On Apple and Steven P. Jobs

[Originally posted on my 360 blog]

First of all, yes people, this blog is not (entirely) dead. I’ve been a bit busy with stuff over the last few months. In many ways, Flickr and Twitter have replaced this blog for cataloging my random acts of self-expression. And while there were a few subjects I felt worthy of real blog posts in that time, and I even started writing up a couple of them, I just haven’t had the time (or, more accurately, the attention span) to see any of them to completion. But today, I found myself writing a blog post sized comment on my friend Ian’s blog for the second time in a week. So, I figured why not leverage some of that energy over here. So, here goes…

Right now it seems that everyone is talking about Apple, and you can’t talk about Apple without talking about Steve Jobs. As a student of business and management, I find Apple since the return of Steve Jobs to be an extremely interesting case study which I’ve followed very closely. And for someone who’s never worked there, I think I’ve been able to glean some relatively deep insights into the company:

  • I’ve been an avid Apple customer for the last 17 years, giving me a solid grasp of the history of their consumer product efforts
  • The product I work on was originally Mac-only and is now competitive with features in OSX, so I know what it’s like to be an Apple ISV and competitor
  • I work with a number of hardcore Apple fan boys (and one ex-employee/fan boy) — no less than 5 members of our team waited in line for the iPhone — so I get to observe first-hand the impact of Apple-mania even though I’m no longer as personally passionate about the company as I once was
  • I’ve been able to attend the last 4 Stevenotes (2 MacWorlds, AppleTV special event, and this week’s iPod Touch special event) thanks to another Apple fan boy for whom I work, so I’ve experienced full power and glory of the Cult of Steve.

A little over 2 years ago, I sold the 200 shares of Apple stock I bought back when Jobs returned to be CEO. At $41/share, I made a tidy profit and an $18,000 mistake based on yesterday’s closing price (or, more depressingly, $21,672.35 based on the 52-week high). Why did I sell? Simple, I underestimated Steve Jobs.

I originally invested in Apple because I felt it was undervalued based on the assets that were in plain sight. Contrary to people who thought Apple was on its last legs and about to be steamrolled by the cheaper WinTel ecosystem, I believed strongly that the innovation and quality Steve Jobs brought to computers insured that Apple would lead the growing high-end segment of the home PC market and would be profitable doing so. When the stock started surging on the hype of the iPod, I sold because I felt the market was placing too much value on a non-core product line with unsustainable growth. Boy, was I wrong!

Continue reading “On Apple and Steven P. Jobs”

MySpace Revolt in the NYT

[Originally posted on my 360 blog]

As predicted, MySpace users are getting pissed off that the social network they originally chose for its openness is now denying them access to the best of breed services they desire.

There will never again be *one* destination that provides *everything* a user wants and needs. The only way to be ubiquitous is to be completely open and allow users to use your product (whether it be a homepage on which they can embed any service they choose, or a service they can embed in any homepage they choose) how they see fit. Openness is now a viable basis of competition, and you will be undercut by a more open competitor if you are too closed. 

MySpace thinks that they built YouTube, and maybe they did. But, where would MySpace be without all those users embedding and watching YouTube videos on MySpace long before there was a MySpace video player? A smaller piece of the pie can be worth more, if the pie itself is made bigger by allowing distributed innovation to create value for your consumers in ways that you can’t or wouldn’t.

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