Thursday, November 17, 2005

Typepad appears to be down

I've been trying a number of blogging services over the last year, Typepad, Blogger, Radio, and Bubbler. I had settled on Typepad. However recent performance issues are prompting me to perhaps reconsider. I like the mix of features, functionality, and reporting that I get from Typepad, but if I intend to be serious about my blogs, no having access or periods of down time are things that I would chose not to have.

I guess this means I'll have to more seriously investigate alternatives.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Running from mother nature

It's not surprising that our neglected transportation systems cannot handle the evacuation from Hurricane Rita. What is surprising is that there are no government computer scientists who can model these huge problems and figure out ways to feed the vehicles onto the highways so that the traffic can move instead of sitting in a huge parking lot.

What is hard to believe is that we don't have enough roads to move people. I would like to think an evacuation plan is more than just someone assuming that everyone could get on the roads at the same time. People practice evacuations of buildings. Perhaps we need to get serious about planning and practicing evacuations. If the problem is everyone on the same roads at the same time, I guess we need to figure out other ways to get people out of towns. I might be wrong but I sure would like to hear from some transportation experts as to why the system seems to be breaking down.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

New challenges

I just finished what may be my last historical post about Apple over at my Applepeels blog. It's taken me a long time to get to the point that I look back philosophically at my last year there. Now that I gotten this last post written, I feel a new rush of enthusiasm and hope.

It is time for the next part of the journey. I expect it to be an exciting time. I feel sorry for those Apple folks who are trapped in tough spots, but that's their problem, and I figure that given enough time, they too will escape Apple, get into their own recovery program, and find that life after the mothership is better than anyone can imagine.

Of course that doesn't mean that there weren't some great moments in the journey I had since selling my first Apple computer in 1982.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Apple & Good People

One of the benefits of having multiple blogs is that you're writing to different audiences. Here at blogger I don't do a lot of posts and don't have a large number of readers. At Applepeels where I can sometimes get a couple of thousand page views in a day, it is easy to step on someone's toes.

I get challenged a lot on what I say, and a couple of Apple folks have said some really nasty things to me and hidden behind non-existent e-mail addresses. The good news is that my blog at Applepeels now requires valid e-mails and I am moderating it so I can screen the comments that come. I don't have a problem with people who disagree with me, but it is nice to screen out the Apple employees who have trouble accepting the truth and insist on a twisted view of the facts.

Someone recently took offense that I challenged the quality of the sales management of Apple and suggested that there were lots of high quality employees at Apple. There's no doubt that there are some good folks at Apple, but there aren't nearly as many as there were in the old days.

At one time the biggest challenge of an Apple manager was keeping his employees from working themselves to death. People worked with a passion that drove them to excellence. They required almost no management. Today Apple is a world of micro-management. No one trusts the employees to do their job. Some that I know spend close to one third of their time doing reporting.

Unfortunately with a tiny sales force and a customer base unsettled by the upcoming Intel processor change, Apple can ill afford to burden its sales people with unnecessary reporting just to reassure the managers that people know how to fill out excel spreadsheets or templates.

Folks that think Apple has great employees today have no idea how extraordinary a company Apple was in the early days.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Tempest in a Teapot

If nothing else the Apple-Intel switch has got lots of folks talking. I've lived in the PowerPC world so long and heard so many Apple SEs fervently pitch the G5 and ancestors' superiority that I think this is really pretty funny. I have had a Dell with an Intel processor since last fall. All my Macs haven't thrown it out of my home office yet.

The reality is that most computers are just computers. Blindly faithful Mac computer users aren't like the rest of the world. Some seemingly would jump off a building if Steve told them to do. Some can believe no evil of Steve. Those are the extremists and a small but vocal minority. I suppose there are likely still some folks who either believe Bill Gates can do no wrong or no right. I wonder if there are Windows users as blindly faithful as the Mac extremists?

Bill is becoming much more human to me, Steve is becoming much more of a control freak. I have done lots of speculating about this latest move, but somehow there must be some way to exercise more control over the faithful at the end of the tunnel. I have enjoyed these recent posts from the "Devil's Advocate." The first one was "Steve meets Osborne, Again!" and the follow-up is "Mac Punditry: Deranged and Dumb on any Processor." I would be really curious to hear from some of the folks who pegged this migration as impossible in their coments on my ApplePeels blog when I first commented May 24 in the post "The Apple-Intel Rumor."

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Seeing beyond the shiny image

I continue to be amazed by how few people see beyond Apple's great products. Perhaps I shouldn't be surprised, I rarely try to figure out whether a company is a good company or not before I buy their products. So I'm no different than any of the Mac guys who will continue to use Apple products even as Steve Jobs threatens to take a Harvard student to the the Supreme Court to protect his so-called trade secrets. It is hard to believe there is such little outrage. "Standing alone against Apple" Steve is the boy tyrant whose indiscretions are ignored. I'm actually beginning to like Bill Gates, at least he seems human.

My guess is in the next two to three years, we'll get to see the real Apple which isn't nearly as shiny as the image Steve works so hard to perfect. Once you get inside the walls at One Infinite Loop there's a lot to dislike, that is of course unless you are one of the fortunate few.

Friday, April 29, 2005

How not to win friends and influence people

This hasn't been a good week for Apple, it seems the only two friends in the corporate world are Intel and Genentech. Maybe Intel still dreams of getting additional Apple business beyond the Xserve RAID. Genentech has been a large Apple customer for years and has been able to get some level of support beyond other customers because of the relationship with Steve so isn't like uninterested parties are coming to Apple's aid.

If you're trying to win friends among the folks who write, a good way not to do it is to ban someone's books from your stores. The Lincoln Star has an article "Apple has a hissy fit" in which it asks the following.
So why is Apple Computer Inc. so touchy these days?
In its latest fit of corporate pique, Apple pulled all copies of dozens of books published by John Wiley & Sons Inc. from the shelves of its 103 stores, the publisher said. Apple was unhappy with an upcoming book on its chief executive and co-founder, Steve Jobs.
This post, "Apple: Think Difficult" was on Motley Fool.
Still, recent headlines made me wonder whether Apple -- once the epitome of the scrappy underdog and, for some, arguably the technological champion of those who believe themselves to be free thinkers, or at least free from Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT) Windows -- is being downright difficult at the moment. Nobody likes a whiner.
The article goes on to say the following
...playing the role of a corporate heavy may start to alienate its customer base, especially the core that really identifies with the "think different" slogan. To those people, trying to block books and removing them from the shelves has an awfully oppressive feel, I'm sure, and "oppressive" and "think different" are hardly synonymous.

Look out, Apple. The company shouldn't lose sight of what many of its customers believe it to be.
To me this is good advice. Some's of Apple best potential customers are starting to pick up a little different image of Apple. This comes from "The Washington Square News," NYU's student newspaper.
However, if I were to pick one company that exemplifies this obsession with maintaining control, it would be Apple, especially with CEO Steve Jobs' attempt to have an iron grip on everything.

Jobs' greatest role as Apple's CEO is managing the company's image, which he does through a paradoxical combination of nearly flawless subtlety and brute force.
Perhaps Apple might have once again managed to find a reverse tipping point. The stock is down, Tiger is getting mixed reviews, and yet another reseller is suing Apple. Even Dan Gillmor seems to have gone off the deep end with his most recent post. Perhaps he was pushed over by Apple's relentless pursuit of some of its best fans over the alleged leaking of "trade secrets."

For much more on Apple check my ApplePeels blog.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Apple Butter On the Toast

There was an article, "Is Microsot toast?," in today's online Financial Times. The articles says a lot of good things about Apple, but as always you have to look at what isn't said to get the real skinny on Apple.
Over the two year period commencing March 18, 2003, Microsoft shares rose 5.3 per cent; Apple’s 373 per cent; and the Nasdaq Index, 43.4 per cent (bouncing back from historic lows). The upshot: while Microsoft’s market cap has flat-lined at $260bn, Apple has jumped from $6bn to $35bn. Of course, the spectacularly popular iPod music box has generated much of the buzz – underscoring Apple’s multi-pronged assault on the Microsoft Monopoly.
I give Apple full credit for developing and being successful with the iPod. Just don't get carried away and think that Apple is doing a "multi-pronged assault on the Microsoft Monopoly." That's just not happening. Whether the iPod becomes commoditized like Sony Walkmen or survives it's adolescence is something for the market to determine. Thomas Hazlett the author of the article goes on to ponder about Apple's market share.
That share is still low – just 3 per cent for desk tops, about twice that for notebooks – but a much bigger run may be in the offing. That is because of the plague that has hit the Windows world. Apple, with its tight, integrated interfaces cinching hardware to software has proven powerfully resistant to viruses and spyware, the poisonous infections of the Internet. Meanwhile, Microsoft users scramble to update their software with the latest patches, frantically downloading anti-viral software, running and re-running spyware disinfectants. With the Mac offering equally proficient word processing, presentations, spread sheets, web browsing and email, along with the standard multi-media applications, many are asking: Why bother?
Why bother? Really, the answers are easy, because in order to use an Apple you have to tolerate Apple, and most customers are not going to put up with Apple's penchant for secrecy, their full price operating system upgrades, their take it or leave hardware, and the arrogance of the company.

Sure Apple's market share will grow but to what, 4 or 5%. Linux has already or will soon pass Apple on the desktop. That leaves the real question remaining, why a company with the world's best operating system running on the most elegant hardware has only been able to eke out a less than 2% worldwide market share. Of course we could be really mean and say, "how could you possibly do it twice."

The answer requires looking inward at the dysfunctional company that Apple has become. The iPod is a flash in the pan, to be followed by more of the antics of the only company in technology besides Oracle that has remained without adult leadership. For more details try my ApplePeels blog.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Dan Gillmor Weighs in on Apple

Just as I knew he would, Dan Gillmor has commented this morning on the ruling which gives Apple the right to subpoena information that will help them find the Apple employees who leaked the information. I completely agree with this quote from Dan's post, "Apple's 'Trade Secrets.'"
"During the time Steve Jobs has run the company, Apple has been hostile to truly independent journalism about its products and policies. This current attack on journalism -- and that is precisely what is going on here -- reflects the side of Jobs that will someday lead the company back down from its current heights."
What few people realize is that this is the side of Jobs that has kept Apple from really being an alternative to Windows. I suspect it will be the reason that Linux eventually ends up as a more viable alternative to those of us who love Apple products but are learning to hate the company.

Apple is all about Steve and a very few key executives. It is not about delivering what the customer wants. Apple is all about delivering what Steve wants. The times that he guesses wisely, we get great products.

If you think Apple is tough on the press, try being an Apple employee advocating some customer requirements which haven't made it to the radar of key people at Apple. Of course there are times when Cupertino is so divorced from reality as to not understand what is missing from the OS even though the customers and potential customers are very clear in what is needed. For an indepth look at this try my Apple Peels posting "Employee Development."

Remember Apple is about Steve, not meeting the needs of customers, and certainly not building a great company. That's why you have employees leaking information. Apple's pursuit of the web journalist contacts is symptom of a much great problem.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Apple Loses in Winning

Many of you have read that Apple has won its suit against the three websites. Apple has made a big mistake in pushing this issue in this manner. Many of us ex-Apple employees have known for years that the world inside Apple doesn't live up to the shinning external image, but this could unfortunately be the issue that lets the rest of the world in on the secret. I tend to agree with Charles Cooper over at CNET in his "Apple lawsuit: Thinking different?" article.
"But now you have to ask whether paranoia has trumped good judgment. With today's ruling, Jobs is in danger of leaving a big black blot on an otherwise remarkable legacy."
I am glad to see the the open letter to Steve Jobs by Mike Langberg of the Mercury News. As a stockholder, I certainly agree with his last statement.
"So it's not too late for you to back down, before the wider world of Apple customers and potential customers begins to see your company as arrogant and overbearing. I recommend you quietly drop the litigation, tighten your internal security to prevent future leaks and move on."
I suspect others such as Dan Gillmor will weigh in on the issue. According to Dan's blog, Grassroots Journalism, he is on the road for the next twenty-four hours. He has already expressed concern in his post, "The Gathering Storm Over Speech."

Perhaps Apple would have better luck keeping secrets if they created an environment like the famous Fishmongers of the Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle. Maybe before Steve goes forward with subpoenas, he should read this article, "Learn from the Fishmonger." He might just learn how to have loyal dedicated employees without a rule of fear. Of course learning from others isn't exactly an Apple strength.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

The Apple Challenge

I am glad the Mercury News decided to stand up for bloggers in their editorial, "Yes, they're still journalists." Most people are surprised that a company which has such a shining public image would go after bloggers. Of course Apple has a history of secrecy and certainly hasn't shown any openess in years. Perhaps the shining public image is only skin deep.

The real problem with the suit is that Apple is trying to solve an internal problem by going after external people. For some reason Apple employees are willing to leak information about unannounced products. I think there is very little evidence that this has done any harm to Apple. As much as Apple wants to complain, no one has been successful at copying Apple hardware products over the years.

Of course software is another story. Microsoft was successful at copying the essence's of Apple's user interface over several years. It certainly wasn't done in secrecy and apparently was legal.

Perhaps the real way for Apple to fix the problem is to create an employee environment that cares more about adhering to the internal Apple dictates for secrecy than for throwing a little fresh meat to their fans. With nearly $5B in the bank, Apple should be able to have a lot of very happy employees.

Apple is a strange company, it has the most loyal customers in the world, but it lives in fear that the slightest slip will cost them their customers. Actually just the opposite is true, if Apple were to open up to potential customers it would have more customers. Somehow I don't think that is going to happen.

The secrecy-driven reality distortion zone has been going on for so long that Apple doesn't know how to get out the cycle or understand the benefits of doing business any other way. At the same time there is a Linux freight train headed down Apple's tracks. I don't think Apple understands the Linux threat or the challenge that it faces in the computer part of its business. What they are doing to the bloggers, may just confirm many people's opinion of Apple, "Love the products, hate the company." It certainly isn't going to help their 2% market share.

For more insight on Apple, check out my "Apple Peels" blog.