Focus

Under Steve Jobs, Apple was a laser focused company. Upon his return to Apple, he simplified Apple’s product matrix to four lines – consumer desktop, consumer portable,  pro desktop, pro portable. Apple focused on those 4 product lines (along with getting OS X ready and out the door) until the iPod debuted in 2001. Apple is methodical about how they approach products and features. When the iPhone debuted in 2007, many lamented that its closed nature would prevent it from being successful. Apple tried to placate users and developers with their ‘pretty sweet solution’ of developing web apps optimized for the small device. Of course, this was just Apple’s way of buying themselves time until their 3rd party app strategy was fully baked and ready to launch. There was nearly a year in between the push for web optimized apps and the App Store. And in that time, Apple took a lot of heat for not having a native app solution.

Focus.

Focus means keeping your eye on the prize and not letting anything get in your way of achieving your goal. In the run up to the App Store launch, Apple could have tipped their hand and let the world know it was coming much earlier than they did. But they kept it under wraps until it was (nearly) ready, and it paid off. The App Store was a complete end to end solution for developers. It encompassed a thoroughly vetted and tested SDK (xCode) and APIs that Apple itself had used to build the iPhone. It included a means for developers to sell their apps easily and safely (minus Apples cut, of course). It was the first successful application marketplace of it’s kind, and it continues still to dominate.

Focus.

However, focus often means that some things be discarded.

Case in point, there were many technologies that got scrapped when Steve Jobs returned to Apple because they would have diverted Apple’s attention away from the products and services that they needed to focus on to survive.

OpenDoc. Newton. Mac clones.

These products were all ‘steved’ during the early years of his return under the guise that they were not mission critical for Apple. Even after Apple righted the ship and was a very healthy and profitable company, Apple continued it’s laser focus on the products it felt mattered, and often found itself killing off products it no longer felt were necessary or key to their success.

The Cube. Xserve. Appleworks. iWeb. iDVD. iPhoto. Aperture.

These are just some of the products that were killed in the last 10 years. We will continue to see many more. Here’s the ones I believe are next on the chopping block.

Mac OS X Server: Apple’s last server product was the Mac mini Server last updated in 2012. With the 2014 edition of the Mac mini, Apple neglected to produce a server version. So there is currently no shipping hardware that’s intended to function as server. If that doesn’t give you the heads up that Mac OS X Server is about to be shelved, I don’t know what will. OS X Server for Yosemite is available in the App Store for $19.99, but I suspect it will be the last edition produced.

iPods: Apple killed the iPod Classic this year on the guise that it couldn’t get the parts to build them anymore. Of course, Apple could have redesigned the product using parts it could get if it wanted, but again – focus. The remaining iPods were last updated in 2013. The iPod has been losing steam since the introduction of the iPhone, but it still sells millions. Why would Apple kill a product that still sells millions of units each year? I don’t know, maybe they are trying to drive people towards another small product that could be used to control/stream music? Like a $250 pair of Beats Wireless Headphones?

Then there’s the products that Apple doesn’t fully kill, but instead puts them on life support. Products that go years between updates. AppleTV. Mac mini. Mac Pro. I don’t think Apple is going to kill either of these 3 products, but Apple’s lack of focus on these products belies how Apple feels about them. Apple has long called the AppleTV a hobby. It’s a hobby any other company would kill to have. The Mac mini and Mac pro both serve a segment that Apple has long had disdain for. The low end of the computer spectrum and the professional market. I fully believe that the only reason both still exist is that on the low end, it is the cheapest way for a developer to get in to the Apple ecosystem to develop iOS apps. And not having a Pro system (even one that hasn’t been updated in a couple of years) is more costly to them than the price of upgrading that product every 24 months.

When Apple introduced the iPhone, it dropped the ‘Computer’ from their name and just became Apple Inc. That wasn’t a small change by any means. It reflected that Apple feels, as a company, that they are much bigger than just a computer company. It’s not to hard now to imagine an Apple that doesn’t make traditional (nee, desktops and laptops) computers. That day will come, sometime in the future, and probably sooner than anyone expects it too.


Category: Apple

Samsung gets slapped

copycat2 Samsung gets slapped

So, the jury is in and Samsung lost. Big time. It could have been worse for Samsung, but not by much. Apple walks away with $1.049B in damages, and Samsung walks away with a verdict that will fundamentally change how it implements Android on it’s handsets in the future.

More importantly for Apple, all of their patents survived being declared invalid. There’s no guarantee another trial by another litigant won’t result in some of these patents being overturned in the future, but in law, precedent is important. And Apple now has a precedent.

I’ve seen a lot of commentary stating that Apple’s win is a loss for consumers. Hell, it was in Samsung’s post trail statement. I don’t see it that way. The mobile handset ecosystem (otherwise known as the “smartphone”) is alive and well. Neither RIM or Windows Phone took the road that Samsung did, and as a result, they have produced devices that aren’t iPhone knock offs.

Stock Android (usually found on the Nexus series of devices) hasn’t been identified as an infringing device, so Android fans can breathe a sigh of relief there. Android’s general direction in the last year seems to be moving away from the copy-cat nature that was prevalent in the 2008-2010 timeframe. This is a good thing.

This verdict will have to withstand years of appeals, which could reduce the total damages dollar amount. If I were Samsung, I’d be ready to work with Apple to settle this. Fix the infringing devices with a software update that removes the features that are found to have infringed on Apples. Or offer Apple a reasonable licensing fee. With the verdict in, it would be the right thing to do for both companies.


Category: Apple vs. Samsung Trial,Litigation

Apple and the Pro market

Ever since the introduction of the iPod, Apple has been making a shift towards becoming a consumer electronics company. In 2007, at the iPhone keynote introduction, Steve Jobs famously declared that Apple was changing its name from ‘Apple Computer Inc’ to just ‘Apple Inc’, to better reflect that change.

In the years since, Apple has taken many steps that have left many in the professional markets scratching their heads and stomping their feet. Need a reminder? Here are some of those steps:

  1. 1. The Mac Pro: Apple let the Mac Pro languish for 2 years without an update. More than any machine Apple makes, the Mac Pro is the workhorse of the professional market. Hollywood studios, print shops, animation professionals, music professionals… all of these markets count on the Mac Pro and the numerous apps that Apple makes to get work done. And Apple went 24 months without an update to the hardware. It looks like we might finally get a Mac Pro update next week at WWDC, so keep your fingers crossed.
  2. 2. Final Cut Pro X: Apple takes a solid, popular and industry leading application and rewrites it from scratch, leaving out dozens of features Pros rely upon, and forcing many to reconsider their entire investment in Apple applications.
  3. 3. Aperture: Apple dropped the price of Aperture from $199 to $79 when it went to digital delivery via the Mac App Store. However, no new version of Aperture has been released, and with Lightroom 4, many long time stalwart Aperture uses (myself included) have taken Apple’s silence and lack of new Aperture version as an abandonment of the application and switched to Lightroom.
  4. 4. XServe: It probably didn’t sell a ton, but for those who bought in to a Mac OS X Server environment, XServe was an inexpensive way to serve websites and files without needing Windows or Linux server experience. Apple tried to steer users over to Mac Pros running Mac OS X Server, but when that product languished for 2 years, well, you can guess what that says to people.
  5. 5. Mac OS X Server: With Lion, Apple changed how Mac OS X Server is delivered. No longer a full stand alone OS, it is now a bolt on to Mac OS X, again available for download from the Mac App Store. While the new pricing is a huge improvement over the previous $499 price, the update has made many who use Mac OS X Server for web hosting angry, as Apple removed MySQL, and changed the admin configuration to the point that many who upgraded recommend staying away until the bugs are fixed.

And the trend continues with OS X Mountain Lion. In Mountain Lion, Apple removes the built in connection to start/stop Apache from the Sharing Preferences pane. The underlying Apache web server is still present, but why take away something that has been present in Mac OS X for 11 years, and force users to the Terminal to handle something that was drop dead easy before?

The above issue is a small one, but I feel it illustrates the problem at hand: Apple, even when it doesn’t have a financial reason to do so, is reworking their products to appeal to consumers, even if it means making the products less appealing to professionals.

I’m sure Apple has hard numbers that show that sales lost to the Pro market are inconsequential in comparison to sales gained in the consumer market, but it doesn’t have to be an either or proposition. Apple can make the best tools for professionals and still make tools that appeal to the general public. Hopefully Apple doesn’t lose sight of the benefits of being the darling of the professional market, and continues to take their needs in to consideration.


Category: News

10 Years of the iPod

20111023 204435 10 Years of the iPod

It’s hard to imagine Apple before the iPod now, but 10 years ago, it didn’t exist yet. Apple was back on track, but it had yet to release a device that could be considered a ‘game changer’. Initially, I don’t think anyone believed that the iPod would have the success that it has had. The early reviews were split on it, with half seeing it for the brilliant device that it was, and the other half only seeing it for what it lacked (Windows compatibility and USB connectivity).

Still, it’s not a stretch to say that the iPod is the device that defined the modern Apple. It definitely gave them the resources and clout to tackle devices like the iPhone and iPad.


Category: Apple,iPod

No words…

rip sj No words...


Category: Apple,Steve Jobs

Lion: Present and Future Tense

Lion has been available to the masses for over 2 months now, and the reception has been generally pretty favorable. Distribution of a commercial OS via a downloadable only option has never been tried before, and I think by all accounts, it has been very successful. Still, with any new release, there are those that don’t find the grass greener in the new pasture. Lion brings a lot to the table to be pleased with, but it also brings a fair amount of change to the table as well.

Depending upon your level of interaction, that change might be as minor as Apple’s decision to switch the default scrolling direction. Or, if you are a developer, it might be as complex as requiring you to have your application sandboxed by November 1st if you wish to continue selling it through the Mac App Store.

Apple has always been a company that isn’t afraid to cut ties to the past in order to forge a path to where they believe the future is. In sports parlance, this is ‘skating to where the puck is going to be’. In many cases, Apple is the entity driving the puck itself. From time to time, this has caused some consternation in the Mac community. Yet Apple forges ahead.

Most of the Mac OS X releases to date have been evolutionary. With Lion, Apple has taken the biggest leap yet. With the Mac App Store, LaunchPad, and Sandboxing, I think it is pretty clear where Apple is headed. I don’t subscribe to the theory that Apple will ‘merge’ iOS and Mac OS X. That seems silly to me, as if Apple had felt on OS was sufficient for all devices, it wouldn’t have created iOS from the underlying OS X technology in the first place.

I do, however, believe that Apple is moving to remake the Mac in the likeness of iOS. With Sandboxing, Launchpad, and the memory management changes that have appeared in Lion, they have already taken some great steps in that direction. I wouldn’t be surprised to see future releases of Mac OS X (nee, now just OS X, which in of itself is perhaps quite telling) become more locked down like iOS.


Category: Apple

Steve Jobs: Thoughts on Flash

Steve Jobs has penned another detailed missive, this time on Flash and how/why Apple doesn’t support it on it’s mobile devices. It’s a 1600 word opus that breaks down the argument in to 6 reasons – openness, full web, reliability (and security/performance), battery life, touch, and platform issues.

I can’t argue with most of the points, however this one is not entirely accurate:

Adobe’s Flash products are 100% proprietary. They are only available from Adobe, and Adobe has sole authority as to their future enhancement, pricing, etc. While Adobe’s Flash products are widely available, this does not mean they are open, since they are controlled entirely by Adobe and available only from Adobe. By almost any definition, Flash is a closed system.

The Flash plugin is proprietary, but anyone can build an application that exports to the Flash format. Applications like Swish and others offer Flash creation tools that export to the Flash format. It’s a minor point to quibble with, as the Flash plugin is proprietary.

It will be interesting to see how Adobe responds to this. Adobe, from the CEO on down, has been dissing Apple’s mobile offerings lately in hopes of preserving it’s Flash kingdom. Having Steve Jobs and his 1600 word megaphone broadcast a detailed defense of why Apple avoids Flash can’t go unanswered. Can it?


Category: News,Opinion

Jason Chen’s computers seized

Last Friday night, California’s Rapid Enforcement Allied Computer Team entered editor Jason Chen’s home without him present, seizing four computers and two servers. They did so using a warrant by Judge of Superior Court of San Mateo. According to Gaby Darbyshire, COO of Gawker Media LLC, the search warrant to remove these computers was invalid under section 1524(g) of the California Penal Code.

Payback is a bitch.


Category: Links

Apple sells out (WWDC)

For the first time in the history of Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference, the event has sold out.

I attended the event last year, and the 4000 plus attendance was one of the largest showings to date. It’s pretty safe to say that this year’s record attendance is fuled by the dual punch of new iPhone developers and increasing Mac sales.

Great news for Mac users, as WWDC attendance is a great barometer for interest in the platform.


Category: Apple,Developers,News

Adobe Photoshop CS4: 64-bit for Windows only

Adobe blogger John Nack has let it slip that the next version of Adobe Photoshop (CS4 for those wondering) will be 64-bit… but for Windows only. While I’m usually one to cast blame at Adobe’s feet for decisions like these, I have to admit Adobe is doing the best they can with the situation they’ve been dealt.

Last year at WWDC, during the Mac OS X State of the Union, Apple dropped a pretty significant bomb that didn’t get much attention (probably due to the whole NDA thing, I guess). While Leopard would be a 64-bit OS through and through, Carbon would not gain 64-bit memory addressing. This essentially leaves developers with Carbon apps stuck in 32-bit land, with the only other option being migrate to Cocoa. This was counter to Apple’s promise in August of 2006 that Carbon would be 64-bit.

When I heard this news at the session, I immediately thought that apps like Photoshop, Flash, Office were going to suffer, long term. As Nack points out on his blog, this decision really did throw Adobe a curve ball. They were in the middle of developing against the previous Leopard seed from August of 2006, which did feature a work-in-progress 64-bit Carbon. (more…)


Category: Blog Watch,Opinion,Software

About the author

A user of Macs since they had silly names like Performa and Centris, Theodore Lee is a techie who prides himself on his vast knowledge of all things Apple. OS X Factor was started in 2001 (originally as macosxcentric), and continues to churn out tips, tutorials, reviews and commentary on the tech sector.