Tag Archives: apple

Ron Johnson: We want [jcp] to be your favorite store.

Last year, Ron Johnson left Apple as Senior Vice President of Retail Operations to become J.C. Penney’s (JCP) CEO. Before joining Apple, he was at Target. As Gruber points out today, “The Ron Johnson Era at JC Penney Has Begun.”

jcp Ad by Ken Segall

Johnson took out a two-page ad in several major newspapers with the mission of turning JCP into your favorite store. This is an amazing leadership step that sets the tone and gives an extremely ambitious goal to its employees.

This amazes me because you can see how he’s cutting out the bullshit. With the realization that almost everything sold at JCP is on sale (~72% of the time, discounted over 50%), he’s getting rid of confusing sales. Everything will just be at the sale price without consumers deciphering “SALE 60% off” tags, “Save an Additional 40%” signs, etc. plastered everywhere. Also, he’s implementing about “100 sleek, neat sections” into stores.

As a consumer, I find it extremely hard to imagine a future scenario where JCP is my go-to choice for anything, let alone my favorite store. That doesn’t mean I can’t give Johnson points for trying. If my company was in mass market retail and needed to turn around sales, stealing an A-level player from Steve Job’s pick for retail operations is as good as it gets.

I don’t have any vested interests with JCP performing well or poorly. But given the choice, I’d like to see Johnson turnaround in real-time a company that most people have completely written off as irrelevant (like Apple ten years ago). It would make a good case study.

(via daring fireball)

Apple Keyboard Shortcuts

We get it. Apple is the company that pays attention to the details. No detail too small, they create their own reality. With a strong internal design culture, they provide customers what they want before they ask for it. But sometimes they misfire (such as their power cords).

I recently started using OS X Lion. Spotlight (command + space) is amazing. Hot corners are cool. The difference between switching applications (command + tab), switching windows (command + `), and switching tabs (control + tab) sucks.

Looking at OS X’s menu bar, how would you ever figure out that that a sloping line with a horizontal line indicates the option key?

Menu Bar example (top to bottom: command, shift, and option)

The command key is clearly labelled on the keyboard. Not sure how you would easily describe the command key symbol’s shape over the phone.

The shift (the up arrow circled above) and the delete key (not circled) can be deduced by your average power user, so I’ll give Apple a pass.

The option symbol, which I’m still not sure how to easily describe (the bottom circled symbol) is a mystery.

Here is what an Apple keyboard looks like:

Apple Keyboard (from left to right: shift, option, and command)

While Apple is known for their attention to detail, the usage of the option symbol to indicate keyboard shortcuts in the menubar is useless as the option symbol only makes itself evident through 1.) web searching or 2.) consulting an expert Mac user. It doesn’t have to be this way. The easiest solution would be for Apple to print the symbol of the option symbol onto the keyboard.

Steve Jobs on Excuses

Steve Jobs by Getty

Inside Apple by Adam Lashinsky:

Jobs imagines his garbage regularly not being emptied in his office, and when he asks the janitor why, he gets an excuse: The locks have been changed, and the janitor doesn’t have a key. This is an acceptable excuse coming from someone who empties trash bins for a living. The janitor gets to explain why something went wrong. Senior people do not. “When you’re the janitor,” Jobs has repeatedly told incoming VPs, “reasons matter.” He continues: “Somewhere between the janitor and the CEO, reasons stop mattering.” That “Rubicon,” he has said, “is crossed when you become a VP.

This makes sense.

A junior employee at the bottom of the chain of command (such as a janitor) can have a legitimate excuse for why something was not done. It’s plausible that the janitor does not have the authority to get the key he needs, so it is not the janitor’s fault.

Whereas a member of management (such as a VP) has no excuse. If the key is missing, the VP has authority to find the person with the key, force open the door, hire a locksmith, etc. The VP needs to problem solve and cannot explain away things that were not accomplished as the VP has sufficient authority to get it done.

It’s interesting to note that Jobs is quoted using the term ‘reason’ and not ‘excuse.’ The former being legitimate and the latter being a scapegoat. That is, the former is only available to people at the staff level who are not sufficiently authorized/empowered.

(via MacStories via HN)

iPad 2 Rumors: Don’t Hate The Player, Hate The Game

With the iPad 2 announced this week, the actual product is anticlimactic. If the first iPad had the iPad 2’s specifications, nobody would have been surprised. Don’t get me wrong, the iPad is an extremely strong offering that is dominating the market that it set off.

The tech industry covering Apple never ceases to amaze. Some companies have rumor sites, but Apple has a blog dedicated to sleuthing their patent filings. Apple rumors even lead to controlled leaks and allegations of leaks.

That said, Engadget needs to stop hating the player (Apple) and hate the game (internet as a pageview driven rumormill).

Here’s what a recent post says at the end:

… which in turns gives you no reason whatsoever to turn down the opportunity. Except for the lack of a USB port, SD card slot and a screen that touts the exact same resolution as the first model, of course.

Why would anyone have expected a USB port, SD card slot, or some sort of Retina display? Oh right, Engadget claimed these were coming in an exclusive scoop.

Rumors are just that, right? Well, they decided to double down on their source and blame Apple for removing the USB / SD / high res screen at the last minute.

 

Real Life Facebook Button

A dedicated button for Facebook on your phone? With super awkward placement?

While this Fb x Real Life mashup is unnecessary, I wanted to look at other examples of company logos on real life buttons. Most companies that produce hardware are content with having their logo printed onto a surface instead of a pushable button.

Note: images are used only to illustrate hardware buttons. Each logo is property of their respective owner.

Blackberry has been doing this for some time. Note the natural location among the keys.

A natural category for buttons is remotes. Specifically TV remote controls.

TiVo has been doing this for a while with their quirky logo.

Netflix is rolling out their logo as more and more devices ship with an embedded Netflix app. Apparently, Yahoo got onto this remote as a bonus.

Another category with branded buttons is video game consoles. Their controllers have gained logo buttons with the current generation of hardware.

The original Xbox had a giant logo, but it wasn’t one you could press. The Xbox 360 has a pushable logo for Xbox’s dashboard.

Playstation 3 getting its logo on.

An easily overlooked category would be the keyboard. Countless keyboards have the Windows logo.

Here is an example of the ubiquitous Windows keyboards that exist. The Windows key is useful for certain shortcuts (Win + D for desktop), but a pain when you’re in the middle of a full screen game.

Some Mac keyboards have an Apple logo.

While the Facebook logo above is placed awkwardly for dramatic effect, most company logos are placed logically in a manner that consumers use every day.

iPad 3 Coverage

The tech industry and the press that covers it never ceases to amaze. The pace at which news breaks is breathtaking, and then immediately forgotten for the next big thing.

John Gruber singlehandedly set off the iPad 3 launching with a “September release schedule” rumor. This is amazing because the 2nd generation iPad has not been confirmed by Apple. Make no mistake, the 2nd gen iPad coming in 2011 is as sure as the sun rising tomorrow. As Gruber writes, Apple has set itself up for a predictable June iPhone and September iPod refresh. This makes sense as the iPod can capture the holiday season. According to Gruber, it’s worth it for Apple to cut the 2nd gen iPad lifecycle short so they can use the iPad to headline annual September announcements.

I would imagine Apple isn’t pleased about iPad 2 in March and iPad 3 in September rumors. For those following the tech industry, the original iPad has already grown long in the tooth. The 1st gen iPad is a do-not-buy since the iPad 2 is coming out any month now. With 2011 iPad 3 rumors, if there’s any credibility to it (besides pure hearsay at the moment), consumers would be wise to avoid the iPad 2 and wait for the iPad 3. This helps depress current iPad sales while allowing the competition (RIM’s PlayBook, HP’s TouchPad, Motorola’s Xoom, Samsung’s Galaxy Tab) to gain market share.

If it were any other company besides Apple, debating the next, next iteration of a product would not be front page news. This rumormongering is great for pageviews, as there is nothing better for pageviews than unsubstantiated claims. On the iPad 3, Gruber disclaims that “[he’s] really guessing” and not “being coy and actually releasing information.”

Nowadays, Apple makes the news as much for things it has not done as the things it has done. Before the iPhone and the iPad came out, they were perennial Apple keynote bait. Again, great for pageviews and filler blog posts. Apple has so much influence in the industry that its presence is everywhere even when it tries not to be. Looking at this year’s CES, tablets were out in full force (a year after the iPad came out and the competition took the tablet form factor seriously). Heck, the Verizon iPhone confirmations by mainstream media (wsj, nytimes, bloomberg, etc) dominated the end of CES coverage.

The tech press is ruthless in its turnover. Yesterday, burning oil platforms was big news. Today, it’s the iPad 3 and HP’s webOS. Tomorrow, it doesn’t even matter what it is, because it will be old news the second it is posted online. Unless of course it is something Apple has not announced. Then it will never go away.

An Exercise in Sharing

This post is more thinking out loud (what I like to do on this blog). Free association with services and sharing.

Snoop Dogg on Instagram

Many sites serve to provide information (such as Wikipedia). Other sites share info (such as Fmylife). What I want to focus on are services that share info in a defined social group. Meaning that you can cultivate lists of friends and share with them. These social sites may enable you to share publicly. In fact, they may be incentivized to make everything public (à la Facebook).

Here are some services I came up with in no particular order:

Service Sharing
Instagram Photos
Twitter Text/Links
Ping (from Apple) Music
Foursquare Location
Group Me Txt
Buzz (from Google) RSS, etc.
Yelp Reviews
Foodspotting Food Photos
Facebook User Updates
Blippy Purchases
Scribd Documents

Clearly there are services I’ve missed.

For any unfilled areas, there exists a startup opportunity. Instagram is a newcomer that has gained significant traction, so anything can be done given proper execution.

Is there a search engine that shares all your searches on purpose? What about an Instagram for short video?

Passion and the Pursuit of Success

Violin

What follows is more rant about life than my usual techno babble.

Passionate People are Successful

There’s an idea that you should do what you’re truly passionate about to succeed in life. Sure, you can succeed doing something arbitrary like waste management, but no kid growing up has a passion for garbage disposal. People do have passions for careers like sports, art, and even mathematics. This is the career advice 101 repeated ad nauseum: do what you love for a living.

The (unanswerable) question is what causes people to be passionate about something. People can be passionate about a subject (such as chess, fishing, etc.) without being successful. For the sake of this post, let’s assume that passion and success go hand in hand.

Further, I’d like to explore possible causes of why people are successful at what they love. This is because I’d like to think that a person has some advantage over another person doing the same thing when they have more passion.

Why are people passionate about what they do? How did they get that way?

  1. Genetics
    People are born with God given talent. These are the type of people that make it look easy without even trying. There’s certainly something to be said about the smart kid in your university who truly never studies and yet comes at the top of the class. This also applies to children who are great across several sports without training day in and out on a single sport.

    I really do not know much about the Andretti story, but it helps to convey my message so I’ll use it as an example. Mario Andretti can be considered the Michael Jordan of racing. That is, his name is synonymous with excellence in racing. It’s possible that his sons and his grandson all have this gift of racing due to Mario Andretti’s natural racing abilities.

  1. Dedication
    A person who devotes enough time to something will over time get better at it. With some level of ability and constant practice, a person can master their field. This applies to most fields, because practice leads to familiarity and improvement. Kottke talks about this as deliberate practice.

    Michael Phelps won numerous Olympic Gold Medals and spends as much as 5 hours a day in the pool. Lance Armstrong won several Tour De Frances and may ride 6 hours a day training. Elite athletes despite being extraordinarily gifted still train hard since their job is to prepare for their competitions.

  2. Environment
    When you are raised in the right environment, things come together in a fashion that in hindsight makes success inevitable. Having impeccable timing and being in the right location can create a genius. Think of Newton and the apple.

    There is a great Steve Jobs interview (NSFW) describing how Jobs’ father taught him craftsmanship, Silicon Valley was the right place, and how he met Steve Woz. While everyone recognizes Steve Jobs as a genius (a point I’m not denying), his history is fascinating. Steve’s fourth grade teacher, Imogene Hill, turned him from a troublemaker into a person who found a passion in learning. Steve’s neighbor, Larry Lang, showed him how to work computers when he was 12. Steve even says in the interview that the Apple I was “for hobbyists” and neither he nor Woz “had any idea that this would go anywhere.”

A Mix of Factors

There are many reasons to be interested in what makes people passionate and successful in life. One self-serving reason is to be able to emulate success for yourself. Another possible reason is that society would be better off if we could isolate individuals and create more opportunities for them to become passionate and successful in their craft.

It’s likely that successful people are not successful from a single cause: genetics, dedication, or environment. There’s a confluence of these and other unidentified factors that lead to great people in history. In the case of Mario Andretti’s sons, was it due to the genes, hard work, or upbringing that led to success? Surely, there’s a self fulfilling prophecy somewhere when your father is Mario Andretti to become pressured into the next racing great. That’s not to say that the sons (Michael and Jeff) didn’t train hard to become successful. Also, Andretti’s sons have access to a more fertile racing environment (money, instructors, etc.) than most families.

Matchmaking

If I’m allowed to go out on yet another tangent in this rant, I’d like to talk about maximizing the possibility of people to have a passion for what they do in life. The sad, sobering reality is that most people live, by definition, ordinary lives. Most people don’t grow up to become astronauts, rockstars, or presidents. Instead people work at banks, supermarkets, etc.

I feel like the current US education system could do a lot better in terms of matchmaking. Perhaps this is a market opportunity for those who want to profit off the eager industry of parents paying to provide an advantage to their kids.

While I don’t have a concrete, tangible example to point to, my concept is that of an exposure testing system. The idea is that everyone is better at some things and worse at others. If someone has fast reaction times, they may look into being a race car driver or an air force pilot. If another kid has great memory, maybe history would better suit them. In this system, kids at a certain age would be exposed to an exhaustive battery of tests and then recommended to try certain tasks. When I say try certain tasks, I mean actually try a round of golf, play a musical instrument, etc.

The current education system exposes kids to a variety of concepts, but I’m envisioning a test that deliberately measures many traits and matchmakes kids to many, many concepts in an attempt to expose them to an obscure profession that they would have never heard of otherwise. I imagine kids currently have a very high miss rate when it comes to finding out what they have a passion for doing. What if Tiger Woods was never exposed to golf at age 2? If he was in any other family in America, he probably would not have picked up golf at 2. If a kid isn’t exposed to music, sports, etc. when young, they won’t be able to discover and learn their passion when they are most capable of learning.

I’d like to think kids who are exposed to something early on, develop a passion, and master their craft tend to be very successful. The good news is that a person doesn’t have to start something while 2 years old to become good and successful. A person can start something in their 20’s, 30’s, or later and still become great and successful. I would make the point that the kid who started extremely young will have a significant leg up on someone who starts something later in life (say at 25 years old).