steve jobs


6
Jun 16

Has Apple lost its simplicity?

Last week, I wrote an article for The Guardian with the above title. It was a question, not a conclusion, and I tried to offer a thoughtful opinion. Sadly, The Guardian chose to give it a click-bait headline that contradicted my point of view. So, for the record, here is the complete article as originally intended.

 Four years ago, I wrote a book about Apple and the power of simplicity.

It was the result of my observation, having worked with Steve Jobs as his ad agency creative director in the Think different years, that Apple’s stellar growth was rooted in Steve’s love of simplicity.

This love—you might call it obsession—could be seen in Apple’s hardware, software, packaging, marketing, retail store design, even the company’s internal organization.

apple-ii-simplicity

Even back in the 70s, Apple was professing its love for simplicity

But that was four years ago.

Though Apple’s customers remain fiercely loyal, the natives are getting restless. A growing number of people are sensing that Tim Cook’s Apple isn’t as simple as Steve Jobs’s Apple. They see complexity in expanding product lines, confusing product names, and the products themselves.

Is this just perception, or is it reality? Has Apple developed a problem with simplicity? Or is it simply maturing as one should expect from a global company?

It’s difficult to be objective because Apple has become the world’s most overanalyzed company. It’s created passionate fans and passionate detractors.

Maybe I can help. My experience with Steve Jobs has led me to admire Apple—but I also believe in tough love. This is a good time to put emotions aside and take a cold, hard look at Apple’s current “state of simplicity.” Continue reading →


1
Apr 16

Of Steve Jobs and Andy Grove

grove-jobsLast week we lost another pioneer of technology with the passing of Andy Grove.

I can’t say I knew Andy well. I can only speak of him anecdotally, as I was part of his ad agency creative team for four years-plus in the early 2000s.

At that time, Andy was more of a spiritual adviser than a day-to-day leader. He was chairman, and Craig Barrett was CEO. Together, the two would sit in judgment at our creative presentations.

I was a bit star-struck when I first met Andy. Though I was always a Mac person (yes, even when I was making Intel ads), it was hard to look at Andy without marveling at the industry he helped spawn.

I had come to this job directly from my time at Apple’s agency in the Think different days, and I was in shock over how differently the two companies worked. Continue reading →


31
Dec 15

The great Apple advertising experiment

experiment-timRecently, Apple hired Tor Myhren as VP of Marketing Communications.

He comes from Grey, where he was the global chief creative officer and president of the NY office.

To borrow some new Star Wars terminology, he’s a big deal in advertising.

On the surface, Tor’s hiring is what it is. But if you look a bit deeper, there are all sorts of juicy implications.

To better appreciate, one must first understand how Apple’s marketing has worked in the past, Steve Jobs-style.

Steve kept things simple. Basically, he trusted the right people to do the right job. He had the ad agency (called TBWA\Chiat\Day in 1997, becoming Media Arts Lab later) and his in-house creative group. The two had separate and distinct responsibilities.

The agency developed the big ad campaigns and the in-house group owned apple.com, product packaging and themes/signage for the retail Apple Stores. Continue reading →


6
Nov 15

Bidding adieu to Steve Jobs, the movie

stevejobs2
Uh oh. Two weeks into its general release, Universal’s Steve Jobs movie has faded fast.

In what might be the ultimate insult, it has only barely outperformed the Ashton Kutcher Jobs movie.

Quite an unexpected end for a movie that had everything going for it: writing, acting, directing, marketing budget and lots of great reviews in the mainstream media.

Where did things go wrong?

Well, as much as we admire Steve Jobs, his vision and his accomplishments, there is such a thing as a Steve Jobs overdose. Continue reading →


2
Oct 15

“The Man In The Machine”: an aimless rehash

man-in-machine

I finally got around to watching Alex Gibney’s Steve Jobs: The Man In The Machine.

The verdict: two thumbs down. I only wish I had more thumbs to vote with.

I didn’t hate it because it’s a hatchet job. In fact, I’m not even sure it is a hatchet job. Much of it wanders aimlessly, exploring the good and bad sides of Steve Jobs.

It’s just not a well conceived or executed film — which is surprising, given that Gibney’s previous documentary about Scientology, Going Clear, was widely praised.

There’s a big difference between the two.

Going Clear explored a subject that is murky to most of us, and is based on a book that was extensively researched. The Man In The Machine is none of that. It’s simply a rehash of things that are well known about Steve, presented as if they’re news. Continue reading →


1
Jul 15

Revving up for the next Steve Jobs movie

Thank you, Aaron Sorkin.

The official trailer for the new Steve Jobs movie (release date: October 9) is out, and I have to say: it looks pretty rich.

We mustn’t get carried away — it’s only a trailer, after all — but the movie sure looks like it lives up to the Sorkin standard.

Personally, I can’t imagine a more difficult screenwriting task. How does one take such a complicated, important life and distill it into 90 minutes’ worth of dialog and images?

Sorkin’s job was to pick the moments that tell a story as they reveal the nature of the man. And historical accuracy isn’t exactly the highest priority — creating a great movie experience is.

I can already hear the knee-jerk reactions: “But Fassbender doesn’t look anything like Steve Jobs!”

Correct. And I, for one, am relieved by that. Continue reading →


5
May 15

One day they’ll understand Apple

Well, okay. Maybe that headline was a bit too optimistic. Let me re-phrase:

They will never understand Apple. Ever.

I suppose we can just chalk it up to human behavior. As the original Macintosh team at Apple liked to say, it’s more fun to be the pirates than the navy. In Star Wars terms, one could say it’s more fun to be the rebels than the Empire.

Given the size of the company today, Apple can easily be seen as both the navy and the Empire. So I get why the sport of finding the cracks in Apple’s armor is so popular.

That said, I remain amazed that so many fail to grasp how Apple thinks and behaves — though they’ve seen the same scenario play out time after time. Continue reading →


27
Mar 15

Becoming Steve Jobs: the authors speak

Yesterday, the authors of Becoming Steve Jobs, Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli, had a little sit-down at the Soho Apple Store — with surprise guest host John Gruber.

It was a rare opportunity to get a sense of the authors’ personalities and motivations — since we normally hear of such things only through articles written by people who color the facts with their own point of view.

Kudos to Gruber for asking some probing questions and making the event run smoothly.

The truth is, any book about Steve Jobs will have a polarizing effect similar to the one generated by Steve himself. So now we have the battle of the biographies. It’s Becoming Steve Jobs (Schlender and Tetzeli) vs. Steve Jobs (Isaacson).

A few observations:

First, I love the title Becoming Steve Jobs. A book title, like the headline of an ad, is hugely important, and this one so perfectly captures the concept. Steve accomplished what he did only because of the journey that brought him back to Apple in 1997.

Few will remember at this point, but the original title for Isaacson’s book as announced was iSteve. What a horribly cute title that would have been for a life so important. Continue reading →


10
Mar 15

Waking from an Apple Watch hangover

We don’t like to make hot-headed remarks about Apple new-product events around these parts. Better to let things sink in for a while.

Okay, time’s up.

A few random comments about yesterday’s Apple Watch and MacBook event.

The broadcast
Glitch-free and a pleasure to watch. With the accompanying tweet-cast, Apple has become quite spiffy with these things. My only issue with it was…

The tweets
I couldn’t help but wince while reading some of the pre-event tweets. Steve Jobs hated any writing that sounded like marketing-speak, but such inhibitions seemed to have melted way here. It was a mix of trying to be cool (Getting psyched backstage listening to I Lived by @OneRepublic), trying to be clever (Please make sure your seat is in an upright position. It’s almost time for takeoff.) and sounding like an ad (People grab their seats before the keynote grabs their attention). Continue reading →


15
Jan 15

Thinking “what Steve would think”

Steve Jobs left Apple with an important bit of advice for Tim Cook and team: “Don’t ask yourself what Steve would do.”

Ah, but he didn’t tell anyone not to ask what Steve would think.

Loophole!

Such is the basis of Luke Dormehl’s recent effort at Cult of Mac entitled “7 things Steve Jobs would have hated about Apple today.”

I like Luke. However, I do think this is a pointless exercise. So many things have changed in the three years since Steve’s passing, it’s hard to make these judgments. And then there’s the fact that Steve himself presided over a number of Apple low points. So the idea that he would frown upon today’s Apple — which is doing well in so many big ways — is quite a leap.

Are these seven things really worthy of Steve’s “hate”? Continue reading →