Publishers Sleep Easy After Apple Textbook “Disruption”

January 19, 2012

At first I thought we should blame ourselves for getting our knickers all in a knot when the rumors started circulating that Steve Jobs’ deadly forces of disruption, honoring his dying wishes, had turned their sights on textbooks. But don’t we frighten easily!

Then I felt angry at Apple. (more…)

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Apple’s Midsummer Nightmare

July 4, 2010

The release of Apple’s iPhone 4G has become a midsummer blockbuster. No vampires — just out of control electronics, deceitful software, and scary artificial limbs.

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It started as a winner

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But a problem fixed became a problem created…

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And of course the lawsuits start flying left and right.

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Suddenly Steve Jobs generates one of his infamous reality distortion fields.

On July 2nd, as America clambered into a long holiday weekend, Apple issues a letter (not a press release, mind you), stating that the problem wasn’t so much caused by hardware as by the signal strength indicators in the software.

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The letter is a hoot, as this expert translation reveals…

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    So what’s the solution? 

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According to the face-saving announcement “third-party ‘skins’ for iHand offering additional colorings, beauty marks, scars and a ‘hairy hand’ option will be available by the end of July.” 

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Apple vs. Adobe’s Flash

April 30, 2010

The big battle of the week has been brewing all year: Steve Jobs and Apple versus Adobe and its Flash technology (acquired when it bought Macromedia in 2005). We have seen a few skirmishes in the last months, but now it’s war. Earlier today Jobs posted a 1,700 word missive explaining in extensive detail why Apple does not and will not support Adobe Flash technology.

Under the mild-mannered heading “Thoughts on Flash,” Jobs began gently, recounting the “golden era”:

Apple has a long relationship with Adobe. In fact, we met Adobe’s founders when they were in their proverbial garage. Apple was their first big customer, adopting their Postscript language for our new Laserwriter printer. Apple invested in Adobe and owned around 20% of the company for many years. The two companies worked closely together to pioneer desktop publishing and there were many good times.

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Steve Jobs, Unidentified, Chuck Geschke and John Warnock “shortly after the launch of the LaserWriter.” (Photo appears on Adobe’s website; perhaps not for much longer.)

I was working in the industry in those happy days. Steve Jobs was at one point very close to Adobe’s founders, John Warnock and Chuck Geschke. Ah, but times have changed since then. Jobs continues:

Since that golden era, the companies have grown apart. Apple went through its near death experience, and Adobe was drawn to the corporate market with their Acrobat products. Today the two companies still work together to serve their joint creative customers – Mac users buy around half of Adobe’s Creative Suite products – but beyond that there are few joint interests.

Ouch!

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I won’t repeat the technical arguments in Jobs’ essay – they’re easy enough to follow in the original. I’ll jump instead to the conclusions, which Dale Carnegie (“How to Win Friends and Influence People”) would not approve of:

Flash was created during the PC era – for PCs and mice. Flash is a successful business for Adobe, and we can understand why they want to push it beyond PCs. But the mobile era is about low power devices, touch interfaces and open web standards – all areas where Flash falls short.

The avalanche of media outlets offering their content for Apple’s mobile devices demonstrates that Flash is no longer necessary to watch video or consume any kind of web content. And the 200,000 apps on Apple’s App Store proves that Flash isn’t necessary for tens of thousands of developers to create graphically rich applications, including games. New open standards created in the mobile era, such as HTML5, will win on mobile devices (and PCs too). Perhaps Adobe should focus more on creating great HTML5 tools for the future, and less on criticizing Apple for leaving the past behind.

A Google search on “Steve Jobs on Flash” brings up 97 million+ references, so if you limit the search to the past week, you narrow it to 60 million+ references, or a mere 587 actual entries. (I still don’t understand why Google doesn’t just say 587, when on the last page of the search I find “Results 581 – 587 of about 60,500,000 for Steve Jobs on Flash.” Why bother with the 60,500,000? What does that tell me? I’m sure the answer lurks out there somewhere.)

I digress: my point is that there is no shortage of commentary available regarding the controversy, and surprise: some side with Apple, some with Adobe.

My favorite is by Mister Jalopy at the site Hooptyrides. While categorizing Jobs’ argument as “well-reasoned,” he notes that…

…a big chunk of his criticism could be equally applied to Apple’s own policies. For kicks I did some search and replacing:
       – Replace Adobe with Apple
       – Replace Flash with closed, as a catchall for Apple’s myriad of closed technology
Of course, Job’s statement is very specific to Flash technology so the search and replace is not seamless, but it does create some funny paragraphs.

Before:

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.

After:

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

I like that last sentence. Wish I came up with it.

Apple holds the upper hand in this contest – historically mere user discontent does not often change Apple’s strategies. Adobe has a lot riding on Flash and great plans for its future. This includes earning more money by releasing new Flash-creation software. Adobe’s Creative Suite 5, by coincidence now shipping as of today, includes a new program, Adobe Flash Catalyst. Adobe recognizes that the complexity of the available software restricts Flash development. According to Adobe its existing tools for creating Flash files, Flash Professional and Flash Builder, suited (respectively) “creative pros working in multimedia” and developers. Flash Catalyst targets “interactivity novices.”

While Adobe offers a survey on its site pointing to the “Worldwide Ubiquity of Adobe Flash Player by Version” the sad fact remains that the company makes no money from the free player. Adobe’s revenue source for Flash is software that creates and serves Flash files. Adobe reports Flash-related income as part of its “Platform segment” and in its SEC-filed financial statements for Q1, 2010, Adobe categorizes this segment as “an emerging market with high growth potential.” Yet it delivered only 5.4% of Adobe’s revenue in the quarter. As other segments of Adobe’s business mature (aka stop growing quickly) a lot more is riding on pulling revenue from Flash.

I’m counting all the early skirmishes as a single round: stay tuned for Round 3.

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Steve Jobs: CEO of the Decade

November 5, 2009

Fortune Magazine has christened Apple Computer’s CEO, Steve Jobs, as “CEO of the Decade.” You certainly will find no disagreement from this corner.

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The Official Steve Jobs Photo from Apple Computer’s web site

You’ll find some great coverage of the man, his career and his products at the link above (reinserted here for the mouse-weary).

People tend to focus these days (naturally enough) on his more recent triumphs, but please do not forget how it all began: the Apple II, then the Mac, WYSIWYG, and taking a big chance by adopting Adobe’s nascent PostScript technology in the first LaserWriter. That event alone changed my career and my life. I still claim to have authored and typeset the very first book published by a professional publisher (Doubleday) with my 1985 publication, “Personal Letters of a Public Man: The Family Letters of John G. Diefenbaker.”

It’s fun to find out who the runners-up were. Included in the #1 spot of course are Google’s co-founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, but they lose out because “their impact has been mostly limited to online advertising.”

 Warren Buffett is #2, with no word as to why he’s wasn’t the winner. Remarkably, Bernie Madoff is #3, with a comment that “Madoff’s too-good-to-be-true investing track record and audacious crime make him the fallen CEO of the decade.”

Gosh they even put Enron’s Ken Lay, Jeff Skilling, and Andy Fastow in the #5 position.

Come on! In my view Steve Jobs deserves every award there is, and placing him in the company of convicted criminals is ludicrous.

This man is clearly one of the most inventive, brilliant and capable executives in history. Three cheers!

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The Biggest Threat to Windows is Netbooks

February 17, 2009

Two very interesting blogs/articles on ZDNet cover a fascinating story from slightly different angles.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes points out something that I never imagined happening in my lifetime: The price of PCs, in particular of netbooks, is dropping so fast that soon the operating system (at least the Windows operating system), threatens to become more expensive than the hardware.

Meanwhile Dana Blankenhorn, in a piece called Netbooks Killing Windows Faster Than Expected, reports that “IDC figures from the fourth quarter show a rush toward inexpensive Netbooks and away from Windows laptops. Take out sales of the Atom processor running many Netbooks and total shipments were down 20%, figures showed.”

Meanwhile, as reported February 2nd on MacDailyNews, “Net Applications‘ Operating System stats for January 2009 show Apple’s Mac hit 9.93% share of the operating systems visiting Net Applications’ network of websites worldwide. The stats also show Apple iPhone with a new all-time high of 0.48% share and Apple iPod with a new all-time high of 0.11%.”

Net Applications’ January 2009 Operating System Stats:

Microsoft Windows: 88.26% (vs. May 2006: 95.09%)

Apple Macintosh: 9.93% (vs. May 2006: 4.43%)

Linux: 0.83%

090202_netapps_jan09_os.gifThe trendlines are obvious, although clearly Microsoft Windows is not on the verge of disappearing. It’s less clear what this means to the future of publishing. Software will continue to play an essential role in the ongoing developments in the publishing world, but the operating system that the software runs on is decreasing in significance. So too the hardware.

When Apple introduced the Macintosh and the LaserWriter, Adobe introduced PostScript, and Aldus introduced PageMaker, the seeds of the current publishing revolution were sewn. We’re moving into another era, where creativity in publishing is not primarily about do-it-yourself on a desktop computer, with a printed artifact the outcome.

Exciting times. Exhausting times!

Update: February 18, 2009

In a blog on ZDNet today, Andrew Nusca reports that a chip maker called Freescale “has announced that it will use Google’s Android operating system for a new type of Netbook by next quarter.

“Though Google’s Android software was originally developed for smartphones, Freescale believes it can use the flexible OS to make a new class of less-expensive mini-notebooks and Netbooks.”

…”The company expects the amount of Netbooks sold this year — already an explosive amount of growth — to double to about 30 million. [Mobile research firm ABI Research has a higher forecast of 35 million.]”

Freescale expects the retail price to be $199!

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