Apple’s new iPhone dock

A dock came with the first couple of iPhones. There was one in the box with my iPhone 3G in 2008. 

It was a nice touch and gave the phone a home, a more definite sense of place. And it was more of an incentive to just put it away when you got home. 

But docks went away as an Apple option eventually. Third party solutions have been available, but there’s been nothing from Apple in the Lightning connector era. 

But last week Apple announced a new dock to fit all the Lightning connector devices. That’s the iPhone 5, 5s, 6, and 6 Plus. Apparently, even iPads will fit. 

I ordered a couple as soon as I saw them available and got them this weekend. 

Here’s my wife’s iPhone 6 (sporting the new red Apple leather case I just got her for Mother’s Day) in the new Apple dock:  

The dock is very simple and offers a minimalist, elegant alternative to just laying the phone on a nightstand or desk. Even with the case on the phone fits perfectly onto the dock. It’s easy to connect one-handed, but it’s not so easy to disconnect without using two hands. 

 
The dock itself is barely there, with just enough of a form to fulfill its function. No flourishes. Nothing unnecessary. Classic Apple design for even a lowly phone dock. 

“A place for everything, and everything in its place.” This new dock is a simple way to fulfill that declutterer’s mantra and give your iPhone a place to call home. 

Becoming Steve Jobs: Adversity and failure before triumph

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The new, much-hyped biography, Becoming Steve Jobs, was released yesterday, and my pre-ordered copy was on my porch when I got home last night. This is the rare book that I’m choosing to purchase as a physical book instead of an ebook. The advance praise was sufficient enough and the topic is one I find fascinating. I’m thinking it will be a keeper.

The book explores how someone who seemed so insensitive and reckless at the beginning of his career could end up as THE visionary business leader of our time. I just started reading it and came to this passage in the prologue:

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“We can learn as much, if not more, from failure, from promising paths that turn into dead ends. The vision, understanding, patience, and wisdom that informed Steve’s last decade were forged in the trials of these intervening years.”

The greatness of the company that Steve Jobs fashioned in his last decade would not have been possible without the failures and shortcomings of his first couple of decades.

I’ve been fascinated recently by those who have turned adversity and failure to their advantage. We all seem to know that facing difficulties and enduring setbacks make us stronger and better. Yet we resist even the thought of coming up short or of taking on hardship.

Maybe we all should regularly and intentionally fling ourselves into the teeth of surefire heartbreak and dismal failure just so we can grow and learn faster.

 

Tim Cook on Steve Jobs and the values that drive Apple

Fast Company has an exclusive interview with Apple CEO Tim Cook that is filled with quote-worthy insights.

Cook, an Auburn University graduate from Mobile, Alabama, has always come across to me as a genuinely good guy. Very smart and driven and hard-working, of course, but a regular, unassuming nice person who just happens to run the most impressive and wealthiest and coolest company in the world. As a fellow southerner and a delighted Apple customer, I especially enjoy hearing Cook’s southern drawl as the voice of a company that’s changing the world like few others ever have.

Cook earned his reputation at the company for his brilliant corralling of logistics and resources to build a staggeringly robust sytem for manufacturing all those iPods and iPhones and Macs. Steve Jobs was the product visionary and shaper of a uniquely innovative company culture, but it was Cook who was resonsible for making sure those dreams could be made and shipped.

Cook will never match Jobs as a cultural icon. But that doesn’t seem to be his aim.

Here’s Cook on lessons learned from Jobs:

Steve felt that most people live in a small box. They think they can’t influence or change things a lot. I think he would probably call that a limited life. And more than anybody I’ve ever met, Steve never accepted that.

He got each of us [his top executives] to reject that philosophy. If you can do that, then you can change things. If you embrace that the things that you can do are limitless, you can put your ding in the universe. You can change the world.

That was the huge arc of his life, the common thread. That’s what drove him to have big ideas. Through his actions, way more than any preaching, he embedded this nonacceptance of the status quo into the company.

That is great leadership. Clearly, Cook and those who worked with Jobs were infected by his approach, his “nonacceptance of the status quo”, his razor sharp focus on transformational ideas and products, and a relentless commitment to constant improvement.

And, with Apple, as with all great organizations, it keeps coming back to culture.

Here’s Cook’s response when asked about conveying the Apple culture within the company:

I don’t think of it as systematizing, but there are a number of things that we do, starting with employee orientation. Actually, it starts before that, in interviews. You’re trying to pick people that fit into the culture of the company. You want a very diverse group with very diverse life experiences looking at every problem. But you also want people to buy into the philosophy, not just buy in, but to deeply believe in it.

Then there’s employee orientation, which we do throughout the company all over the world. And then there’s Apple U., which takes things that happened in the past and dissects them in a way that helps people understand how decisions were made, why they were made, how successes occurred, and how failures occurred. All of these things help.

Ultimately, though, it’s on the company leaders to set the tone. Not only the CEO, but the leaders across the company. If you select them so carefully that they then hire the right people, it’s a nice self-fulfilling prophecy.

Apple recently has allowed the media more access to it’s top people than I can ever recall. The interview with Cook is thorough and interesting throughout and well worth reading whether you care about technology or not.

On wearable technology and the world as it might be

Ben Thompson has a great post today about wearable technology in light of Apple’s upcoming new device: How Apple Will Make the Wearable Market

Thompson lately has been putting out a consistent stream of thoughtful analysis of Apple especially and of the direction of technology in general. In his most recent post about the Apple Watch he points out that most critics base their pessimism on how new technology will fare in the world as it is rather than looking imaginatively at the world as it might be.

He offers this:

For all of the changes that have been wrought by technology, a huge amount of our daily existence really hasn’t changed in a very long time. Consider keys: in my bag I have several pieces of metal, hopefully unique, that unlock doors or start up machines that run on controlled explosions. It’s positively barbaric! Money has improved a bit – cash is certainly a very old concept, although credit cards are more modern – but the idea that we physically hand someone access to a huge amount of money (i.e. our credit cards) without even thinking about it is odd. We operate lights with switches, print disposable tickets for everything from airplanes to concerts, and pack identification from a whole host of authorities, including the government and workplace.

It’s increasingly plausible to envision a future where all of these examples and a whole host of others in our physical environment are fundamentally transformed by software: locks that only unlock for me, payment systems that keep my money under my control, and in general an adaptation to my presence whether that be at home, at the concert hall, or at work.

He then goes on to explore how wearable devices can take a central role in such a future. And Apple is differentiating their device by making it desirable, aesthetically and emotionally, as well as remarkably useful. It’s not just a smart watch, there is also a good bit of art to their watch.

Apple’s focus on fashion is part of the plan to make their watch a cultural hit and not just a geek fetish. And widespread adoption would be necessary for all the parts to come together to make wearable technology more than just a fad for technology enthusiasts.

Reading Thompson’s post reminded me how much my family enjoyed using Disney’s MagicBands when we visited Disney World more than a year ago. These colorful bracelets unlocked our hotel room door, served as our tickets to enter the parks, managed our Fast Passes for rides, and were used to pay for our meals and souvenirs at restaurants and stores throughout the Disney resorts.

As much as I love good technology, I’ve been reluctant to get excited about Apple Watch. I have been imagining its primary function was to enable notifications to work more seamlessly. It seems to be a notification delivery machine. Literally. And I am anti-notifications. The fewer interruptions, the better.

Yet, a watch that would connect with my life in an abundance of helpful ways, the way the Disney MagicBands did, would be one that would earn a central role in my life the way the iPhone has.

There’s a long way to go before the infrastructure is in place to create such a connected and wireless world. But selling lots of Apple Watches would push that vision forward faster.

It’s hard for me to vividly remember the pre-smartphone world. The iPhone was a niche product with no app store, weak processing power, super slow internet, and a high price tag when it was introduced in 2007. Those who, at the time, saw the world as it was, dismissed its chances. But look at the world as it is now.

Consider the world as it might be from this point on. How will wearable technology and the infrastructure interacting with it look five years from now?

Since reading Thompson’s post, I’ve been browsing the Apple Watch options online, the sizes and band choices, and imagining wearing a watch again for the first time since 2008. (My favorite at the moment: Apple Watch Sport, space gray, black band, 38mm.)

It may be a year or two before I pull the trigger. I’m not a knee-jerk early adopter. The sweet spot of form and function and a robust ecosystem for these devices is surely at least a couple of iterations away. But I think it’s coming.

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Apple’s event: MacBook thoughts

I took a day off today. My kids are on spring break, and my wife is out of town for work. Daddy-daughter day included plenty of play time, a trip to the movies (Spongebob… meh), dinner out, and a grocery run. Yet, somehow, I was able to take in the entire live-stream of Apple’s product announcement event this afternoon.

Kind of like wearing a favorite UGA shirt on a football Saturday, I put on my Daring Fireball t-shirt and pulled up the event on my Apple TV to cheer on the possibilities that would be unveiled. Apple is great at these carefully choreographed events, which are filled with sharp product videos and occasionally genuine surprises. I’m a complete sucker for them. As a fan of both great presentation dynamics and Apple products, these events are right in my wheelhouse.

Today’s event was expected to be about the new Apple Watch. And it is a fascinating new product category that may ultimately change the way many of us use technology. I’m in wait-and-see mode as to whether I will ever want one.

But what I’m still thinking about hours after watching is the new MacBook that was unveiled. It’s lighter and thinner than the 11″ MacBook Air (which my wife has and we both love), yet it has a 12″ retina display and all-day battery life. Plus, it includes new engineering for a flatter, more fluid keyboard and something Apple is calling a “Force Touch” trackpad which responds to how hard you tap. There’s a bit of trade-off in that the processing power of this new MacBook is not as robust as what you can get in a MacBook Pro. This is not the machine for those doing regular heavy lifting like video editing and Photoshop.

This new MacBook, though, looks like the ultimate writing machine. The form factor seems like they’ve finally hit the sweet spot for portability and features. Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling famously said a few years back: “The MacBook Air changed my life.” She felt it was the ultimate writing tool because of its size and performance. This new MacBook improves on the Air in many ways, but especially with the HD screen.

And you can see the convergence across product lines for Apple. If an iPad married a MacBook Pro, this is what their offspring would look like. This MacBook is a bit like an iPad that runs Mac OS with a killer keyboard attached.

My personal Mac is an old iMac that’s more than six years old. This new, svelte MacBook has jumped to the top of my wish list. And Space Gray? Yes, please. (Guess I need to start saving. That hot water heater we had to replace today did not help…)

The iMore crew has a good summary of the features and a glowing early assessment from their time giving the new MacBook a go in the hands-on opportunity after today’s event.

 

 

Jony Ive and the moral purpose of design

It’s Apple Watch week with Monday’s event approaching rapidly and many eager to see just what the final details will be.* And the Jony Ive press tour continues. (Has Apple ever granted this much access to Ive or any of its top people? This is a new era of openness in Tim Cook’s Apple.) Here’s a profile in The Financial Times and a bit about Ive’s view of the big picture of design?

I would hazard a wild guess that 19th-century neogothic ecclesiastical architect and designer Augustus Pugin is not frequently discussed in Cupertino, but Ive invokes his name to discuss the moral purpose of design. He chooses his words carefully. “This is difficult to describe and it could be misinterpreted very easily, but there is a sense of almost serving your fellow humans. While people might not be able to articulate why they care and why they prefer one thing over the other, I really think that most people are very discerning.”

Some may take it as self-serving or hollow or PR, but I take his claims of serving humanity with design and with Apple’s creations as wholly sincere. And refreshing. Of all companies, Apple can most likely claim adherence to a standard beyond mere market economics and pursuit of profits. Maybe it’s easy to proclaim such lofty motivation if you represent the richest company in the history of the world.

It does seem the leadership at Apple are uniquely obsessed with making truly great products, products that offer remarkable value to their customers. And, yes, they make a lot of money by selling those products. But that is likely the key to their success. Focus obsessively on the creation and continual refinement of transformative products and trust that the humans they’re designed for will respond with delight and with a willingness to pay a premium for designs that resonate, whether those humans know exactly why or not.

What’s the gift we can give in our work? How can what we create and the experiences we deliver serve a meaningful purpose beyond putting food on our tables and paying our bills?

If you consider your work as a way to serve humanity, to make life even a little better for someone, you can transform a mere job into a calling. Tasks you previously took for granted, or undertook half-heartedly, become almost sacred and imbued with new energy when you instead see them as part of your gift to the universe, your legacy in the service of humanity. And your work likely will rise to new levels of excellence and accomplishment.

*I haven’t worn a watch since 2008. I’m assuming I don’t want an Apple Watch. But I’m also smitten by delightful technology. I’m a pushover for uniquely great things. I will be intrigued to see how this new device is being pitched to a generation that doesn’t see a watch as a necessity any longer. 

Walt Disney, Steve Jobs, and plussing your life

I’ve been immersed in Walt Disney recently. I’m reading a biography which is giving me a better appreciation of the impact one dynamic person can have on an organization and ultimately on society.

And then today I found this article linked from ToolsAndToys.net. It’s a piece by Rolly Crump, a former Disney Imagineer who worked on Disneyland projects like the original concepts for It’s A Small World and The Enchanted Tiki Room. He shares some great insights about what it was like to work with Walt. (Disney refused to let employees, or anyone, call him “Mr. Disney.” He insisted on being addressed by just his first name.)

In all the stories I’m reading about Walt, he comes across to me as a kinder, gentler Steve Jobs. Both men had charismatic personalities that could bring out the best work in others. No one could out-dream them. Their ideas were bigger and bolder than anyone else’s.

Walt was not actually an artist. (He didn’t even draw the original Mickey Mouse. He just came up with the concept and the personality and the voice and got Ub Iwerks to do the drawing.) And Steve was not a computer engineer or a designer. (It was Woz who made the original Apple computers. Steve just figured out how to sell them.) But both men saw possibilities others didn’t. They asked for more, for better, for the seemingly impossible. And they got it more often than not. With their ideas and their drive and their communication skills, they sold their dreams and impressed their high standards on those who worked with them.

Here’s Crump talking about the way Walt would generate and improve ideas:

In designing for Disneyland you definitely worked more as a conduit for Walt’s ideas. He directed what you were doing, and his direction was far superior to your own personal ideas. His ideas were way ahead of yours—you had to play catch-up on that, and then you had to kind of read subconsciously what it was that he wanted and the direction to take. Walt would come up with an idea, and that idea would explode inside of him. It would get better and better. So when you showed him something, he would take what you did to another level. And when you gave it back, he’d take it to yet another level.

So many Steve Jobs anecdotes sound like that. His ideas were a few steps ahead. Go bigger. Get it done sooner than anyone thinks possible. Give it more “wow”, more “cool”.

Walt called it “plussing”. He would take an idea and “plus it”, make it a little better. And it was constant for him. He was relentless in plussing everything, from a scene in a movie to the way a cast member interacted with a guest at Disneyland. (Here you can listen to a recording of Walt talking about plussing and why he loved Disneyland more than his movies.)

Jobs and Disney must have had a sharply tuned sense of discontent. What most of us would accept as okay, they would ask for better. And the results are what make Apple and Disney the icons they have become in our culture.

Maybe most of us are too timid, too content with good enough. What if you asked for better from yourself and from those you work with. What if you plussed your life as relentlessly as Walt and Steve plussed their creations?