There is nothing more frustrating than having some pretty good brains in a room beating around an interesting idea and then stopping a hair short of the truth and leaving it hanging in either conspiracy theory or coincidence.
It was so frustrating this morning that I found myself yelling at my radio as the podcast played ( good thing 26 was quiet and nearly empty this morning). I was listening to the most recent “Cranky Geeks” episode, and they were discussing Rob Enderle’s article ( Rob was on the show, btw) about how it seemed an odd almost conspiracy that ex-Apple employees were causing the ruin of many Apple competitors. He calls it Apple’s Fifth Column with a bit of tongue in cheek. He does end the column with the observation that this is most likely not true, but just a case of companies needing someone in charge to keep them from doing stupid things. In the show discussion, Rik Myslewski points out that this is generally the CEO.Although Adam Curry is pushing for conspiracy theories ( of course— and I say that lovingly, I enjoy NoAgenda, btw) The discussion ends in chuckles and they move on before they get to the important analysis.
The truth is, in most really large companies, smart, proficient CEOs surround themselves with executives and charge those executives to fill top management positions with people who are good at making decisions. In most large companies, there are too many ( and perhaps too disparate or too complex) decisions that need to be made for a single person to have control of all of them. You need bright, independently thinking, creative, insightful execs who are good at business- even if it is a tech company- to stay at the front of the pack once you hit a certain size.
Apple does not do this. Steve surrounds himself with technically great people who will do what he tells them too without too much argument, and does not care if they understand why. It always feels ( from the outside) like he runs the company like a helicopter parent. The people following his directions are smart and from the outside appear brilliant, get hired by other companies hungry for Apple brilliance- and they fail– often spectacularly, as Rob points out in his article- as they try to repeat some of the things they saw Steve doing, but never really understood.
A good company, like a good parent, helps its employees “grow-up” to the best of their capabilities. This sometimes means giving people the chance to make mistakes, the chance to fail and putting more energy into it than if you had just done it yourself– much like teaching your kid how to do laundry. Companies who just do the laundry for their employees because it is easier and safer that way end up with employees like those college kids who ruin entire wardrobes their first week at college because they have no clue what they are doing.
John? Next time– push discussions like this all the way to their natural end— the conclusions are much more interesting than conspiracy or Occam’s Razor.
I remember the days of dialup networking well. I don’t mean the old AOL/Geni/Compuserve dialup service, I mean “put your funny shaped, wire tethered phone headset down in a cradle and listen to the funny tones squeal while you wait for a handshake” dial up. When network connectivity was difficult, you saved it for important things. You did not squander precious bits without putting thought into it. Modems evolved, and then became incorporated into computers. It was easier to connect, so we shared small pictures,backgrounds for webpages ( usually tiled), animated images and silly sounds. But the connection was still slow and we paid by the hour. Some people even paid twice.. once to the service/ISP and then again in cost per minute to the phone company for the connection. Things like video and online shopping could not take off because the overhead of paying for the connectivity, and the worry that you would run out of minutes and not be able to continue with basics like email. Then came always on, unlimited bandwidth. No longer did I have to dial up to the ISP, wait for the connection and then carefully count the minutes I was online.
With a bigger pipe and free access, the business model for the web changed. Want to share all 1200 pictures from your last vacation with me? Cool. I have all the time I need to sit and admire them, and I know I will still have bits left over to read my email. Someone put videos on thee web? holy crud. Let’s sit and watch, who cares if there are advertisements on the page, these are funny videos!
Busy at work? Need to get birthday presents for your grandma who lives on the other side of the country? Here.. order flowers online- you can page through the images and select one. Not flowers? How about any one of a million other products you can order online and have easily shipped to her? Maybe you would like to buy her one of those nifty products you saw advertised while you were watching the funny videos.
Like to play games> No need to get up from your computer and go to the store to buy and install discs, just buy them over the internet and download them directly to your PC. Why not to your wii? your PS3? Your Xbox? Download them to your console and then move them to your DS or your PSP.
Too busy to go to the store, buy CDs, load them in your computer and then copy them to your mp3 player? No matter. We have many different services where you can buy music directly over the internet and then just download it. You like to buy music? how about music videos? TV shows? Movies? Don’t download it- you can just stream it. Heck, stream it in high definition- why not? Your bandwidth is virtually free!
Soon, it became easier to shop online than to get in your car, drive and interact with grumpy, rude people at the mall. The price of gas went up- you are saving money by staying home, so you can buy more. Right?
The internet is the ultimate impulse buy.
What happens when we go back to that old dial up mentality and we are worried about how many bits are flowing to and from our houses again? Will you let Spore waste your bandwidth uploading and downloading creatures? Will you continue to directly download audio books from the likes of Audible.com? How many ad-supported video podcasts will you download and watch? Will you let your video game console communicate over the net?
Last month, I spent hours and hours looking at images of dresses on the internet while I was shopping for a wedding dress. If I had a cap on my DSL, I never would have done that. Nor would I have bought the dress online from the merchant I did. What will happen to iPod hardware sales if people are concerned about how much they are downloading from iTunes or Amazon.com to put on it? What about your cell phone that uses a wifi connection when you are at home to save on your cell phone minutes? Will you still let that connect? If not, will you talk less or will you spend money on your cell phone bill instead of something else from a store in your home town?
Personally, I work a lot from my home office. Bandwidth is cheap, I can VPN into the corporate network and do my teleconferences. It saves me gas money from the commute and time to stay caught up on things like laundry. If my bandwidth gets capped, I will be driving into the office again every day to use their bandwidth instead. The money I have to spend on gas will take away from things like eating out, seeing movies, or buying new wii games for the kids.
What other gadgets and habits do you have that eat away at the bits you consume every month. How many purchases will you forgo, if you are worried about being able to read your email at the end of the month? how many youtube or 12second videos will you upload? How many will you watch? Will you Hulu? How useful is that iPod touch if you are not connected to the internet?
Will your highspeed bandwidth provider become the gas companies of the next decade, making big profits to give you virtual mobility at the expense of other businesses and sectors?