day one, it doesn’t have it all. This presents an excellent opportunity to showcase the iPhone gaps addressed by your offering. For example, Helio will tell you that the iPhone doesn’t provide a chat functionality whereas their Ocean does.
  4. Be open. In many ways, Apple’s offerings are more proprietary than Microsoft’s. From anti-trust suits to informal banter, Microsoft gets beaten up on this on a daily basis. Despite a number of objections relating to the highly closed nature of the iPod, Apple gets off relatively easy. This may be an angle to exploit, but it’ll take some work. And Apple may have just made this a more difficult angle to exploit. How? They’ve made it clear that AJAX-enabled Safari is their platform for third-party iPhone developers. Based on JavaScript and XML, AJAX is about as open as it gets.
  5. Engage in coopetition. In some cases, it makes sense to juxtapose cooperation and competition. This results in coopetition, and examples of it abound. Although I wouldn’t expect Apple to be too receptive to a competitor’s advances at this time, it may still be possible to engage in a little gorilla coopetition. For example, iPhone competitors like RIM could offer feature/functionality enhancements to their desktop offering for Apple Mac OS X computers.
  6. Partner. Relative to Apple, RIM is small fry. (Forgive the hyperbole, I’m trying to make a point!) Through partnerships, however, RIM could reduce to topple the size imbalance. For example, a RIM-Google partnership could be interesting. With many of Google’s offerings already available natively for the BlackBerry, there’s an established starting point.
  7. Wire continuous improvement into your DNA. In other words, avoid the big splash. As captured by a recent item in Information Week, this is the Google way:

    Google Apps, which includes Google Docs & Spreadsheets, Gmail, Google Talk, Google Calendar, and Google Start Page, received several other improvements Monday. This is in keeping with Google’s strategy of incremental product improvements, said Chandra, who noted that Google Apps had seen some 30 new features and updates in the four months since it was introduced.

    The Google way works, in part, because the Internet, Web, etc., have been wired into Google’s DNA from the outset. So, although the continuous improvement sentiment has wide applicability, adaptation is likely required to ensure effective execution. In some ways, Dell’s just-in-time approach to inventory offers an analogous potential for continuous improvement in the production of computer hardware.

  8. Leverage the marketing tsunami. Arguably, the iPhone introduction is taking Apple into new markets with a new product. apple_markets_products001.pngOf course, Apple has to some extent limited their exposure by making the iPhone a convergence play – Phone + iPod + Internet. This means they have both product and market experience they can readily tap. iPhone competitors can also leverage the tsunami from established products and markets to new ones. Perhaps more importantly, the presence of the tsunami that Apple has established means that others can progress systematically from an established situation to a new one. apple_markets_products002.pngFor example, a competitor could progress from an established product and market to a new market with the same product. Alternatively, the trajectory could be from an established situation to a new product for an established market. Such lower risk entrays have been primed by the iPhone tsunami, and iPhone competitors can progress towards new products for new markets incrementally.
  9. Balance awareness with distraction. This one is tough! You need to be aware of the iPhone, and all that that embodies, while at the same time not be distracted from your focus. By staying close to your customers, while being sensitive to the broader market that the iPhone and other products will drive, you will have the best prospects for ensuring success. In terms of something a little more concrete … Listen. If customers complain the your desktop software needs improvement, or that it takes too many clicks to navigate with your Web browser, listen. Listen and then address these issues as opportunities, one by one.
  10. Leverage your community. In the case of Apple, the community is so polarized that it’s been described as religion in the past. Although I haven’t studied it in a lot of detail, the Apple community appears to be a consequence of the cool and innovative way that Apple allows you to “Think different”. Engage with your community. Even though there are so many ways to do this, I don’t see enough vendors doing this.

Agree? Disagree? More tips? Please chime in.