Posts about Apple

WWGD? – The videos (6)

And they never end: Here’s the sixth day of videos from the aborted v-book edition of What Would Google Do?:

A touch dated now, here’s a video I made on my Flip a year ago arguing that it was the Googley way to do video because it serves the creation generation:

A very quick little video about Apple generosity that asks about other companies':

30 days of WWGD? – What about Apple?

John Gapper in the Financial Times reviewed What Would Google Do? today and argued against my core concept of following Google’s lead. I’d link to the review, but it’s behind the pay wall. Irony #1. Gapper complains about my suggestion that free is a business model (note to Chris Anderson: Hope that Gapper doesn’t review your next book, Free!), saying that advertising won’t replace subscription revenue. That’s a classic view of those who think that old models can be replicated in the new world. The point of the book is that the world has changed fundamentally and old models won’t work anymore. It’s ironic — that’s Irony #2 — that the review came out today, when I attended a panel run by Gapper’s boss, the editor of the FT, here in Davos about peril to the Fourth Estate. The discussion was filled with efforts to replicate old models. I debated the point there and I’d be eager to debate Gapper.

Gapper says that Apple is the company to follow, instead of Google. I don’t argue that quality is always a way to win and Apple wins on quality. Indeed, I make the point in the book. So here’s today’s snippet from my chapter about Apple:

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Is there any entity that is untouched? Is there an anti-Google, one institution that has become successful by violating the rules in this book? I could think of one: Apple.

Consider: Apple flouts Jarvis’ First Law. Hand over control to the customer? You must be joking. Steve Jobs controls all—and we want him to. It is thanks to his brilliant and single-minded vision and grumpy passion for perfection that his products work so well. Microsoft’s products, by contrast, operate as if they were designed by warring committees. Google’s products, though far more functional than Microsoft’s and built with considerable input from users, appear to have been designed by a computer (I await the aesthetic algorithm).

Apple is the opposite of collaborative….

Apple is a cult company and its customers are its best marketers—that much is Googley….

Apple is the farthest thing from transparent. It has sued bloggers for ferreting out and revealing its secrets. Attacking its own fans was unbloggy and uncool, but Apple didn’t care about the bad publicity. It’s Apple.

Apple abhors openness. That’s another reason its products work so well, because it controls what can run on them, how it runs, and how it makes money….

Apple does not think distributed. It makes us come to worship at its altar….

Apple does not manage abundance. It creates scarcity. Witness the fanatics who camped out overnight to get each version of the iPhone….

Free as a business model? The gift economy? Apple is not generous. It charges a premium for its quality….

Apple follows just a few Google rules. Lord knows, it innovates. And nobody’s better at simplifying tasks and design.

How does Apple do it? How does it get away with operating this way even as every other company and industry is forced to redefine itself? It’s just that good. Its vision is that strong and its products even better. I left Apple once, in the 1990s, before Steve Jobs returned to the company, when I suffered through a string of bad laptops. But when I’d had it with Dell, I returned to Apple and now everyone in my family has a Mac (plus one new Dell); we have three iPhones; we have lots of iPods; I lobbied successfully to make Macs the standard in the journalism school where I teach. I’m a believer, a glassy-eyed cultist. But I didn’t write this book about Apple because I believe it is the grand exception. Frank Sinatra was allowed to violate every rule about phrasing because he was Sinatra. Apple can violate the rules of business in the next millennium because it is Apple (and more important, because Jobs is Jobs).

So then Apple is the ultimate unGoogle. Right?

Not so fast…..

Twittered brands

Another place brands need to monitor, especially techy brands: Twitter. Here‘s what they’re saying today about the MacBook Air. Many agree — including me — that not being able to swap out a spare battery is a killer (or even attach a supplementary battery). Damn.

Jobs is Dell as warp speed

Steve Jobs is famously not transparent or flexible; he violates every principle we ClueTrainy advocates of customerism hold dear and he can get away with it because we hold his products dear. He’s good, that good. So I find it interesting that when he dissed his most loyal customers, the fools who stood in line for that beautiful iPhone, by lowering his price for the masses (a good move, by the way), he wasted no time apologizing and giving them a $100 store-credit rebate ($200 would have been the purer gesture). I wonder whether Jobs would have done this five years ago. I wonder, too, how long it would have taken for Apple to realize that there was a problem, all the while their customers’ anger would have been festering.

But now the process is instantaneous. Apple could see the reaction in not only the emails Jobs refers to in his apology but also, obviously, in blog posts and forum discussions (not to mention the stock price). All you have to do is listen. And act quickly.

It’s the same lesson that Dell learned about the customer in control. Only now add the element of speed. (Amplified by the fanaticism of the Apple customer cult.) I think we are seeing a permanent change in customer relations and our empowerment: If enough customers think you made the wrong move and you hear them quickly enough, the cusotmers will win. If you’re smart.

But then, of course, Apple people are different. Get a load of this post from Lisa on the proverbial knitting blog — really, a knitting blog! — telling Jobs that she doesn’t regret paying the higher price for the iPhone and asking that he give his $100 to a charity. That’s the Apple cult for you — that’s a brand cult: ‘Please charge me more.’ But the cult won’t make the iPhone into the life-changing device Jobs believes — and I’m coming to believe — it will be. So that’s why he had to move past the cult — while not losing any cultists along the way.

Breakfast in the big time

I had a wonderful breakfast the other day with the Wall Street Journal’s Kara Swisher, talking about lots of things from Yahoo’s doom to entrepreneurial journalism. Her video over the omelet here.

Her colleague Walt Mossberg was having breakfast at the next table and as he wandered by he spotted my Treo on the table. Walt shoot his head. “You can do better than that,” he said.

I explained that I’m not allowed to have an iPhone yet. My son bought one with the proceeds of his Facebook app writing for a VC. And my wife said that if he teaches me to write apps, maybe I can get an iPhone, too.

iPhone and the future of news

Something significant happened in the coverage of the otherwise insignificant and comically unnecessary lines that formed outside Apple stores waiting to get the iPhone:

The event was covered live, in video, directly to the internet and to the public, by the people in the story, without news organizations.

That is a big deal: the start of live, video witness-reporting. Scoble did it. More than one of Justin.tv‘s folks did it. So did GroundReport.tv and Diggnation and the gadget blogs and more than I can list.

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Not to mention, of course, all the reporting that went on via Twitter, Flickr, Facebook, blogs. . . .

Two months ago, after the video of the Virginia Tech shooting went up online — more than an hour after the news occurred — I speculated that someday soon, we’d see that same video from a news event being fed live, directly to us on the internet.

Well, that didn’t take long.

As I said in that post, this necessarily changes the relationship of witnesses to news and news organizations. When it is live, producers don’t have time to edit, package, vet and all the things that news organizations have always done. They can’t intermediate. All that news organization can do is choose to link or not link to what we, the witnesses, are feeding, as the news happens.

The news is direct, from witness to the world.

The infrastructural challenge in this is that we, the audience, won’t necessarily know where to find what’s going on. For a time, there will be portals for live — UStream et al — but it’s already hard to find out what’s happening there. Portals don’t work. So I imagine that news organizations will need to devote people to combing all the live video to see what’s happening out in the world. The real value will then be alerting all the rest of us that something is going on now so we can watch on the internet . . . or perhaps on our iPhones.

ijustineiphone.jpgAnd, of course, soon those iPhones will be the means of gathering and sharing that news, as soon as they have video cameras and as soon as AT&T gets its act together. Son Jake told me that iJustine, one of the Justin.TV lifevloggers, doesn’t need to carry a backpack; her small camera hooks up to a Vaio in her purse. So the gigantic ENG (electronic news gathering) and SNG (satellite news gathering) trucks with their dishes and expensive equipment and expert operators are replaced by . . . a purse, and soon a mere phone.

This also makes this transaction interactive: The audience can interact with the reporter. We can ask questions and share information and suggest they go shoot this instead of that.

Now add in GPS and SMS and the idea that people who happen to be near a news event can be alerted and assigned to open their phones and start shooting: Everybody at the Glasgow airport with a video phone gets an SMS suggesting that they start shooting and sharing whatever they see; a flaming car just rammed the front of the terminal. Others there can be warned to stay away from the door where the danger is. Live.

So imagine that Wolf Blitzer on CNN is standing in front of a wall of screens showing our video from the scenes of news. Imagine that MSNBC sends us alerts when news happens live so we can tune into the internet to watch. Imagine if the BBC can assign viewers near any news event to start shooting and sharing. Imagine if CBS News prepares for an event — a storm — by asking the public to all be streaming in their witness-eye views. Imagine also that we can go around these organizations and set up alert systems to tell each other, directly, what’s happening where and to show it happening, live; that is precisely what happened in the case of the iPhone lines.

Problems? Of course, there are. I never sit in a meeting with journalists without hearing them obsess about all the things that could go wrong; that is, sadly and inevitably, their starting point in any discussion about new opportunities. I blew my gasket Friday when I sat with a bunch of TV people doing just that. So, yes, someone could fake a news broadcast and, because it’s live, you don’t have the time to vet. But you can issue caveats and triangulate with others in the area or choose not to link to or show something you doubt. You can also set up systems to vet trusted contributors and ban fakester. We in the public will also doubt and it is the job of journalists and educators to help them doubt; that is the media literacy we need to strengthen already in the age of 24-hour cable news. Yes, nasty things could happen before our very eyes and ears. Someone who’s in grave danger in front of the Glasgow airport might actually say “oh, shit.” I would. And, yes, through each lens, we’ll see just one angle on the story; it is necessarily incomplete. But we can also get more people to show more angles on that story than we ever could with just one camera and one SNG truck — which usually arrived long after the news is over, leading to the tortured tense of TV news: “Police are this morning hunting for… Firemen are this morning sifting through… Neighbors are this morning wondering…”

Life becomes a 24-hour news channel. And we see news through the eyes of witnesses.

Even though the mass of iPhone lines in front of the Apple stores was a nonstory, it still was a story that changed news profoundly.

: LATER: Just read a very good related post at TechCrunch by Duncan Riley. He calls this eventstreaming: “Eventstreaming is the missing link in Web 2.0’s challenge to network television.”

Hmmm

So I checked the iPhone availability chart, just for curiosity, and didn’t see a single place where it’s sold out. Did that mean all those people were fools to sleep out and wait hours? I report, you decide.

Exploding (mobile) TV

YouTube will be available on the iPhone at launch. Big deal, I think: snippet TV on snippet screens; the ability to send videos around to each other and watch them on the go.