22
May 14

The online Apple Store’s humble beginnings

The latest numbers show that in 2013, Apple rose to #2 in online retail, second only to Amazon.

Not all that amazing, given that iTunes and App Store sales are now included in Apple’s figures.

But, given the humble beginnings of the Apple Store, it does give me that “how far we’ve come” feeling.

It all started with a baby step back in the “Think different” years, even before the first iMac appeared.

In those days, Apple made its big announcements with multipage inserts in magazines like Time and Newsweek. Apple creating an online store was indeed big news — though not quite big enough to merit its own insert.

The piece you see here was titled “Think different. Really different.” Within its pages, Apple announced three bits of news: More ▸


06
May 14

iWatch: Apple’s next naming drama?

Of all the product names in Apple history, by far the least surprising was iPhone.

After iMac, iPhoto, iMovie, iPod and iTunes, Apple had well established its i-rhythm. And the fact that Apple was feverishly working on a phone was one of its worst-kept secrets. For many months leading up to the device’s unveiling, the press was consumed with speculation about what an “iPhone” would be.

Behind the scenes, Steve Jobs was unwavering in his desire to call it iPhone. The fact that it fit well with other i-names was only part of it. In this case, he thought it was important for the name to instantly communicate the category to be disrupted.

Just one flaw in Steve’s plan: Cisco reportedly owned the name. It was already shipping a product called iPhone, though I’ve yet to meet or even hear of anyone who has ever seen one. It was a phone that made phone calls over the Internet, hooking into one’s home network. More ▸


21
Apr 14

John Sculley apologizes again—but shouldn’t

John Sculley isn’t exactly a favorite amongst Apple fans. He will forever be the man who sent Steve Jobs into exile.

Given the astronomical success of Apple following Steve’s return in 1997, it’s understandable why Sculley would say it was a “mistake” to send Steve packing. He’s said it before and he just said it again.

Get over it, John.

You may have blundered through that particular period of time, but in a weird way you can actually take credit for Apple’s — and Steve Jobs’ — great success.

Because of you, a young, passionate and inexperienced Steve matured in a way he wouldn’t have otherwise.

Being cast out of Apple was what forced Steve to reassess his life. It was during those years of exile that he matured, learning the skills he was lacking in 1985. More ▸


14
Apr 14

CNN meets Captain Obvious

CNN isn’t in the comedy business. At least not purposefully.

But I have to say, yesterday’s CNN home page headline did make me laugh.

After all this coverage of the missing Malaysian airliner, with pretty much every story in the last four weeks centered on the need to find the black boxes, CNN posted a big, bold headline:

Official: Black boxes crucial to solving mystery

With insightful reporting like this, CNN should be back on the top of the ratings in no time.

[Update 4/16/14]

Big thanks to Sorin for contributing the following photo. Apparently CNN’s headline writer moonlights in the captioning dept.


08
Apr 14

Apple’s little advertising crisis

Phil – and his email – get their day in court

Corporate legal dramas often serve as a reminder to one of the new cardinal rules of business:

Watch what you say in email.

I suspect there are a few people at Apple and its ad agency TBWA\Chiat\Day who wish they could take their messages back, now that Samsung’s lawyers have introduced them as evidence.

One email from Phil Schiller to Tim Cook says that Apple “may need to start a search for a new agency … we are not getting what we need from [Chiat] and haven’t been for a while.”

Tim’s reply: “If we need to do this, we should get going.”

Yikes.

This all happened in 2013, so who knows if it’s blown over by now. But given Steve Jobs’ long-running relationship with Chiat, this potentially represents a huge break from the past.

A little perspective is in order. More ▸


21
Mar 14

One of Steve Jobs’ greatest talents: caring

Before iPhone, there was another tool Steve Jobs used to great effect.

It’s always fun to read stories about people’s chance encounters with Steve Jobs.

A recent one came from an anonymous person who “had a friend” who had such an encounter.

Okay, it does sound a bit suspicious. We all know there’s a lot of fantasy out there. However, I find this story to be perfectly plausible — mainly because it’s quite consistent with the everyday Steve behavior I witnessed myself.

As this story goes, the “friend” — who worked for a talent agency — hung up on Steve Jobs twice because he thought he was being pranked. But in fact it was Steve, calling to force a change in Justin Long’s schedule so he could shoot some new Mac vs. PC ads.

That simple phone call (or several calls, in this case) illuminates a side of Steve that most people don’t think about. That is: he cared. More ▸


14
Mar 14

Samsung: the Jekyll-and-Hyde of advertising

Wow, pretty great ad for the Paralympics from Samsung.

The kid is charming. The editing and music are great. The concept is great. The theme line — “Sport doesn’t care” — has attitude and well captures the spirit of the event.

So what’s wrong with this picture?

Not a thing.

And that, in a weird way, is exactly what’s wrong.

Here’s Samsung with a high-quality, on-target, beautifully executed commercial. And it’s the same Samsung that just a short time ago let loose a spot with a good chance of becoming the worst ad of the century. (Early to predict, but this one could easily appall viewers for another 86 years.) Take a look if you haven’t seen it already: More ▸


06
Mar 14

Microsoft vs. Apple: the strategy gap

Microsoft’s newly minted Chief Strategy Officer, Mark Penn

Most people judge ads by what they see. Good ad, bad ad, end of story.

Of course, it’s a little deeper than that.

As is often pointed out around these parts, there’s a little thing called “strategy” — which is hashed out before creative teams start creating.

Historically, Apple has been very smart about strategy, while Microsoft has been very … shall we say … un-smart.

Now that Microsoft’s new CEO Satya Nadella has appointed Mark Penn to the position of Chief Strategy Officer, it’s a whole new ballgame, right?

Not so fast.

From what we know of Mark Penn, the gap between the quality of strategy at Apple and Microsoft isn’t about to shrink.

For starters, Penn has actually been Microsoft’s Executive VP, Advertising and Strategy, since mid-2012. He’s the architect of the company’s tasteless, cutesy and much-maligned “Don’t Get Scroogled” campaign. More ▸


24
Feb 14

Samsung and Apple: two flavors of innovation

What exactly defines an innovator these days?

Has Apple lost its title of “most innovative” because it hasn’t changed the world since 2010? Or does Samsung now own that title, even though it hasn’t changed the world since … uh, when was that again?

Obviously, innovation comes in many flavors.

Sometimes it’s about creating revolutions, other times it’s about adding features. Sometimes it’s about creating things that people fall in love with, other times it’s simply about creating things.

It’s because of the Samsung vs. Apple innovation debate that I’m so eager to see what will happen with the smartwatch category.

For the first time, no one can accuse Samsung of copying Apple as they did with iPhone and iPad. It literally beat Apple to the punch on this one.

When (and if) Apple unveils an iWatch, the world will finally see — in the starkest terms — the true difference between Samsung innovation and Apple innovation. More ▸


18
Feb 14

Apple’s adventures in plastic

Many Apple-bashers find it easy to explain the company’s historic success: “it’s just marketing.”

To them, Apple products are overpriced and uninventive, but damn, those guys sure know how to sell.

Fortunately, from time to time Apple proves this theory to be as brain-dead as it sounds. It launches a product with a major ad campaign — and it’s not a hit.

Case in point: iPhone 5c.

Marketing has always played a big role in Apple’s successes, but — for any company — it all starts with a great product. Advertising can add momentum and generate buzz, but it can’t turn a bad product into a sensation.

So what’s happened with iPhone 5c? Now that we’ve lived with it long enough, we can probably draw a few conclusions. More ▸