Almost Perfect

I’m sitting at my kitchen table here in Colorado with the beautiful sunny fall day shining in through the windows typing on an iPad Pro 12.9” which I picked up at the Apple Store this morning. I have owned many iPads over the years, starting with the very first and including the last 2 12.9” iPad Pro models with the Apple Pencil. They have all been very useful, and dramatically reduced the amount of time I spent on my Macs because I could do so much of my work on them. I got the Smart Keyboard for my gen 2 iPad Pro 12.9”, and liked using it a lot, and I used the Apple Pencil a fair amount, too. 

But... 

There were still a few annoyances. The device was just a little bigger than I wanted it to be. The Pencil was great in use, but that silly cap was always a concern (I did not lose mine, though), and charging it was inconvenient (and I did find it without a charge a few times). The keyboard had only one angle, and it worked well for table use, but not so well for my lap, especially on planes. And in landscape, the home button was an anomaly. 

All of these went away with this new iPad Pro. So, I sit here with the keyboard using the more angled position, the Pencil is snapped to the top, and the white background of this text looks brilliant due to the True Tone. 

I’m hooked. I think this is likely to be my primary device for a while. 

Even if I am a fanboi. At least according to Audree, my Apple Business consultant. It was ‘cause I was wearing my WWDC Levi’s jacket. She’s right. But not for the reason you might think. I’ll write more about that soon. 

Cloudy With a Chance of...

Decades ago, while running a network in a small office building in California, a senior manager asked if he could cut the staff since the network didn't seem to need a lot of support. I reminded him that an invisible network meant that people could just do their jobs without any friction from the network slowing them down or making their job more difficult. Last week, I read this from Benedict Evans via John Gruber at Daring Fireball:

Digesting WWDC: Cloudy

Benedict Evans:

So edit a photo and the edits are on all your devices, run out of room and your photos stay on the cloud but all but the previews are cleared off your phone, tap a phone number on a web page on your Mac and your phone dials it. But none of this says ‘CLOUD™’ and none of it is done in a web browser. Web browsers are for web pages, not for apps. Hence one could suggest that Apple loves the cloud, just not the web (or, not URLs). This is obviously a contrast with Google, which has pretty much the opposite approach. For Google, devices are dumb glass and the intelligence is in the cloud, but for Apple the cloud is just dumb storage and the device is the place for intelligence.

http://ben-evans.com/benedictevans/2014/6/4/digesting-wwdc-cloudy

http://daringfireball.net

This aligns very well with my earlier comments on what Apple is doing with iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite. The point is simply this: most people aren't enamoured with technology. Many who were at first delighted to have something as "cool" as an iPhone or Android device are now just using them. They are simply tools for living in the modern world. The next frontier for technologists is removing the barriers that devices and their interfaces create to doing what we want to do. The idea that what's important is speeds, icons, and other superficial elements is completely wrong. Just as with human relationships, physical attributes may initially attract, but in a relatively short time, it becomes the deeper aspects that matter.

The more technology companies get technology out of the way, the more successful they will become.

By the way, that manager was a smart guy. He relented. And I didn't have to break the network to remind him how important it was.

Getting It

To design something really well, you have to get it. You have to really grok what it’s all about. It takes a passionate commitment to really thoroughly understand something, chew it up, not just quickly swallow it. Most people don’t take the time to do that. Steve Jobs

When I read that quote on Quoth Steve today, I thought about this series on Apple's recent announcements and the ongoing discovery that many in the industry are communicating as the Apple WWDC continues this week. It underscores a key differentiator between Apple and most of the rest of the technology industry. In doing so, it also illustrates why so many in the technology press are fundamentally confused about both why Apple does what it does and why people buy Apple products.

Back when Japanese cars first began to gain a real foothold in the US, there was a similar dichotomy: Japanese cars had virtually no "options," while US cars were effectively custom built for each customer from an extensive list of options. Since I grew up in Michigan, the capital of the car industry in the US, I remember the derisive laughter about the limited options, the lack of this or that feature, and the expectation that the Japanese manufacturers would have to abandon the US or offer a better Chinese menu.

In retrospect, all of those observations and expectations were completely wrong. It turns out that the consumers appreciated the simplicity of getting a car without having to decide what to get on it -- and without having to wait for it to be built to their specifications. In fact, I lost out on a Pontiac Trans Am when my order turned out to have a very limited edition engine and the dealer decided he could get more for it from someone else, even though I had ordered it and waited for months.

1986 Trans Am

Today in technology, we have a similar situation: Apple is working on design in a way that Jobs thought about it. Most companies don't. Most put in a faster processor, more memory, more pixels, and expect those changes to compel purchases. Even customization is touted as a primary desire for consumers when that's not the case for many who just want to purchase a system that is ready to go, isn't bloated with a lot of distracting extras, and is designed in a way that allows it to disappear with use.

How do you want the products you purchase to be designed?

Invisible Technology

As is often the case, immediately after I posted my thoughts about Apple's announcements yesterday (The Next Technology Shift), a number of my friends reached out (especially on Facebook) to point out that other companies and technologies had similar features (like Android, Microsoft Surface 3, and so on). Because they did, I fear that I wasn't as clear about the major shift as I could be, but I also became aware that it is a paradigm shift, and as such will require explanation and expansion. One aspect of my perspective that isn't universal and is often misunderstood is that I am primarily a futurist. I am looking at where we are headed as a society and how technology can help us to become more human and to experience greater joy in life. Although I have spent most of my working years as a technologist, I have not done so from my love of technology. I have done so from my love of people and my desire to see them benefit personally and corporately from what it can do for them.

It is from that paradigm that I approach the recent Apple announcements.

Before I say any more, let me be clear: nothing Apple announced is entirely new. Most has parallels elsewhere on the technology landscape. However, that fact is entirely meaningless from the perspective of what these announcements mean for individuals, for corporations, and for the software development community. The importance of the announcement boils down to the facts that Apple is doing it and combining the technologies and devices together into a single, unified, simple offering. It is those facts which will change the world.

Over the next few days I will unpack the elements of the announcement from this perspective.

The Next Technology Shift

Apple's WWDC announcement usher in a new era of integrated mobile and desktop computing poised to change the way people interact with their technology. Again.

On Monday, Apple announced the new versions of their two operating systems: OS X 10.10 Yosemite for Macs and iOS 8 for iOS devices (iPads, iPhones, and iPod Touch). There were a number of interesting components to the upgrades, and I have installed Yosemite on one of my Macs to begin testing and exploring a bit, but the real shift is in the integration of the two worlds. While this is only a first step, consider two aspects of the new awareness:

  • Your Mac will know when your iOS device is near, and will allow you to transparently continue on one something you started on the other. Start an email on your iPhone, finish it on your Mac. Start writing a document on your Mac, finish while on the go on your iPad.
  • Your Mac becomes an extension of your iPhone, allowing you to make and receive phone calls and text messages (SMS) directly on your Mac via your iPhone, even if it's charging elsewhere in the house (I'll leave mine up in my bedroom where it gets decent cellular signal!).

Now, add to that updates to iOS like:

  • Family sharing, allowing up to 6 family members to share purchases, location, and iCloud data like reminders and calendars simply and transparently,
  • Health, to integrate all of the great health monitoring and management that is now available,
  • HomeKit, allowing developers to create integrated apps and hardware for keeping your house safe and automated to do what you want it to do.

When I look at this set of new capabilities, I see an incredible opportunity for Apple as a company, and those who align squarely with these new initiative and build hardware and software that aligns to it, and even for individuals to navigate a new career.

Apple introduced an entirely new programming languages called Swift that is designed with mobility, touch, and common development of iOS and Mac apps as core architectural points.

If technology is your business or career, pay attention and strongly consider a shift in how you're doing what you're doing.

If you are a user of technology, be prepared to shift away from thinking about your various devices as individual points of interaction to a world where they are each simply windows into your information that have different characteristics, strengths, and weaknesses.

Apple Just Changed Publishing

It is very rare indeed when I disagree with Seth Godin. He is a brilliant man, a best-selling author, and an insightful coach for the emerging economy, but he's missed it on the latest announcement from Apple. I don't blame him. It's easy to do with all the changes that are bouncing around like a Heisenberg Uncertainty experiment. Today, in a useful post on his Domino Project blog, he says that Apple did not just make publishing easier with their announcement of the iBooks Author application. He rightfully notes that the iBooks Author application is about authoring books, not publishing them, and there's a difference between printing and publishing. All true.

However, the iBookstore itself is a new way to publish. In much the same way that iTunes changed publishing first for music and then for movies and TV. And the iOS App Store and then the Mac App Store changed the economics and dynamics of software publishing, so will the iBookstore change the dynamics of book publishing. The iBook Author app is the disintermediation of book creation and the iBookstore is the creation of a publishing platform designed for social discovery and long-tail economics.

Unfortunately, I think that Seth falls into a bit of myopia here due to his experience with and success in both using publishers and creating a brilliant new publisher in his Domino Project. He sounds like some of the doomsayers in the early days of iOS apps.

Publishing will never be the same. Neither will making and selling music or making and selling other creative works. Seth knows this. Perhaps the world changed publishing and Apple is simply building tools for the ride. Regardless, anyone can now create and publish a book. Selling it requires building a tribe, just like it always did, but now you get to do it on your own.

So Many Miss the Point

With the passing of Steve Jobs this week juxtaposed against the announcement and release of the new iPhone 4S, the technology media have been atwitter with their views of Apple's success or failure to continue their recent successes. In reading a wide range of such writing, it strikes me that most miss the point entirely. The reason is ironically the same reason that Apple is so successful: it's really difficult to understand people and what they want. Over the past few years I have spent substantial time studying direct response marketing (such as the marketing done by companies who take out those one-page ads for subglasses or the Internet marketing that offers you a free report for handing over your email address). One of the primary tenants of direct response marketing is this: it doesn't matter what you want or what you think about those who make up your market. All the matters is what they actually want. Figure that out and you'll be successful. In fact, your success will be in direct proportion to the accuracy of your understanding. Most technology writers and those who live their lives consumed with technology miss entirely the preferences of the vast majority of people. That's why Apple is successful. It's also why I have migrated exclusively to Apple products.

The bottom line: most people just want stuff that works. They don't want to customize it more than putting their own wallpaper on the screen. They don't want to hack into it or understand how it works. They want to use it, get their activities done, and keep living their lives.

Apple products do this really well. In fact, Siri---the new Apple iPhone 4S's mechanism for voice interaction---is the opposite of what most geeks say is needed: it will create less interaction with the screen rather than more.

Today, John Gruber of Daring Fireball wrote an article specifically about the iPhone 4S and everything the pundits are saying Apple got wrong. I agree 100% with what he says. I expect the iPhone 4S to be the most popular iPhone ever much to the shock of those who think the screen needs to be bigger or that it needs to have a replaceable battery or LTE networking.

It doesn't. It's a great upgrade. I'll have mine in a week and will be sure to let you know what I think after I've had some time with it.

What do you think?

Farewell, Steve

Yesterday, just after hitting "publish" on my iPhone 4S recommendation post, I received the news that Steve Jobs had passed away at the too-young age of 56. I never met Steve, but his uncompromising focus on doing the right thing has influenced me. Today, Ken Segall (I read his blog religiously) shared the impact that Steve had on him, and I must agree, although I never had the experience of working directly with him.

Although I have been accused of being an Apple fan boy, my relationship with Apple is relatively recent and based on only one thing: my use of Apple products has given me a far more productive and pleasant experience than any of the environments I have used in over 25 years of daily technology use.

...and the reason for that is the insistence that Steve had on building products for people, not "users."

Yesterday, I was struck by how sad I felt when I learned of Steve's passing. I was rocked when I first saw the news, and found myself grieving far more than I would have expected.

Why?

I think one of the reasons is the rarity of Steve's insistence on building technology that works for people. Just reading the industry commentaries about Apple products shows this clearly. The complaints are universally about "speeds and feeds," complaining that this phone has a bigger, higher-quality display than the iPhone or that tablet is available in a 7-inch form factor, missing the only thing that matters: how the product works as a whole. This is why the iPhone is the most popular phone in the US and the iPad is really the only tablet that matters.

So, farewell, Steve. You have inspired me and I am grateful. My commitment is to apply what I have learned from your approach.

Thank you.

Buying an iPhone 4S?

Yesterday, the most valuable company in the world (by market value) introduced their latest product. Leading up to the announcement of the new iPhone, the traditional media and blogosphere were rife with rumors, spanning the gamut from the new iPhone only being available on Sprint to very solid rumors that effectively got it right. Who cares?

The real question is whether or not it makes sense for you to buy one.

For me, the answer is easy: yes, it makes sense. The devices I use are never fast enough for all I try to do with them, and I am using my voice more and more to interact with my phone, so I am looking forward to having the new Siri assistant so that I can use my phone more consistently and safely without looking at it. With Siri, I will be able to hear and reply to text messages, compose emails, change meetings, and more by conversing with my phone. I'm looking forward to that.

Plus, my daughter had her iPhone 3G stolen this summer and has been waiting for a trickle-down iPhone since then.

For you? It may not be as clear.

Here are the criteria I would recommend you use to decide:

  • If you cannot purchase it with a contract, I'd consider waiting
  • If you do not make heavy use of smartphone features like email, web browsing, camera, and apps, the iPhone 4S is likely overkill for you
  • If you make heavy use of Internet data, the iPhone 4S will be a benefit, but only if you are an AT&T subscriber
  • If you're a heavy user of a camera and either want better quality on your phone or would like to leave your camera home most of the time, the iPhone 4S will be great for you

So, what do you think? Is the iPhone 4S in your future? Hit the comments or Facebook with your thoughts.

I'll let you know more about what I think after I have had an iPhone 4S for a few days.

All Clouds are Not Created Equal

After I read about another Google customer losing all of his Google data when Google decided to delete (or at least suspend) his account, I got to thinking about all of the times that Google has made a mistake and deleted user accounts or deleted email for Gmail users, I thought about how the different approaches of the key players in the emerging world require you to make some choices, some of which may be untenable. So, I thought I'd lay them out in clearer form than you will get from the hard-core technical blogs or the companies themselves. At the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference this year (WWDC 2011), Steve Jobs and the Apple executive team introduced iOS 5 and iCloud. During his iCloud introduction, Jobs said this: "We are going to demote the PC to just be a device. We are going to move the digital hub, the center of your digital life, into the cloud." This is Apple's philosophy: the iCloud is the sync-master for  your digital life. It provides the axle to your devices that are the spokes. However (and this is a vital distinction!), your digital content lives on your devices when you are using it. The iCloud, then, is the master copy, but Apple expects you to have copies on one or more of your devices.

This is in sharp contrast to Google. In Google's world, the cloud is the only place where your data resides. You'll use your browsers (on your PC, your tablet, or your phone) to access, manipulate, create, and use your content. You may even cache some of it locally for performance reasons (for example, caching the first part of a video so you can watch it without "stutters"). However, the content is in the cloud and your devices are simply windows into it from Google's perspective.

...and then there's Microsoft. They want to get in on "this cloud thing," too, but they really aren't sure how to do it. Their business is Windows and Office, so how can they use the cloud and keep those lines humming? What they are doing now is having the cloud be a glorified backup service with some of the capabilities of their apps. The best experience, however, is to use their native apps on a PC and hook them into the cloud for backup and collaboration. This means that Microsoft Office 365 is a different perspective than iCloud (which is personal) and Google (which is all about the data being in the cloud only). It's effectively a hybrid of the two.

Regardless, you will want to make a choice based on these distinctions, because to the cloud you will go, one way or the other.

The iPad 2 Cometh

Last week I contacted a local Apple store for the third time since the launch of the iPad 2. "I don't suppose," I began as I reached the store's business desk, "You have an iPad 2s?" After she asked what I was seeking (a 64GB AT&T version), she told me that she didn't have what I wanted, although they did have some iPad 2s (primarily Verizon and WiFi-only, it seems). She also asked if she could put my business into their system. I answered in the affirmative and let it go, figuring I'd keep my eyes open and maybe check back in a few weeks.

That all changed the next day.

I received a call from the Apple Store in the morning asking for my credit card information. During that call, her colleague asked, "When can you come get your iPad 2?"

"What???!"

20 minutes later, I walked out of the store with my new black iPad 2 64GB AT&T, a tan leather Smart Cover, and a few accessories. I've been using it since I sync'd it so it would have all of my apps, incuuding the WordPress app I'm using to write this post.

While I will review the iPad 2 in an upcoming post, right now I'll just say this: Mark Sigal is right. With the benefits of the Apple Stores and Apple's profit margin, it will be extremely difficult for Motorola or Samsung to make inroads into the Apple market.

...and that's a very big deal.

CES 2011 - Apple Follow the Leader?

As I have walked through the CES halls as all the exhibitors prepare for the onslaught of attendees starting tomorrow, the pre-show expectations have largely proven true. As expected, mobile devices like smartphones and tablets are all the rage, and Verizon is making a big splash with the 4G LTE network roll-out. Since I am spending my time working with Verizon and Ericsson in the Verizon booth, I'll hold off on specifics until tomorrow. Suffice it to say for now that there will be a lot of high-speed mobile devices to discover and explore. I've been getting Facebook and Twitter messages with questions about what technologies people are interested in understanding, so I'll be looking especially hard for those. If you have areas of interest, be sure to let me know either with a comment here on the blog or a message on Twitter or Facebook.

My observation thus far is this, however: CES is going to be a game of "Follow the Leader," and the leader isn't even here.

That leader is Apple.

With a $300B market cap and the most innovative products in the markets it serves, Apple's leadership cannot be disputed. Here are CES, smartphones are compared to iPhones, tablets to iPads, and mobile business to Apple's iOS ecosystem.

My question is this: Where's the innovation? I'll be looking for it. Any idea where I might find it?

Business Growth in a Mobile World

The world is changing--again--and the good news is that the pendulum has swung back in favor of local, high-value businesses. This is exciting! It was the mid-1990s in Boulder, Colorado. I was a young, idealistic business owner with a passion for growing businesses. At the time, there was a lot I didn't know about helping businesses understand the reasons for doing what they needed to do, but I didn't lack in energy or conviction!

One time, I remember trying to convince the manager of an executive suite that one of the best things he could do to build his business would be adding Internet access in the offices. I gave him a reasonable proposal, and showed him that the prices would be reasonable and the benefits significant.

...but he didn't get it. "No one cares about Internet access," he told me. "They just want office space and a phone."

They went out of business.

A few months later, I had another conversation with a business owner explaining the value of using the Internet for communicating with customers and prospects. I talked about building a web site and how she could use it to build her business. Again, she didn't see the value and allowed others to take her business over the next few years. At the time, only visionaries could see the value in the Internet and the web. Today, we take it for granted.

We are at another juncture. It's like the early days of the web all over again. Sometimes, I get those same reactions, but the visionaries get it.

What am I talking about?

The shift in how people find you and your business. How they look for products and services. And what that means about how you find your prospects and show them your value. The world is now mobile. Virtually everyone always has their phone with them. Many of those phones have access to the Internet and mapping applications. And millions of them have the ability to install applications.

All of these are opportunities for you. You can differentiate your business, build relationships, engage with your customers, and win against the faceless giants in the marketplace.

It's a great time to be in business.

The strategy is straight-forward and the elements are extensions of what you already know to do: use your website to communicate, have a blog, use web video, podcast if it makes sense, be "mobile friendly," be social, and use apps strategically.

I'll go through each of these in upcoming posts. I also have made space in my schedule for a few free consultations for business leaders who are eager to grow their business at this tipping point in time. For a free half-hour consultation with me about your business and accomplishing the growth you're seeking, go to my business growth page right now and sign up before the slots are gone.

How My iPad Makes Reading Better

As I sat finishing breakfast at our kitchen table yesterday morning with the Colorado sun filling the back yard and the kids enjoying their last few days of "freedom" before they head back to school next week, I caught up on my news reading using my iPad. I use Feeddler, an RSS (Real Simple Syndication) reader for iOS together with the Wall Street Journal and Guardian Eyewitness apps to stay current with news and insights from my favorite content sites. I thought about how this was so different than it has been for me until just recently. I no longer need to go to my desktop computer or pull out my notebook computer to check my favorite web sites; I just pull out my iPad. Not only that, but because Feeddler uses Google Reader to sync what I've read, I can use Feeddler on my iPhone and my iPad or Google Reader or one of the Google Reader compatible applications to stay up-to-date throughout the day.

Of course, I also use the iPad to stay current with email, some web browsing, and my eBooks, too (mostly using the Kindle app). I even use it for a bit of Bible reading and study using Logos.

As a result, what I have noticed is that my iPad, this small, lightweight device, has become the center of my reading world. It's like I'm carrying my entire stack of books, magazines, newspapers and websites with me all the time. I am beginning to see very clearly just how much the iPad has simplified my life. And this from a guy who definitely wasn't sold on the idea of an iPad for my own personal productivity.

Pretty interesting...

iOS Update Fixes PDF Vulnerability

I wrote earlier about the PDF vulnerability in iOS that impacts every iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad. Yesterday, Apple made an update available to fix the vulnerability. If you own an iOS device, be sure to update it as soon as you can. If you don't see the update as soon as you plug your device into iTunes, select your device in the sidebar and click "Check for Update" to get the update.

The Real iPhone Impact

Recently, Apple parted ways with Executive Vice President Papermaster. Antennagate was a convenient time to part ways with Papermaster. He didn't really fit in to the Apple culture. You'll see the Verizon iPhone in January, I think, with CDMA/LTE. What isn't clear is whether it will be able to be an international phone, which may also be an issue. With Qualcomm effectively custom-designing this chipset for Apple, though, it could actually potentially be CDMA/GSM/LTE, which would be VERY interesting from a marketplace impact perspective.

I view this all as great for competition. All devices are vastly improved from the state of the marketplace in 2007 (when most people had to compromise and carry a Treo, a Blackberry, or one of the abjectly awful Windows phones). I expect Apple to continue to push the envelope of capabilities for mobile devices, keeping everyone on their toes and finding ways to make devices better and better.

Kill Flash, Fix Your System

A Facebook conversation this week reminded me that many people do not know how damaging Adobe Flash can be on many systems, especially, it seems, those running Apple's OS X. For many years, I have found Flash more annoying than anything, and so have run various plug-ins to keep Flash from loading in my browsers. There are also an additional mini-application that you may find useful. First, there are a number of Flash blocking plug-ins for the various browsers available. For Firefox, there's FlashBlock. Ffor Safari there's ClickToFlash. For Google Chrome, there's Kill-Flash. All of these plugins do the same thing: they replace the Flash elements on a page with a clickable image. If you don't click, no Flash ever loads. If you do, Flash loads and plays.

One think I especially like about ClickToFlash is that you can adjust the settings to load H.264 videos on YouTube instead of Flash when it is available. Very nice.

In addition to these plug-ins, I also use BashFlash on my Macs. This little application sits quietly in the menubar until one of the Flash processes starts going crazy. Sometimes, a Flash process can cycle up and take over a computer. When one does this, BashFlash wakes up, turns red, and lets you kill the runaway Flash process.

Together, these plugins and app will make your browsing experience much more pleasant. I run ClickToFlash and Kill-Flash on my two most-used browsers, and keep BashFlash on hand, too. Let me know how it goes for you.

Your iPhone and iPad are Vulnerable

Mashable reports today that Security Exploit Can Give Hackers Control of Your iPhone or iPad [WARNING]. You will want to be careful not to load any PDFs that you don't know for sure are safe. This is a buffer overflow bug in the PDF rendering engine having to do with font management. While obscure, it's actually the bug that was used to provide a web-based jailbreak of the iPhone running iOS 3.1.2 or higher.

Microsoft Playing "Follow the Leader"?

The big buzz around tech today is Microsoft's annual financial analyst meeting held yesterday. At the meeting, Microsoft trotted out a line of execs and talked about how rosy their company future is. My favorite version of the proceedings comes from BoomTown reporter Kara Swisher (summed up in her piece today: Slide Presentations From Microsoft's Financial Analyst Meeting). The most stunning revelation for me is that Microsoft seems not to get it at all.

CEO Steve Ballmer touts "slates" and "Windows Phone 7" while saying that Apple has sold more iPads than he wanted them to. His comments about the marketplace make it obvious that he has no idea how to lead or how to innovate. What Microsoft is doing is struggling to figure out which latest craze to follow, and they are now in the middle of a series of utter failures to innovate or compete on a number of products in multiple markets.

For example, their Xbox game system, while beloved by customers, loses money. They have had a string of embarrassments, from Windows Vista to the Microsoft Kin phones that lasted less than 90 days on the market. If it wasn't for their long-term cash cows of Windows and Office, Microsoft would be in serious financial trouble. As it is, they are right where many giant companies before them have been... before those companies either reinvented themselves or died. If it takes Microsoft longer than 24 months to introduce their next major version of Windows, they'll be in even more financial trouble. After all, the cloud may make operating systems virtually unimportant, rendering their big cash cow moot.

Regardless, innovation doesn't come from following others. It comes from imagining what could be, picturing how people would love to live, and then providing products that spark their creativity, imagination, and productivity.

Does that sound like any companies you know?

Competition is good for everyone, especially consumers. If Microsoft doesn't find a way to become a leader again, someone else will. In the meantime, Microsoft management will fight to keep from becoming completely irrelevant, and hurt consumers on their way down. Limiting the innovations of others and creating irrelevant products is a waste of time and energy, but it's the common path of the increasingly irrelevant.

Microsoft, it's time to lead, follow, or get out of the way.

The Price of "Open"

There is a war among geeks and the tech press over "open." The Google Android system is "open" while the Apple iOS ecosystem is "closed." Underlying the conversation is the assumption that "open" is good and "closed" is bad, but is that really the case? This week during the Black Hat security conference, mobile security firm Lookout delivered their analysis of an Android wallpaper app that takes your data was downloaded by millions. Unfortunately, it sends personal information to a user in China and no one knows why.

Given that I have been a standards proponent since the early '80s and a staunch support of open source systems (OSS) since before the term was coined, I understand the value of open standards and open source. However, most people primarily care first about getting stuff done or enjoying their entertainment, not how open the systems are. If this wasn't the case, Microsoft Windows would not be the dominant desktop worldwide.

Furthermore, people prefer that their systems work, that they not introduce threats, and that they don't get in the way.

I have come to realize that there are environments that are especially well-suited to the vast majority of people, and they are those that are fully-integrated systems that are open enough to interact with current and emerging standards in the marketplace. They are not those that allow the user too much freedom, require too much technical skill, or demand more attention be given to the tools than to getting stuff done.

Those are the strengths and weaknesses today, and those are also the reasons why Apple is still on the rise, Google is in second-place, and Microsoft is huffing, puffing, and sweating trying to keep up.

Follow-up: After review, Google has decided that the app is actually OK. There was quite a bit published about this in the technology press, but the points made in this article still hold: There are big differences between open and closed, and you'll need to make your own choices about what the best value is given your experience and expertise and what you want to apply to the environment.