Warning: The iPhone X Could Be A Problem For Analysts

WARNING: Angry critic of Apple’s critics ahead. Proceed with caution. You have been warned!

On April 30, 2018, Daniel Howley, wrote: “The iPhone X could be a problem for Apple.”


First, let’s discuss the rhetorical device used both in the author’s headline and throughout the article. The author says the iPhone X “COULD” be a problem for Apple. Well, chocolate chips COULD be a problem for pancakes. Probably won’t be, of course. In fact, they’ll probably make the pancakes DELICIOUS. But they COULD BE a problem. So lets all panic right? Right?

Wrong. Here’s a new rule of thumb for all you aspiring Apple analysts. If you start your article with a headline that says that something “could be a problem”, that could be a problem, and you probably shouldn’t start your article.


And since iPhone sales still make up the bulk of Apple’s revenue, any hit to that could be a problem for the tech giant.

“Could” again, huh? Not hedging our bets much, are we? Why don’t you just write an article that says: “Anything could be anything. We just don’t know.”

Correlation vs Causation

Apple’s stock price has taken a hit in recent weeks, as reports point to lower demand for the iPhone X.

You know who else’s stock price took a hit in recent weeks? Everybodys. The whole market dropped. So are we saying that lower demand for the iPhone X brought down the whole stock market? Or are we saying that the author of this article doesn’t understand the difference between correlation with causation?

The stock market predicts the future in the same way that a weather vane predicts the direction of the wind. So if you think you can tie Apple’s stock price to any one rumor, then you really, really, really need to keep your money out of the stock market.

Supply Chain Pain

Those reports come as Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing, which makes chips for iPhones, reported lower than expected guidance for the next quarter

Hmm. A report of lower than expected quantities being ordered from one of Apple’s suppliers. Well, THAT’s never happened before. Oh, wait. It happens all the time.

Lower than expected guidance could mean that Apple is seeing decreased demand for the iPhone X.

There’s that “could” word again. Lower than expected guidance from a single supplier of hardware “could” mean decreased demand. Or it “could” mean that Apple was shifting to a new supplier or using slightly different parts in their new iPhone models.

NAH, that’s just crazy talk!


(T)he fact that the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus featured relatively few big changes from the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, and you can begin to understand why analysts and investors are on edge.

Gee, where have I heard that the newest iPhone “featured relatively few big changes from” its predecessor? Oh, I  know. Every single year since the iPhone debuted.

iPhone iteration is like climbing a mountain. The uphill climb seems painfully slow, but when you look back, you realize that you’re a long, long way from where you started and that the device you’re now holding has scaled some pretty impressive technological heights.

I Don’t Think

“I don’t think the X is doing as well as [Apple] would have hoped,” explained Gartner personal technology analyst Tuong Nguyen.

Well, that’s cool and all, except that you don’t know what Apple’s expectations were, and you don’t yet know what the actual sales are, which makes your speculation, well, not really very cool at all.


“The reason I believe that is based on a lot of the rumors I’ve been reading about what they’re planning for the next iteration [of the iPhone] later this year.

Oh, I heard a rumor. Now THAT’s some great reporting. Because rumors about Apple are ALWAYS true. So long as you define the word”always” as “almost never.”

The Price Is Right

Nguyen said he believes that while Apple has been able to steadily introduce new devices at slightly higher price points, $999 is too high for consumers to justify spending on a smartphone —especially one that doesn’t change the market as monumentally as the original iPhone did.

What? What? What?

Well, first off, NOTHING is going to change the market as monumentally as the original iPhone did. Asking Apple to come up with another iPhone every year — or any year — is like asking Ford to introduce the original Model-T every year. The iPhone was a major paradigm shift in technology. If you’re expecting Apple — or anyone — to come up with something as big as the original iPhone any time soon, then you seriously need to lay off the shrooms.

Secondly, consumers have ALREADY shown they’re willing to spend the kind of money Apple is asking for in order to buy an iPhone X. How do we know this? Because THEY BOUGHT THE PHONE X, that’s why. Were you not paying attention when Apple announced that it’s been their best selling iPhone since it was introduced? Just a suggestion here, but perhaps it’s not the best of ideas to write articles that say that customers are unwilling to do what customers have already willingly done.

You Can Never Go Home Again

(Apple) might be considering bringing back the Home button and lowering the price to make it more palatable.

(Spits coffee on screen).

Say what now? You think — for even one second — that Apple is going to bring back the home button? Okay, that’s it. Turn in your analyst cap, collect your severance pay at the door, and don’t let the facts hit you where the Good Lord split you on your way out the door.

Average Sales Price

The best way to determine how well Apple’s iPhone X is selling is to watch for the iPhone’s ASP. A higher average selling price could mean that consumers did indeed opt for the high-priced iPhone X. A lower average selling price, though, would mean that fewer consumers spent their money on the X and instead went for the iPhone 8, 8 Plus or previous generation models like the 7 and 7 Plus, 6s and 6s plus or SE.

This is the first bit of analysis in the article that actually makes sense (except for the “could” part). So — and I’m just spitballing here — how about we wait UNTIL THIS AFTERNOON to find out what the ASP is before writing what meandering stock market prices, unreliable supply chain changes, and unsupported rumors mean to Apple’s iPhone future?

Nah, who am I kidding? That’s never going to happen.

A Nice Problem To Have

Look, you don’t have to be a seer to see Apple’s future. All you have to do is to look at the iPhone X, talk to the people who actually own one and you’ll know that you’re already looking at the future. The iPhone X’s signature feature is its ability to recognize your face. It’s a wonderful feature, with endless potential and it will be YEARS before Apple’s competitors have anything like it.

While Daniel Howley — and so many like him — think that “The iPhone X could be a problem for Apple”, I’m predicting the iPhone X could be a problem for them. Why? Because there isn’t a company in the world that wouldn’t want a “problem” like the iPhone X, proving — once again — that when it comes to Apple, these naysayers haven’t got a clue.

A Peek at Peak Apple

On November 2, 2017, Professor Mohanbir Sawhwney (hereinafter, “the Professor”) penned the provocatively titled “The iPhone X Is the Beginning of the End for Apple“. (All quotes are from the article unless otherwise identified.)

No surprise, right? Pretty much everything is the “End for Apple”.

Years people have doubted Apple: 1976 1977 1978 1979 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 ~ Neil Cybart (@neilcybart) 11/7/17, 6:58 PM

But let’s be fair. The title of an article is often clickbait that is not representative of the article’s contents. So, is that the case here?


Have we reached peak phone?

I would argue that we are indeed standing on the summit of peak “phone as hardware….”

Yowza. That’s quite a claim. Let’s take a look at the Professor’s reasoning. (I’ve added numbers to the sections on “Theory” and “The Next Vector” for added clarity)


1. Theory

1.1 To understand the future of phones, it helps to look at the history of…innovation.

1.2 Innovation in technology product categories tends to proceed along a specific dimension—a “vector of differentiation.”

1.2 Players pursue innovation along a vector of differentiation until the vector runs out of steam.

1.4 This happens for two reasons: limits to innovation along the vector of focus and the ability of competitors to catch up with market leaders.

1.5 (W)hen vectors of differentiation shift, … the focus of innovation shifts to a different vector and new market leaders emerge, … incumbents often get left behind and market leaders tend to fall by the wayside.


2. The Next Vector

2.1 Now, the vector of differentiation is shifting yet again, away from hardware altogether.

2.2 Sheets of glass are simply no longer the most fertile ground for innovation.

2.3 We are on the verge of a major shift in the phone and device space, from hardware as the focus to artificial intelligence (AI) and AI-based software and agents.

2.4 This means nothing short of redefinition of the personal electronics that matter most to us.

2.5 The shifting vector of differentiation to AI and agents does not bode well for Apple.

Well, of course, this “does not bode well for Apple” because nothing ever bodes well for Apple.


3. AI Leaders

In the brave new world of AI, Google and Amazon have the clear edge over Apple.

Oh brother, here we go.

Amazon is making rapid progress along this vector of differentiation, as are Google (with its TensorFlow open-source platform for AI apps) and even Microsoft.

In other words, everybody’s making progress in AI. Except for Apple. Because, you know. They’re Apple.


4. Nitpicking

I have some nits to pick with the Professor’s underlying premises. Have Smartphones really stagnated? Even if AI is the future, are we sure what that future will look like? And are we sure that the AI future is upon us here and now or is it still, you know, in the future? And what makes the Professor think that moving ahead toward AI necessarily means leaving hardware behind?

Inquiring minds want to know.


5. Predictions About the Future

Predictions are hard, especially ones about the future. ~ not Yogi Berra

The thing is, we can know the broad outlines of the future without having any inkling about what the specific details of that future are going to be.

— Everybody knew that cars were the future, but while everyone else was trying to make a better car, Ford made a better assembly line.

— Everybody knew that personal computers were the future, but while everyone else was trying to make a better computer, Microsoft made a better operating system.

— Everybody knew that mobile computing was the future, but while everyone else was trying to make better phones and tablets, Apple made a phone that was a tablet.



6. The Race

If the age of AI is upon us, where is the assembly line of AI? Or the Windows 95 of AI? Or the iPhone of AI?

Saying the age of AI is upon us is like saying that the age of mobile was upon us when Microsoft introduced their first tablet in 2000 or when RIM introduced their iconic Blackberry phone in 2002.

The mistake we commonly make is to talk about who is “ahead”. But like Microsoft with the tablet and RIM with the phone, it doesn’t matter how far “ahead” one is if they’re running in the wrong race. Microsoft, RIM, Nokia — even Palm — were ahead of Apple in the mobile phone race. Apple wasn’t even in the running. But Apple reset the game by starting a new race — the smartphone race. And in the smartphone race, Apple obtained an insurmountable lead while the incumbent mobile phone leaders were left helplessly behind, in part because Apple got there first, but just as importantly because the mobile phone incumbents didn’t know the new race had begun or didn’t know the new race was important or didn’t even know where the starting line was.


7. The Ladder

If the ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step we take just gets us to the wrong place faster. ~ Stephen R. Covey

I hope you’ll forgive me, but let me use one more metaphor to drive home this point because I think it’s important.

It doesn’t matter most how high you climb the ladder of success. What matters most is whether your ladder is leaning against the right wall. In mobile technology, Microsoft, RIM, etc. were at the top of their respective ladders. But with the smartphone, Apple leaned their ladder against the right wall.

Google, Amazon, Microsoft may or may not be “ahead” in AI. But that only matters if they’ve placed their AI ladder against the right wall.


8. From Hardware

One of the Professor’s most baffling assertions is that the dawn of AI must necessarily coincide with the sunset of hardware. The following quotes from his article exemplify this attitude (numbers and emphasis added):

8.1 “(T)he vector of differentiation is shifting yet again, away from hardware altogether.”

8.2 “We are on the verge of a major shift in the phone and device space, from hardware as the focus to artificial intelligence (AI) and AI-based software and agents.”

8.3 “(W)e shift from hardware-based innovation to differentiation around AI-driven technologies.”

8.4 “Apple is falling behind in the AI race, as it remains a hardware company at its core and it has not embraced the open-source and collaborative approach that Google and Amazon are pioneering in AI.”


9. Premise Refuted

The proposition that a move toward AI is a move away from hardware is refuted right within the article itself. Note how even as the Professor praises Amazon and Google for their AI prowess and their AI promise, he does so by referring — at least in part — to how their HARDWARE will use AI. (Again, the added emphasis is mine.)

The advent of Amazon’s skill store and similar innovations speak to the need to create an AI-rich ecosystem where hardware, software, and third-party contributors work in concert to enhance consumer experience across life domains.

Consider Google’s Pixel 2 phone: Driven by AI-based technology, it offers unprecedented photo-enhancement features and deeper hardware-software integration.

As it happens,  Ben Thompson — who was a student of the Professor’s — was thinking along the same lines as I. (Great minds, and all that.)

“The presumption is that the usage of Technology B necessitates no longer using Technology A; it follows, then, that once Technology B becomes more important, Technology A is doomed.”

“In fact, though, most paradigm shifts are layered on top of what came before. The Internet was used on PCs, social networks are used alongside search engines. … In other words, there is no reason to expect that the arrival of artificial intelligence means that people will no longer care about what smartphone they use.”

Ben Thompson’s entire article on this matter is well worth a read. You can find it here.


10. Premise Disputed

Let’s re-review the Professor’s basic chain of logic (using my words, not his):

— Apple is a hardware company; and

— AI is the future; therefore

— The move from hardware to AI will leave a hardware maker, like Apple, in its wake.

As I’ve already pointed out, the chain of logic is flawed because the move toward AI is not a move away from hardware.

Furthermore, did you notice anything else odd about the Professor’s assertions? His argument is founded upon the premise that Apple is a hardware company. But what industry expert worth their salt would describe Apple as “a hardware company”?

Apple is not just a maker of hardware like, say, HTC, or LG. Apple makes the whole widget. They make both the hardware and software; both the phone and the operating system; both the iPhone and the iOS. What makes Apple unique is that they are a provider of integrated solutions.

Why does that matter? Why does it matter that Apple makes both the hardware and the software? It matters because saying AI is unrelated to hardware makes little sense. But saying AI is unrelated to software makes no sense whatsoever.

The Professor, I think, has it exactly backward. He thinks that AI is going to somehow be independent of phones, and therefore companies like Apple are going to suffer. But isn’t if far more likely that devices like the iPhone are going to be the platform that AI builds upon?


11. Apple AI

Next-generation devices will use AI and deep learning to recognize our voices, faces, and emotions. – (the Professor)

We don’t have to wait until the next generation of devices to use AI for those purposes. Apple does most of those things already.

It seems to me that the Professor did not look carefully at the iPhone X before he wrote his article. He’s not only ignoring the phone’s future possibilities, he’s also ignoring its present capabilities. Apple is baking AI right into their chip design. And Apple uses AI, for example, to allow Face ID to adjust to changes in one’s face over time. The iPhone X is chock full of AI.

I can’t fathom the idea that Apple is behind in AI. Its devices are packed it with it. ~ Joshua Gans‏, @joshgans


12. Apple AR

As AI-driven phones like Google’s Pixel 2 and virtual agents like Amazon Echo proliferate, smart devices that understand and interact with us and offer a virtual and/or augmented reality will become a larger part of our environment. Today’s smartphones will likely recede into the background.

I think the Professor has gotten this backward too. Where he see’s stagnation in iPhone innovation, I see the potential for dynamic growth.

The Professor bemoans the fact that Apple is falling behind in AR. Maybe I’m missing something here (I’m not) but it seems to me that with the iPhone 8 and, in particular, with the iPhone X, that — far from falling behind — Apple has taken a substantial lead in the practical implementation of AR. They and they alone have the hardware and the software chops necessary to create AR that actually works for millions upon millions of people, right now, today. What’s more, Apple’s already substantial lead in implementing AR in already existing products may be about to become much, much bigger.

In 2007, Apple introduced the iPhone to the world. But it wasn’t until 2008 — with the addition of the App Store — that the iPhone’s full potential was revealed. It was then that the iPhone went from a being a proprietary device, made only by Apple, to becoming a platform, available to all. And that changed everything because a platform allows one to harness the abilities of others. And not only do those others create things for you without getting paid by you, you actually get to charge them a percentage of their profits for the privilege of doing so!

From the beginning, the iPhone was a blank canvas. But the APIs necessary for developers to create apps was the paint. The App store invited the most creative minds in tech to create things that Apple could never, themselves, have imagined. And Developers accepted the invitation with enthusiasm and proceeded with gusto.

That was 2008. This is 2017. And in 2017 Apple may — at least in part — have replicated the miracle of the App store, all over again. With the App Store, Apple created a  canvas for Apps. Today, Apple has created a new canvas suitable for the creation of AR. And there are literally tens of thousands of developers who are focusing their efforts on painting the next Mona Lisa of AR

Just as an example of what is already possible, Warby Parker is using face mapping on the iPhone to provide glasses recommendations.

And here are some “Mindblowing examples” of AR made while ARKit was still in beta.

And, as the following headline attests, Animoji Karaoke is a thing.

Animoji karaoke is the new iPhone X feature taking over the internet ~ Evening Standard

It’s hard to believe that Apple will not, in future iterations of the iPhone, use the front-facing camera to extend one’s ability to turn animate objects into Anamojis. And the possibilities there seem, well, endless.

And the thing is, we simply do not know — and can not know — what the new AR platform may produce. When Apple introduced the App store in 2008, we could not imagine an Uber or an Airbnb or a million other apps that would soon be created and sold in the App Store. Similarly, now that Apple has introduced AR to the phone, we simply can not possibly imagine the uses developers may make of it. It’s like trying to imagine the unimaginable.

That’s the beauty of a platform. And Apple — and only Apple — is currently in a position to make that all happen.

This isn’t the end for the iPhone as the Professor contends. It may, in fact, be a new beginning. We’re about to see the start of a new wave of third-party developer creativity. And perhaps that wave will swell into a tidal wave of innovation.


13. Apple Glasses

I would argue that we are indeed standing on the summit of peak “phone as hardware”: While Apple’s newest iPhone offers some impressive hardware features, it does not represent the beginning of the next 10 years of the smartphone, as Apple claims.

Sheets of glass are simply no longer the most fertile ground for innovation.

While the Professor bemoans the fact that Apple is a mere hardware shop, he ignores the fact that there is no one better positioned to move from phones to glasses than is Apple. And as the following two articles attest, Apple may well be preparing to make that exact move.

Apple to Ramp Up Work on Augmented Reality Headset ~ Mark Gurman, November 8, 2017

Apple, Inc.’s Augmented Reality Glasses Could Be Closer Than You Think ~ Evan Niu, CFA, The Motley Fool

The Professor contends that iPhones are going to be mooted by the next “vector of innovation” and Apple is going to suffer for it. But for all we know, Apple glasses may be the next “vector of innovation” and Apple may own it in the same way they currently own the smartphone revolution.

Turns out that “sheets of glass” may still be fertile ground for innovation. And far from being relegated to a maker of legacy products, as the Professor contends, Apple may well be on the verge of a second renaissance.


14. Conclusion

When it comes to the demise of the iPhone, we can but recall Mark Twain’s reaction upon reading his own, somewhat premature, obituary.

The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.

Facing Up To Face Id

fI want to get my two cents in on the iPhone X’s Face ID feature so I can jump up and down for the rest of eternity shouting: “I told you so, I told you so!”


The angst being spewed over the Face ID feature is as stupid as stupid gets. Why? Not so much because it’s stupid — which it is — but because no matter how many times pundits and observers make this same mistake, they proudly make it all over again every time Apple introduces a new, revolutionary feature to one of their products.

It is not a good idea to have a strong opinion on an new tech experience that you have not experienced. ~ Benedict Evans, @BenedictEvans 10/18/2017

Rather than growing ever more humble with each repeated failure, pundits simply double-down, growing ever more strident with each iteration of the same oft-told argument.

There have been a seemingly infinite number of stupid article’s written about Face ID, but for the sake of simplicity — and my sanity — I’ll focus mostly on one article written by Ewan Spence for Forbes entitled: New iPhone X Surprises Reveal Apple’s Flawed Vision. (All quotes are from Spence unless otherwise indicated.) Now I don’t always agree with Spence, but I respect his opinion. So it’s all the more unsettling that he — like so many others — has decided to pre-judge Face ID, and for all the wrong reasons.


(H)as Apple placed too much focus on design and not enough on the consumer?


Oh! I’m sorry. Was that a rhetorical question? Then, by all means, let’s proceed.


Until independent testing in the real world can be performed, the benefits of Face ID over Touch ID remain to be seen.

Well, that’s kinda true. But Spence’s statement would sound far more convincing if he didn’t then spend the bulk of his article telling us that he was going to prejudge Face ID as a failure right now BEFORE independent testing in the real world could be performed. Here’s an example of how that works:

Environmental factors are going to come into play with lighting, clothing, eyewear and more all impacting on the efficiency.

You don’t know that.





So stop saying it. Can’t you wait? Can’t you just wait until independent testing occurs before you make that kind of judgment?

Remember when the AirPods debuted and the pundits had a field day telling us how AirPods were going to fly out of our ears and we’d end up having to buy replacements over and over again?

Yeah, good times, good times. And today what are pundits saying about losing AirPods?



To be fair, being unfair is what we humans do. Criticizing technology before we’ve seen or touched it — as stupid as that seems — is the norm, not the exception. The less we know about a product, the more certain we are that we can judge its value. But just because we regularly and routinely do this, that doesn’t make it right. Especially for tech writers, who really should know better.

It’s a two-step process:

STEP 1: I don’t understand (whatever).

STEP 2: I must learn more about (whatever).

Ha, ha, ha! Just kidding! No, no. No one does that! Here’s how it actually works:

STEP 1: I don’t understand (whatever).

STEP 2: I’m not stupid.

STEP 3: (Whatever) must be stupid.

Behavioral psychologists call that cognitive dissonance. Aesop called it sour grapes. I call it clickbait.


Spence goes completely off the rails by maintaining that Touch ID is already doing everything Face ID is promising to do, so why bother doing it? He makes this same ridiculous argument not once, but three separate times.

What problem does (Face ID) solve that wasn’t already solved by Touch ID?

Security, Dude. Security.

Does Face ID offer a better solution to Touch ID?


While Face ID solves the problem of the recognizing a user, don’t forget this problem was already solved with Touch ID.

No, it wasn’t.

For a tech writer to say the above is simply dumbfounding. Apple stated that Face ID was 20 times more secure than Touch ID. (A ratio of 1 error in 50,000 for Touch ID versus 1 error 1,000,000 for Face ID).

That’s TWENTY TIMES more secure.

And Spence thinks more and better security isn’t solving a problem? Has Spence even met technology? Of COURSE, better security is solving a problem. Saying otherwise isn’t disingenuous — it’s demented.


Remember when people were upset because they couldn’t open their phones while wearing gloves? Now they’re upset because they can’t unlock their phones while wearing ski masks.

But that’s nothing. I’m old enough to remember when people were warning us that bad guys would be able to activate Touch ID by cutting off our thumbs! Oh no!

Now, this is just speculation but — follow me here — I’m guessing that if bad guys simultaneously had access to both our phones and our thumbs, they could just place our thumb on the home button without having to cut it off first. Or they could just politely ask us to reveal our 4 or 6 digit pin numbers by threatening to cut off our thumbs. I’m thinking either of those options might be more realistic, right?

But that was then, and this is now. We’re not going to go down that blind alley again with Face ID, are we? The heck we’re not.


Today’s new “They’re going to cut off your thumb” is “Your girlfriend is going to unlock your phone while you’re asleep.” (Or, more likely, when you’re passed out.) Will that work? No. You have to have your eyes open to unlock the phone using Face ID. More importantly — and I don’t mean to go all “Dear Abbey” on you — if your significant other is going to try to unlock your phone while you’re sleeping, you’re in the wrong relationship.

(Note: Spence didn’t make this argument. But others have.)


Facial recognition is just plain creepy, and Apple is going to have an uphill battle convincing consumers that they want to store a complex 3D map of their faces in their phones. ~ Gizmodo

Well, that’s all perfectly true if by “going to have an uphill battle convincing consumers” Gizmodo means “going to make a boatload of money selling virtually every iPhone X Apple makes”.


Here’s another argument that Spence didn’t make, but since it comes up all the time, it’s best to address it.

Apple itself could use the data to benefit other sectors of its business, sell it to third parties for surveillance purposes, or receive law enforcement requests to access it facial recognition system — eventual uses that may not be contemplated by Apple customers. ~ Al Franken

Well, that might all be true…

…unless you watch the presentation or read Apple’s White paper on Face ID.

Your biometric data never leaves your device. Instead, it’s stored in an encrypted form in your phone’s Secure Enclave, where it can’t be accessed by your operating system or any of the apps running on your phone. And what’s stored in the Secure Enclave isn’t actually your fingerprint or your facial features. Touch ID and Face ID use your image and dot pattern to create a mathematical model of your face and that mathematical model can’t be reverse-engineered. The fact is, that all of this was known before Senator Franken wrote his letter and Apple said as much:

In its response letter, Apple first points the Senator to existing public info — noting it has published a Face ID security white paper and a Knowledge Base article to “explain how we protect our customers’ privacy and keep their data secure”. It adds that this “detailed information” provides answers “all of the questions you raise”. ~ Techcrunch

So all the questions were answered before they were asked. But let’s not let a little thing like facts stand in the way of speculation, grandstanding and fearmongering.


Certainly the lack of Touch ID means unlocking a phone in your pocket, subtly under a table, or while being jostled in a busy commenting environment is now going to be a lot harder.

That’s it? That’s the best you’ve got? Face ID sucks because I can’t unlock my phone in my pocket?

Yeah, sure, because the last time I unlocked my phone in my pocket was…NEVER.

I could be wrong (I’m not) but most of mankind (womankind too) generally, you know, actually look at their phones when they’re using them. If your argument is that you can’t unlock your phone while it’s in your pocket, that should be a not-so-subtle clue that you’re bringing nothing to the table.


The user base will have to be re-educated and something that is ubiquitous in the smartphone community – fingerprint recognition – has been removed from the iPhone X.

Hmm. What a difficult problem this must be. Let’s see, let’s see. How could Apple possibly perform the difficult task of re-educating their users on how to use Face ID?

Oh, I know! They could ask them to, you know, look at their phones! Like the way they already do, like 20,000 times a day?

Wowza. Spence is seriously arguing that making people look at their phones requires re-education? C’mon, Dude. This smacks of desperation.


The Touch ID sensor on the iPhone’s home button was great at what it did, but I think it had limited application elsewhere. It’s possible, for example, that it could have been used for biometrics, but I think that will be the province of the Apple Watch and maybe even the AirPods — two devices that are constantly in touch with one’s body.

The cameras and sensors in Face ID open up far more possibilities. Apple tends to introduce features that work when introduced and then those features become even more valuable when combined with features that are introduced later. This is the benefit of producing the whole widget. Apple can plan long term.

Right now, I can’t envision how Face ID will be used other than for security and AR. But that just reveals my lack of imagination and foresight. I may not be able to see exactly how the cameras and the sensors in Face ID will be used in the future, but I don’t have to be Nostradamus to see that they have the potential to do all sorts of new and interesting things. Apple isn’t just introducing a new feature that duplicates an old feature. With Face ID, they’re introducing the future.


While Apple focuses on design that benefits itself, Android’s adoption is increasing while the overpriced and over gimmicked iPhone X is going to be late and have a detrimental effect on Apple’s overall performance.

Say what now? Let’s just take a gander at some recent tech headlines.

CNBC Poll: 64% of U.S. households have at least one Apple product

CNBC Poll: 64% of U.S. households have at least one Apple product

RBC: Apple headed into a multiyear supercycle

Apple Is Sex” | Scott Galloway | Cannes Lions 2017 – YouTube

Survey: A record 78% of U.S. teens own iPhones

Survey: A record 78% of U.S. teens own iPhones

There isn’t a tech company in the world that doesn’t want to be “challenged” by competitors the way Apple is.


You know what’s going to actually happen? The same thing that always happens. Apple is going to remove the audio jack, be criticized and then be copied. Oh wait, that’s already happened. What I mean is, Apple is going to introduce Face ID, and everyone and their brother is going to first criticize it and then scramble to emulate it. It’s as predictable as the rising and the setting of the sun.


When I look at the iPhone X I see a design that works for Apple’s benefit first, with the end-user in second. I see technical solutions that translate to buzz-words that challenge logic. I see new hardware that addresses an old problem but offers fewer benefits with its newer decision. I see design choices that are in place to emphasize Apple’s branding while weakening the consumer experience.

Well, that’s the kind of stuff you’re going to see when you have your head placed firmly up your derrière.

“The highest form of ignorance is when you reject something you don’t know anything about.” ~ Wayne W. Dyer


There’s an old saying that history repeats itself, but that’s not quite accurate. Rather, the lessons of history repeat themselves until they’ve been learned. I think we’re going to see this behavior again the next time Apple introduces something new. Some lessons, it seems, are never learned.

Google Bought HTC, So Apple Is Doomed (Again)

Vlad Savov, writing for the Verge, penned an article entitled: “Google sets its sights on the iPhone with HTC deal.” (Everything in block quotes will be from the article unless stated otherwise.)

The article argues that:

1) With the purchase of HTC, it is clear that Google is serious about becoming a hardware company;
2) And Google is becoming a hardware company because Apple is a threat to Google;
3) Which means Google is going to war with Apple; and
4) In the Author’s opinion, Google is likely to win this war.


“The reason why Google acquired what looks to be the majority of HTC’s phone design and engineering team is simple, and it’s been obvious for over a year: Google is serious about becoming a hardware company.”


(T)he iPhone is a direct threat and counter to Google’s overarching goal of being ubiquitous on every internet-connected device.

Apple’s not-so-secret advantage is in having tight control over every aspect of the iPhone user experience.

If Google were to leave the battle to forever be between the iPhone and Android, between an integrated piece of modern tech and a mere operating system, Apple’s device would always win.


(Google) can design its own, premium-tier device that can go right up against the iPhone. The HTC deal today makes sure of that.

(Google is) trying to make a better smartphone … (because) either you integrate … or you get left behind by those who do.

Apple and Google are drifting toward a direct confrontation.

To make it perfectly clear, the Author is not alone in his assertion. Others agree:

Google Just Made a Big Move in Its War Against the iPhone. … The (purchase of HTC) is a big play by Google to make its Pixel smartphone a more formidable opponent to Apple’s iPhone. ~  Time


With HTC, Google could finally have the firepower to destroy the iPhone ~ Raymond Wong, Mashable




I have (at least) three questions regarding his article.

1) Is Google really surpassing, or about to surpass, Apple in hardware quality?
2) Is it a good strategy to challenge Apple where Apple is strongest?
3) Won’t Google’s new hardware strategy conflict with Google’s existing Business Model?

Let’s take a look at these questions, one-by-one.





The striking thing about Google’s transition to being a formidable competitor on the hardware front is how swift it has been and will be.

Excuse me? You say Google’s transition has been swift? Google has put out a Google-branded smartphone every year since 2010. And every year pundits assert that this is the year that Google will finally take back share at the top of the market from Apple. And every year, the sales numbers from Google’s own phone end up being a “rounding error” that is reported as a footnote in Google’s quarterly returns.

Apple’s iPhones account for 12% of global smartphone shipments, while Samsung’s devices comprise 23%, according to International Data Corporation. Google’s own phones account for such a small slice of the market that they’re not even specifically mentioned in the IDC’s survey, and are simply lumped into the “Others” category. ~ Time

Is Google moving swiftly towards hardware? Not hardly. If anything, Google’s “transition” from a software maker to a maker of integrated hardware has been a slow, tortuous and — so far — totally unsuccessful slog.




(T)he Pixel turned out to have the best smartphone camera of its time — and it arguably still does. On day one, Google’s Pixel had already won one of the biggest battles against the iPhone: that of having a better camera.


(I)n my estimation Google is closer to catching up to Apple’s hardware design and engineering than Apple is to recreating Google’s online empire.


I still see a more logical and obvious progression for Google than I do for Apple.



The Author rests much of his argument on the premise that the Pixel’s camera is better than the iPhone’s — a clear sign to him that Google has already surpassed Apple in hardware quality. First off, I’m not sure that the camera — while very important — is the be-all and end-all for deciding which company is “ahead” in hardware quality. But setting that aside for the moment, is it even true that the Pixel’s camera is better than the iPhone’s?

Apple iPhone 8 Plus: The best smartphone camera we’ve ever tested. – DxOMark




Did you notice the Jedi Mind trick that the Author tried to pull here? His contention is that Google is challenging — and may even have surpassed — the iPhone as an integrated hardware/software solution. And he does this by pointing to what? A single feature of the Pixel — its camera. A single feature — no matter how good it may be — can never constitute proof of integration. And it is in integration where Apple easily surpasses its competition.

(Apple) designs both the hardware and software for all of its products, including the iPhone. Because of this, it can create new software that takes advantage of the device’s hardware, such as the iPhone’s Portrait Mode camera feature. This shooting mode takes advantage of the double camera system available on the iPhone 7 Plus and new iPhone 8 Plus, making it possible to capture photos with more depth. It would be difficult for Google to do this today since there are so many types of Android devices different manufacturers that all of them have different specifications. ~ Time




It seems to me that — contrary to the Author’s assertions — there is plenty of evidence to suggest that it is Apple — not Google — that is ahead in smartphone hardware and that their lead is rapidly increasing.

That’s right, your new iPhone is more powerful than a MacBook or a Windows PC. ~ Paul Brody‏, @pbrody


The iPhone’s Powerful A11 Bionic Chip Absolutely Smokes Android (Updated). ~ Jonny Evans, Apple Must


iPhone 8 Is World’s Fastest Phone (It’s Not Even Close). ~ Tom’s Guide


Geekbench Chief: Android Stagnates While iPhone Soars ~ Mark Spoonauer, Tom’s Guide




Even the Author acknowledges that Apple’s biggest advantage over Google may be in their chip designs. But he goes on to dismiss that advantage as mere “potential”.

Maybe Apple’s investment in developing in-house CPUs, GPUs, and the proprietary Face ID system will pay off in granting it a technological edge in the future, but as of right now, those are potential advantages, whereas Google’s online lead is already in evidence.

Apple’s advantage in chip design is merely potential? The new A-11 chip that is contained in both the iPhone 8 and the iPhone X  say otherwise.

Apple’s chip strategy has given it a big advantage—and arguably made its mobile chips the best on the planet. ~ WIRED‏, @WIRED




The ‘Bionic’ part in the name of Apple’s A11 Bionic chip isn’t just marketing speak. It’s the most powerful processor ever put in a mobile phone. We’ve put this chip to the test in both synthetic benchmarks and some real-world speed trials, and it obliterates every Android phone we tested. ~ Mark Spoonauer, Tom’s Guide





The latest Geekbench figures show that Apple’s processor development teams have utterly beaten all comers when it comes to processor performance. And Apple’s SVP of Hardware Technologies Johny Srouji, has confirmed the company began to design it that way way back when the iPhone 6 was the smartphone everybody wanted.

‘This is something we started 10 years ago, designing our own silicon, because that’s the best way to truly customize something that’s uniquely optimized for Apple hardware and software,’” Srouji told Mashable.

Srouji confirmed that when the company begins to design silicon, it starts by looking three years out, which means the A11 Bionic was under development when Apple was shipping the iPhone 6 and its A8 chip.” Back then we weren’t even talking about AI and machine learning at a mobile level” Srouji said, “The neural engine embed, it’s a bet we made three years ahead.” ~ Jonny Evans, Apple Must


As these articles and these charts show, the iPhone does not appear to be in danger of being caught by competing phones. If anything, the evidence suggests the opposite — that Apple’s mobile hardware is starting to distance itself from its competitors. And the best is yet to come.

These charts exist because of decisions Apple made 3 years ago. What’s in the pipe for 2020? ~ Matthew Panzarino‏, @panzer




But let’s not nitpick. Let’s say the Author is right and Google IS making significant progress toward catching and even surpassing, Apple in hardware. Does that then necessarily mean that Google is going to start stealing share from Apple’s customer base?




I don’t know if, as the Author contends, Google is truly serious about wanting to challenge Apple in the integrated hardware space. But if it is true, it’s an abysmal strategy.  Whether you are a military entity or a corporate giant, you don’t win by attacking your opponent where they are strongest.

(T)he way is to avoid what is strong is to strike what is weak. ~ Sun Tzu, The Art of War

There is nowhere that Apple is stronger than in integrated hardware and software solutions. Attacking them there is mere folly.

Refrain from intercepting an enemy whose banners are in perfect order, to refrain from attacking an army drawn up in calm and confident array:–this is the art of studying circumstances. ~ Sun Tzu


It is a military axiom not to advance uphill against the enemy, nor to oppose him when he comes downhill. ~ Sun Tzu


In contested ground, do not attack. ~ Sun Tzu





If you subscribe to Techpinions, you’re sure to be steeped in Disruption theory. There are some aspects of disruption theory that are new. But there are some aspects that have existed since the dawn of strategic theory. And one of those truths is that you don’t attack a strong opponent where they are strong, you attack them where they are weak or, better yet, where they’re absent.

Strike into vacuities. ~ Sun Tzu


To advance so that one cannot be resisted, charge against the empty. ~ Sun Tzu


To be certain to take what you attack is to attack a place the enemy does not protect. ~ Sun Tzu


Appear at points which the enemy must hasten to defend; march swiftly to places where you are not expected. ~ Sun Tzu


You may advance and be absolutely irresistible if you make for the enemy’s weak points. ~ Sun Tzu


Do you know what it looks like when a tech company — even a giant tech company — violates those strategic principles and goes up against another company’s best?

— It looks like Bing, where Microsoft went head-to-head with Google Search.

— It looks like Zune, where Microsoft went head-to-head with the Apple iPod.

— It looks like Microsoft’s $7.2 billion dollar purchase of Nokia, where Microsoft tried to out-Apple Apple in smartphones.

— It looks like Google’s $12.5 billion dollar purchase of Motorola. (See what I did there?)

Never fight against heavy odds. ~ Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson

If you want to take on a tech giant (or any opponent), you don’t hit them where they’re strongest, you hit them where they’re weakest — or better yet, where they have no presence at all.

As water seeks the easiest path to the sea, so armies should avoid obstacles and seek avenues of least resistance. ~ Sun Tzu

In other words, don’t attack the opponent where they are — hit ’em where they ain’t.

— Microsoft didn’t succeed by making hardware that was better than IBM’s.

— Amazon didn’t succeed by making a better brick and mortar bookstore.

— Facebook didn’t succeed in challenging Google’s online advertising empire by making a better search engine.

Apple banged its head against the Microsoft Windows operating system for years, and years, and years and all they had to show for it was 5% market share and near bankruptcy.

— Apple didn’t succeed by making a better desktop operating system than Microsoft. They succeed by making an integrated music solution where Microsoft had none. And they succeeded by making a smartphone operating system, where all Microsoft had was a watered down version of their desktop operating system.

Challengers don’t succeed by doing what the incumbents are doing better. They succeed by doing what the incumbent isn’t doing or cannot do well.




If you know the enemy and know yourself, your victory will not stand in doubt. ~ Sun Tzu


The greatest help in meeting any problem is to know where you yourself stand. ~ William Faulkner

Does the Author of this article fully understand the differences between the business models of Google and Apple? I doubt it. For if he did, he would never have written this article.




Apple’s Business Model is fairly straightforward. Apple appeals to its target customers by creating an ecosystem of many parts that work seamlessly together. While the ecosystem is the draw, Apple monetizes its products through the sale of its hardware. The purchase of Apple hardware is the “golden ticket” that lets one enter the “Apple World” ecosystem.




Google’s Business Model is a little more complex than Apple’s. Google appeals to its hardware manufacturing partners by creating an operating system and giving it away for free. This, in turn, allows Google’s manufacturing partners to appeal to their customers by selling their hardware cheaper. Google monetizes by gathering the data of the end user and selling it to advertisers in the form of targeted advertising.




Apple and Google’s Business Models are entirely different and incompatible.

Apple’s Business Model works well at the high end because it targets those who are price insensitive, those who are willing to trade money for convenience and ease of use, those who are willing to pay to avoid advertising, and those who are willing to pay to insure their privacy. In other words, they’re willing to pay to avoid Google.

Google’s Business Model works poorly at the high end because — regardless of how well Google’s hardware works — Google will still sell their customer’s data to advertisers. Google’s end users are usually more than satisfied with trading their privacy and exposure to a bit of advertising for lower cost hardware. However, a high-priced Google phone destroys this value proposition because it eliminates all of the up-side while retaining all of the down-side.

Further, Apple does not have to concern itself with hardware partners because they design both the software and the hardware. Google has a good relationship with their hardware partners because they create a high-quality product (the Android operating system) and give it away for free. The moment Google starts making their own hardware, they create a conflict of interest with their hardware manufacturers.

First, the creation of a Google hardware phone causes Google to directly compete with their hardware manufacturers for sales at the high end of the market, which is also the most lucrative end of the market.

Second, the creation of a Google hardware phone creates an internal conflict of interest within the Google software team. If they want to sell a premium hardware product that competes with Apple, then they want to tailor their software to work with their hardware, just as Apple does. But the more they tailor their software to work with their own hardware the less well it will work with the hardware it is not designed for.

Further, while Google is currently incentivized to provide their hardware manufacturers with their best version of Android, when Google makes their own hardware, they are placed on the horns of a dilemma. They can either retain their best software features for themselves and make them exclusive to their own hardware — at the expense of their partners — or they can share their best with their partners — at the expense of their own hardware.


“Well, so what?” say the pundits. “Google’s hardware partners, like Samsung and others, have nowhere else to go, so they’ll have to simply take what Google gives them and be satisfied with it.”

In fact, that’s almost exactly the argument the Author makes:

If Samsung doesn’t like that, it can try selling Tizen phones instead of Android.

These exact same arguments were made when Microsoft created its own hardware for MP3s. And its own hardware for mobile phones. And for tablets. And what was the result? Microsoft’s hardware manufacturers haven’t entirely disappeared, but they haven’t thrived either. And Microsoft’s increases in hardware sales have been more than offset by the lost sales of their hardware partners.

This is not that hard to understand, yet pundits seem determined not to understand it. Third-party manufacturers are not going to stick around if they don’t make a profit. And the more successful Google is at making their own hardware, the less successful their manufacturing partners will be at competing against Google’s hardware.





Changing a Business Model may seem all fine and dandy on paper, but in reality, it’s a nightmare. I challenge you to name a company that has both changed its business model and retained its relevance. Historically, there are a few exceptional companies who have accomplished it, but that’s what they are — exceptions. In the vast majority of instances, changing one’s business model is nigh on impossible because the things that make a company great at doing what it does are the very things that make it lousy at doing what it doesn’t do.




Finally, is it really in Google’s interest to compete with Apple? Apple is, after all, their best customer. Even though Apple only has 12-15% of the smartphone market, Google makes more than half of their profits from customers on Apple’s platforms. Google currently pays Apple 3 billion dollars just to be on their platform. If Google attacks Apple, Apple will be incentivized to cut ties with Google. Is it really worth it to Google to sell a few extra Pixel phones if it means endangering the Goose that lays the golden eggs?




One who knows when he can fight, and when he cannot fight, will be victorious. ~ Sun Tzu

Maybe Google feels this is a battle they have to fight. For their sake, I hope not. This is a fight they cannot expect to win.

Wars are not won by fighting battles; wars are won by choosing battles. ~ George S. Patton




Over at Technically Incorrect, Chris Matyszczyk has a different take. He argues that Google will fail in consumer sales because Google is inept at consumer marketing. He makes a pretty convincing case. You can see it for yourself here.

And in case you’re wondering whether HTC has better marketing chops that Google? Yeah, not so much. See video commercial here and associated article here.



Over at MacWorld, the Macalope uses his inimitable style to eviscerate a similar article making a similar argument. You can view the Macalope’s article entitled “Fourth time’s the charm: Google to win again”, here.

Apple’s Future Is Ear

Apple’s Transition From Looking and Touching to Listening and Talking

Part 1: Looking Back


As you may well know, there’s an awful lot of angst concerning Apple’s removal of the headphone jack from their latest model iPhones.

Every new idea has something of the pain and peril of childbirth about it. ~ Samuel Butler

I won’t rehash it all other than to say that a lot of people — and I mean a LOT of people — disagree with Apple’s decision to remove the headphone jack from the recently released iPhone 7. And when I say a lot of people disagree with the removal of the headphone jack, I mean they VEHEMENTLY disagree.

[pullquote]Taking the headphone jack off the phones is user-hostile and stupid[/pullquote]

Taking the headphone jack off phones is user-hostile and stupid. ~ Nilay Patel

Wow. Strong words.

Don’t worry about people stealing an IDEA. If it’s original, you will have to ram it down their throats. ~ Howard Aiken

If you’re going to sin, sin against God, not the critics. God will forgive you, but the critics won’t. paraphrasing Hyman Rickover

So, are the critics right? Is Apple doing their customers a disservice?

New ideas come into this world somewhat like falling meteors, with a flash and an explosion, and perhaps somebody’s castle-roof perforated. ~ Henry David Thoreau

Or is it we who are doing Apple a disservice?

Our dilemma is that we hate change and love it at the same time; what we really want is for things to remain the same but get better. ~ Sydney J. Harris

Looking Back

Before we try to answer the questions posed above, let’s first take a step back in order to gain a broader perspective.

Acquire new knowledge whilst thinking over the old, and you may become a teacher of others. ~ (probably not) Confucius

I believe that the past can teach us a lot about the future.

The further back you look, the further forward you can see. ~ Winston Churchill

So before we discuss the removal of the headphone jack and the viability of Apple’s new Bluetooth AirPods, let’s first take a look back on some computing history.

Smaller, Ever Smaller

Since the advent of the Apple II and the rise of the mass-market consumer PC, you hear “computer” and you think “monitor, mouse, keyboard,” in some variation. ~ Matt Weinberger, Business Insider


But that’s not the way it’s always been.

Computers have gone from Mainframes that took up an entire floor, to Minis that filled an entire office, to PCs that sat on desktops, to Notebooks that laid on our laps, to Smartphones that rested in pockets, to watches that wrapped around our wrists. I can’t be the only one who sees the pattern here. Every generation of computer has gotten smaller and smaller. And that trend is not going to stop. It’s not a question of “if” computers are is going to get smaller, it’s only a question of and “when.”

Well, let me correct myself. It’s not only a question of “when” computers will get smaller, it’s also a question of “how.” Making computers smaller is relatively easy. Making them smaller while maintaining their usefulness is not so easy and does, in fact, pose a significant challenge.

The Windows Mobile Mistake

We may not know what the next User Interface should be, but we know what it shouldn’t be. It shouldn’t be a smaller version of the current User Interface.

Remember how Microsoft tried – for years and years and years – to squeeze its desktop User Interface into tablets and phones? Nowadays, we look back and mock Microsoft for those early, lame attempts to create a modern phone interface. But that smug point of view is simply retroactive arrogance. We now know what Microsoft should have done, so we’re astonished that they too didn’t employ the same 20/20 hindsight that we now do. But at that time — although almost none of us liked the tiny menus or the easy to lose styluses — no one had a better idea.

Not only that, most of us didn’t even know that a better idea was needed.

Unique User Interface

So a smaller version of the current User Interface provides a bad experience for the User. What then is the solution?

The solution, of course, is a brand new User Interface. It turns out that each successive generation of computer requires its very own unique User Interface — a User Interface specifically tailored to work with the new, smaller form factor.

Unfortunately, creating a brand new User Interface is easier said than done, in part because it’s extremely counterintuitive. In hindsight, all the best user interfaces look obvious. In foresight, those self-same user interfaces look like obvious failures.


Take, for example, the User Interface employed by the Macintosh.
The User Interface of the Macintosh was soon to become the standard for desktop PCs, with many of its features still in use today. But at the time, Xerox — which created several of the building blocks for the soon-to-be Macintosh User Interface — didn’t know what they had.

When I went to Xerox PARC in 1979, I saw a very rudimentary graphical user interface. It wasn’t complete. It wasn’t quite right. But within 10 minutes, it was obvious that every computer in the world would work this way someday. ~ Steve Jobs

Yeah, Steve Jobs instantly saw the promise of what was to become the Macintosh User Interface…

…but most of us aren’t Steve Jobs. Like the engineers at Xerox, we don’t recognize the value of a new User Interface even when we’re looking right at it.

By the way, anyone who thinks that Steve Jobs and Apple “stole” the UI form Xerox, needs to read this article and see this video.


Another example of not knowing what we had was the iPhone. I think most everyone would now agree that, with the introduction of the iPhone, Steve Jobs and Apple knocked the Smartphone User Interface out of the park. But that’s not how people saw it at the time.

Some thought the iPhone was an embarrassment to Apple:

Apple should pull the plug on the iPhone… What Apple risks here is its reputation as a hot company that can do no wrong. If it’s smart it will call the iPhone a ‘reference design’ and pass it to some suckers to build with someone else’s marketing budget. Then it can wash its hands of any marketplace failures… Otherwise I’d advise people to cover their eyes. You are not going to like what you’ll see. ~ John C. Dvorak, 28 March 2007

Internet commentators were no more impressed with the newly announced iPhone than were the press:

Im not impressed with the iPhone. As a PDA user and a Windows Mobile user, this thing has nothing on my phone..i dont see much potential. How the hell am I suppose to put appointments on the phone with no stylus or keyboard?!…No thanks Apple. Make a real PDA please….

lol last i checked many companies tried the tap to type and tap to dial … IT DOESNT WORK STEVIE, people dont like non-tactile typing, its a simple fact, this isnt a phone its a mac pda wow yippie….I mean it looks pretty but its not something i forsee being the next ipod for the phone industry…

im sorry but if im sending text messages i’d rather have my thumb keyboard than some weird finger tapping on a screen crap.

Touch screen buttons? BAD idea. This thing will never work.

Apparently none of you guys realize how bad of an idea a touch-screen is on a phone. I foresee some pretty obvious and pretty major problems here. I’ll be keeping my Samsung A707, thanks. It’s smaller, it’s got a protected screen, and it’s got proper buttons. And it’s got all the same features otherwise. (Oh, but it doesn’t run a bloatware OS that was never designed for a phone.) Color me massively disappointed.”

And, of course, even years after the iPhone appeared on the scene, competitors continued to overlook its significance:

Not everyone can type on a piece of glass. Every laptop and virtually every other phone has a tactile keyboard. I think our design gives us an advantage. ~ Mike Lazaridis, Co-CEO, Research In Motion, 4 June 2008

So globally we still have the world running on 2G internet. Blackberry is perfectly optimized to thrive in that environment. That’s why the BlackBerry is becoming the number one smartphone in those markets. ~ Mike Lazaridis, Co-CEO, Research In Motion, 7 December 2010


The lesson here is fourfold:

First, new user interfaces are hard. Really, really hard.

Second, we often don’t realize a new user interface is even needed.

Third, each user interface is unique — radically different from the User Interface that preceded it.

People should think things out fresh and not just accept conventional terms and the conventional way of doing things. — Buckminster Fuller

Fourth, even when a new user interface is introduced, and even if it ends up being the perfect solution in the long run, in the short run it’s not met with cries of “Thank goodness you’ve arrived!” No, it’s met with scorn, derision and dogged resistance.

Why Bother?

Before we go any further, I guess we should ask ourselves: “Why do we even need smaller computers that require a new User Interface anyway? Smartphones are great, right?”

Well, yes and no.

Smartphones are wondrous supercomputers that we carry in our pockets and which can solve a multitude of problems. But for some tasks, Smartphones are far from ideal.

One problem with Smartphones is that they are demanding. They cry out for our attention. They buzz, they beep, they ring, they flash, they vibrate. They call to us, “now, Now, NOW! Pay attention to me now, damn it!”

“The word ‘now’ is like a bomb through the window, and it ticks. ~ Arthur Miller

Another problem with Smartphones is that they are intrusive. To interact with a Smartphone, we must look at it. When our focus is on the Smartphone, our focus is off everything else.

This can be socially awkward when we hunch over our Smartphones and ignore those around us. It can be amusing as we watch those using Smartphones bump into walls or walk into water fountains. It can be deadly as we walk into traffic while staring at our Smartphones or foolishly attempt to text while driving.

Part 2: The Next User Interface

Just as we needed a brand new “touch” user interface in order to turn smaller Smartphone form factors into a usable computing device, we now need a brand new User Interface in order to turn even smaller computer form factors into usable computing devices.

— PCs used a mouse and a monitor;
— Notebooks used a trackpad and a monitor;
— Smartphones used a touch-sensitive screen and a monitor; and
— Watches are still a work in progress, but they currently use a variety of interfaces , like touch, 3D touch, Digital Crown, Taptic Engine…and a monitor.

But this presents us with a new challenge. Ever since the Apple I was introduced in 1977, every User Interface has had one thing in common — a monitor. But usable screen sizes have gotten as small as they can get. How then do we make a computer both smaller AND more usable?

Google Glass

Google Glass was an early attempt at creating a User Interface suitable for a smaller computer form factor. It solved the screen size dilemma by resting the screen on one’s face like a pair of glasses. It used augmented reality to superimpose bits of helpful information over the world as viewed through a small camera lens. The vision was for the device to always be present, always be watching, always be listening, always be ready to assist with some digital task or to instantly recall some vital piece of information. People had very, very high hopes for Google Glass.

Google glasses may look and seem absurd now but (Brian) Sozzi says they are “a product that is going to set the stage for many other interesting products.” For the moment, at least, the same cannot be said of iPhones or iPads.” ~ Jeff Macke, Yahoo! Breakout, February, 27  2013


So did Google Glass “set the stage for many other interesting products”? Not so much. It failed so badly that it came and went within the span of three short years.

So what went wrong?


Well…other than that picture, what went wrong?

Google Glass was incredibly intrusive, both for the user and, significantly, for those in the presence of the user. From the outside, Google glass stood out like a sore thumb. From the the inside, Google Glass inserted itself between the user and the world.

Google Glass is in your way for one thing, and it’s ugly…It’s always going to be between you and the person you’re talking to. ~ Hugh Atkinson

Further, Google Glass was a pest, always bombarding the user with distracting visual images.

I don’t think people want Post-it notes pasted all over their field of vision….The world is cluttered up enough as it is! ~ Hugh Atkinson

Perhaps even worse was the way Google Glass intruded upon the lives of others. People resented the feeling that they were being spied upon and began to call those who wore the devices “Glassholes.”

Finally, Google Glass just wasn’t that useful. It didn’t do many things and the things it did it didn’t do all that well.

Enter The Voice User Interface

[pullquote]We’re moving from view first to voice first[/pullquote]

I’m convinced that Voice is going to be the next great User Interface; that we’re moving from touching and looking on our Smartphones to talking and listening on our Headphones; That we’re moving from View First to Voice First.

Most agree the next major UI shift after touch is voice. ~ J. Gobert (@MrGobert)

More importantly, I’m convinced that Apple is convinced that Voice is the next great User Interface…

…which is no big deal, because Amazon, Google, Microsoft and most others are convinced too…which is why they’re all investing so heavily in the area.

(D)igital assistants are poised to change not only how we interact with and think about technology, but even the types of devices, applications and services that we purchase and use. ~ Bob O’Donnell

The User Interface Company

Apple is a User Interface company. Their business model is to:

— Create a revolutionary new User Interface;
— Use design principles to build an integrated hardware and software product;
— Iterate the hell out of it;
— Carefully select another area of computing ripe for disruption; and
— Do it all over again.

Some past examples:

— The Apple I added a monitor.
— The Macintosh added the Graphical User Interface (GUI) and the Mouse.
— The Apple Notebook added the recessed keyboard and trackpad.
— The iPod added a click wheel and related all the heavy lifting to the Personal Computer.
— The iPhone and the iPad added a touchscreen.

In 1976, with the Apple I, Apple started the modern era of personal computing by adding a monitor to the User Interface. In 2016, Apple intends to extend the era of the personal computer by removing the monitor from the User Interface.

The new User Interface would be — as all User Interfaces must be — a radical transition. It would take us from touching to talking; from looking to listening.

The most interesting disruption comes from attacking an industry from what looks like an irrelevant angle. ~ Benedict Evans (@BenedictEvans)

Introducing The AirPod

Apple recently announced a line of wireless headphones, called AirPods. The AirPod appears to represent Apple’s vision for the visionless User Interface of the future. With advanced bluetooth audio, a powerful W1 chip, two microphones, and yes, the elimination of the 3.5mm audio jack, the AirPod is the beginning Apple’s transition from User Interfaces for the eyeballs, to a User Interface for the eardrums.

So what’s the big deal? We’ve had wireless headsets for a while. True enough. But they’ve been confusing to pair, frustrating to use, had limited battery life, and were, overall, relatively powerless. The AirPods are not just another set of headphones. Rather, they are the start of a whole new generation of headsets. The new AirPods provide:

— Painless Pairing;

— A Charging Case that stores, charges, and pairs the earbuds;

— Optical sensors, that that make the first earbud in the ear the primary earbud for phone;

— Sharing between two people.

— A long tube that provides room for a larger battery, thus providing longer battery life;

— Microphones at the end of the tubes which reduces the interference provided by our head and allows better ear-to-ear communication; and

— Activation of Siri either by saying “Hey Siri” or by double tapping on either of the earbuds.

Good Design

The AirPods’ simplicity and demure demeanor is consistent with the principles of good design.

Good design is unobtrusive. Products fulfilling a purpose are like tools. They are neither decorative objects nor works of art. Their design should therefore be both neutral and restrained, to leave room for the user’s self-expression. ~ Dieter Rams

The advance of technology is based on making it fit in so that you don’t really even notice it, so it’s part of everyday life. ~ Bill Gates

If it disappears, we know we’ve done it. ~ Federighi 9/10/13

Technology is at its best and its most empowering when it simply disappears. ~ Jony Ive

I like things that do the job and kind of disappear into my life. Like Levis. They just kind of get faded and disappear, and you don’t think about it much. ~ Steve Jobs

The Invisible Hand

[pullquote]Apple has a secretive project in the works named “Invisible Hand”[/pullquote]

Bloomberg has reported that Apple has a secretive project in the works that would dramatically improve Siri. Currently, the Siri voice assistant is able to respond to commands within its application. With an initiative code-named “Invisible Hand,” Apple is researching new ways to improve Siri. Apple’s goal is for Siri to be able to control the entire system without having to open an app or reactivate Siri. According to an unnamed source, Apple believes it’s just three years away from a fully voice-controlled iPhone.

Note that the report said that Apple thinks it is three years away form employing all of these features. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not the day after tomorrow, but three years. So don’t expect to see these advanced features anytime too soon.

Veteran Apple engineer Bill Atkinson — known for being a key designer of early Apple UIs and the inventor of MacPaint, QuickDraw, and HyperCard—saw this coming a long time ago. He gave a presentation at MacWorld Expo back in 2011 in which he explains exactly why the ear is the best place for Siri. ~ Fast Company

— AirPods don’t require we look and touch. They only require we talk and listen.
— The AirPod will be always with us.
— The AirPod will be always on us.
— The AirPod does not require the use of our eyes.
— The Smartphone stands between us and the world and demands our eyes and our attention. The AirPod stands behind us and discretely whisper’s in our ears.

“Yuck,” you say. “Always on?. Who wants that?”

We all will.

— We can have the AirPod in our ears at all times.
— We needn’t reach into our pockets to look at our Smartphones.
— We needn’t even turn our wrists and glance at our Smartwatches.
— Tap, tap or “Hey Siri.” Computing at our beck and call.

Apple has already started down this path. If you’re activating Siri using the home button of your iPhone, Siri more often directs you to look at the screen. If Siri is activated hands free via “Hey Siri”, Siri is more talkative and less visual.

Today And Tomorrow

The possibilities for Voice activated computing are endless.

Of course, you can request music or even a specific song.

A Voice Interface will allow us to listen to our emails and texts.

Driving directions might best be served by using both visual and audio instructions. But walking instructions — which are in their infancy, but on their way — are a different matter. It’s not a good idea to look at a screen while walking. Audio only instructions are the way to go.

Third party apps will have access to all of the the AirPods’ functionality.

Using a double-tap, the user can quietly request information.

Soon we’ll be able to identify a document, and simply say “print” and the artificial intelligence will do the rest.

AirPods will one day be spatially aware. They’ll remind us to take the mail with us when we leave the house, and to buy toilet paper when we pass by the local supermarket.

Soon we’ll be able to simply say “help” in order for the system to help the us navigate a particular task or application.

We don’t have immediate recall, but our AirPods — which hear everything — will.

Siri might soon be able to recognize people, know places, identify motions and connect them all with meaningful data.

Sensors in the device will know if we are in conversation and will break in only with the most important verbal notifications.

As Siri becomes more environmentally aware, it will start to recognize important sounds in the environment. For example, if the AirPods detect a siren while the user is driving, they might temporarily mute any messages or other audio.

Soon we’ll be able to request that our intelligent assistants ask someone else a question, get the answer, and then relay that answer back to us.

Or we’ll be able to schedule a meeting, with the artificial intelligence navigating all the various questions and answers required from multiple parties to make that happen.

Proactive assistance will remind us that we have an upcoming appointment and — knowing the time and distance to the meeting — prompt us to leave for it in a timely manner.

Or better yet, a truly intelligent device will know us and understand us and remind us when our favorite sports team is scheduled to begin play.


“Science fiction,” you say? Really? Look how very far we’ve come since the iPhone was introduced in 2007. Just to take one small example, people forget that Smartphones were out for years and years and years before we were able to ditch our dedicated GPS devices and switch to using GPS on our phones instead. Now using the GPS on our phones is so normal that many can’t even imagine how we managed without it.

Apple opening up Siri, is like everything else they do. Building the momentum slowly and for the long haul. ~ Nathan Shochat (@natisho) 9/26/16

Like great men and women, great computing starts from humble beginnings.

Over the years, many of the most important features to come to the Apple ecosystem were launched as somewhat basic and rudimentary iPhone features.

• Siri told funny jokes.
• Touch ID unlocked iPhones.
• 3D Touch made Live Photos come to life.

In each case, a feature was introduced not to set the world on fire overnight, but rather to serve as a foundation for future innovation and functionality. Siri has grown from giving funny, canned responses to being one of the most widely-used personal assistants that relies on natural speech processing. Touch ID is now used to facilitate commerce with Apple Pay. 3D Touch has transformed into an emerging new user interface revolving around haptics and the Taptic Engine. ~ Neil Cybart, Above Avalon


Reviewers who have worn the Apple Watch have written that it has untethered them from their phone — that their iPhone has joined the MacBook as the “computer in the other room.” That is all going to be doubly so with AirPods and other sophisticated headphones.

— Yesterday, people used their computers when they were at their desktops or when they carried their laptops with them.

— Today, people use their phones all the time and their second screen devices – Desktops, Notebooks, Tablets — some of the time.

— Tomorrow, people will listen to their headphones all the time and look at their phones, tablets, notebooks and desktops some of the time.

Not One Device, But Many

So, am I saying the Smartphone is going away?

Hell no.

Did the mainframe go away? Did the PC go away? Did the freaking fax machine — which was invented in 1843 — go away?

Old tech has a very long half-life. ~ Benedict Evans on Twitter

Bill Gates foresaw what was going to happen to computing as far back as 2007. Well, he ALMOST foresaw what was going to happen:

MOSSBERG: What’s your device in five years that you’ll rely on the most.

GATES: I don’t think you’ll have one device

I think you’ll have a full screen device that you can carry around and you’ll do dramatically more reading off of that – yeah, I believe in the tablet form factor – and then we’ll have the evolution of the portable machine and the evolution of the phone will both be extremely high volume, complimentary, that is if you own one you’re likely to own the other…

Reverse “phone” and “tablet” and Gates got it just about right. We’re not going to have just one device with just one user interface. We’re going to seamlessly move from device to device as best suits our needs at that particular time, at that particular place.

Part 3: Critiques

Fantasizing Fanboys

Nilay Patel thinks the Apple fanboys who are buying into the whole AirPod thing are as bad as Google fanboys who bought into the whole Google Glasses thing.

Watching Apple fans repeat the mistaken dreams of Google Glass is super fun. ~ Nilay Patel (@reckless) 9/16/16

I think Nilay Patel is a really, really smart guy who’s being incredibly, and inexcusably, short-sighted.

The most important things have always seemed dumb to industry experts at the beginning. ~ Jeff Bezos

Professional critics of new things sound smart, but the logical conclusion of their thinking is a poorer world. ~ either Benedict Evans or Ben Thompson ((Sadly, I don’t know who to attribute this quote to. My notes have both saying it and a search did not reveal the original source. My bad.))

The AirPod isn’t obnoxious, like the Google Glasses were. They aren’t building a barrier between you and me; between you and the world. And while Google Glass was incredibly intrusive and incredibly useless, AirPods are not intrusive at all while they’re incredibly useful today and will become even more useful with each passing tomorrow.

Echo Chamber

Many, many, very intelligent and respected technology observers really like the Amazon Echo and think it is the wave of the future.

I’ll admit I’m swimming in dangerous waters here — there have already been reports that Apple is working on an Echo-like device — but I don’t think Apple is going to go in the direction of the Amazon Echo. Based on Apple’s investor call, held on October 25, 2016, Tim Cook doesn’t think so either:

Most people want an assistant with them all the time. There may be a nice market for kitchen ones, but won’t be as big as smartphone.

Here’s my issue with the Echo and Echo-like products:

First, the Echo, and competing devices like Google Home, are fixed to one room. It makes no sense to have your Artificial Intelligence anchored to a single location when you can have it with you anywhere, anytime.

Second, the Echo and its lookalikes are designed to be used by multiple people. That’s convenient…but it also means that it muddles the information the artificial intelligence receives which, in turn, muddles the information that the Artificial Intelligence can provide. In other words, devices used by many people will not be able to provide data tailored for single individuals.

Many, many, many, many very smart, very thoughtful, very respected industry observers disagree with me.

When I wrote my original Siri Speaker article in March, I heard from a lot of people who didn’t understand why Apple needed to make such a product [as the Echo] when our iPhones and iPads and Apple Watch can do the job…It’s a very different experience to have an intelligent assistant floating in the air all around you, ready to answer your commands, rather than having that assistant reside in a phone laying on a table (or sitting in your pocket). ~ Jason Snell, MacWorld

[pullquote]What if your intelligent assistant were always in your ear and always with you?[/pullquote]

Well, that’s true, but what if your intelligent assistant were always in your ear and always with you?

Job To Be Done

There are those who argue that Voice Input may be a nice supplement to computing but a voice Interface is not sufficient because it’s inadequate — it doesn’t do everything that we can currently do on our Smartphone, or even our Smartwatch.

Maybe this’ll feel retrograde in a decade, but how many people really want to control everything with their voice? It’s handy for some stuff, but not everything…. ~ Alex Fitzpatrick, Time

Don’t we say the exact same thing at the introduction of every new generation of computer?

— The Notebook couldn’t do what the Desktop did.
— The Tablet couldn’t do what the Desktop or the Notebook did.
— The Smartphone couldn’t do what the Desktop, the Notebook or the Tablet did.
— The Watch couldn’t do what the Smartphone did.
— The AirPod can’t do what the Smartphone, or even the Smartwatch does.

OF COURSE the new device is not as good as the old device at doing what the old device did best. A Notebook computer is a lousy Desktop computer. A tablet is a lousy Notebook. A Smartphone is a lousy Desktop, Notebook or Tablet. And a passenger vehicle is a lousy truck. But we don’t hire a passenger vehicle to be a truck. Neither will we hire a device using a Voice-First Interface to be a Desktop, Notebook, Tablet, Smartphone or Smartwatch.

We don’t recognize the value of a new User Interface because we measure it against the wrong standard.

Lesson #1: The New User Interface is not trying to “replace” the old user interface.

Tablets will not replace the traditional personal computer. The traditional PC is changing to adapt to the customer requirements. The tablet is an extra market for some niche customers. ~ Yang Yuanqing, Chief Executive Officer, Lenovo Group Ltd., 11 Jan 2012

The above quote misses the mark because it assumes that tablets WANT to replace the traditional personal computer.

‘This new thing will be great – once we can do all the old things on it in the old way’ ~ Benedict Evans

Each new computer form factor is being hired to do something different than its predecessor, otherwise, we wouldn’t want or need to migrate to the new device in the first place.

[pullquote]The goal is to use the new device for something it can do extremely well, especially if that something is something the old device did poorly or not at all[/pullquote]

The goal is not for the new Interface to duplicate the functionality of the old Interface; to use our new devices to do what our old devices already do well. The goal is to use our new devices for those things that they do best.

Lesson #2: We shouldn’t judge a User Interface by what it CAN NOT do.

Instead of judging a new User Interface by what it can not do, we should judge it by what it CAN DO EXTREMELY WELL, especially if it can do something well that the old User Interface does poorly or not at all.

Before you can say ‘that won’t work’, you need to know what ‘that’ is. ~ Benedict Evans

Socially Awkward

Some observers say we will not want to use Voice First because — well frankly, because it makes us look like socially awkward nerds and sound like socially oblivious geeks.

I personally still feel self-conscious when I’m using Siri in public, as I suspect lots of folks do as well.

This kind of thinking is already passé in China.

(Voice may be awkward) in the US. 100% not true in Asia. Voice is dominant input method whether public or private. ~ Mark Miller (@MarkDMill)

(F)or certain markets, like China…voice input was preferred over typing. ~ Ben Bajarin (@BenBajarin)

But let’s forget for a moment that the social awkwardness we fear is already irrelevant to a minimum of 1.3 billion people. Even for those of us who live in the West, our fear of social awkwardness is — well — it’s a little bizarre.

Apparently, this is considered ‘normal’ looking:

…but this in considered abnormal and abhorrent.


Who knew?

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that resistance to the new AirPods is anything new. There has never been a meaningful change that wasn’t resisted by self-righteous, holier-than-thou, know-it alls — like me.

People are very open-minded about new things – as long as they’re exactly like the old ones. ~ Charles Kettering

You don’t believe that resistance to the new is the norm? Then I strongly suggest you follow Pessimists Archive @pessimistsarc. (Even if you DO believe me, I still strongly suggest you follow Pessimists Archive @pessimistsarc)

Here are just a couple the things that the guardians of goodness have deemed irredeemable:

— CELL PHONES: Don’t you remember when cell phones were considered anti-social?

And pretty dorky looking, too.


— WALKMAN: In the 1980s, in response to the Walkman, a town in New Jersey made it illegal to wear headphones in public. That law is still on the books today.

— RADIO: A 1938 article opined that it was “disturbing” to see kids listening to the radio for more than 2 hours a day.

— AUTOMOBILES: Early automobiles caused as much controversy then as driverless cars do today. It was common for people to yell “Get a horse” as the new fangled cars passed them by (both literally and figuratively).

— BICYCLES: Yes bicycles. First, bicycles were decried for allowing the youth to stray far from the farm. Second, bicycles were blamed for leading to the “evolution of a round-shouldered, hunched-back race” (1893).

— PHONOGRAPH: In 1890, The Philadelphia Board & Park commissioners “started a crusade against the phonograph.”

— KALEIDOSCOPES: Yes, kaleidoscopes! In the early 1800s kaleidoscopes were blamed for distracting people from the real world and its natural beauty.

— BOOKS: You read that right. Books. Novels were considered to be particularly abhorrent. In 1938, a newspaper ran an article with some top tips for stopping your kids from reading all the time.

Little men with little minds and little imaginations go through life in little ruts, smugly resisting all changes which would jar their little worlds. ~ Zig Ziglar


[pullquote]This isn’t the first time Apple has changed the way we do things[/pullquote]

You know, this isn’t exactly the first time that Apple has changed the way we do things.

The Macintosh got us to use the mouse. And that wasn’t a given.

The Macintosh uses an experimental pointing device called a “mouse”. There is no evidence that people want to use these things. ~ John C. Dvorak, In a review of the Macintosh in The San Francisco Examiner (19 February 1984)

(emphasis added)

Remember the day-glow colors of the first iMacs?


Remember the iconic white earbuds of the iPod (just 15 years ago, this week).


Remember what it was like before the Smartphone and how quickly we adapted to having a Smartphone with us all the time?


You think going from the Smartphone User Interface to AirPod User Interface is going to be hard? Are you kidding me? This is going to be the easiest User Interface transition ever.

If you’re strong enough, there are no precedents. ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald

[pullquote]How hard will it be to go from using headphones with our smartphones to simply using headphones all by themselves?[/pullquote]

AirPods build upon already existing habits. We’re already talking into our phones and bluetooth devices. Who cares if we start talking into our AirPods instead? And we already use headphones with our Smartphones. How hard will it be to go from using headphones with our smartphones and smartwatches to simply using headphones all by themselves?

Good products help us do things. Great products change the things we do. Exceptional products change us. ~ Horace Dediu (@asymco) 9/4/16

Siri Sucks

If you want to doubt Apple’s ability to create a truly meaningful Voice-First User Interface, look no further than Siri. If Apple is going to rely on voice for input, and Artificial Intelligence for output, then Siri needs to be top-tier. Right now, not only isn’t Siri “good enough”, it’s just plain not good. True, sometimes Siri can be magical…but far more often it’s maniacal.

Some people think Siri is a joke. I disagree. There’s nothing funny about the way Siri fails to do what it’s supposed to be doing.

The good news is Apple is very well aware of the fact that Siri is moving from backstage to center stage. The bad news is that Apple has yet to prove that they have the ability to transition Siri from the role of a bit player to that of a lead actor.

If you’re an optimist, like me, one hopeful precedent is Apple Maps. They too were widely panned when they first appeared. But gradually — year after year after year after year — Apple improved them until, over time, they have became “good enough” (although the title “best” still resides with Google Maps).

Part 4: The Apple Way

Nilay Patel, and other critics, can’t understand why Apple is doing what it’s doing.

Invention requires a long-term willingness to be misunderstood. ~ Jeff Bezos

There’s nothing new in that. Apple has always been misunderstood.

Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted. ~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Apple has always been willing to take chances.

Success is the child of audacity. ~ Benjamin Disraeli

Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

And they’ve always been mocked for doing so.


The price of originality is criticism. The value of originality is priceless. ~ Vala Afshar (@ValaAfshar) 9/27/16

But why take chances?
Why do things that you know are going to be heavily criticized?

Clear thinking requires courage rather than intelligence. ~ Thomas Szasz

Well, for one thing, that’s where the opportunity lies.

The biggest opportunities are going after complex solutions that incumbents trained everyone to think could never be made simple. ~ Aaron Levie (@levie)

For another, Apple knows that the real danger lies in NOT taking chances.

Don’t play for safety.  It’s the most dangerous thing in the world. ~ Hugh Walpole

Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. The fearful are caught as often as the bold. ~ Helen Keller

If you risk nothing, then you risk everything. ~ Geena Davis

The trouble is, if you don’t risk anything, you risk even more. ~ Erica Jong

It is better to err on the side of daring than the side of caution. ~ Alvin Toffler

Nilay Patel doesn’t understand what Apple understands. You can make small incremental changes — baby steps, if you will — to improve an existing product. But designing a new User Interface is revolutionary and requires radical change.

A truly great design is innovative and revolutionary. It’s built on a fresh idea that breaks all previous rules and assumptions but is so elegant it appears simple and natural once it has been created. ~ David Ngo

You can’t get to a new User Interface by taking baby steps. You get there by making a leap.

[pullquote] The most dangerous strategy is to jump a chasm in two leaps[/pullquote]

The most dangerous strategy is to jump a chasm in two leaps. ~ Benjamin Disraeli

Apple is not going to sit around and wait for their competitors.

If you’re competitor-focused, you have to wait until there is a competitor doing something. Being customer-focused allows you to be more pioneering. ~ Jeff Bezos

The competitor to be feared is one who never bothers about you at all, but goes on making his own business better all the time. ~ Henry Ford

[pullquote]Apple is not going to sit around and wait for Nilay Patel’s permission[/pullquote]

And they’re not going to sit around and wait for Nilay Patel’s permission either, that’s for damn sure.

Standing still is the fastest way of moving backwards in a rapidly changing world. ~ Lauren Bacall

Apple thinks AirPods are going to be a significant part of their future.

The future lies in designing and selling computers that people don’t realize are computers at all. ~ Adam Osborne

So they’re moving toward that future today.

Most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. ~ Tim Cook 10/5/16

Why is that so hard to understand?

Part 7: Why Not Be Apple?


This is part 7 of 7 in a series of articles that explores Innovation at Apple.

1. Who is Apple innovating for?
2. Where should Apple’s innovation be focused?
3. How does Apple innovate?
4. When should Apple introduce its innovations?
5. What does innovation inside of Apple look like to someone outside of Apple?
6. Why does Apple do what it does?
7. Why not be Apple?

Why Not

Why Not Be Apple?


Critics of Apple remind me of a joke:

A shepherd is herding his flock in a remote pasture when suddenly a brand new Tesla advances out of a dust cloud towards him. The driver, a young professional in a Hugo Boss suit, Gucci shoes, Ray Ban sunglasses and a YSL tie leans out of the window and says, ‘Tell you what, I’ll bet you $100 against one of your sheep that I can tell you the exact number in that flock.’

The shepherd thinks for a moment. It is a big mob and he can’t see how anyone could guess correctly so he says, ‘OK. You’re on.’

The newcomer parks the car, whips out his laptop, connects it to a mobile phone, surfs to a NASA page on the internet where he calls up a GPS satellite navigation system, scans the area, opens up a database and 60 Excel spreadsheets with complex formulas. Finally he prints out a 150 page report on his hi-tech miniaturized printer, turns to the shepherd and says, ‘You have here exactly 1586 sheep.’

The shepherd nods his head and says, ‘That is correct. A bet’s a bet. Take any sheep.’

The man picks up an animal and is about to walk off when the shepherd says, ‘Hang on. Bet you double or nothing that I can guess your occupation.’

The man thinks, ‘How would he know, he’s never met me before’ and says ‘Righto. You’re on’.

The shepherd says, ‘You’re a Wall Street analyst who specializes in critiquing Apple.’

The man whistles . ‘How the heck did you know that?’

‘Easy,’ answers the shepherd. ‘You turn up here although nobody invited you, you want to be compensated for an answer to a question no one asked you, you provided information that was already known…and that’s not the half of it.’

The newcomer is slack-jawed. ‘What’s the other half?’

‘Well,’ says the shepherd, ‘you put my dog down and I’ll tell you.’

That’s Apple’s critics for you. They have all the facts. They’ve crunched all the numbers. They’ve done all the analysis. But they really don’t understand the business that Apple is in.


That’s the way with (critics), they’re always biting the hand that lays the golden egg. ~ Samuel Goldwyn

At the end of the day, the critics’ advice to Apple comes down to this:

The only way for Apple to be successful in the future is to abandon what made them successful in the past and to adopt, instead, the practices of their less successful competitors.

In other words, “Don’t be Apple.”

Why would Apple even consider taking such dreadful advice?

No vice is so bad as advice. ~ Marie Dressler

The advice the critics are giving is not new. Critics have been giving Apple the same bad advice ever since Apple was incorporated on April 1, 1976. (Perhaps the critics think Apple is an elaborate April fools joke.)

It’s like déjà vu all over again. ~ Yogi Berra

It’s not helpful. Instead of looking for viable solutions, most critics are simply looking for trouble, finding it where it does not exist, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedy. (( Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it whether it exists or not, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedy. ~ Ernest Benn))

Things are never so bad they can’t be made worse. ~ Humphrey Bogart

It’s not informed. The people who know the least about Apple’s past are the one’s who insist they know the most about Apple’s future.

The further back you look, the further forward you can see. ~ Winston Churchill

It’s ignorant. Those who understand innovation the least are the ones who are the least understanding.

Fascinating how “I don’t know what Apple is doing” comes out of people’s mouths as “Apple doesn’t know what it is doing.” ~ Ben Thompson (@benthompson)

It’s superficial. It focuses on the what can been seen, ignores the unseen, and trivializes what takes place behind the scenes.

The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses – behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights. ~ Muhammad Ali

It’s arrogant.

Listening to critics tell Apple how to innovate is like listening to vulture tell a fish how to swim.

It’s wrong-headed.

Most of the “advice” people have been giving Tim Cook today on how to run Apple would eventually bankrupt the company. ~ Neil Cybart on Twitter

And it’s not coming from a good place.

Mediocre minds usually dismiss anything which reaches beyond their own understanding. ~ Francois de La Rochefouca


My advice to Apple is to not take any advice. But if they’re foolish enough to listen to me, here is what I would say:

Relax. Take a deep breath. This too shall pass.

In times like these, it helps to recall that there have always been times like these. ~ Paul Harvey

You can’t please everyone. Nor should you try.

You can’t base your life on other people’s expectations. ~ Stevie Wonder

You’re going to be criticized no matter what you do.

Do what you feel in your heart to be right – for you’ll be criticized anyway. ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

Ignore the short-term investors.

Successful investing is about having people agree with you … later. ~ James Grant

Ignore the doomsayers.

Never tell me the odds. ~ Han Solo, Star Wars

Don’t let the critics tell you what you can do.

McCabe’s Law: Nobody has to do anything. ~ Charles McCabe

I owe my success to having listened respectfully to the very best advice, and then going away and doing the exact opposite. ~ G. K. Chesterton

Don’t let the critics tell you what you can’t do.

The greatest pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do. ~ Walter Bagehot

Don’t listen to people who say it can’t be done. ~ Steve Jobs

Don’t let the critics tell you who you are.

Accept no one’s definition of your life; define yourself. ~ Harvey Fierstein

I don’t have to be what you want me to be. ~ Muhammad Ali

Go your own way.

The wisest men follow their own direction. ~ Euripides

Do what you do best.

Let each man pass his days in that wherein his skill is greatest. ~ Sextus Propertius

Do what you love.

I’d rather be a failure at something I love than a success at something I hate. ~ George Burns

Be who you are.

Whatever you are, be a good one. —Abraham Lincoln

I think you have to be what you are. Don’t try to be somebody else. You have to be yourself at all times. ~ John Wooden

Be Apple.

Dare to be yourself. ~ Andre Gide

And Apple, if you’re misunderstood, so what?

To be great is to be misunderstood. ~ Emerson

Innovation always has been — and always will be — misunderstood.

The trouble with innovation is that truly innovative ideas often look like bad ideas at the time. That’s why they are innovative — until now, nobody ever figured out that they were good ideas. ~ Ben Horiwitz

When you innovate, you must prepare yourself for everybody to tell you that you’re nuts. ~ Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle

We are willing to think long-term. We start with the customer and work backwards. And, very importantly, we are willing to be misunderstood for long periods of time [emphasis added]. ~ Jeff Bezos, founder & CEO, Amazon.com

Invention requires a long-term willingness to be misunderstood. You do something that you genuinely believe in, that you have conviction about, but for a long period of time, well-meaning people may criticize that effort. When you receive criticism from well-meaning people, it pays to ask, ‘Are they right?’ And if they are, you need to adapt what they’re doing. If they’re not right, if you really have conviction that they’re not right, you need to have that long-term willingness to be misunderstood. It’s a key part of invention. ~ Jeff Bezos

And if people are saying you’re crazy, well, maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

If no one is telling you your idea is crazy, it’s probably not a very good idea. ~ Francis Ford Coppola


In 1997, just six weeks after Steve Jobs returned to Apple, he announced the “Think Different” campaign. Here is a bit of the story behind the creation of the campaign:

Steve and I walked down the hall and on the door was this skull and crossbones taped on there. It was Chiat\Day. Lee Clow [the agency’s chief creative officer] gave this amazing performance about just how screwed up Apple was and how people felt ashamed that they were Mac people, and that they shouldn’t be. Then he just started showing pictures of people who did things different. Steve had tears in his eyes. There was no discussion about should it be “Think differently,” because Steve loved it. It was like the old band members were coming back together. ~ Tom Suiter ((Excerpt From: Max Chafkin. “Design Crazy.” iBooks. https://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewBook?id=697961602))

Here is Steve Jobs introducing the Think Different campaign:

The theme of this campaign is Think Different, honoring the people who think different and who move this world forward. And it is what we are about; it touches the soul of this company.

Here is The Crazy Ones transcript:

Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules and they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. While some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do. ~ Steve Jobs, October 5, 2011

Here is The Crazy Ones campaign video. I HIGHLY recommend you set aside sixty seconds to watch it. It’s well worth the time.


Part 6: Why Does Apple Do What It Does?


This is part 6 of 7 in a series of articles that explores Innovation at Apple.

1. Who is Apple innovating for?
2. Where should Apple’s innovation be focused?
3. How does Apple innovate?
4. When should Apple introduce its innovations?
5. What does innovation inside of Apple look like to someone outside of Apple?
6. Why does Apple do what it does?
7. Why not be Apple?


Why Does Apple Do What It Does?


To be a great company, it is not enough for one to have the know-how. One must must also have the “know-why”.

You’ve got to have an idea, or a problem, or a wrong that you want to right that you’re passionate about, otherwise you’re not going to have the perseverance to stick it through. ~ Steve Jobs

Somebody once told me, “Manage the top line, and the bottom line will follow.” What’s the top line? It’s things like, why are we doing this in the first place? What’s our strategy? What are customers saying? How responsive are we? Do we have the best products and the best people? Those are the kind of questions you have to focus on. ~ Steve Jobs

Why is the “why” so important? Why does it matter so very much? I think Friedrich Nietzsche said it best:

He who has a ‘why’ to live can bear almost any ‘how.’

Without the why, life is filled with obstacles. With the why, those self-same obstacles become the stepping stones to success.

Before we ask Apple to change what they are doing, let’s first ask ourselves why Apple does what it does.


Let’s start with what Apple’s “why” is not.

It may seem counterintuitive, or even strike you as naive, but it’s important to understand that Apple is not in business in order to make money. Oh sure, they need to make money to survive as a company, but making money is not their raison d’être (their reason for being).

If you keep your eye on the profit, you’re going to skimp on the product. But if you focus on making really great products, then the profits will follow. ~ Steve Jobs

Sure, it was great to make a profit, because that was what allowed you to make great products. But the products, not the profits, were the motivation. ~ Steve Jobs

We don’t take so long and make the way we make for fiscal reasons. ~ Jony Ive

Apple doesn’t make nice things in order to make money. It’s the other way around.

We make money to make nice things. Ive at Design Museum

The goal of Apple is not to make money but to make really nice products, really great products. That is our goal and as a consequence if they are good, people will buy them and we’ll make money. ~ Jony Ive

Our goal isn’t to make money. Our goal absolutely at Apple is not to make money. This may sound a little flippant, but it’s the truth…. Our goal and what gets us excited is to try to make great products. We trust that if we are successful people will like them, and if we are operationally competent we will make revenue, but we are very clear about our goal. ~ Jony Ive

We’re not focused on the numbers, we’re focused on the things that produce the numbers [emphasis added] ~ Tim Cook

My passion has been to build an enduring company where people were motivated to make great products. Everything else was secondary. ~ Steve Jobs


So if Apple isn’t in it for the money, what are they all about?

If you listen to what Apple says about itself, the words “great” and “best” recur over and over again. But the words are not being used to describe Apple, the company. They are being used to describe the products that Apple, the company, makes.

We don’t strive to appear cool. We just try to make the best products we can. And if they are cool, well, that’s great. ~ Steve Jobs

Our goal is to make the best devices in the world. It’s not to be the biggest. ~ Steve Jobs

We’ve always believed that our role in life is to make the best, not the most. ~ Tim Cook

Our business model is very straightforward: We sell great products. ~ Tim Cook

Our north star is to make the best product. Our objective isn’t to make this design for this kind of price point, or for this arbitrary schedule, or line up other things or have X number of phones, it’s to build the best. ~ Tim Cook


What is Apple’s mission? To make the very best products in the world that really deeply enrich people’s lives. That’s what we’re about. And now it’s not to make the most. It’s not to have the highest market cap, but that’s the result of doing the first one well. That’s what we’re about. And hopefully you can see that in our products and, more importantly, feel that in the experience you have using them. That’s what we’re about.

And everybody here knows that. That’s the beauty of this place. We don’t have to put posters on the wall to remind people of that. Everybody knows it. [emphasis added] ~ Tim Cook

Go back and re-read the last paragraph of the above Tim Cook quote. Do you see what he is saying there? He is talking about everyone at Apple knowing what’s expected of them without being told. When you’re talking about knowing what you have to do, i.e., knowing what your mission is, without being told, you’re talking about culture.

The only purpose for me in building a company is so that it can make products. Of course, building a very strong company and a foundation of talent and culture is essential over the long run to keep making great products. ~ Steve Jobs

If [people] are working in an environment where excellence is expected, then they will do excellent work without anything but self-motivation. I’m talking about an environment in which excellence is noticed and respected and is in the culture. If you have that, you don’t have to tell people to do excellent work. They understand it from their surroundings. You may have to coach them at first, but then you just get out of their way, and they’ll surprise you time and time again. ~ Steve Jobs

(Steve was) (a)lways expecting the very best. Apple has a culture of excellence that I think is so unique. [emphasis added] ~ Tim Cook

A startup’s culture develops — usually spontaneously — in order to solve an initial problem. If the culture is great at solving that problem — and if that problem is one worth solving — the company becomes great.

[pullquote]First you create the culture…then the culture creates you[/pullquote]

It’s important to understand that first you create the culture…then the culture creates you.

Whenever a subsequent puzzle arises, the company intuitively, but absentmindedly, solves the new problem in the old way. No edicts need be issued, no instructions need be given, no words need be said. “This is how we do things” becomes the explicit mantra of the company. “This is why we do things” becomes the implicit mantra of the company.

Product is easy to copy. The culture that produced the product is hard to copy ~ Alex Y. (@jitbit)

This gives the company a huge competitive advantage. The company instinctively, and almost effortlessly, solves problems that their competitors struggle to deal with.


Yes, culture is the solution…but it’s also the problem. Times change, but culture does not.

(W)hile a company can reinvent itself around new products and new categories, and continue to thrive, I believe culture is the sort of pie that can only be baked once. ~ Ben Thompson

Newly hired CEO’s of struggling companies are always talking about changing the company’s culture…

It’s tempting for execs of disrupted companies to focus on “changing culture”. It seems more doable than admitting the business is obsolete. ~ Ben Thompson

…but culture doesn’t change.

If you hear that a mountain has moved, believe; but if you hear that a corporation has changed its culture, believe it not. ~ pseudo ancient wisdom

When Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, he didn’t talk of changing Apple’s culture. He talked of returning Apple to its original culture.

One of the things that happened when we got back to Apple was, we said, Apple’s all confused. Apple’s forgotten what it is. Who is Apple? Why is Apple here?

What we’re going to do…is to get back to our core value. A lot of things have changed, the market’s a totally different place than it was a decade ago and Apple is totally different and Apple’s place in the market is totally different…but values, and core values — those things shouldn’t change. ~ Steve Jobs, 1997

Go back and re-read the last sentence of the above quote. It might be the most important quote in the entire series.

— Things change.
— Markets change.
— Apple changes.
— But Apple’s values, and core values…they should remain the same.

To forget one’s purpose is the commonest form of stupidity. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche


Pundits glibly talk about a company changing its strategy, but everything — including strategy — is built on top of culture. No strategy can survive if the underlying culture does not support it.

Let me stop here and repeat that, because it is really, really important and it is also really, really ignored by both the ignorant and the intelligent alike.

[pullquote] You can’t change your strategy unless your underlying culture supports the new strategy.[/pullquote]

You can’t change your strategy unless your underlying culture supports the new strategy.

Culture eats strategy over breakfast. ~ Peter Drucker

If a company is being asked to employ a strategy that is incompatible with its culture, they are not being asked to change themselves, they are being asked to change their very nature, their very being.

Company cultures are like country cultures. Never try to change one. Try, instead, to work with what you’ve got. ~ Peter Drucker

Asking a company to use a strategy that is incompatible with its culture is like asking a fish to fly or a hawk to swim. Yet this is exactly what the critics — smug in their naiveté — ask of Apple.


What is Apple’s “why”?

We do these things not because we are control freaks. We do them because we want to make great products, because we care about the user, and because we like to take responsibility for the entire experience rather than turn out the crap that other people make. ~ Steve Jobs

If you are working on something exciting that you really care about, you don’t have to be pushed. The vision pulls you. ~ Steve Jobs

Ideals are like stars; you will not succeed in touching them with your hands. But like the seafaring man on the desert of waters, you choose them as your guides, and following them you will reach your destiny. ~ Carl Schurz

Apple wants to make a significant contribution.

Our objective isn’t to make this design for this kind of price point, or for this arbitrary schedule, or line up other things or have X number of phones, it’s to build the best. … Can we make a significant contribution far beyond what others have done in this area? Can we make a product that we all want? ~ Tim Cook at AllThingsD

Apple wants to make things better.

Some people see innovation as change, but we have never really seen it like that. It’s making things better. ~ Tim Cook

Apple wants to be the bridge.

Apple has always been, and I hope it will always be, one of the premiere bridges between mere mortals and this very difficult technology. We may have the fastest PCs, which we do, we may have the most sophisticated machines, which we do. But the most important thing is that Apple is the bridge. ~ Steve Jobs, 1999

Apple wants to change the way you live your life.

We want to change the way you live your life. ~ Tim Cook

Apple wants to make the world a better place.

The competitors, like Commodore and Kaypro, were all doing speeds and feeds, whereas Steve always wanted things like “What is the significance in the world? How might this change things? ~ Steve Hayden, copywriter on the Apple account for Chiat\Day (later vice chairman of Ogilvy & Mather) ((Excerpt From: Max Chafkin. “Design Crazy.” iBooks. https://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewBook?id=697961602))

The reason I went back to Apple is that I feel like the world would be a better place with Apple in it than not. And it’s hard to imagine the world without Apple now. ~ Steve Jobs

Thank you for your support of this company. I think the world’s a better place for it. ~ Steve Jobs

Apple is a conspiracy to change the world. ((A great company is a conspiracy to change the world. ~ Peter Theil))

We said, “Well, these are our roots. This is why we’re here. The world doesn’t need another Dell or Compaq. They need an Apple.” ~ Steve Jobs

Critics take note. Not every company should do things the way Apple does. But neither should Apple do things the way every other company does. The world doesn’t need Apple to be Google or Facebook or Amazon. They need Apple to be Apple.


Tomorrow, part 7 of 7.

1. Who is Apple innovating for?
2. Where should Apple’s innovation be focused?
3. How does Apple innovate?
4. When should Apple introduce its innovations?
5. What does innovation inside of Apple look like to someone outside of Apple?
6. Why does Apple do what it does?
7. Why not be Apple?

Part 5: What Does Innovation Inside Of Apple Look Like To Someone Outside Of Apple?


This is part 5 of 7 in a series of articles that explores Innovation at Apple.

1. Who is Apple innovating for?
2. Where should Apple’s innovation be focused?
3. How does Apple innovate?
4. When should Apple introduce its innovations?
5. What does innovation inside of Apple look like to someone outside of Apple?
6. Why does Apple do what it does?
7. Why not be Apple?


What Does Innovation Inside Of Apple Look Like To Someone Outside Of Apple?


Critics say:

  • Apple cant’t innovate without Steve Jobs.
  • Apple used to be revolutionary, but now they’re merely evolutionary.
  • Apple hasn’t been innovating for years.
  • Apple isn’t innovating now.
  • Apple isn’t taking any risks.
  • Apple cannot replicate the success of the iPhone.
  • Apple isn’t built to compete in the brave new world of tech.


The above criticisms all have one thing in common. They are axiomatic. Apple can no longer innovate because Apple can no longer innovate. It’s self-evident. It’s unquestionable. It requires no proof.

And it’s a darn good thing that it requires no proof. Because there isn’t any.

I’m still sometimes startled how tech writers can take a thing from untested assertion to unquestioned ‘fact’ without any intermediate steps. ~ Benedict Evans on Twitter

The strongest argument — and the only argument — that the critics can advance is that Apple hasn’t introduced anything innovative since the iPhone. (Let’s just ignore the ten-ton elephant that is the iPad and the 900 pound gorilla that is the Apple Watch.)

But absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Just because we cannot catch sight of Apple innovating does not mean that Apple is not innovating out of sight.

They are ill discoverers that think there is no land, when they can see nothing but sea. ~ Francis Bacon


Companies like Samsung and Amazon are praised because they openly make product mistakes. Heck, Samsung throws so much spaghetti against the wall, they’re in danger of knocking the wall down. And Amazon? They positively flaunt their mistakes:

Amazon has some huge flops in the product pipeline and we can’t wait to show you them. ~ Jeff Bezos

I’m all for companies experimenting, failing, and learning from their mistakes.

Failure is success if we learn from it. ~ Malcolm Forbes

However, I get a bit queasy when I watch companies like Samsung and Amazon experiment on their customers, and then make their most trusting customers foot the bill for their mistakes.

Creating a culture that embraces failure is admirable…

Failure is an option here. If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough. ~ Elon Musk

…inflicting your failures upon your customers is not.

There is no link between learning from your mistakes and making others pay for your mistakes. The former can be done without the latter.

What distinguishes Apple from most other companies is that Apple, like Pixar, doesn’t release its mistakes. (At least not very often.) Both companies keep their experiments, their trials, and their failures in-house, behind closed doors, and away from the prying eyes of the public.

Pixar is praised for doing this. Apple is condemned.


Apple doesn’t talk about future products so the critics assume there are no future products to talk about. Apple says nothing, so the critics assume there is nothing to be said.

Why? Why would anyone assume such a thing?

It’s no secret that Apple is secretive.

Yeah. We don’t talk about the future of the company. (W)e’re fairly secretive. We don’t talk about products that are in the roadmap. ~ Tim Cook

So if Apple is secretive — and everyone knows it — then why are we surprised that we don’t know what Apple is working on? The surprise would be if we DID know what Apple was working on.

Just because Apple isn’t showing its hand, doesn’t mean they don’t have one. ~ paraphrasing Lee Carter (@d_leecarter) via Will Lea (@wlea1) ((The most interesting thing about all this Apple is doomed rhetoric is that ppl believe since Apple is not showing hand, they don’t have one. ~ Lee Carter (@d_leecarter) 5/22/16))

Apple hold’s their cards close to the vest ((The original idiom was “Close to the vest buttons.)). Just because they haven’t revealed their cards, doesn’t mean they don’t have cards to reveal.

Saying Apple isn’t innovating just because you don’t see it, and Apple doesn’t talk about it, is like saying Soviet Russia didn’t have any submarines just because you didn’t see them and the Soviets didn’t publish their whereabouts in Pravda.

Saying Apple isn’t innovating just because you don’t see it, is like saying sharks don’t exist until they break the surface of the water. (And then, their existence is suddenly all too real.)


What is up with the critics loudly and proudly proclaiming that ‘that which cannot be seen, cannot exist.’ Why would any intelligent person assert such an infantile notion, more less have the effrontery to label it as “analysis”?

I don’t mean to sound bitter, cold or cruel, but I am, so that’s how it comes out. ~ Bill Hicks’ words; my sentiments

Piaget postulated that during the early stages, infants are only aware of what is immediately in front of them. They focus on what they see, what they are doing, and physical interactions with their immediate environment.

Between ages 7 and 9 months, infants begin to realize that an object exists even if it can no longer be seen. This important milestone is known as object permanence.

Am I suggesting that Apple’s critics haven’t yet developed object permanence? That they only have the cognitive capacity of a 9 month old baby? Well…I dunno about that…

…but it would explain an awful lot.

Some drink from the fountain of knowledge Some just gargle.


OF COURSE, Apple is working on the next big thing.

OF COURSE Apple is taking moon shots.

OF COURSE Apple is experimenting.

OF COURSE Apple is making big bets and taking risks.

OF COURSE Apple is failing and learning, and failing and learning again.


Apple is no stranger to innovation. Their company was founded on it, floundered on it, and and then rode it to greatness. Apple knows full well, that the biggest risk of all is to take no risks.

I think if you do something and it turns out pretty good, then you should go do something else wonderful, not dwell on it for too long. Just figure out what’s next. ~ Steve Jobs

Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations. ~ Steve Jobs

In a company that was born to innovate, the risk is in not innovating. The real risk is to think it is safe to play it safe. ~ Jony Ive

Does that sound like a company that’s afraid to take risks?

Of course WORKING on the next big thing does not mean that you’re actually going to CREATE the next big thing. NO ONE IS GUARANTEED THAT. But you’d have to be a fool — or an Apple critic — to think Apple is just sitting around, twiddling their collective thumbs and waiting for somebody else’s next big thing to roll over them.

Criticism can be instructive, in that it gives some information about the critic’s intelligence. ~ Vladimir Nabokov


A scientist and his wife are out for a drive in the country. The wife says, “Oh, look! Those sheep have been shorn.”

“Yes,” says the scientist. “On this side.”

This joke, unlike most jokes, comes with a very fine explanation from the very fine, “Plato and a Platypus Walk Into a Bar.” ((iBooks. https://itun.es/us/CWj9A.l)) The explanation is a little long, but since it speaks so directly to flawed logic employed by Apple’s critics, I include it in its entirety:

“At first blush we might think that the scientist is taking the more cautious, more scientific view, in that he refuses to go beyond the evidence of his senses. But we would be wrong. It is actually the wife who has formulated what most scientists would consider the more scientific hypothesis. The “experience” of empiricists is not restricted to direct sensory experience. Scientists use their prior experiences to calculate probabilities and to infer more general statements. What the wife is in effect saying is, “What I see are sheep that are shorn, at least on this side. From prior experience I know that farmers do not generally shear sheep only on one side and that, even if this farmer did, the probability of the sheep arranging themselves on the hillside so that only their shorn sides face the road is infinitesimal. Therefore, I feel confident saying, ‘Those sheep have been completely shorn.’”

Let me repeat that last bit:

What I see are sheep that are shorn, at least on this side. From prior experience I know that farmers do not generally shear sheep only on one side and that, even if this farmer did, the probability of the sheep arranging themselves on the hillside so that only their shorn sides face the road is infinitesimal.

What I see is Apple being secretive. From prior experience I know that Apple does not suddenly stop innovating after achieving success, and the probability of every single C-level executive at Apple suddenly “forgetting” that innovation is an important part of what Apple does, and who Apple is, is infinitesimal.


Apple is like a duck on the water. Just because you can’t see a duck’s feet doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Just because you can’t see Apple working on the next big thing doesn’t mean they aren’t. The duck and Apple look like they’re just calmly drifting along, but out of our sight they’re both paddling like mad.

Apple is like an iceberg, it floats with one-seventh of its bulk above the water. ((The mind is like an iceberg, it floats with one-seventh of its bulk above water. ~ Sigmund Freud)) And just as the unseen part of the iceberg sank the Titanic, it is the unseen part of Apple that sinks its Titanic competitors.


What is madness? To have erroneous perceptions and to reason correctly from them. ~ Voltaire

If you honestly think that Apple suddenly decided to stop its internal efforts at innovation, then you are a few Rice Krispies shy of a bowl.

Without wisdom, knowledge is more stupid than ignorance.

Just because you can not see Apple innovating, does not mean that Apple is not innovating.


Tomorrow, part 6 of 7.

1. Who is Apple innovating for?
2. Where should Apple’s innovation be focused?
3. How does Apple innovate?
4. When should Apple introduce its innovations?
5. What does innovation inside of Apple look like to someone outside of Apple?
6. Why does Apple do what it does?
7. Why not be Apple?

Part 4: When Should Apple Introduce Its Innovations?


This is part 4 of 7 in a series of articles that explores Innovation at Apple.

1. Who is Apple innovating for?
2. Where should Apple’s innovation be focused?
3. How does Apple innovate?
4. When should Apple introduce its innovations?
5. What does innovation inside of Apple look like to someone outside of Apple?
6. Why does Apple do what it does?
7. Why not be Apple?


When Should Apple Introduce It’s Innovations?


“When” is not about when one should innovate. One should always be innovating.

You always have to keep pushing to innovate. ~ Steve Jobs

We’re constantly focusing on innovating. ~ Tim Cook, Acting Apple CEO, January 2009 FQ1 2009 Earnings Call

“When” is about the proper time to introduce one’s innovations to the world.


The critics want Apple to publish — just as Facebook does — a 10 year roadmap.

It’s my view…that with investors concerned that the company has hit an innovation wall…that a succinct product vision from the company, looking out a decade might very well excite investors. ~ By Dan, $AAPL – Or do you want to come with me and change the world?, April 27, 2016

If I am to become an Apple investor during this cyclical downturn, I’ll first want to have a better idea for their long term vision. ~ Dan Nathan, Bloomberg

Well get used to disappointment, ’cause a product roadmap ain’t going to happen.

Yeah. We don’t talk about the future of the company. (W)e’re fairly secretive. We don’t talk about products that are in the roadmap. ~ Tim Cook

Roadmaps work well for some companies, especially those companies that work hand in hand with partners. The roadmaps of Microsoft and Intel worked great because they allowed the two companies to coordinate their efforts and work toward a common goal. But why would Apple ever want to publish a roadmap?

For example, Apple was working on the iPhone for years and years and years before they released it in 2007. Imagine if they had laid out their plans for the iPhone in a roadmap published in 2003, or 2004, or 2005, or 2006. Who would that have benefited?

It might have made Apple’s investors happier — although I doubt it. It might have made Apple’s critics happier — although I SEVERELY doubt it. No, the only ones who would have been happier would have been Apple’s competitors. And Apple doesn’t want to make their competitors happier.


Critics think it would be just peachy-keen if Apple were to become less secretive, more open, and pre-announce more of their upcoming products in the same way that, say, Google does. They seem to conflate “pre-announcing” with “innovating”. In their warped world, announcing a product is virtually the same as shipping it.

And this is nothing new. Apple has been getting this same bad advice since forever. Below is a critic’s take (via Neil Cybart) written in 2001 that would look right at home if had been written in yesterday.

This was Apple criticism from 2001. Pretty much identical to Apple criticism in 2016. ~ Neil Cybart on Twitter

Apple does not need to guess what would happen if they started to pre-announce their products. They’ve already been there and done that. And it weren’t pretty.

I (Brian Maggi) started with Apple in 1992 on the Newton, which was a quasi top-secret project. Then Sculley did a demo at CES [the Consumer Electronics Show] with the Newton tethered to a IIfx, which was this monster Mac the size of a suitcase. That was the way Apple would do things. Be kind of secret, but the minute they got something working, barely working, they showed it to everybody. Then for two years you’d listen to people ask about where it is. ~ Brian Maggi, senior marketing manager for Apple (now a user-experience consultant) ((Excerpt From: Max Chafkin. “Design Crazy.” iBooks. https://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewBook?id=697961602))

CAPTION: Apple pre-announces the iPod

You want pre-announcing? I’ll give you pre-announcing. The most recent Google I/O was a pre-announcing Lollapalooza.

Everything at Google IO so far: Here is our answer to a rival’s product. Ours is way better. It will be out later this year. ~ Farhad Manjoo on Twitter

Was there anything other than Firebase / devtools announced in today’s keynote that will be available anything other than “later this year”?” ~ Jan Dawson on Twitter

Look, I don’t want it to sound like I’m being critical of Google. I want it to sound like I’m being critical of the critics that insist that Apple should be Google.

Google had a very good, very focused I/O this year. I was impressed. And pre-announcing sorta, kinda works for them. But pre-announcing most definitely does NOT work for most other companies and it wouldn’t suit Apple at all. Each to their own. Let Google be Google and let Apple be Apple.

Most company’s pursue innovation with such breathless haste that they hurry past it.


In addition to wanting Apple to announce products before they are finished, the critics — who have the patience of a lightening bolt — insist that Apple introduce the next big thing now, Now, NOW, before its too late.

Actually, that statement is not an entirely fair depiction of the critics’ position. Many of them don’t think Apple needs to introduce the next big thing now if Apple is to survive…

…they think it’s already too late. Apple is already no more than a walking corpse.

Two years ago, we warned that Apple was like a decapitated brain unaware that its body had died, but now the signs of rigor mortis are setting in and it is getting harder to deny. ~ “The decline of the Apple Cult comes to pass”, Nick Farrell, TechEye,

So we’re down to three, Amazon, Google and Facebook, Apple is over. ~ Bob Lefsetz, Apple’s Numbers, April 28, 2016

Apple may take some small comfort from the fact that the critics have ALWAYS said that Apple was falling behind, ALWAYS said that Apple was too late, ALWAYS said that Apple was doomed.

For example:

  • Remember how skydivers wearing Google Glass literally dropped in on Google I/O 2012?
  • Remember how the critics said Apple was terribly far behind Google in wearable technology?

Google glasses may look and seem absurd now but (Brian) Sozzi says they are “a product that is going to set the stage for many other interesting products.” For the moment, at least, the same cannot be said of iPhones or iPads.” ~ Jeff Macke, Yahoo! Breakout, 27 February 2013

  • Remember how critics said that Google was far too far ahead in face-worn technology for Apple to ever catch up?


Good times, good times.

Google has killed off so many projects — many of which were touted as “Apple killers” — that there is an entire website — the aptly named, “Google’s Graveyard” — devoted to tracking their demise. Google is living proof that premature product introductions — far from being a guarantor of success, are far more often a harbinger of disaster.

It is not the going out of port, but the coming in, that determines the success of a voyage. ~ Henry Ward Beecher


Apple’s critics want roadmaps, pre-announcements and premature product introductions. They insist that if Apple doesn’t start doing these things — and start doing them now — Apple is doomed, at worst, or destined to stagnate, wither, and fade away, at best.

I guess the critics are right. Apple has to jump in early. It’s not like Apple could wait to introduce an iPod until long after the MP3 market existed, or wait to introduce an iPhone until long after mobile phones existed, or wait to introduce an iPad until long after tablets existed…

…oh, wait….?

What Apple’s critics stubbornly fail, or refuse, to acknowledge — even though the evidence before them is overwhelming — is that it’s not first that matters, it’s first to get it right.

The critics want Apple to invent the next big thing. But Apple doesn’t invent. They never have invented. They reinvent.

Japan’s [tech companies are] very interesting. Some people think it copies things. I don’t think that anymore. I think what they do is reinvent things. They will get something that’s already been invented and study it until they thoroughly understand it. In some cases, they understand it better than the original inventor [emphasis added]. ~ Steve Jobs

In his article entitled: “Has Apple become a follower?“, Charles Arthur beautifully sums up the flaw in the contention that “Apple is late to market’:

Apple could be accused of being a follower: out of ideas, late to the market. But time and again it has shown that its attention to usability can win over customers.

Don’t write Apple off yet: it follows from the front [emphasis added]. ~ Charles Arthur


Apple’s critics want innovation to occur on demand because they do not understand what innovation is. If innovation were just a matter of time, effort, money and willpower, then why wouldn’t Apple have introduced the Macintosh — instead of the Apple I — in 1976? Why wouldn’t they have introduced the iPhone — instead of the iPod — in 2001? Why wouldn’t they have introduced the iPod in 1997 upon Steve Jobs return to Apple? I’ll let Jon Rubinstein answer that last one:

I would do regular visits a couple of times a year with all of our suppliers. We’d go through an in-depth review of all the products they were doing and see how they fit into our product road map. We went into Toshiba, and at the end of the meeting they showed us the 1.8-inch hard drive. They didn’t know what to do with it. I said, “We’ll take all you can make.” I went to Steve and I said, “Hey, I’m gonna need about ten million bucks.” ~ Jon Rubinstein

The iPod was a weaving together of many separate things but without the tiny 1.8 inch hard drive — which had never before existed — the iPod would not have been possible.

It seems to take a very unique combination of technology, talent, business and marketing and luck to make significant change in our industry. It hasn’t happened that often. ~ Steve Jobs

It takes a confluence of events — and a lotta luck — to create a groundbreaking product. You could have given Steve Jobs the schematics for the Macintosh, the iPod and the iPhone in 1976 and he couldn’t have built them. The technology — and the underlying infrastructure necessary to support that technology — simply didn’t exist.

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens.
~ Ecclesiastes 3

To every product, there is a time, there is a season.

[pullquote]The best time to introduce a new product is when the product is ready for the market and the market is ready for the product[/pullquote]

No innovation should be introduced before its time. To do otherwise is sheer folly. It is not the company — and most certainly not the critic — that dictates when innovations should be released. The best time to introduce a new product is when the product is ready for the market and the market is ready for the product.

Asking a company to create the next breakthrough product before the infrastructure is in place, is like asking a baseball player to hit a grand slam when there are no men on base.

Asking a company to produce the next breakthrough product every couple of years is like asking a woman to give birth every couple of months.

Asking a company to introduce technology before the supporting technology is available is like asking a surfer to ride a wave that has not yet arrived.

Asking a company to produce a product before it’s time is like asking crops to mature before the harvest.

Asking a company to remove a product from the laboratory and introduce it to the market before its done is like asking a master chef to take a soufflé out of the oven before it is fully baked. It’s going to fall flat.

When it came to introducing products, Steve Jobs had incredible patience. And now Tim Cook is being criticized for not being enough like Steve Jobs because he is displaying the very same patience that Steve Jobs did.

Patience is necessary, and one cannot reap immediately where one has sown. ~ Soren Kierkegaard

Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet. ~ Jean Jacques Rousseau

With time and patience the mulberry leaf becomes a silk gown. ~ Chinese Proverb

When it comes to the “when” of product introductions, Apple (usually) waits until the time is right. So far, it’s been well worth the wait.

Author’s note: By a happy coincidence, Tim Bajarin also published an article on Innovation today. Highly recommended. You can find it here.


Tomorrow, part 5 of 7.

1. Who is Apple innovating for?
2. Where should Apple’s innovation be focused?
3. How does Apple innovate?
4. When should Apple introduce its innovations?
5. What does innovation inside of Apple look like to someone outside of Apple?
6. Why does Apple do what it does?
7. Why not be Apple?

Part 3: How Does Apple Innovate?


This is part 3 of 7 in a series of articles that explores Innovation at Apple.

1. Who is Apple innovating for?
2. Where should Apple’s innovation be focused?
3. How does Apple innovate?
4. When should Apple introduce its innovations?
5. What does innovation inside of Apple look like to someone outside of Apple?
6. Why does Apple do what it does?
7. Why not be Apple?


How does Apple Innovate?


Apple is great at making incremental improvements to their products, but where Apple really excels is in the creation of user interfaces. All of Apple’s groundbreaking products have user interfaces that simplify the user’s interaction with their technology.

In a very real sense, Apple is a user interface company.


Examples include the Apple I and II (combining the keyboard input with the video display output), the Macintosh (mouse and GUI), the Powerbook (recessed keyboard and trackpad), the iPod (shuttlewheel) and the iPhone and iPad (multitouch).

More recently, Apple has introduced:

1) The Touch ID fingerprint scanner.

2) The Apple Watch, which included three new user interfaces: the digital crown, the taptic engine and force touch (now 3D touch).

3) 3D Touch — which lets you press a little harder on the screen to access hidden menus — has migrated from the watch to the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus.


In retrospect, there are two ways to know whether or not user interface was a true game changer:

1) It becomes the industry standard; and
2) It lasts for a long, long time.

Industry Standard: For a user interface to be considered a true game changer, it must become an industry standard. The shift from the old to the new is dramatic. Before the introduction of the new user interface, no one was using it. After the introduction of the user interface no one is using anything else.

That is exactly what happened with Apple’s most iconic products.

After the Apple I, the video monitor became a fixture on computers. After the Powerbook, all notebook computers standardized on recessed keyboards and trackpads. For legal reasons, competitors could not adopt the iPod’s shuttlewheel, but they often created pseudo shuttlewheels that had the same look, but none of the same functionality of the iPod. That’s dominance. Finally, before the iPhone, mobile phones all had keyboards and they all looked different. After the iPhone, all phones became glass covered rectangles. Same with the tablets.

Longevity: The second way to know whether a design got it right or not is longevity.

Good design doesn’t date. ~ Harry Seidler

Great design lasts. You can tell when a design captures the essence of a product by its longevity. Not only does the design become an industry standard, but it remains the standard for a significant period of time.

That is exactly what has happened with all of Apple’s most iconic user interface designs.

Desktops still use mice, notebooks still use trackpads, MP3 players have become moot, but no design other than the shuttlewheel ever caught on, and phones and tablets are all rectangular pieces of glass with a multitouch input.

Good design is long-lasting. It avoids being fashionable and therefore never appears antiquated. Unlike fashionable design, it lasts many years – even in today’s throwaway society. ~ Dieter Rams


With the Apple I, the Macintosh and the iPhone, Apple didn’t so much create new devices, as they created new device categories.

I have a great respect for incremental improvement, and I’ve done that sort of thing in my life, but I’ve always been attracted to the more revolutionary changes. I don’t know why. Because they’re harder. They’re much more stressful emotionally. And you usually go through a period where everybody tells you that you’ve completely failed. ~ Steve Jobs

We all know the quote about how Wayne Gretzky skated to where the puck was going to be, but that’s not what Apple did at all. With each new interface, Apple left the skating rink entirely and started a whole new game. A new game where they usually gained an insurmountable advantage over their competitors. In essence, Apple made their competitors come to them and play on their home court.


This is pure speculation on my part, but I think Apple felt that they had gotten burnt in their patent war with Samsung. (Not that Samsung felt great about it either.)

The patents were difficult to maintain, winning in court was problematic, the publicity generated by the court cases was unfavorable, the damages were not large enough to deter future patent infringements and the courts moved so slowly that the patents were moot long before the, now mostly useless, verdicts came in.

Since patents had failed to provide Apple with the deterrence it sought, I think they decided to switch tactics and to rely, instead on their design prowess and the advantages inherent in an integrated hardware/software model. Thus was born Touch ID, 3D Touch and the Taptic engine.

Touch ID is in the same conversation as the mouse, click-wheel, and multi-touch, but arguably harder to copy. ~ Ben Thompson on Twitter

These products were not protected by the laws of man. They were protected by the laws of physics. Competitors would surely try to copy Apple’s innovations, but they would be physically unable to do so until they made hardware and software as well as Apple did. And that is a very high hurdle indeed.

Apple turned away from the courts of law and turned instead to a higher court where physical reality provided a quick, immutable and final verdict with no opportunity for appeal.


If you want to know why Apple may fail, look no further than user interfaces.

While the Apple I, the Macintosh, the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad were all game changers, all of Apple’s recent user interface changes have been underwhelming. There are troubling signs that these user interfaces — which were introduced with such promise — may never live up to their potential.

Touch ID is nice, but it’s not a game changer. It is, at best, an incremental update that provides Apple with a subtle advantage over its competitors.

Apple Watch simultaneously introduced three new user interfaces. The trio of user interfaces are off to an exceedingly slow start. Far from being intuitive — which is Apple’s claim to fame — Apple Watch owners have struggled to master the watch’s nuances. Some Apple Watch owners don’t even use the digital crown, which is as clear a design failure as ever there was.

3D Touch started as force touch on the Apple Watch and migrated to the phone with the debut of the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus. Introduced with much fanfare, I think Apple had great hopes for 3D Touch, but so far, it has underwhelmed. Some users have found it far less helpful than they had originally anticipated, while others have abandoned its use altogether. (See: “The trouble with 3D Touch, Jason Snell, Macworld, April 8, 2016.)

Perhaps most troubling of all is the fact that Apple didn’t even bother to include 3D Touch on the recently released iPhone SE. If a user interface is going to be a groundbreaker, a game changer, a competitive advantage, you do not leave it off your brand new phone offerings.

Voice interface: While Apple got off to a very strong start in voice interface with the introduction of Siri, they have done little since and are the clear laggards in this important interface arena.

Apple led the graphical UI, and the touch computing UI. Not leading the Voice UI though..” ~ Ben Bajarin on Twitter


Still, it’s early days for these new Apple interfaces.

Touch ID enabled Apple to successfully roll out Apple Pay, and that is no small thing. It’s also a big deal when it comes to privacy and privacy is becoming a bigger issue every day. Ultimately, Touch ID is laying the foundation for future product offerings.

Of course Apple is slowly creating building blocks for letting you use & control that identity. Touch ID has a long way more to run ~ Benedict Evans on Twitter

It’s true that the Apple Watch and 3D touch aren’t setting the world on fire…

…but then again, neither did the Macintosh mouse or the iPhone multitouch when they were first introduced.

The Macintosh uses an experimental pointing device called a ‘mouse’. There is no evidence that people want to use these things ~ John C. Dvorak, May 1984.

iPhone which doesn’t look, I mean to me, I’m looking at this thing and I think it’s kind of trending against, you know, what’s really going, what people are really liking on, in these phones nowadays, which are those little keypads. I mean, the Blackjack from Samsung, the Blackberry, obviously, you know kind of pushes this thing, the Palm, all these… And I guess some of these stocks went down on the Apple announcement, thinking that Apple could do no wrong, but I think Apple can do wrong and I think this is it. ~ John C. Dvorak, 13 January 2007

I can’t believe the hype being given to iPhone. Even some of my blindly-loyal pro-Microsoft friends and colleagues talk like it’s a real innovation and will “redefine the market” or “usher in a new age”.

What!?!? […] I just have to wonder who will want one of these things (other than the religious faithful). People need this to be a phone, first and foremost. But with 5 hours of battery life? No keypad? (you try typing a phone number on that screen, no matter how wonderful it is — you will want a keypad). And for all that whiz-bang Internet access, you absolutely need the phone to work, immediately, every single time. Will it do that?

So please mark this post and come back in two years to see the results of my prediction: I predict they will not sell anywhere near the 10M Jobs predicts for 2008. ~ Richard Sprague, Senior Marketing Director, Microsoft, January 2007

Okay, so perhaps user interfaces take a little while to grow on us. So let’s not jump to any hasty conclusions and give Apple’s new user interface offerings some more time before we rush to judgment.


The biggest danger facing Apple may be their inability to create new user interfaces of the same caliber as the Apple I, Macintosh and iPod. But new user interfaces are their greatest opportunity too. If Apple has a next breakthrough product, it’s likely to be because that product is designed to employ yet another breakthrough in user interface.

As for the electric car… Assuming they’re building one, Steve didn’t focus on me-too products, but breakthrough products. And the breakthrough is in driverless cars, and Google dominates there. ~ Bob Lefsetz, Apple’s Numbers

This is the kind of profoundly ignorant thinking that epitomizes the way many of Apple’s critics view Apple. They assume that Apple’s future opportunities are limited by their own stunted ability to foresee the future. Like mental midgets, they think that if they can’t see over a fence, then no one else can possibly see over it either.

Apple should take the sage advice of that well known worldly philosopher…Dolly Parton:

I’m not going to limit myself just because people won’t accept the fact that I can do something else. ~ Dolly Parton

And then there’s this:

People tend to fear what they do not know, and what they fear they dislike. ~ Dolly Parton

And wait, there’s more!

Find out who you are and do it on purpose. ~ Dolly Parton

Dolly Parton — guru, sage. Who woulda thunk it?


If Apple is coming out with a new car — and I have no idea what they’re up to — don’t think “car”. That’s too limiting. Think user interface. If you want to imagine Apple’s future, re-imagine the car with a whole new user interface.

Here is what Tim Cook had to say to Jim Cramer in a recent interview:

JIM CRAMER: I will need something else?

TIM COOK: You will need something else.

JIM CRAMER: I can’t think of something else that I need.

TIM COOK: But we are going to give you things that you can’t live without that you just don’t know you need today.

JIM CRAMER: Ok that’s what I want.

TIM COOK: That has always been the objective of Apple. To do things that really enrich people’s lives. That you look back on and you wonder how did I live without this.

Whatever Apple is cooking up in Cupertino, Tim Cook is promising us that it’s going to be something we don’t know we need, but can’t live without. Let’s hope that he — and Apple — can keep that promise.

I can hardly wait to find out.


Tomorrow, part 4 of 7.

1. Who is Apple innovating for?
2. Where should Apple’s innovation be focused?
3. How does Apple innovate?
4. When should Apple introduce its innovations?
5. What does innovation inside of Apple look like to someone outside of Apple?
6. Why does Apple do what it does?
7. Why not be Apple?

Part 2: Where Should Apple’s Innovation Be Focused?


This is part 2 of 7 in a series of articles that explores Innovation at Apple.

1. Who is Apple innovating for?
2. Where should Apple’s innovation be focused?
3. How does Apple innovate?
4. When should Apple introduce its innovations?
5. What does innovation inside of Apple look like to someone outside of Apple?
6. Why does Apple do what it does?
7. Why not be Apple?


Where should Apple’s innovation be focused?


Critics seem to think that Apple needs to do more, to try more, to risk more, to say ‘yes’ to more, to fail more, to take more ‘moon shots.’…

The history of success is one of great leaps of faith, big risks. … And we haven’t seen any risk from Apple in a long time. ~ Bob Lefsetz, Apple’s Numbers, 2016/04/27

I will offer a suggestion. To thrive in the next era of tech, Apple needs to take a series of bigger, bolder risks. … It should be more nimble and slightly more public with its experiments, and push more of them out sooner. When it releases stuff, it should move faster to fix and improve what is wrong. Above all, it should take more risks; it should say yes more often. … What it doesn’t have quite yet is enough of an appetite for the speed and risks that come with creating and maintaining new services. ~ Farhad Manjoo, Apple, Set to Move to Its Spaceship, Should Try More Moonshots, May 4, 2016

…but that’s not how Apple rolls.


First, no company is good at everything. If you’re good at everything, you’re good for nothing.

The abilities of man must fall short on one side or other, like too scanty a blanket. ~ Sir William Temple

Demanding a company do everything well is asking them to be the best at nothing. ~ Ben Thompson (@benthompson) 9/7/14

A company does best that which it does most.

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. ~ Aristotle

Apple — and every other company — should focus on doing those things that they do best and — just as importantly — those things that others do poorly or not at all.

If you don’t have a competitive advantage, don’t compete. ~ Jack Welch

Never do things others can do and will do if there are things others cannot do or will not do. ~ Dawson Trottman

What another would have done as well as you, do not do it. … Be faithful to that which exists nowhere but in yourself — and thus make yourself indispensable. ~ André Gide


Second, what Apple is famous for — and what Apple is infamous for — is focusing on just a handful of projects.

Focusing is powerful. A start-up’s focus is very clear. Focus is not saying yes. It is saying no to really great ideas. ~ Steve Jobs

People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things. ~ Steve Jobs, WWDC 1997

What did I learn from (Steve Jobs)? We could be here all night, probably all week, maybe even a month. I learned focus is key, not just in running a company but in your personal life as well. That you should do only a certain number of things great, and you should cast aside the rest. ~ Tim Cook

We believe in saying no to thousands of projects so that we can really focus on the few that are truly important and meaningful to us. ~ Tim Cook, Acting Apple CEO, January 2009 FQ1 2009 Earnings Call

We don’t believe we can do things at the level of quality and link things as we want to between hardware, software and services so seamlessly if we do a lot of stuff. So we’re going to stick with our knitting with only doing a few things and doing them great. ~ Tim Cook

Just get rid of the crappy stuff and focus on the good stuff. ~ Steve Jobs [Advice given to Nike CEO Mark Parker]

What are the five products you want to focus on? Get rid of the rest, because they’re dragging you down. ~ Steve Jobs

If you really want to know what focus means to Apple, watch the first 1:45 of this 3-minute Jony Ive video from November 11, 2014. At the 1:00 minute mark, pay particular attention to what Jony Ive says about “saying no.”

Power is not revealed by striking hard or often, but by striking true. ~ Honore de Balzac

STOP! I know and you know and we both know you skipped the video. Go back and watch it RIGHT NOW. Skip ahead to the one-minute mark if you’re so pressed for time. But watch it. You’ll thank me later. Who knows, you may even thank me now.


Third, not only does Apple prefer to focus on just a few things, it prefers to focus on just a few BIG things.

We are inventing the future. Think about surfing on the front edge of a wave. It’s really exhilarating. Now think about dog-paddling at the tail end of that wave. It wouldn’t be anywhere near as much fun. Come down here and make a dent in the universe. [said to a job applicant] ~ Steve Jobs

We’re here to put a dent in the universe. Otherwise, why else even be here? ~ Steve Jobs

At Apple, we were always asking, What else can we revolutionize? ~ Tony Fadell, now CEO of Nest Labs

I have a great respect for incremental improvement, and I’ve done that sort of thing in my life, but I’ve always been attracted to the more revolutionary changes. I don’t know why. Because they’re harder. They’re much more stressful emotionally. And you usually go through a period where everybody tells you that you’ve completely failed. ~ Steve Jobs

Every once in a while a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything. It’s very fortunate if you can work on just one of these in your career. Apple’s been very fortunate in that it’s introduced a few of these. ~ Steve Jobs

As long as you’re going to be thinking anyway, think big. ~ Donald Trump

Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir man’s blood. ~ Daniel Burnham


The critics want Apple to take more moon shots. I don’t know why. It certainly hasn’t done Google any good.

Google’s moon shots look more like a disease than a cure. It’s hard not to look at Google’s extravagant expenditures without being reminded of Microsoft’s meandering, and ultimately pointless, research efforts in the late 90s and early 2000s. Microsoft suffered, and Google suffers, from having too much money and too little direction. The ‘moon shots’ that pundits so admire don’t strike me as admirable attempts at exploration. They look more like a desperate attempt by Google to hit a target they cannot see.

The odds of hitting your target go up dramatically when you aim at it. ~ Mal Pancoast

Begin with the End in Mind ~ Stephen Covey, author of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”

Apple has their own version of moon shots, but they do them the Neil Armstrong way.

You only have to solve two problems when going to the moon: first, how to get there; and second, how to get back. The key is don’t leave until you have solved both problems. ~ Neil Armstrong

The difference between Apple’s moonshots and Google’s, is that Google knows how to launch a product. Apple knows how to stick the landing.

It is not the going out of port, but the coming in, that determines the success of a voyage. ~ Henry Ward Beecher


More advice from Farhad Manjoo:

Apple’s last decade and a half, mostly under Mr. Jobs, has been defined by perfectionist focus. As its executives and marketing videos repeatedly boast, Apple says no to a thousand ideas before it says yes to one. That attitude was perfectly suited to a particular era in tech — the rise of mobile devices, which were the ultimate expression of Apple’s expertise in creating jewel-like hardware.
But the next moment in tech is likely to be dominated by data-driven online services — more products like Siri and Apple Pay, fewer stand-alone hardware innovations like the iPhone.
In that environment, the slow search for precision and perfection might no longer be in Apple’s best interest. ~ Farhad Manjoo, Apple, Set to Move to Its Spaceship, Should Try More Moonshots, May 4, 2016

In other words, times have changed and what worked for Apple in the past won’t work for Apple today or in the future.

I like Farhad Manjoo’s work and I have a lot of respect for his opinion. However, in this instance, I think he’s got the wrong end of the stick. There will always be a place for products and services created by “the slow search for precision and perfection.” Just because that place isn’t every product and every service in every instance, does not mean that “precision and perfection” aren’t appropriate for some products and some services in some instances. Apple will cede the fast and the furious to their competitors and focus their efforts on the slow and the sublime.

There never has been, and there never will be, a time when well thought through, quality products and services weren’t, and aren’t, appreciated by a segment of the buying public.


Let’s step into the wayback machine and explore a cautionary tale from Oct. 21, 1879.

It is well known that Thomas Edison — who may well have been viewed of as the Steve Jobs of his day — was the inventor of the electric lightbulb. It is well known — but it is also completely untrue. Thomas Edison did not invent the lightbulb. Electric lights — as an alternative to gaslight — were being used on a street-wide scale long before Edison entered the field.

[pullquote]I have not failed. I’ve just found 6,000 ways that won’t work. ~ Thomas Alva Edison[/pullquote]

Edison’s great insight into — and his great contribution to — the lightbulb was realizing that the tricky part would be choosing a filament that would be durable but inexpensive. Rather than enter the market half-cocked, Edison retreated to his laboratory where he and his team in Menlo Park, New Jersey, meticulously tested more than 6,000 possible materials before finding one to fit the bill: carbonized bamboo.

[As an aside, I feel confident that had today’s tech analysts been reporting on Edison and his team during the time when the they was conducting their experiments, the pundits would have confidently interpreted Edison’s seeming lack of activity as proof positive that “Innovation at Menlo Park is dead.”]

Edison didn’t invent the first lightbulb. Edison invented the first lightbulb that was practical, and affordable for home illumination. Edison wasn’t first, he was first to get it right. So it is Edison who got all the credit, got all the glory, got most all the profits, and it is Edison who is remembered as having invented the lightbulb on Oct. 21, 1879.

Apple didn’t invent the first computer, the first MP3 player, the first mobile phone, the first tablet. They weren’t first. They were first to get it right. And they did it, not by exploring 6,000 products, but by exploring 6,000 ways to perfect one product.

If you think there isn’t a place in today’s time — as there was in Edison’s time — for goods and services that are lovingly designed and meticulously crafted, then you are a very dim bulb indeed.

We believe that customers are smart, and want objects, which are well thought through. ~ Steve Jobs


Tomorrow, part 3 of 7.

1. Who is Apple innovating for?
2. Where should Apple’s innovation be focused?
3. How does Apple innovate?
4. When should Apple introduce its innovations?
5. What does innovation inside of Apple look like to someone outside of Apple?
6. Why does Apple do what it does?
7. Why not be Apple?

Part 1: Who Is Apple Innovating For?

These days, there are a lot of questions swirling around Apple and the biggest question of all is whether Apple has forgotten how to innovate.

Of course, this question is not new.

CAPTION: February 1996

The company once notorious for its ability to upend convention and revolutionize markets may no longer have what it takes, worry some technology journalists. Call it the iPad or the iPlod, but the message seems clear: Apple may have lost its mojo. ~ Jeremy A. Kaplan, FOXNews.com, 28 January 2010

I was talking recently to someone who knew Apple well, and I asked him if the people now running the company would be able to keep creating new things the way Apple had under Steve Jobs. His answer was simply ‘no.’ I already feared that would be the answer. I asked more to see how he’d qualify it. But he didn’t qualify it at all. No, there will be no more great new stuff beyond whatever’s currently in the pipeline. So if Apple’s not going to make the next iPad, who is? ~ Paul Graham, March 2012

Two years ago I wrote that without its charismatic founder, Apple would move from being a great company with high growth and high innovation to being a good company with moderate growth and attenuated innovation. After this week’s set of announcements, I stand by that analysis. ~ George Colony, Bloomberg, “Apple Follows” September 2, 2014

Key take aways: Innovation at Apple is over… Just incremental improvements, nothing ground breaking. The best is over for Apple. iPad mini is playing catch up to Google Android, probably will have a mediocre customer adoption. ~ Trip Chowdhry, Global Equities, 23 October 2012

Remember when the iPhone was truly innovative? Think hard, because you’d have to go back to 2007, and the release of the first iPhone. But since then, Apple has been tossing out retread after retread, and this year’s iPhone 5C and iPhone 5S represent a curious creative nadir for the firm. A new Windows Phone video shows how hard Apple must have worked to come up with these turds. Hint: Not that hard. ~ Paul Thurrott, Supersite for Windows, 13 September 2013

Apple’s innovation problem is real. And it’s unlikely to silence the critics if it simply unveils multi-colored iPhones on Tuesday. Rivals have caught up to Apple in the markets it once dominated, and the tech giant’s rumored future products appear to be more evolutionary than revolutionary. ~ Julianne Pepitone and Adrian Covert, CNNMoneyTech, 8 September 2013

They only have 60 days left to either come up with [an iWatch] or they will disappear. –Trip Chowdhry >[Written in April, 2014, one year before the Apple Watch became available.]

Apple lacks innovation, it copies. ~ Denise Garcia, CNBC, Thursday, 24 Mar 2016

While the more affordable products are seen as buying Apple time until its more blockbuster hardware event in September, Apple’s bigger problem is innovation. The company continues to be criticized for failing to innovate in the same way it did when Steve Jobs ran the company.

It has released just one new product category, the Apple Watch, since Tim Cook took the reins in 2011…. ~ Jennifer Booton, Apple sacrifices innovation for mistier market, Mar 23, 2016

The deeper question is whether Apple can keep its place as the North Star of the tech firmament. Can the company build the next great platform in computing, as it did the last one? Are its best days ahead of it, as Timothy D. Cook, the chief executive, insists — or is the new campus the capstone of an era of Apple dominance that we will never see again? ~ Farhad Manjoo, Apple, Set to Move to Its Spaceship, Should Try More Moonshots, May 4, 2016

Apple has always been renowned for being innovative and setting the rules for others to follow. … Ever since the Jobs’ death, Apple has repeatedly failed to truly innovate and offer something in the market, something that the users have never experienced before. ~ Ken Bock, Has Apple Inc. Lost Its Mojo After The Death Of Steve Jobs?, May 24, 2016

Stated simply, I don’t see any present innovation or prospective creativity at Apple. … Innovation is slowing and competitive threats are mounting. … Indeed, Facebook (FB) and Amazon (AMZN) are already challenging Apple’s position as the world’s most popular company.  For many like myself, Apple is already a distant third. ~ Doug’s Daily Diary, Apple in Wonderland (April 27, 2016)

So, are the critics right? Has Apple forgotten how to innovate?

Or, is it we who have forgotten how Apple innovates?


This is part 1 of 7 in a series of articles that explores Innovation at Apple.

1. Who is Apple innovating for?
2. Where should Apple’s innovation be focused?
3. How does Apple innovate?
4. When Should Apple Introduce Its Innovations?
5. What does innovation inside of Apple look like to someone outside of Apple?
6. Why does Apple do what it does?
7. Why not be Apple?


Who is Apple Innovating For?


Critics seem to think Apple needs to create the next breakthrough product in order to satisfy their desires and the demands of stockholders. Let me be frank: If Apple brings out a product or service because the critics or the stockholders say they have to…then Apple is screwed.

If shareholders imagine companies exist for their benefit, they’re delirious. ~ Horace Dediu (@asymco)

It’s important to remember that the opinions of tech writers… are of no consequence to these companies. ~ @natebarham

(N)either Wall Street nor the tech press have any bearing on what matters. ~ Horace Dediu on Twitter May 16, 2016


Apple doesn’t do what it does for the critics or the shareholders. Apple is customer-centric. They put the customer, not the company — and certainly not the critics or the stockholders — at the center of their decision-making process. Apple bases everything on understanding their customers’ problems and what their customers might want or need in order to solve those problems.

Our DNA is as a consumer company, for that individual customer who’s voting thumbs up or thumbs down. That’s who we think about. ~ Steve Jobs

(T)he most important thing is that customers love our products and they are using them and the satisfaction has never been higher and the loyalty rates have never been higher. And that is what is really important for us. That’s the most important thing for the long term of Apple. ~ Tim Cook

As James Allworth argues in his HBR article, Steve Jobs Solved the Innovator’s Dilemma, the most profound contribution Steve Jobs made was in demonstrating a radically new way of a running a company: the goal of the firm shifts from making money for the shareholders to delighting the customer.


Perhaps you’re thinking ‘Hey, every company is customer-centric.’ Not so. It’s not always easy to discern why buyers buy what they buy. The entire field of ‘Jobs To Be Done’ was created for the precise purpose of tackling this very thorny issue. The truth is, what seller’s sell and what buyer’s buy are, far too often, two very different things.

Examples abound. Take the Microsoft Kin, or Windows RT, or Google Glass or the Nexus Q…



It’s never easy to perfectly match what the seller sells with what the buyer buys, but a customer-centered approach — like the one Apple uses — helps to align the product design with the purchaser’s desire.


Knowing the customer comes first is a huge part of Apple’s success. However, it is not enough to know your customer comes first. You must also first know your customer.

The technology isn’t the hard part. The hard part is…[determining] who’s the customer. ~ Steve Jobs

‘Who’s the customer?’, is a question that is not asked — and therefore is not answered — nearly enough.


Let’s start with who Apple does not target. Apple does not target ‘everyone, everywhere.’

I am hearing disturbing rumours that Apple is selling a [product] that’s not right for everyone’s needs. ~ Benedict Evans @BenedictEvans

‘Everyone’ is not a target — it’s the opposite of a target. Targeting everyone is targeting no one and it’s one of the surest ways for a business to fail.

I cannot give you the formula for success, but I can give you the formula for failure–which is: Try to please everybody. ~ Herbert Bayard Swope

Apple targets only a small segment of the total market.

It is not Apple or Google’s job, or skill, to fix every vaguely Internet-related UX you’re unhappy with. Mostly they stick to their knitting ~ Benedict Evans (@BenedictEvans) 10/17/14

And that’s okay.

Today’s reminder: just because Apple makes a product that doesn’t meet your personal needs, that doesn’t make it a crappy product. ~ jcieplinski on Twitter

So, if Apple doesn’t target everyone, who do they target?

Say what you will about Apple…but it knows its market. And so do you, probably. Quick, picture an iPhone user. You’re probably picturing somebody young-ish, urban. Somebody who likes a simple user experience that doesn’t change much from model to model. Somebody who admires good industrial design, and who has the money to fit a $600-$800 phone into their budget.

Now, picture a [competitor’s] user. It’s much harder [to do]. ~ C. Custer, TechInAsia

Apple targets that part of the market that buys with intent. And Apple eschews that part of the market that buys by default.

Apple targets those who value their time a little more and their money a little less; those who value raw power a little less and ease of use a little more; those who care a little more and care to pay a little more.

Has Apple been successful in attracting the customers who care?

Damn straight they have.

PCs mostly had people who cared but mobile has everyone, including lots of people who don’t care at all. Apple has most of those who do care. ~ Benedict Evans (@BenedictEvans) 11/29/14

The value of smartphone users is distributed on a curve and Apple has most of the best ones. This has been clear for years ~ Benedict Evans (@BenedictEvans)

Does Apple get every customer they target? Of course not. There are many people who actively choose competing products and those are precisely the prospective customers Apple seeks to acquire. Apple does not, however, seek to acquire the penny pincher or the passive purchaser.

The paradox is that it’s the open, geeky OS that’s given to non-techy late adopters & vice versa ~ Benedict Evans (@BenedictEvans)

[pullquote]Those who do not pay more to get more, pay less to get less[/pullquote]

That’s not really a paradox. That’s the way of the world. Some people are willing to pay to avoid the open, geeky OS. Some people are not. Those who do not pay more to get more, pay less to get less.

And just because there is a small, but vocal, minority who PREFER the geeky OS and who are willing to pay MORE for the geeky OS, does not make any of the above any less true.

Think of it this way. Apple runs a five star restaurant. The fact most people eat at McDonald’s does not make the proprietor of the five star restaurant ‘unpopular,’ ‘clueless,’ or — more to the point — profitless.

In mobile, selling a niche-high-end product turns out to make you the biggest company on earth. ~ Benedict Evans on Twitter

And the fact that many people actually PREFER the food served at McDonalds over the food served in a five star restaurant (you know who you are) does not make the patrons of the five star restaurant cultists, religious fanatics, sheep or mindless fanboys.

In [computing] as in love, we are astonished at what is chosen by others. ~ paraphrasing André Maurois

I like chez Applé, you like McAndroids. It’s all good. Eat. Enjoy.


Apple’s target market is niche, yes, but it is larger than most observers realize. It is not just those who are currently interested in — and able to afford — Apple products. Apple products are aspirational. Not everyone can afford them but many desire them and will acquire them when they are able.

And we’ve found that all throughout the world, there were so many people advising us…that people weren’t going to pay for a great product there. Well, let me tell you, it’s a bunch of bull! It’s not true! People everywhere in this world want a great product. And that doesn’t mean that everyone, every single person in the world can afford one yet. But everyone wants one [emphasis added]. And so, if we do our jobs right, and keep making great products, I think there’s a pretty good business there for us. ~ Tim Cook

(T)here are a lot of people in the world who don’t have the pleasure of owning an iPhone yet. ~ Tim Cook

(I)t turns out that people in every country in the world there’s a segment of buyer that wants the best [emphasis added] product and the best experience. And that’s what we’re about providing. ~ Tim Cook


The critics say Apple is off target; that they’ve missed the mark. But that’s only because the critics don’t know the mark Apple is targeting.

Once you understand WHO Apple is making their products for, you can then — and only then — begin to understand how Apple defines success and failure.

We are winning with our products in all the ways that are most important to us, in customer satisfaction, in product usage and in customer loyalty. ~ Tim Cook

Customers love our products and that is the only thing that really matters. ~ Tim Cook

If you measure success by whether Apple annually ships a new product as profitable as the iPhone — and many critics do — then Apple is one of the least successful companies — if not THE least successful company — in the world.

If, however, you measure success by customer satisfaction, product usage and customer loyalty — and Apple does — then Apple is one of the most successful companies — if not THE most successful company — in the world.


Tomorrow, part 2 of 7.

1. Who is Apple innovating for?
2. Where should Apple’s innovation be focused?
3. How does Apple innovate?
4. When should Apple introduce its innovations?
5. What does innovation inside of Apple look like to someone outside of Apple?
6. Why does Apple do what it does?
7. Why not be Apple?

Apple Shouldn’t Cross That Road Till They Come To It

Part 1: Argument

On April 19, 2016, Ben Thompson of Stretechery wrote: Apple’s Organizational Crossroads. If you haven’t read it already, I highly recommend you read it now. In a nutshell, Ben Thompson’s contention is:

1) Apple employs a (rarely used) functional organizational structure; ((“(T)he very structure of Apple the organization — the way all those workers align to create those products that drive those exceptional results — is distinct from nearly all its large company peers.” ~ Ben Thompson))

2) This organizational structure has served Apple well;

3) However, Apple is moving toward Services;

4) To do both iPhones and Services well, Apple needs to move from a functional organization to a divisional organization; and

5) Ben Thompson is not sure if Apple can successfully make the transition.

It’s very difficult for a publicly traded company to switch,” Bezos said. “So, if you’ve been holding a rock concert, and you want to hold a ballet, that transition is going to be difficult. ~ Jeff Bezos

This is a very rudimentary outline of Ben Thompson’s position. Again, READ THE ORIGINAL ARTICLE.

Divisional Organization

Most companies, especially large companies, work off a divisional structure. If Apple were divisional, they would have divisions for the iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, iPod, etc.

Divisional organization has many advantages — which is why almost every company, save Apple, uses it. However, one of its disadvantages is difficulty in letting go of the old and transitioning to the new. Why? Because each division is a self-contained fiefdom and division mangers — and those in their charge — are highly incentivized to protect their fiefdom’s interests, even if it means putting their company’s overall interests at risk.

[Of course, no one consciously tries to harm their own company but, as Upton Sinclair said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”]

Most discussions of decision making assume that only senior executives make decisions or that only senior executives’ decisions matter. This is a dangerous mistake. ~ Peter Drucker

Microsoft, for example, had Windows which was a cash cow that rightfully dominated the company for ~30 years. However, the Windows division was so large and so powerful that it became the end rather than the means. In other words, the company existed to support Windows rather than the other way around.

The worst enemy of major consumer electronics companies is not suddenly weakening sales, which sometimes shake firms out of their stupor. It’s that last, big, almost obsolete blockbuster that gives executives a reason to avoid change. ~ Tero Kuittinen

Any internal efforts to replace or displace Windows were quickly squashed. Microsoft worked very, very hard to diversify in the 2000s, but everything had to be made compatible with Windows. And so, a series of ambitious experiments with televisions, gaming, computing in living rooms, tablets, phones, etc. all had their reach constricted because they were tethered to Windows. They had no chance of becoming the next big thing because they were tasked with supporting the current big thing.

The worst place to develop a new business model is from within your existing business model. ~ Clayton Christensen on Twitter

Idle observation: Apple is basically working though failed Microsoft products from 15 years ago and doing them right. ~ @BenedictEvans

Functional Organization

Apple, on the other hand, is famous for taking an approach that is the polar opposite to Microsoft’s. Instead of protecting their money makers from internal competition, Apple is a serial cannibalizer of their own products.

The Macintosh devoured the Apple II, the iPhone consumed the iPod. The iPad even competed with the MacBook and the recent MacBooks have returned the favor.

If you don’t cannibalize yourself, someone else will. ~ Steve Jobs

If anybody is going to cannibalize us, I want it to be us. I don’t want it to be a competitor. ~ Steve Jobs

Apple’s more expensive, higher-margin device continues to cannibalize the cheaper, lower-margin one. ~ Benedict Evans on Twitter

Can’t accuse Apple of not cannibalizing itself. Strongest competitors to the iPad are the iPhone 6+ and the new Macbook. ~ Benedict Evans on Twitter

How does Apple manage to transition from money-maker to money-maker so (seemingly) seamlessly? They are set up with a functional, rather than a divisional, structure. Those functions consist of marketing, engineering, finance, etc.

Whereas divisions are incentivized to compete with one another and disincentivized to cooperate with one another, a functional organization has no incentive to compete (or actively sabotage) the efforts of others and every incentive to coordinate their efforts within the company. Engineers within Apple can work on the iPhone or the iPad or the Apple Watch and know that they are helping the company as a whole.

However, being a functional organization is no panacea either (else everyone would do it). The very strength of a functional organization is also its weakness. While it’s true that the employees of a functional organization aren’t incentivized to compete with other parts of the organization, they are also not incentivized to compete at all, i.e, there are few external incentives to motivate employees to benefit the corporation as a whole. How do you motivate employees who are not directly benefitting from a product’s success?

Call it what you will, incentives are what get people to work harder. ~ Nikita Khruschev ((Excerpt From: Steven D. Price. “1001 Smartest Things Ever Said.” iBooks.))

Further, functional organizations lack accountability. When a division fouls up, you know who to blame. When the iPhone fouls up, who exactly do you blame? Who do you hold accountable? Marketing? Engineering? Finance? They may all bear part of the responsibility, but none of them bear all of the responsibility.

Dysfunctional Services

Ben Thompson persuasively argues that:

1) Apple is bad at Services. For example, all of the following services could be much better than they are.

— App Store search
— Apple Music
— Cloud Services
— Apple Pay
— iMessage
— Siri

2) Apple is moving towards being a Services company;

3) The functional organization that makes it possible for Apple to create superior hardware is the same organizational structure that makes it impossible for Apple to create superior services.

I will not repeat Ben Thompson’s arguments in support of this thesis because 1) He makes them so much better than I can; and 2) for the third time, you should READ THE ORIGINAL ARTICLE.

Never, ever, think about something else when you should be thinking about the power of incentives. ~ Charlie Munger

Ben Thompson’s entire article is a great but, in my opinion, his spot on explanation of why Apple’s services can never hope to match their hardware prowess under Apple’s current organizational structure is the crème de la crème. Truly outstanding analysis. (Have I mentioned that you should really read the his original article?)

Your current business model limits your strategic options because that’s what business models do. ~ Saul Kaplan (@skap5)

Part 2: Rebuttal

DuPont Analogy

Ben Thompson points to DuPont as having been in an analogous situation to the one Apple is in now. DuPont made gunpowder. They decided to diversify into paint because the processes for creating gunpowder and paint were surprisingly similar. However, upon entering the paint business, DuPont discovered that the very business model that made the sale of gunpowder so successful was also the very business model that made the sale of paint so unsuccessful. In other words, the processes for making gunpowder and paint were similar but the business models for successfully promoting them were were dissimilar. So what to do?

DuPont solved the problem by breaking the company into two different divisions, with two different business models, tailored to create and promote two different products. Ben Thompson argues that the iPhone is DuPont’s gunpowder, Services are DuPont’s paint and Apple — like DuPont before it — needs to break these two very distinct business products into two very distinct business divisions.

The problem for Apple is that while iPhones may be gunpowder — the growth was certainly explosive! — services are paint. And, just as Dupont learned that having a similar manufacturing process did not lead to similar business model, the evidence is quite clear in my mind that having iPhone customers does not mean Apple is necessarily well-equipped to offer those customers compelling services. At least not yet. ~ Ben Thompson

I’m not convinced that DuPont is analogous to Apple. DuPont added paint to its gunpowder lineup because it wanted to diversify. But Apple doesn’t diversify. They cannibalize.

— When Apple created the Macintosh, they weren’t diversifying from the Apple II.

— When Apple created the iPhone, they weren’t diversifying from the iPod.

— When Apple creates whatever-the-heck-they-create-after-the-iPhone, they won’t be diversifying from the iPhone.

The Macintosh and the iPhone weren’t diversifying products, they were SUCCESSOR products.

Solution Or Strategy Tax?

Ben Thompson proposes the following solution to Apple’s services problem:

The solution to all these problems — and the key to Apple actually delivering on its services vision — is to start with the question of accountability and work backwards: Apple’s services need to be separated from the devices that are core to the company, and the managers of those services need to be held accountable via dollars and cents.

It’s true that if you broke Apple into an iPhone division and a Services division, each division would be incentivized to follow the path that best served their respective purposes. But it’s also true that neither division would be incentivized to work with each other or for the company as a whole.

Currently, Apple’s Services exist to serve the iPhone. Services may be huge, they may make gobs of money, but they exist not to be huge and not to make gobs of money but to support the iPhone. This would not be the case if Services were broken into a separate division.

A separate Services division would inevitably compete AGAINST THE INTERESTS of the iPhone instead of supporting it. Why? Because that’s what divisions do. Unlike DuPont — whose two different product lines could both simultaneously strive for success without competing against one another — the iPhone and Apple’s Services are inextricably intertwined.

Further, if Apple used divisions — just like everyone else — Apple would become — just like everyone else. Apple would lose one of the attributes that makes it unique and uniquely successful.

My Frustrating Conclusion

Ben Thompson is right to say that Apple’s hardware focused business model makes it impossible for Apple to excel at Services. In other words, Apple’s services will always be “meh” because Apple’s business model is tailored to create hardware on a periodic timetable and services require one to focus on, and build up expertise in, an entirely different set of iterative processes. However, I think the proposed solution — breaking the iPhone and Services into seperate divisions — is a cure that would be worse than the disease. Breaking Apple into two divisions would not create one excellent hardware division and one excellent Services division — it would, instead, create one conflicted and dysfunctional company.

As frustrating as this may be, I think Apple should continue to be so-so at Services so that it may continue to be so, so great at hardware.

Part 3: Counterargument

Self-Disruption vs. Self-Cannibilazation

Industry observers ((Not Ben Thompson. I’m speaking in generalities.)) often say Apple disrupts itself.

It doesn’t.

Disruption is not about products, it’s about business models.

Products don’t get disrupted, businesses (and people) do. ~ Horace Dediu (@asymco) 12/6/14

Disruption is about business models, not technology. ~ Ben Thompson (@monkbent)

Incumbents are rarely disrupted by new technologies they can’t catch up to, but instead by new business models they can’t match. ~ Aaron Levie (@levie)

Apple doesn’t disrupt itself — that would require a new business model and Apple’s business model has remained constant throughout its 40 years of existence. Apple cannibalizes itself and obsoletes others.

— The Macintosh did not compete with the Tandy Radio Shack TRS-80, The Commodore PET, Atari, Texas Instruments TI 99/4, IBM PC, Osborne, Franklin or even the Apple II.

— The iPod/iTunes combination did not compete with existing MP3 players.

— The iPhone did not compete with feature phones.

You don’t obsolete a product by making a slightly better, or even a much better, product. You obsolete a product by making it easier to do what that product does without having to use that product. You obsolete a product by creating a wholly new category in which the old product can’t compete.

[pullquote]Apple creates new categories[/pullquote]

The Macintosh, the iPod and the iPhone weren’t better versions of existing products. They weren’t incremental improvements. They were paradigm shifts.

When a paradigm shifts, everyone goes back to zero. ~ Joel Barker

Apple doesn’t outrace their competition. They start an entirely new race and then get such a big initial lead that no one else can catch up.

Apple doesn’t create new products. They create new product categories.

Milking The iPhone

Apple does not seek to move from gunpowder to gunpowder and paint — from iPhone to iPhone and Services. They do not seek diversification. They seek succession. They seek to move from gunpowder (iPhone) to the next explosive product category. And Services are most definitely NOT the next big thing.

If I were running Apple, I would milk the Macintosh for all it’s worth and get busy on the next great thing. ~ Steve Jobs [Observation made when running NeXT]

If I were running Apple, I would milk the iPhone for all it’s worth and get busy on the next great thing. And that’s exactly what I think Apple is doing.

Apple shouldn’t divert resources toward services. It’s the other way around. Services should be directed toward supporting the iPhone — even if that means that Services will never reach their full potential.

But perhaps you’re asking, “Why should the iPhone be prioritized over Services?” Why? Because, as I wrote two weeks ago, the iPhone dominates smartphones and smartphones are the most dominate tech product of our time.

Ever think about an old friend and wonder what they’re doing right now? They’re playing on their phone. Everyone is playing on their phone. ~ Jazmasta on Twitter


Remember, I’m not saying Apple won’t create a Services division. I have zero knowledge of what Apple is going to do. And Ben Thompson makes a pretty compelling case for why Apple should move in that direction. But I don’t think Ben Thompson is actually arguing that it would be great if Apple created a new services division. I think he’s arguing that Apple should create a new services division if they want Services to be great. Ben Thompson is doing what good analysts do. He’s not giving us the right answer. He’s asking us the right question.

The value of analysis lies less in answering questions than it does in questioning answers.

Frankly, if Apple created a Services division, I would fear for Apple. I don’t think creating a Services division would be a sign that Apple was acknowledging the path they were already on. I think it would be a sign that they had strayed from the path and lost their way.

But I don’t think that’s going to happen. We’ve already been down this road with Apple Retail. John Browett — Apple’s fired head of Retail — wanted to make Apple Retail a bigger money maker.

John Browett seemingly made the mistake of seeing Apple Retail as something to optimise rather than cherish. Wrong. ~ Benedict Evans (@BenedictEvans) 4/21/16

John Browett didn’t understand that Apple’s goal is not to help make Apple Retail great. Rather, the goal is for Apple Retail to help make Apple great. The same holds true for Apple Services.

So many companies don’t know why they succeed. ~ Ben Thompson (@monkbent) 12/4/14

So very many companies don’t know why they succeeded. Apple always has. Ben Thompson says Apple is at a crossroads. And maybe they are. Me? I hope they stick to the straight and narrow.

The Apple iPhone Is The Biggest Fish In The Biggest Tech Pond

There has been an awful lot of negative talk concerning Apple this past month. In response, Jan Dawson wrote an excellent article for Techpinions entitled, “Why 2016 isn’t 1997 for Apple”. I encourage you to give it a look if you haven’t done so already.

Apple is always subject to criticism, but this time the criticism feels a little out of place. After all, Apple’s quarterly numbers are good, their revenue per employee is outstanding ((Revenue per employee for 2015:
Yahoo: $419,830
Twitter: $462,009
MSFT: $789,145
Google: $1,160,648
Facebook: $1,412,655
Apple: $2,032,304)) and Apple has so much cash in hand that Horace Dediu humorously titled his graph on same “The Trauma Of Too Much Money”.

Part 1: Big Fish

The Smartphone Better Be Great

Still — despite Apple’s obvious successes — the criticism grows unabated. Even Walt Mossberg, one of the most respected journalists in tech, has added his voice to the ever swelling chorus of Apple naysayers.

Note: Bolded words within quotes are emphasis added by the author of this article.

One day this fall, if things occur as usual, Apple will stage a big event to introduce the next flagship iPhone. And, based on the events of this month, that smartphone better be great. ~ Walt Mossberg

Of course, Walt Mossberg is not the first to tell Apple what to do, and forewarn of dire consequences should they fail to do so. It has, in fact, become something of an annual ritual. Everyone, it seem, knows how to run Apple better than Apple does.

For Apple this is a critical year, can the next iPhone be a big hit again to protect the top end where Apple is no longer always the coolest most desirable device…. ~ Tomi T Ahonen, Former Nokia Executive, Inc

Written this year? Nope. Last year? Nope. The year before last? Nope. Written April 10, 2013, almost exactly three years — and about $300 billion in profits — ago.

The Hardware

Walt Mossberg continues:

I stand by my view that the premium iPhone 6S and 6S Plus are the best smartphones on the market. But the top-of-the-line iPhones were challenged impressively just two weeks ago by rival Samsung’s beautiful, carefully engineered new Galaxy S7 phones.

Competitor’s phones are better than Apple’s. Hmm. When have I heard that before? Oh yeah, every single year since the iPhone appeared on the market. ((“Read these hilariously negative reactions to the original iPhone announcement”, BGR ))


Remember when the iPhone was truly innovative? Think hard, because you’d have to go back to 2007, and the release of the first iPhone. But since then, Apple has been tossing out retread after retread, and this year’s iPhone 5C and iPhone 5S represent a curious creative nadir for the firm. A new Windows Phone video shows how hard Apple must have worked to come up with these turds. Hint: Not that hard. ~ Paul Thurrott, Supersite for Windows, 13 September 2013


Thanks to the open nature of the Android platform, vendors from HTC to Motorola to Samsung are building more powerful hardware than Apple…. ~ Avi Greengart, Research Director, Consumer Devices, Current Analysis, 17 November 2010


Apparently none of you guys realize how bad of an idea a touch-screen is on a phone. I foresee some pretty obvious and pretty major problems here. I’ll be keeping my Samsung A707, thanks. It’s smaller, it’s got a protected screen, and it’s got proper buttons. And it’s got all the same features otherwise. (Oh, but it doesn’t run a bloatware OS that was never designed for a phone.). ~ Reviewer of the original iPhone ((“Read these hilariously negative reactions to the original iPhone announcement”, BGR ))

That’s just three examples among many. My personal “Claim Chowder” folder contains 12 examples of articles that contend the Android Operating system is better than Apple’s iOS and a whopping 67 examples of articles that claim one or another Android phone is, or was, supposed to be superior to the iPhone.

On the hardware side, there are some esoteric examples of smartphones that were supposed to be superior to the iPhone, such as the “Atria 2,” “ePhone,” “LePhone,” and the “Thunderbolt,” along with numerous examples from well known manufacturers such as Blackberry, Google Nexus, HTC, LG, Microsoft Windows Phone, Motorola, Nokia, Palm, and of course, Samsung.

According to data from research firm BITG, checks at 150 Verizon Wireless stores indicate that in some cases the Thunderbolt is outselling the iPhone 4. According to the company’s data, 61 percent of the stores said they were selling equal numbers of both devices, and 11 percent more iPhones than Thunderbolts, apparently mainly in the southeastern US. But 28 percent were selling more Thunderbolts, seemingly indicating that at least on Verizon, the iPhone may have met its match. ~ Ed Oswald, technologizer.com, 1 April 2011

I cannot possibly link to all of the articles that claimed this phone or that was superior to the iPhone, so I will have to settle for merely quoting from those articles that identified rival products as “iPhone Killers”.

But when it comes right down to it, the BlackBerry Storm will be the superior mobile device and represents a true iPhone killer. ~ Andrew Hickey, ChannelWeb, 14 Nov 2008

The Palm Pre Will Be an iPhone Killer. ~ Ross Catanzariti, PC World, 2 Apr 2009

Top iPhone Killers
1. LG GD900
2. Samsung Pixon12
3. Samsung OMNIA HD
4. Sony Ericsson Satio
5. HTC Touch HD

iPhoneKiller.com, 1 June 2009

‘iPhone Killer’ BlackBerry 10 is here: iPhone is Dead! ~ Bob Brown, InfoWorld, 30 January 2013

When it comes to using the word “killer”, I think Harry McCracken has it about right:

New rule for tech journalists: Once in your career, you’re allowed to refer to something “killing” something else. Just once. Choose wisely! ~ Harry McCracken (@harrymccracken)

Only The Software

Let’s return to Walt Mossberg’s view of the iPhone’s competition:

(T)he top-of-the-line iPhones were challenged impressively just two weeks ago by rival Samsung’s beautiful, carefully engineered new Galaxy S7 phones. A Verge test showed the Samsung’s cameras are better. Only the sadly typical software mess on those phones makes them lag behind Apple’s long-superior iPhone.

“Only the software” differentiates the phones?


Isn’t that sort of like saying that the scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz would be smart if he “only” had a brain? Or that a singer could be an Opera star if he “only” had a better voice? Or that a model could be a superstar if she “only” had better looks?

The tech pundit fallacy: that software is easier to get right than is hardware. ~ Ben Thompson on Twitter

You know, the software is, well, it’s kinda important. It’s even kinda essential…or at least Apple thinks it is.

If the hardware is the brain and sinew of our products, the software in them is their soul. ~ Steve Jobs

Software is the user experience. ~ Steve Jobs

The Mac was just software in a cool box. We had to build the box because the software wouldn’t run on any other box, but nonetheless, it was mainly software. ~ Steve Jobs

Ever-Thinning Lead

Walt Mossberg isn’t done quite yet:

If the smartphone category is to take a leap forward, and the iPhone is to maintain its ever-thinning lead as the best smartphone you can buy, Apple needs to impress big time in the fall.

“Ever-thinning lead”? Say what now?

— You mean the iPhone, who’s average selling prices just went UP, while everyone else’s prices are being sucked into an ever downward death spiral?
— You mean the iPhone that people are switching TO far more than any other smartphone?
— You mean the iPhone whose approval ratings haven’t improved in years…because they’re always at or near 99%?

[pullquote] There isn’t a company in the world that doesn’t wish they had the “ever-thinning lead” that Apple has[/pullquote]

Walt, I love your stuff and all, but Dude — c’mon! “Ever-thinning lead”?

Let’s do the math here. The Apple iPhone has about 15% of the smartphone market share; holds a mortal lock on the top 10% of the buyers that constitute the premium sector; and consistently takes in 90% — and even as high as 95% — of all smartphone profits. That’s not an “ever-thinning lead.” That’s lapping your opponent five times over. There isn’t a company in the world that doesn’t wish they had the “ever-thinning lead” that Apple has.

Money is just a way of keeping score. ~ H. L. Hunt

The iPhone isn’t the “Mad Max” of phones, desperately trying to outrun a horde of more numerous and more aggressive competitors.


CAPTION: How Pundits Picture The Smartphone Market

Apple certainly doesn’t want to rest on its laurels, but the words “Apple had better…” really don’t belong in any serious conversation concerning the iPhone. (See also: ‘“Apple Must…”: A Brief History of People Giving Apple Advice’.)

huell money breaking bad
CAPTION: Apple Resting On Its Laurels

Measuring By Proxy

But maybe you don’t think money should be the measuring stick for success. Of course, 250 years of economics disagrees with you — but what the hey — let’s go with that.

So how else could we measure the success of the iPhone? Let me count the ways…

— Profits we’ve already covered. Check. ((The iPhone generates more revenue in 3 months than Android has in its entire existence.))
— Engagement? Check. ((Apple users use their devices more often with 63% of mobile traffic coming from Apple devices compared to 29% from Android. And remember, that’s from a much, much smaller base.))
— Customer Loyalty? Check. ((Apple enjoys a nearly 90% retention rate among its customers. iPhone loyalty rate is almost twice as strong as next brand.))
— User Satisfaction? Check. ((Recent surveys say customer satisfaction rate for 6s and 6s Plus is at 99%))
— Upgrade Cycle? Check. ((Apple users tend to replace their old devices regularly.))
— Most Affluent Customers? Check. ((Apple users in first world countries are significantly richer than non-Apple users and emerging market Apple users have 50% higher per-capita incomes, according to Credit Suisse.))

By any meaningful measure, the iPhone leads the pack.

Excellence is rarely found, more rarely valued. ~ Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

Apple Can’t Match Up

Rafi Letzter, writing for Tech Insider, unintentionally sums up the the “thinking” that passes for intelligent criticism of the iPhone:

(C)ompanies like LG are working on some interesting, though so far unsuccessful, design innovations that Apple can’t match. ~ Rafi Letzter, Tech Insider


You have to ignore all of the ignorant people out there. ~ Steve Jobs

What’s sad is not that Rafi made such a perfectly nonsensical statement — but that he — and so many other Apple naysayers — believe it and think it makes perfect sense.

A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is great. ~ Saul Bellow

Why People Buy Premium Products

Despite the critics’ insistence that Apple’s products never seem match up to those of the competition, Apple continues to make money hand over fist. How can this be?
CAPTION: Rare photo showing Tim Cook and Apple board members discussing how they can distance themselves from the fast-sinking iPhone.

As Ben Thompson says: “as long as there is a clear delineation between the top-of-the-line and everything else, some segment of the user base will pay a premium for the best.”

Customers pay a premium for product attributes that can’t be measured — intangibles like surprise and delight. All premium brands, not just Apple, need to elicit a strong positive emotional response from their customers.

(T)he real issue for me is, are they going to fall in love with Apple? Because if they fall in love with Apple, everything else will take care of itself. ~ Steve Jobs

Why People Criticize Premium Products

Apple’s critics perceive no intangibles that sufficiently delineate or distinguish the iPhone from competing offerings. And that is perfectly fine. We’re all different and we evaluate and value things differently.

Unfortunately, it’s human nature for us to then assume that if we cannot perceive it, it cannot be perceived; if it does not exist for us, it does exist at all; if the added value that a product offers does not appeal to us then, we reason, it should not appeal to anyone else either. In other words, if we’re not surprised or delighted by a product, we not only see no reason to buy it — we see no reason why anyone else should buy it either. And if there is no reason to buy it — yet others buy it anyway, and pay a premium to boot — then those others must be acting unreasonably.

And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music. ~ Nietzsche

If we can’t hear the music that the iPhone is playing, then we, quite naturally, assume that those who dance to Apple’s tune are mad as hatters. ((Definition: completely insane. [popularized with reference to Lewis Carroll’s character the Hatter in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865), although the phrase was first recorded in the 1820s; the allusion is to the effects of mercury poisoning from the former use of mercurous nitrate in the manufacture of felt hats.])) We interpret our inability to hear what they hear, to see what they see, as their inability to think (because they don’t think what we think) and we label their irrational motivations accordingly. For example, over the years Apple’s critics have contended that Apple’s customers buy iPhones because they are part of a cult, ((To its many fans, Apple is more of a religious cult than a company. ~ Apple iPhone Will Fail in a Late, Defensive Move – Matthew Lynn, Jan 14, 2007)) or because they fall prey to marketing pitches, (((T)he iPad is not ‘amazing.’ It’s just marketed very well ~ Paul Thurrott (in response to comment by Mum), Paul Thurrott’s Super Site for Windows, 26 April 2010)) or because they are influenced by benefits that are only imaginary, ((“iHeads” who continually proclaimed the imagined superiority of Apple smartphones vs. those of Samsung now have grudging respect for the Korean giant, and will soon be awed by Sony and LG. ~ Henry Long, Seeking Alpha, 6 September 2013)) or because they are susceptible to fads ((That’s really all Apple’s iStuff is — an enormous and very profitable fad. It’s the Pet Rock of the new millennium. ~ Anders Bylund, Motley Fook, 6 Mar 2012)) and novelties, ((It just doesn’t matter anymore. There are now alternatives to the iPhone, which has been introduced everywhere else in the world. It’s no longer a novelty. ~ Eamon Hoey, Hoey and Associates, 30 April 2008)) and think the iPhone is cool ((Consumers are not used to paying another couple hundred bucks more just because Apple makes a cool product. Some fans will buy it, but for the rest of us it’s a hard pill to swallow just to have the coolest thing. ~ Neil Strother, NPD Group, 22 January 2007)) or trendy, ((Although Apple’s gadgets are trendy, their hardware will eventually become irrelevant. ~ Edward Zabitsky, ACI Research, 29 Dec 2009)) or simply because they are profligate (((A) device for people who have more money than brains. ~ Alex Valentine, /dev/null, 28 January 2010)) hipsters. ((The iPhone is nothing more than a luxury bauble that will appeal to a few gadget freaks. ~ Matthew Lynn, Bloomberg, 15 January 2007))

Of course, it is not Apple’s customers who are acting irrationally. It is we who have failed the test of rationality. Just because we don’t value a product, it does not necessarily follow that a product is valueless or that those who buy it are clueless.

Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem (Entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity.) ~ William of Occam

“Occam’s Razor” proposes that one should not increase, beyond what is necessary, the number of entities required to explain anything and, if employed in this instance, it cuts the critics’ argument to ribbons. There is no simply no need to explain the motivations of iPhone buyer’s by belittling their intelligence or disparaging their ability to reason properly. There is a perfectly simple, perfectly logical, explanation for why people pay a premium for the iPhone. Some people like Apple products more so they are willing to pay more to obtain them.

To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle. ~ George Orwell

The hardest thing to see is what is in front of your eyes. ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

The hardest thing to explain is the glaringly evident which everybody had decided not to see. ~ Ayn Rand

Part 2: Big Pond

One-Trick Pony

I don’t think people — even people who follow the industry and who should really know better — quite grasp what is going on here. People say that Apple is a one-trick pony. But that one trick is the smartphone. And the smartphone is one hell of a trick.

CAPTION: Steve Jobs holding up Apple’s One-Trick Pony

— The UN reports there are now more people with mobile phones (6 billion for a population of 7 billion) on earth then there are with access to clean toilets (4.5 billion).

— By 2020, it’s been forecast that 2 billion smartphones will be sold EACH YEAR. ((Our new forecast predicts 1.96 billion smartphones sold in 2020))

— By 2020, 80% of people around the world (6 billion) will own a smartphone. ~ Roberto A. González

— The smartphone is being adopted faster than any other tech device ever.


— The number of smartphones are going to dwarf the number of PCs.


Take a moment to think back on how much the desktop, and then notebook, computer changed our lives from 1975 to 2005. Now try to picture the changes that are going to occur from 2007 to 2037 when 6 billion — not 1 billion — people have a supercomputer in their pocket.


How important has the smartphone become to our daily lives?

— We now spend ~$1,000 bucks on cell phones annually. ~ Matt Phillips on Twitter

— Mobile ecosystems are now enabling at least $225 billion a year in economic value. Likely to double in a few years. ~ Horace Dediu on Twitter

— In some nations, smartphones are already bigger than television. ((Mobile usage about to overtake TV and PC usage for catchup TV in France according to @LeCNC ~ Jérôme Derozard on Twitter))


— 75% of millennials grab their phone first thing in the morning. The percentage among non-millennials is smaller, but still significant for every age bracket. ~ John Starkweather on Twitter

— Smartphones are checked 8 billion times a day in the US alone. ~ Kazuo Hirai, Sony CEO at Mobile Congress 2016

— The importance and the impact of smartphones simply cannot be overestimated. People today spend a lot of time on their phones. They check them constantly throughout the day and keep them close to their bodies. They sleep next to them, bring them to the bathroom and stare at them while they walk, eat, study, work, and wait.

— Smartphones are this generation’s automobile — the most transformational tech of its time. ((The automobile was, in many respects, the defining commodity of the twentieth century. The ways in which we produced consumed, used and regulated automobiles defined the post-World War II generations. Now that mantle has been passed on to the smartphone. Understanding the automobile was fundamental to grasping the last century. Understanding the smartphone and our transformation to a global economy where information is king, is fundamental to understanding what’s happening, and what’s going to happen, in this century.))

— Generation Y has already indicated that they would rather have a smartphone than an automobile.

— Smartphones are the Swiss army knives of computing. Like the Swiss army knife, they fit in our pocket and go with us most anywhere, but unlike the Swiss army knife, smartphones have a virtually infinite number of “blades” that can be applied to a dizzying variety of tasks, in an innumerable number of situations. On the hardware side, the smartphone is our camera, our guide (GPS), our personal communicator and a location monitor. On the software side, we have access millions of apps that cost only pennies to own.

— And the above is only the tip of the smartphone iceberg. The smartphone is becoming a true universal remote control that manages everything from drones to thermostats, from cars to monitoring our health.

Please take 7 seconds to watch the video: “20 years of apps eating the work desk“.

The video is a great synopsis of how more and more of our daily tasks are being absorbed by our computers. The only thing wrong with the video is that it should end by showing the notebook computer morphing into a smartphone.

Decentralizing and Democratizing Economies


Author’s Note: Much of the information in this section is paraphrased from: “The Smartphone Society” ~ by Nicole M. Aschoff

The smartphone reduces the rigidity inherent in formal work relationships and replaces it with malleable human labor. It facilitates contingent employment models and self-interest by linking workers to capitalists without the fixed costs and emotional investment of more traditional employment relationships. Combine malleable labor with inventive capitalists and the market for goods and services expands exponentially. The smartphone is becoming the primary mechanism for activating, accessing and channeling unused assets and unengaged labor.

And the way that labor is being employed is changing too. Smartphones have facilitated the creation of new types of work and new ways of accessing labor markets. Temporary, project-oriented employment models are proliferating, creating a “distributed workforce.” Some examples:

TaskRabbit connects people who would prefer to avoid the drudgery of doing their own chores with people who are willing to do piecework odd jobs for pay. Those who want chores done, like the laundry or cleanup after their kid’s birthday party, link up with “taskers” using TaskRabbit’s mobile app. Once the chore is successfully completed, the “tasker” can be paid directly through the phone.

Postmates tracks its “couriers” in cities like Boston, San Francisco, and New York using a mobile app on their iPhones as they hustle to deliver artisanal tacos and sugar-free vanilla lattes to homes and offices. When a new job comes in, the app routes it to the closest available courier, who then responds and gets paid upon the successful completion of the task.

AirBNB taps into unused capacity, i.e. empty rooms and houses, matches owners with potential renters, then coordinates and facilitates rental agreements.

Uber, like AirBNB, takes advantage of unused capacity, but this time it is the form of inactive motor vehicles and unengaged vehicle owners, rather than unused rooms. Uber matches those occasionally in need of the service of a vehicle with those who occasionally wish to provide those services.

Smartphones extend the workplace in space and time. Emails can be answered at breakfast, specs reviewed on the train home, and the next day’s meetings verified before lights out. The Internet becomes the place of work, with the office just a dot on the vast map of possible workspaces.

As Bennedict Evans says “Every new sensor creates new businesses.”


Today, sensors give us directions, help us to measure our fitness, assist us with shopping and making payments. Location sensors make entirely new industries, like Uber, possible.

With new and better sensors being attached to phones with every iteration, we simply have no idea what new businesses, and what new business opportunities, will spring up tomorrow.

It used to be that there were large gaps in our lives where we were unable to do anything other than wait. The smartphone fills those gaps with writing, communicating, viewing, picture and video taking, working, playing and more. As individuals, we are able to achieve more, produce more, do more. Collectively, we are able to communicate more, collaborate more, create more.

If you look at things I’ve done in my life, they have an element of democratizing. The Web is an incredible democratizer. A small company can look as large as a big company and be as accessible as a big company on the Web. ~ Steve Jobs

I love things that level hierarchy, that bring the individual up to the same level as an organization, or a small group up to the same level as a large group with much greater resources. And the Web and the Internet do that. It’s a very profound thing, and a very good thing. ~ Steve Jobs

I don’t think even Steve Jobs could have foreseen how revolutionary, how world changing, the iPhone and the smartphones patterned on it, would be. He, and Apple, certainly did put a “dent in the universe.”

Imagine A World…

In the century after the Civil War, an economic revolution improved the American standard of living in ways previously unimaginable. Electric lighting, indoor plumbing, home appliances, motor vehicles, air travel, air conditioning, and television transformed households and workplaces. With medical advances, life expectancy between 1870 and 1970 grew from forty-five to seventy-two years.

Some see this as a reason for pessimism. “How,” they say “can we possibly repeat such a rapid technological advance? The era of unprecedented growth has come to an end.” (Pessimism sounds smart when we look forward to an unknown and unknowable future, but it looks mighty dumb when we compare the predictions of pessimists with the actual outcomes that occurred. See: Why Does Pessimism Sound So Smart?)

What the pessimists conveniently ignore or overlook are the twin truths that the progress of the twentieth century was mostly confined to the first world and that the technology of today is going to help push the benefits of the technology of yesterday farther and faster than ever before and, in some instances, help to leapfrog that technology entirely.

What the railway was to Victorian England, the mobile networks are to Africa. ~ Smart Africa: Smartphones pave way for huge opportunities

I don’t think that analogy is nearly powerful enough. The smartphone is to the third world what the industrial revolution was to Europe and the Americas.


Let’s look at that list of twentieth century technological advancements again.

Electric lighting, indoor plumbing, home appliances, motor vehicles, air travel, air conditioning, television, medical advances.

There are third world populations that still don’t have access to many, or any, of those technological advances. But that’s not going to happen with the smartphone.

— The smartphone is going to get to billions of people before many of the other great technological achievements do.

— Smartphones will bring more people online in the next five years than the PC did in the previous 30 years.

— Smartphones are going to be the vehicles — the digital car, if you will — for transporting the technology of today to every corner of the globe.

— Smartphones are going to spread the wealth in ways that are unimaginable.

— From Congolese coltan miners to tweens in Tijuana, anyone can communicate with everyone, anywhere, anytime.

If you look at the personal computer, it’s going from being a tool of computation to a tool of communication. ~ Steve Jobs

CAPTION: A group of men take a picture of themselves in the River Nile outside Khartoum, Sudan

— The smartphone is going to link together six billion minds. Six billion minds with access to the sum of human knowledge. The possibilities for the trade of goods and services, for collaboration, for the creation of knowledge, for the transfer of knowledge, are virtually endless

Steve Jobs foresaw this. Sorta.

Let’s say that, for the same amount of money it takes to build the most powerful computer in the world, you could make 1,000 computers with one-thousandth the power and put them in the hands of 1,000 creative people. You’ll get more out of doing that than out of having one person use the most powerful computer in the world. Because people are inherently creative. They will use tools in ways the toolmakers never thought possible. And once a person figures out how to do something with that tool, he or she can share it with the other 999. ~ Steve Jobs

The only thing wrong with the above is that smartphones aren’t one-thousandth the power of PCs. They’re powerful computers in their own right.

[pullquote]The smartphone’s most disruptive days are still ahead[/pullquote]

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again.. The smartphone’s most disruptive days are still ahead. ~ Ben Bajarin on Twitter

You’re No iPhone

One of the barbs most frequently hurled at Apple by its critics is that no new Apple product — whether it be Apple Music or Apple Watch or the iPad Pro, etc. — is, or has any chance of being, as big as the iPhone.

No shooting Sherlock.

Of COURSE no new product is going to be as big as the iPhone — because there is NOTHING BIGGER THAN THE IPHONE. And that’s the point.

[pullquote] The iPhone dominates the most dominant tech sector of our time[/pullquote]

The iPhone dominates the most dominant tech sector of our time.

You can’t have it both ways. You can’t criticize Apple for not surpassing the profits of the iPhone without acknowledging the profits of the iPhone or the fact that no one has been able to surpass the success of the iPhone.

Saying that Apple’s success is “limited” to the iPhone is like saying:

— Henry Ford’s success was “limited” to cars
— John D. Rockefeller ‘s success was “limited” to oil
— Andrew Carnegie’s success was “limited” to steel
— Cornelius Vanderbilt’s success was “limited” to railroads

Being limited to a product with limitless potential, ain’t such a bad thing and if you have to be dependent upon something, it’s best to be dependent upon the most dependably profitable product of your time.

Apple kickstarted the smartphone revolution just eight short years ago. Microsoft Windows had a thirty year run (and will continue on for many years hence). Google search is decades old. Are the critics seriously suggesting that the smartphone revolution has run its course?

Of course they’re not. What they’re actually suggesting is that the smartphone revolution will go on — but it will go on without the iPhone. Why? Because the iPhone is a premium product and that’s, uh, a bad thing, umm, because, ah….

…oh what’s the point in trying to fathom the unfathomable? There is simply no support for the proposition that smartphones will be fine but the iPhone will not. It makes zero sense.

His argument is as thin as the . . . soup that was made by boiling the shadow of a pigeon that had been starved to death. ~ Abraham Lincoln

And frankly, if the pundits are worried about Apple, then their blood must run cold when they think about the prospects of the oh-so-very-many other tech companies who are not nearly as well positioned to take advantage of the smartphone revolution as Apple is.

Biggest Fish In The Biggest Pond

So, is Apple’s future assured?


There are two kinds of forecasters: those who don’t know, and those who don’t know they don’t know. ~ John Kenneth Galbraith

Apple’s future isn’t assured…but their present is.

Apple is not a big fish in a small pond. They’re the most bad ass fish in the biggest dang pond the world has ever seen. They absolutely dominate the premium sector of the premium tech product of our time.


Or, mixing my metaphors yet again, if Apple is a one-trick pony, that’s the biggest, fastest, strongest and most valuable pony in the world.

“But wait,” you say, “Android owns most of that smartphone Pony.” True enough. But Apple, all importantly, holds the reins while Android controls only the rearmost 85%. One ((Not me mind you, but one.)) might even be tempted to say that makes Android — metaphorically speaking — a horse’s ass. ((The fact that the iPhone generates more revenue in 3 months than Android has in its entire existence, seems to support that characterization.))

Here’s the thing. Calling Apple a one-trick pony is no insult because Apple, throughout its existence, has always been a one-trick pony. First the Apple I and ][, then the Mac, the iPod and now the iPhone. Apple has always relied upon one product to bring in the majority of its profits. But — as Horace Dediu recently pointed out on his Asymco podcast — Apple has been very adept at changing ponies in the middle of the technology stream.


Patience, Padawan


So Apple is here for the foreseeable future. But what about the unforeseeable future? What then?

Being the biggest player in the biggest market does not guarantee Apple a future, but it does guarantee them the resources necessary to make that future.

The best way to predict the future is to invent it. ~ Alan Kay

Apple’s future lies in their own hands. They will invent it, or they will fade away like so many others before them. But that is not unique to Apple. To say Apple might fail soon or Apple will fail eventually is true but trite because it’s equally true for every other company as well. Predicting Apple’s eventual end is not insightful nor helpful. It is not if, but when, that matters.

Timing has a lot to do with the outcome of a rain dance. ~ Cowboy wisdom

Those who predict the future we call futurists. Those who know when the future will happen we call billionaires. ~ Horace Dediu (@asymco)

Some say we don’t have to divine an uncertain future to be certain about Apple’s fate. Apple’s inability to create a breakthrough product, following Steve Jobs’ death, is proof positive that Apple is destined for mediocrity, followed by failure.

But this is nothing new. Apple’s critics have always insisted that Apple’s most innovative days were behind it.

Apple is a company that has to come up with hit after hit after hit, every 12 to 18 months, but once you do the iPhone on Verizon, what’s the next thing past this? ~ Patrick Becker Jr, Becker Capital Management, 7 March 2011

Further, it is a mistake to assume that the products produced by Apple in the past several years are predictive.

— Did the iMac foreshadow the iPod? No.
— Did the iPod lead us to believe that Apple would create the modern smartphone? No.

We do not say anything about future products. We work on them in secret, and then we announce them. ~ Steve Jobs

[pullquote]Like a bikini, what they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital[/pullquote]

Apple’s product offerings have always been like a bikini — what they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital.

Those impatient for Apple to reinvent the world on an annual basis simply ignore the reality that iteration on existing tech products is the norm and significant change is the rare exception.

It seems to take a very unique combination of technology, talent, business and marketing and luck to make significant change in our industry. It hasn’t happened that often. ~ Steve Jobs

Further, those who claim to know the most about Apple’s future, are the very same ones who seem to know the least about Apple’s past. Has Apple ever been first to market with a wholly new, wildly innovative device?

You don’t want to be first, right? You want to be second or third. You don’t want to be…Facebook is not the first in social media. They’re the third, right? Similarly, you know, if you look at Steve Jobs’ history, he’s never been first. ~ Malcolm Gladwell


CAPTION: Apple is always behind their competitors

Steve Jobs, who was famously lacking in patience in his personal life, always showed a surprising degree of patience when it came to introducing new products.

These waves of technology, you can see them way before they happen, and you just have to choose wisely which ones you’re going to surf. If you choose unwisely, then you can waste a lot of energy, but if you choose wisely it actually unfolds fairly slowly. It takes years. ~ Steve Jobs

You just make the best product you can, and you don’t put it out until you feel it’s right. ~ Steve Jobs

Patience is a necessary ingredient of genius. ~ Benjamin Disraeli

We have to wait to see whether Apple will, in the future, reinvent themselves as they have so many times in the past.

Go as far as you can see; when you get there you’ll be able to see farther. ~ Thomas Carlyle

Don’t pretend that you know Apple’s future. You don’t.

— Did we expect the Apple ][ to be a success? No.
— Did we expect Steve Jobs to get fired from Apple? No.
— Did we expect Steve Jobs to return to Apple? No.
— Did we expect Steve Jobs to turn Apple around and save it? Probably not.
— Did we anticipate the iMac, the MacBook, the iPod, iTunes or the iPhone? No, no, no, no and no.
— Did we expect Apple to surpass Microsoft and become one of the biggest, most profitable, most powerful companies in the world? Hell no.

Why are you so very certain that you know what is going to happen to Apple when you’ve never, ever, not even once, known before?

You’re suffering from the ‘End of History’ Illusion: we expect things to change little in the future despite knowing that things have changed a lot in the past.

It seems to me that beliefs about the future are so rarely correct that they usually aren’t worth the extra rigidity they impose, and that the best strategy is simply to be aggressively open-minded. Instead of trying to point yourself in the right direction, admit you have no idea what the right direction is, and try instead to be super sensitive to the winds of change. ~ Paul Graham

The Best Innovation Is The Company

I discovered that the best innovation is sometimes the company, the way you organize a company. The whole notion of how you build a company is fascinating. ~ Steve Jobs

Toward the end of his life, Steve Jobs turned his attention from creating the next big thing to inventing a company that could continually create the next big thing.

My passion has been to build an enduring company where people were motivated to make great products. Everything else was secondary. ~ Steve Jobs

The real question here is whether Steve Jobs was successful in that attempt. Did he build a company that could repeatedly innovate at the highest level? Unsurprisingly, Steve Jobs thought that he had.

I believe Apple’s brightest and most innovative days are ahead of it. ~ Steve Jobs, August 24, 2011

Also unsurprisingly, your opinion may differ.

Where there is much desire to learn, there of necessity will be much arguing, much writing, many opinions; for opinion in good men is but knowledge in the making. ~ John Milton, Areopagitica

I look forward to “making some knowledge” with you in the comments, below.

FBI v. Apple: “Unduly Burdensome”

You might well be asking yourself, if the FBI withdrew its challenge against Apple, then why are we still talking about FBI v. Apple? Well, the San Bernadino case is over, but there are many, many more cases still pending. The ACLU published an interactive map of locations where the FBI is currently using the All Writs Act to demand assistance from Tech companies. You can view it HERE. So yeah, this matter is far from over.

Author’s Note: For an outline of how I think FBI v. Apple will play out, please see HERE.

As I’ve written before, there are two big issues that the FBI must overcome before it can get a court to order Apple to undo its own encryption. The first issue is CALEA — a statute that appears, on its face, to prohibit the FBI from asking for the very thing they’re currently asking for. I discussed CALEA HERE.

Today I focus on the second big stumbling block facing the FBI. If the FBI is going to use the All Writs Act to order Apple to assist them in breaking their own encryption, the FBI must first demonstrate that the requested assistance is not “unduly burdensome”.

One Phone, One Time

The FBI has steadfastly insisted that this case is just about one phone, and that the action they are requesting of Apple would occur only once. That is a crock of manure.

So important is this issue, that I was going to devote an entire article to it. However, since the current case is over, let me just point out that the director of the FBI — during testimony — under oath — before Congress — said:

“(O)f course” the FBI would use the ruling from this case to “return to the courts in future cases to demand that Apple and other private companies assist . . . in unlocking secure devices.”

So much for ‘one phone, one time’.

But is it really all that important? Is the claim that this is just about ‘one phone, one time’ really that big of a deal?

Oh yeah.

In their pleadings, the FBI said that Apple “desperately needs” this case to be about more than just one phone.

Apple desperately wants—desperately needs—this case not to be “about one isolated iPhone.” ~ FBI Pleadings

Someone was desperate, all right, but it wasn’t Apple. The FBI knows that if they are forced to acknowledge that Apple is going to have to comply with similar requests over and over again, then they will also be forced to acknowledge that the burdens that Apple could be expected to endure will expand exponentially.

It was the FBI who desperately wanted — desperately needed — this case to be about one isolated iPhone. That is why they continue to defend their position even when the facts, logic, common sense and the testimony of their own director make their position indefensible. Zealous advocacy is to be commended. Purposefully misstating a material fact is to be condemned.

In just one week, the FBI’s gone from “just one phone” to sharing with the entire law enforcement community. Remember this for the next one. ~ Jonathan Ździarski (@JZdziarski)


This case was never about getting information from the phone. It was always about setting a legal precedent that would allow the FBI to force tech companies to build back doors to the FBI’s specifications.

“Ah,” you say, “you can’t prove that. You’re starting to sound like a conspiracy nut.”

Oh yeah? You know who else sounds like a conspiracy nut? Richard Clarke, former national security advisor and head of counter terrorism.

[The FBI] is not as interested in solving the problem as they are in getting a legal precedent,” Clarke said. “Every expert I know believes the NSA could crack this phone. They want the precedent that government could compel a device manufacturer to let the government in.

The FBI director is exaggerating the need for this, trying to build it up as an emotional case … It’s Jim Comey. And the Attorney General is letting him get away with it. ~ Richard Clarke

All the evidence is consistent with the “crackpot conspiracy theory” that the FBI has been systematically trying to compel firms to backdoor their own encryption. At this point, I would venture to say that you have to be a crackpot NOT to believe these theories.

Unduly Burdensome

Duty To Assist Law Enforcement

Even now, I don’t think people realize what this case is all about. Apple did nothing wrong here. They were just being asked to help law enforcement out. Our legal system allows that, but only to a very limited degree.

[pullquote]The government does not hold the general power to enlist private third parties as investigative agents[/pullquote]

While the government can, in some circumstances, require third parties to support law enforcement investigations — for example, by requiring them to produce relevant evidence or give truthful testimony — the government does not hold the general power to enlist private third parties as investigative agents.

Some typical examples of what citizens can be asked to do:

— Produce existing business records;
— Freeze assets and accounts;
— Turn over security footage.

Let’s examine that last example. The FBI can go to a store and ask them for their security footage, but that’s about it. They can’t ask the store owner to stay up all night filming a suspect, and they can’t ask the store owner to install additional cameras in his lunch room, bathroom and boardroom. All of that is way, way, way beyond the call of duty.

What the FBI is asking of Apple is way beyond the call of duty too.

Legal Buzzwords

The Courts have placed severe limitations on what law enforcement can and cannot ask third parties to do. Here are the kind of buzzwords that are seen when reading through the applicable case law:

Must not be “in any way burdensome”; “meager assistance”; “minimal effort”; “no costs will be incurred”; “require minimal uses of company resources”; “no disruption to its operations”; the absence of any conceivable “adverse effect”; “normal course of their business”; “must not adversely affect the basic interests of the third party or impose an undue burden”.

Perhaps now you begin to see how little law enforcement can demand of us, and how free we are to refuse those demands.

Public Utilities vs. Private Entities

Most of the cases cited by the FBI in support of their position concerned highly regulated public utilities, not private companies. And the Courts have gone out of their way to note that much more can be demanded of public utilities — such as phone companies — than of private parties.

Even in those cases where public utilities were required to assist law enforcement, the types of burdens the Courts imposed were not at all as onerous as the one being requested of Apple.

For example, the FBI claimed that the Courts compelled the Mountain Bell telephone company to do programming, so it would certainly be nothing new for the Courts to compel Apple to do the same.

But in 1979, when the Mountain Bell case occurred, “programming consisted of a technician — a single technician mind you — using a ‘teltypewriter’ and the entire process “t[ook] less than one minute” ~ Apple Pleadings

Here is an image of the type of device that law enforcement asked Mountain Bell to “program” in 1979:

Pasted Graphic 2

So yeah, not the same as asking a company to create a tailored operating system.


In the current case, we’re talking about messing around with someone’s proprietary intellectual property. To my knowledge that has never occurred under the All Writs Act before. Ever.

Let me repeat that: The Courts have never required a third-party to alter — more less degrade — their proprietary property in order to aid law enforcement.

Screwing around with someone’s proprietary property is not like asking them for security footage. It’s more akin to asking an author to rewrite portions of their book and then put that book up for sale under the author’s name. Similarly, what the FBI wants Apple to do is to rewrite portions of their security software and then put it up for sale under Apple’s imprimatur.


In fact, the requested action by the FBI is unprecedented at every level. Never before has law enforcement asked that such a burden be imposed under the All Writs Act.

For A Living

Proprietary? Unprecedented? The FBI shrugs these off, blithely responding ‘fiddily dee dee, writing a little software is not a burden for Apple. After all, they write software for a living.’

(I)t is not an unreasonable burden for a company that writes software code as part of its regular business.

(T)his case requires Apple to provide modified software, modifying an operating system—writing software code—is not an unreasonable burden for a company that writes software code as part of its regular business.

Oh yeah? As Apple pointed out in their pleadings, following the government’s thinking to its logical conclusion leads to absurd results.

(I)t would not be unreasonably burdensome to demand that Boeing build a custom jet for the government because Boeing builds planes as part of its regular business or to demand that a pharmaceutical company make drugs for executions after it has made the intentional decision not to. ~ Apple Pleadings

Just because Apple is in the business of building encryption software does not mean Apple is in the business of tearing down their encryption software any more than Boeing is in the business of building planes that are specially designed to crash.


The compromised operating system that the government demands would require significant resources and effort to develop. Although it is difficult to estimate, because it has never been done before, the design, creation, validation, and deployment of the software likely would necessitate six to ten Apple engineers and employees dedicating a very substantial portion of their time for a minimum of two weeks, and likely as many as four weeks. Members of the team would include engineers from Apple’s core operating system group, a quality assurance engineer, a project manager, and either a document writer or a tool writer. ~ Apple Pleadings

The costs for Apple to accede to the government’s request are extraordinary and unprecedented…

…but no one cares. Apple makes billions of dollars, so no one has any sympathy for them.

There are, of course, other, more long term, and more damaging, costs such as forcing Apple to violate their existing representations, and the harm that would be caused to Apple’s reputation, their global brand and their bottom line.

Again, hardly anyone outside of Apple cares about those costs either. “Whoop de doo,” they say. “Price of doing business.”

Except, of course, that’s dead wrong. Hurting your brand and your reputation and your product are NOT the price of doing business. On the contrary, they’re the penalty paid for doing your business very, very badly. And Law enforcement simply does not — at least not without statutory authority — have the power to command you to run your business badly.

It’s important to understand that the costs described above are just the beginning, not the end, of the burdens that the FBI’s request would place upon Apple. The truly oppressive costs would come in forms that few have adequately considered.


Standard forensic practice would require the code of any forensic tool Apple produces to be preserved for at least as long as it might be needed as evidence in court. We’re talking about years, and, with appeals, perhaps decades. So just forget about the idea of creating, then destroying, a software skeleton key as quickly as you made it. That’s out.

And, of course, the Apple engineers would have to testify at trial about the back door that they had created, otherwise, under the fourth amendment, the evidence would be inadmissible.

Essentially, the encryption breaking portion of Apple would become a permanent arm of the government’s forensic team.

This, of course, is materially different from merely asking a store owner to provide law enforcement with a copy of their security footage.


Apple would have to maintain an in-house team of engineers dedicated to hacking its own users and affirmatively undermining the company’s promised security measures. The engineers involved in this effort might be some of the very same engineers responsible for designing and building the security features in the first place. Can you imagine what an awkward position that would place them in? Everyone else at Apple would view them as the as saboteurs. They would be treated like pariahs and their job would make their lives a living hell.

A House Divided

It is extremely difficult to write bug-free code.

There are two ways to write error-free programs; only the third one works. ~ Alan Perlis

The suggestion that Apple would be able to program a back door without risking a major screwup is laughable. I mean, have you even MET programing?

QUESTION: Joe’s code has 20 bugs. If Joe fixes 2 bugs per hour for 8 hours, how many bugs does Joe’s code have now?


[pullquote]Improving security would be costly and dangerous[/pullquote]

Software bugs can interact with existing code in complex ways, creating unanticipated new paths for bypassing iPhone security and exploiting the phone. Purposefully creating vulnerabilities likely creates even more vulnerabilities and those can be pretty dangerous. That means every design choice Apple makes to improve device security entails, not only the foreseeable front-end costs of implementing it, but the unpredictable back-end costs of degrading that improved security. And that’s especially true in this situation, where Apple would have to create the code entirely by itself, and without the possibility of any outside security audit.

[pullquote]The smart thing would be to stop improving your encryption[/pullquote]

Have you considered the contradictory incentives that would create? What is the point of making your encryption better if you know that you are simultaneously required to break that encryption? You’re just making your life — and life of your co-workers — harder. Instead of simply asking whether new security measures are cost-effective to implement from a user’s perspective, engineers would need to evaluate whether they could justify the additional cost of being required to attack those measures too.

The only way to avoid unnecessary costs, unnecessary work, unnecessary danger, and unnecessary conflicts with co-workers would be to stop improving the encryption.


The effect on morale, for both the engineers and the company overall, would be devastating.

What Apple engineer is going to want to destroy the company’s encryption and make things worse for their customers? Is that even ethical? There’s already been talk of Apple engineers refusing to comply with such an order or resigning their positions.

And how is Apple supposed to keep up overall morale when employees all know that one part of the company is actively sabotaging the other, and all in order to make their product worse and to make their customers less safe?


As if it’s not enough that the government is forcing Apple to create govtOS, they’re also making Apple responsible for safeguarding it too.

Apple is being forced to make a nuclear weapon, then either take responsibility for guarding that weapon or destroy it and rebuild it later. ~ Jonathan Ździarski on Twitter

The FBI frames this burden as a favor since they’re “allowing” Apple to decide for itself whether they wish to share the requested software skeleton key or keep it in the safety of their own secure headquarters.

The Court’s Order is modest. It applies to a single iPhone, and it allows Apple to decide the least burdensome means of complying. ~ FBI Pleadings

Oh, thanks a bunch, FBI.

When the FBI says that it is “allowing” Apple to decide the least burdensome means of complying with their request, what they’re really saying is that they’re foisting the responsibility of solving this impossible task onto Apple. To paraphrase Pyrrhus (he, of the pyrrhic victory), if the FBI does Apple another such favor, Apple is ruined.

Apple v FBI debate remind anyone of Jurassic Park? “We want you to create mutant dinosaurs, but only for safe captivity on this one island.” ~ Jon Fortt on Twitter

When asked, during a Congressional hearing, about whether it would be difficult to safeguard govtOS, FBI Director Comey testified that he had “a lot of faith” that Apple could protect the code from falling into the wrong hands. How oh so very convenient for Comey and the FBI and how oh so very inconvenient for Apple — who has to do all the work and endure all the risk as well.

Once you’ve created code that’s potentially compromising, it’s like a bacteriological weapon. You’re always afraid of it getting out of the lab. ~ Michael Chertoff, co-author of the Patriot Act, US Secretary for Homeland Security under George W. Bush

The government says, ‘Hey, security is no big deal’.

(T)here is no reason to think that the code Apple writes in compliance with the Order will ever leave Apple’s possession. ~ FBI Pleadings

There is, in fact, EVERY reason to think that the requested code will leave Apple’s possession.

Apple would end up being responsible for the Hope diamond of security keys. ((Now that I think about it, the value of the Hope Diamond pales in comparison to the value of breaching Apple’s encryption.))

The code would be a major prize and actors would go to almost any length — including kidnapping — to obtain it.

It makes Apple employees targets of foreign governments, kidnappings, hacking, surveillance, blackmail, etc. ~ Jonathan Ździarski on Twitter

And who would these attackers be? The baddest of the bad. Hackers, cybercriminals, authoritarian governments such as China and Russia. Some of the best minds — with some of the worst intentions — would bend their efforts toward obtaining this newly created skeleton key.

[I]t may simply be impossible to keep the program from falling into the wrong hands. ~ NSA expert Will Ackerly

And since Apple would have to maintain each key, and since Apple would have to create and re-create the key thousands upon thousands of times a year, Apple’s burden would be constant and never-ending.

We strongly believe the only way to guarantee that such a powerful tool isn’t abused and doesn’t fall into the wrong hands is to never create it. ~ Apple Pleadings

A Skeleton Key

The government is also very mistaken in their claim that the crippled iOS it wants Apple to build can only be used on one iPhone.

The technical experts have warned us that it is impossible to intentionally introduce flaws into secure products—often called backdoors—that only law enforcement can exploit to the exclusion of terrorists and cyber criminals. ~ Congressman John Conyers

Once GovtOS is created, personalizing it to a new device becomes a simple process. If Apple were forced to create GovtOS for installation on the device at issue in this case, it would likely take only minutes for Apple, or a malicious actor with sufficient access, to perform the necessary engineering work to install it on another device of the same model. ~ Apple Pleadings

A signed firmware update that is not truly limited to a single device, even one created for legitimate forensic purposes, becomes like a ‘skeleton key’ for the entire class of devices. Moreover, the more often this tool is used, the greater the risk it will be stolen or otherwise disclosed. ~ Apple Pleadings

Apple wouldn’t be creating a single key to open a single lock. They would be creating a skeleton key that would be capable of opening a billion locks.

Just in case you didn’t get the irony, FBI now has a backdoor that isn’t restricted to a single device, like they insisted Apple could make. ~ Jonathan Ździarski (@JZdziarski)

A Footprint

As if it’s not bad enough that the requested skeleton key is likely to be stolen, security experts say that the mere act of creating the software would put at risk the privacy and integrity of the data stored on millions of iPhones worldwide.

[u]sing the software even once could give authorities or outsiders new clues to how Apple’s security features work, potentially exposing vulnerabilities that could be exploited in the future. ~ Brandon Bailey

[T]here is no way to make a backdoor that works only for this single phone—the process of creating the backdoor establishes a blueprint and workflow for compromising all iPhones. ~ Kalev Leetaru, Forbes Contributor

The danger is not whether the FBI submits one request or a thousand, it’s forcing Apple to create the tool. ~ Bruce Schneier, security technologist at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society

We’re not just talking iPhones here. Security experts fear that if Apple is forced to create a “key” to access one of the San Bernardino terrorists’ iPhones, then that technology will leave a “footprint” that cannot be erased. And that ‘footprint’ could provide a hacker with a path for attacking not just Apple, but the encryption of others as well.

My definition of an expert in any field is a person who knows enough about what’s really going on to be scared. ~ P. J. Plauger

We’ve come a long, long way from law enforcement merely asking a store owner for some security footage, right?

Does Not Exist

Another aspect of this case that hasn’t been receiving enough attention is the fact that the FBI is asking Apple to create something that does not exist. In all the government’s past requests for citizen assistance, never — NEVER — has the government asked someone to create something that didn’t already exist.

[pullquote]How exactly do you compel creativity and ingenuity?[/pullquote]

And we’re not talking about building a new chair or making a new dress either. We’re talking about writing code — something that’s not easy to create. Setting aside the First Amendment issues — which deserve an article of their own — how exactly do you compel creativity and ingenuity?

Apple is being asked to use their very best engineers — you know, the ones who were supposed to be making their encryption harder to break — to use their creative juices in an effort to break and degrade their encryption.

FBI is not only ordering Apple to perform surgery, they’re ordering them to invent a new medical procedure, and with no medical training. ~ Jonathan Ździarski on Twitter

Actually, it’s even more sinister than the above analogy implies. The FBI is ordering Apple to invent a new medical procedure that would undo prior surgical repairs and do their patient harm.

Apple Has A Compelling Interest Not To Comply


“Ah, so what,” says the government, “This is all Apple’s fault anyway. They brought this on themselves.”

This burden, which is not unreasonable, is the direct result of Apple’s deliberate marketing decision to engineer its products so that the government cannot search them, even with a warrant. ~ FBI Pleadings

Let’s just set aside for the moment that what Apple is doing is one hundred percent legal (and, according to CALEA, what the government is attempting to do is one hundred percent illegal). Apple’s refusal to dilute their encryption is a “marketing decision”…

…in roughly the same sense that not serving burgers garnished with sewage is a “marketing decision”. ~ Julian Sanchez on Twitter


Have you given any thought to which engineers Apple would have to use in order to break their own encryption? You should.

Apple has maybe 5 employees capable of writing the software. Doing this means not fixing some other vital bug. ~ Rob Graham ❄️ on Twitter

The FBI’s request would not just turn Apple’s best minds toward the task of breaking Apple’s encryption, it would also divert those self-same minds away from the all important task of making Apple’s encryption better.


If Apple can be forced to use their automatic updates to remove security features, it creates an incentive for customers to not update their devices. It’s in Apple’s best interests that customers update their operating systems as soon as possible and customers also benefit, not just from the features provided in updates but by security enhancements as well. The disincentive created by the FBI’s intrusion into Apple’s software update procedure would make the operating system open to even more security vulnerabilities.


Apple is not just petulantly refusing to honor the FBI’s request out of childish spite or due to a lack of patriotic fervor. Apple has a compelling interest in safeguarding the data protection systems that ensure the security of hundreds of millions of customers who depend upon, and store their most confidential data on, their iPhones. An order compelling Apple to create software that defeats those safeguards undeniably threatens those systems and adversely affects both Apple’s interests and the interests of iPhone users around the globe. The protections that the government asks Apple to compromise are the most security-critical software component of the iPhone—any vulnerability or back door, whether introduced intentionally or unintentionally, can represent a risk to all users of Apple devices simultaneously.

Apple is being asked to build a cruise ship that will flood just one customer’s compartment, without making the ship any less seaworthy.

In essence, the FBI is demanding that Apple re-write its own software code, degrade the security of their customers, and create potentially catastrophic risks to the security of users’ Apple devices. How is that not going to be construed as unduly burdensome?


In every other case where the Courts have compelled a company to assist law enforcement, they justified it by pointing out that the request did not require the company to do anything other than what it was already doing in its normal course of business anyway. For example, law enforcement can request security footage from a store because the store, in the normal course of business, installed a security camera and took, and kept, security footage. The burden of providing a copy to law enforcement is minimal.

That is not the case here. Not only is the FBI asking Apple to do something they would not do in the normal course of business, they’re asking Apple undo what they normally do.


Apple is being asked to take an action that is not only costly, not only NOT in the normal course of business, not only dangerous, but something that is antithetical to their business and something that is plainly “offensive to it.” N.Y. Tel. Co., 434 U.S. at 174.34

Apple is not required to sabotage its own products. On the contrary:

(Apple is) free to choose to promote its customers’ interest in privacy over the competing interest of law enforcement. ~ Magistrate Judge Ornstein

Buzzwords Redux

Let’s look at that list of legal buzzwords again:

Must not be “in any way burdensome”; “meager assistance”; “minimal effort”; “no costs will be incurred”; “require minimal uses of company resources”; “no disruption to its operations”; the absence of any conceivable “adverse effect”; “normal course of their business”; “must not adversely affect the basic interests of the third party or impose an undue burden”.

After re-reading the above, do you really think there is any reasonable way to construe the government’s request of Apple as anything but burdensome?

Third Party

One final time, I feel I need to re-remind everyone that Apple is not the bad guy here. Apple did nothing wrong. They didn’t break any laws. This is about law enforcement asking a third party — who is not engaged in any wrongful conduct — to not just take an action, but to take an action they don’t want to take and one that would be harmful to them.

The government is asking Apple to do them a favor, but what a favor. The FBI asking Apple to trash it’s own encryption is like your neighbor asking you to burn down your house so he can stay warm.

[pullquote]Consider the effect on small businesses[/pullquote]

And have you considered the effect the FBI’s request would have on companies not named Apple?

The government is desperately trying to maintain the ludicrous fiction that this is about one phone, one time, because it doesn’t want the Court to think about the very real world consequences of what would happen when their requests were made to not just Apple, but to all companies, everywhere, all the time. Unlike Apple, few companies have the resources necessary to comply with such requests and even fewer have the resources necessary to resist such requests. ((Two examples are Hush Mail (a Canadian company) and Lavibit. Both companies were devastated, and essentially forced to close their doors, simply because they could not afford to fend off government requests for their client’s data.))

The government’s requests would chill innovation and deter companies from entering the important field of encryption.


An FBI that asks Apple to break their encryption for the greater good is like a cannibal that asks a chef to teach him how to cook so he may better serve mankind. Sounds noble, but it’s just going to get us all in hot water.

The FBI is attempting to compel Apple to reengineer a product design solely to defeat the product’s purpose. Asking Apple to create that which does not already exist and which Apple does not want to create and which will harm the company now, and going forward, is the very definition of burdensome.

What the government is demanding of Apple is simply above and beyond what can be, and should be, demanded of a good citizen.

Apple Stared Down The FBI And The FBI Just Blinked

In the case of FBI v. Apple, a hearing was scheduled for Tuesday, March 22, 2016. Late on Monday afternoon, the government requested a postponement. I predict that this case is over. Here’s why.

1) The FBI saw the San Bernardino shooting as the perfect case for gaining a preferable legal ruling of their use of the All Writs Act.

2) The government picked the case, made it public and then aggressively took their case before both the public and Congress. Considering that the case dealt with a very recent, and very deadly, terroristic attack, I think the FBI was confident that they would win the public relations battle, perhaps win favorable legislation from Congress and most probably obtain a favorable legal precedent from the courts. They were wrong on all counts.

3) A hearing had been scheduled for Tuesday, March 22, 2016. Late Monday afternoon, the FBI went to the Judge and suggested that an outside party had shown them a possible new method for obtaining information from the iPhone without Apple’s assistance. They requested additional time to explore this option. The judge granted their request.

4) The government’s claim that there might be another way to obtain information from the phone was completely contrary to what the FBI had been saying over and over again in their Pleadings. The FBI had, in fact, steadfastly insisted that Apple, and only Apple, could gain access to the contents of the phone. That was the foundation of their case.

5) In addition to granting the government’s request for a delay, Judge Pym put an indefinite stay on her order. In other words, she put her order on hold — possibly forever. At the urging of the government, the Judge scheduled an evidentiary hearing for April 5, 2016.


Here’s my take. Apple can’t say this, but I can.

What’s going to happen is, on April 5, the government is going to give a status report and — surprise, surprise — they’re going to announce that they have miraculously found another way into the iPhone in question and the government won’t be needing Apple’s assistance after all. ((At least not for now.)) The case will, for all intents and purposes, be over.

The FBI went eyeball to eyeball with Apple and the FBI blinked first. The FBI realized that they were about to lose and perhaps lose badly. Rather than risk generating an unfavorable precedent, they will simply declare victory and then get the heck out.

None of this has happened yet. Barring further developments, I’m predicting that it will.

FBI v. Apple: Why CALEA Matters So Much

Author’s Note: For an outline of how I think FBI v. Apple will play out, please see HERE.

Today I want to focus on whether existing legislation precludes the FBI from compelling Apple to hack their own encryption. Next week, I will dive into the question of whether or not the FBI’s request is “unduly burdensome” under the All Writs Act.

All Writs Act

The essence of Apple’s legal argument is that the Courts do not have the authority, under the All Writs Act, to compel Apple to break their own encryption on the behalf of the FBI.

The government has acknowledged that the authority for their request rests solely upon the All Writs Act. So, to understand this case, we must first understand the All Writs Act. Let’s start by looking at the statute itself.

28 U.S. Code § 1651 – Writs

The Supreme Court and all courts established by Act of Congress may issue all writs necessary or appropriate in aid of their respective jurisdictions and agreeable to the usages and principles of law.

Over time, the courts have imposed some important limitations on the All Writs Act.

The All Writs Act is not a grant of power to the Courts. It is designed to allow the courts to use the power they have been granted, or already possess, in order to fill in any procedural gaps necessary to implement other, existing laws. Nor is the All Writs Act to be used merely because it is convenient to do so. It is to be used when inaction would otherwise cause an existing law to falter. This is why the Act does not apply where Congress has spoken or has elected not to speak.

Where a statute exists, the statute, not the All Writs Act, is controlling. ((See Pennsylvania Bureau of Correction v. U.S. Marshals Service, 474 U.S. 34, 43 (1985) (“Where a statute specifically addresses the particular issue at hand, it is that authority, and not the All Writs Act, that is controlling.”) ))


The Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act is better known as CALEA. It presents four challenges to the FBI’s position in this case.

1.0. Four Challenges

1.1. Legislation Trumps The All Writs Act

The Supreme Court has stated that where a statutory scheme governs a particular subject matter, the All Writs Act’s residual power does not apply.

Where a statute specifically addresses the particular issue at hand, it is that authority, and not the All Writs Act, that is controlling. ~ U.S. Supreme Court, Pennsylvania Bureau of Correction v. U.S. Marshals Service, 474 U.S. 34, 43 (1985)

1.2. CALEA Is Controlling

CALEA forced telecommunications carriers (telephone companies) to design their networks to better enable wiretapping by law enforcement. A telecommunications carrier is defined as:

(An) entity engaged in the transmission or switching of wire or electronic communications as a common carrier for hire. ~ 47 U.S.C. 24 § 1001(8)(A)

When Congress enacted CALEA, it exempted “information services” from its terms.

(CALEA) does not include persons or entities insofar as they are engaged in providing information services. ~ 47 U.S.C. § 1001(8)(C)(i)

Apple squarely falls within the definition of “information services.”

(T)he government does not dispute, or even discuss, that CALEA excludes “information services” providers from the scope of its mandatory assistance provisions. 47 U.S.C. § 1002(b)(2). ~ Apple Pleadings

“Information providers,” like Apple, are not considered to be “telecommunications carriers,” (telephone companies) and CALEA does not compel Information providers to assist law enforcement in obtaining data stored on the devices that they sell.

1.3.Legislative History

In 2013, the FBI tried to broaden both the scope and the powers conveyed in CALEA. More specifically, the FBI wanted CALEA to cover a multitude of additional companies, including Apple, and they wanted the act to grant them more power regarding encryption and other like matters. The legislative history on this matter is clear and unambiguous. Congress considered the proposed legislation and declined to act.

Congress thus considered shifting to third parties like Apple the very burden the government now asks this Court to impose, but it declined, knowing full well this meant there would be some communications that law enforcement could not access. ~ Apple Pleadings

The quote, above, makes an important point. The FBI has been kvetching that Apple is using their encryption to “obstruct justice”; that they are placing their own selfish interests above the legitimate needs of law enforcement. But it was Congress, not Apple, that made those policy tradeoffs when they enacted CALEA. If Congress had felt that the FBI’s need to know trumped the public’s need for privacy and security, Congress should not have, would not have, passed CALEA.

1.4. Exempted Encryption

The CALEA statute was a compromise, reached only after long, contentious negotiations. At the time it was passed, CALEA was considered a victory for law enforcement and a defeat for privacy advocates. Law enforcement won an extensive, but specific, list of wiretapping assistance from the telephone companies but, in exchange, they had to give something up. That something was any say in the encryption being created and distributed by information services, such as Apple.

1.4.1.Legalizing Encryption

CALEA made encryption legal.

Nothing in the bill is intended to limit or otherwise prevent the use of any type of encryption within the United States.

1.4.2. No Duty To Decrypt

CALEA explicitly stated that the government could not force information services (like Apple) to “decrypt[] or ensur[e] the government’s ability to decrypt” communications or information stored on their customers’ devices.

1.4.3. No Back Doors

CALEA specifically prohibited law enforcement agencies from requiring any specific design of equipment, facilities, services, features, or system configurations. In other words, Congress exempted Apple, and other companies, from creating backdoors — the very same back doors that the FBI now demands Apple create.

(CALEA) does not authorize any law enforcement agency…
(a) to require any specific design of equipment, facilities, services, features, or system configurations to be adopted by any provider of a wire or electronic communication service, any manufacturer of telecommunications equipment, or any provider of telecommunications support services;
(b) to prohibit the adoption of any equipment, facility, service, or feature by any provider of a wire or electronic communication service, any manufacturer of telecommunications equipment, or any provider of telecommunications support services.

The FBI’s demand that Apple create and implement a work-around for the iPhone’s security features is, in fact, doing exactly what CALEA prohibits.

2.0. Four Rebuttals

Let’s look at how the FBI rebuts the assertion that CALEA, and not the All Writs Act, is controlling.

2.1. Legislation Trumps The All Writs Act

The FBI concedes that where legislation applies, the legislation, not the All Writs Act, is controlling.

2.2. CALEA Is Controlling

However, the FBI denies that CALEA is controlling. They contend that CALEA is not directly applicable to the current circumstances and that it is necessary for the courts to use the All Writs Act in order to fill in the legislative holes, and make the legislation whole.

2.2.1. Not On Point

The FBI, in its own words, argues:

Contrary to Apple’s claims CALEA did not deprive this Court of its power to issue the Order.

The statute does not address the particular issue before this Court.

(T)he (All Writs Act) “is controlling” unless “a statute specifically addresses the particular issue at hand.” Pennsylvania Bureau of Correction v. U.S. Marshals Serv. , 474 U.S. 34, 43 (1985)

(I)t is not enough for other laws to brush up against similar issues. Rather, Congress must legislate so “intricately” as to leave “no gap to fill.” The Company v. United States , 349 F.3d 1132, 1145 n.26 (9th Cir. 2003) ~ FBI Pleadings

Eh, I don’t know about that.

It seems to me that CALEA is directly on point. Of course, that’s for the courts, not me, to decide. But then again, as we’ll soon see, the courts have decided.

The FBI leans heavily on the language used in “New York Telephone” to support its contention that CALEA is not applicable here:

New York Telephone Co. further illustrates that it is appropriate for a court to rely on the All Writs Act unless a statute specifically addresses the particular issue at hand.

What the FBI neglects to mention is that in “New York Telephone,” the Supreme Court emphasized that the All Writs Act had to be aligned with congressional intent and that it could only be used as a gap-filler when it “was consistent with the intent of congress.”

Frankly, I don’t see how Congress could had made CALEA any more applicable than it is already.

— CALEA legalizes encryption;
— CALEA says that law enforcement can’t forbid the use of encryption; and
— CALEA says that law enforcement can’t specify how that encryption is designed.

Yet the FBI says, “(t)he statute does not address the particular issues before the court”?



CALEA doesn’t just “brush up” against the facts in this case. It meets them head on.

2.2.2. Not Comprehensive, But Piecemeal

In addition to arguing that CALEA is not applicable, the FBI also argues that CALEA is not comprehensive, and that the courts need to exercise their power under the All Writs Act in order to fill in the legislative gaps that CALEA has left unattended.

CALEA, passed in 1994, does not “meticulously,” “intricately,” or “specifically” address when a court may order a smartphone manufacturer to remove barriers to accessing stored data on a particular smartphone.

(T)his piecemeal legislation indicates Congress’s incremental approach to legislating in this area, rather than Congress’s intent to comprehensively legislate.

CALEA not comprehensive? Say what now?

There are, in fact, few areas of the law where Congress has provided more legislative guidance than they have with CALEA.

2.3. Legislative History

The courts have long held that where legislation exists, the All Writs Act does not apply. But the courts have also held that even failed attempts to legislate may be indicative of when the courts should, and should not, apply the All Writs Act.

(The All Writs Act) cannot be a means for the executive branch to achieve a legislative goal that Congress has considered and rejected. ~ Magistrate Judge Orenstein

Emphasis added.

The FBI disagrees, claiming that the courts should not draw meaning from congressional silence. ((In F.T.C. v. Dean Foods Co. , 384 U.S. 597, 600 (1966) ))

The applicable case law weighs heavily against the FBI’s position…

The government wrongly asserts that legislative intent can never be discerned from an absence of affirmative legislation. Although silence is sometimes a weak indicator of intent, it is a different story when Congress actively considers legislation to address a major policy issue, yet deliberately declines to enact it, see, e.g., Bob Jones Univ. v. United States, 461 U.S. 574, 600 (1983) ~ Apple Pleadings

… and CALEA, and the proposed CALEA II, were not instances of “congressional silence.” Far from it.

(F)or years … the Department of Justice and the (FBI) have urged this committee to give them the authority to mandate that companies create backdoors (but Congress has) so far refused. ~ Ranking Member John Conyers of the House Judiciary Committee

Nevertheless, the FBI persists in their claim that where legislation is absent, legislative intent cannot be discerned. Magistrate Judge Orenstein points out the logical absurdity of the FBI’s position:

(T)he government’s construction of the (All Writs Act) produces absurd results in application. If, for example the President sent to Congress a bill explicitly authorizing a court to issue the kind of order the government seeks here, and if every single member of the House and Senate were to vote against the enactment of such a law citing the kinds of data security and personal privacy concerns that Apple now embraces, the government would nevertheless describe the order sought here as permissible because Congress had merely rejected the bill – however emphatically, and however clear its reasons for doing so – rather than affirmatively passing legislation to prohibit the executive branch’s proposal. ~ Magistrate Judge Orenstein

With the rejection of CALEA II, Congress denied the FBI the very powers that they are now seeking to obtain from the courts.

Congress surely did not intend to allow parties specifically exempted by CALEA (such as Apple) to be subjected to it. The government fails to address this truism. ~ Apple Pleadings

The All Writs Act was not designed to give the FBI that which Congress had denied them.

Where a court issues an order “that accomplishes something Congress has considered but declined to adopt – albeit without explicitly or implicitly prohibiting it” that order is not agreeable to the “usages and principles of law.” In re Order, 2016 WL 783565, at *9. ~ Magistrate Judge Orenstein

2.4. Exempted Encryption

The FBI also insists that:

(T)he (FBI’s requested) Order does not dictate “any specific design”

Query: How exactly does an order mandating that Apple has to disable three of its security features ((1) Delay in inputing passwords; 2) Not erase data after 10 incorrect attempts; 3) Allow for the passcode to be rapidly input by computer, rather than by hand.)) not dictate “any specific design”?

The government’s assertion that the order does not dictate “any specific design,” is baseless given that the order commands Apple to design specific new software with specific capabilities. ~ Apple Pleadings

In their pleadings, the FBI scolds Apple for selfishly placing their business interests above the law:

Apple has attempted to design and market its products to allow technology, rather than the law, to control access to data. ~ FBI Pleadings

The FBI has it exactly backwards. Under the aegis of CALEA, it is perfectly legal for Apple to create and market products that contain encryption. What CALEA made illegal was for the government to tell companies whether they could, or how they should, make encrypted products. Yet that is exactly what the oh-so-self-righteous FBI is attempting to do.

The Justice Department and FBI are seeking an order from this Court that would force Apple to create exactly the kind of operating system that Congress has thus far refused to require. ~ Apple Pleadings

Falling Down The Rabbit Hole

So, let’s recap. The FBI has denied that CALEA is applicable, denied that their failed attempts to expand CALEA should be taken into account, and denied that they, in defiance of CALEA, are dictating to Apple how they must design their encryption.

But it’s not enough for the FBI to show that CALEA doesn’t apply, they must also show that the All Writs Act does apply.

And now, like Alice of Wonderland fame, the FBI asks us to fall down the rabbit hole into a world of make believe and nonsense.


(CALEA) does not destroy any existing authority—or even speak to the courts’ power at all. ~ FBI Pleadings

Well, that’s not strictly accurate. Where CALEA applies, the All Writs Act does not.

But what exactly is the FBI driving at here? They seem to be implying that if Congress doesn’t specifically tell the courts that they CAN’T do a thing, then they CAN do that thing. Which is weird, because Congress doesn’t write laws and then say, “Oh, by the way, the Courts have no power to enable law enforcement to do what we’ve forbidden law enforcement to do.”

(CALEA) limits only the authority given to “law enforcement agenc[ies]” ~ FBI Pleadings

Whoa, whoa, whoa! Do you see where the FBI is headed here?

— First they say CALEA doesn’t apply to the Courts;
— Then they say CALEA only applies to law enforcement.

The alarming conclusion the FBI draws from these twin premises is:

— The Courts can use the All Writs Act to grant the FBI the power it seeks because Congress did not specifically prohibit the courts from doing so.

But wait, the FBI is not done yet. They then extend their train of thinking to its logical terminus:

— The Courts can use the All Writs Act to grant the FBI the power it seeks — even if Congress specifically denied the FBI that very selfsame power — because Congress did not specifically prohibit the courts from doing so.

The government thus asks me to read into the All Writs Act an empowerment of the judiciary to grant the executive branch authority to use investigative techniques either explicitly denied it by the legislative branch, or at a minimum omitted from a far-reaching and detailed statutory scheme that has received the legislature’s intensive and repeated consideration. Such a broad reading of the statute invites an exercise of judicial activism that is breathtaking in its scope…. ~ Magistrate Judge Orenstein

Under the FBI’s interpretation of the All Writs Act, CALEA simply does not matter. It’s irrelevant. Why? Because CALEA tells the FBI what they can and can’t do but it doesn’t tell the courts a damn thing. So the courts can do what they want, even if what they want is exactly the opposite of what Congress wants.

Well, I never heard it before, but it sounds uncommon nonsense. ~ Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Through The Looking Glass

If the FBI’s interpretation of the All Writs Act is correct — and the courts can grant that which the legislature has denied — then you have to wonder:

— Why did the FBI even bother to ask Congress for the powers provided in CALEA?

— Why did the FBI go back to Congress and ask for more power in the proposed, but un-enacted, CALEA II?

— For that matter, if the All Writs Act has, since 1789, provided the courts with the authority to give the FBI the power it is now demanding — and the FBI assures us that it does — then why bother with Congress at all? Ever?

Curiouser and curiouser! ~ Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

And where exactly does the FBI’s interpretation of the All Writs Act leave Congress in the scheme of things? What is the sense of Congress passing a law that makes it clear that a manufacturer can develop the most secure product in the world, if the courts can then order that selfsame manufacturer to redesign the product to make it insecure whenever the government decides it needs access?

Like Alice, we’ve walked through the looking glass and emerged into an everted world where the courts have gained the power to legislate and the legislature has retained naught but the power to veto.

Image from: The Feds Are Wrong to Warn of “Warrant-Proof” Phones

(The FBI is contending that) the (All Writs) Act can authorize any and all relief except… where Congress enacts a specific statute prohibiting the precise action…. ~ Apple Pleadings

This is, of course, utter nonsense.

It is wholly implausible to suppose that with so many of the newly-adopted Constitution’s drafters and ratifiers in the legislature, the First Congress would so thoroughly trample on that document’s very first substantive mandate: “All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States[.]” U.S. Const. Art. I, § 1. And yet that is precisely the reading the government proposes when it insists that a court may empower the executive to exercise power that the legislature has considered yet declined to allow. ~ Magistrate Judge Orenstein

The All Powerful All Writs Act

The worst thing about the FBI’s interpretation of the All Writs Act is that it has no limiting principle.

(G)iven the government’s boundless interpretation of the All Writs Act, it is hard to conceive of any limits on the orders the government could obtain in the future. ~ Apple Pleadings

If today the courts can compel Apple, against its will, to create a GovtOS that breaks encryption, then why can’t they demand a LocationTracingOS, or an EavesdropingOS, or a PhotoFaceRecognitionOS ((Selfie takers, beware!)) , tomorrow?

(W)hat is to stop the government from demanding that Apple write code to turn on the microphone in aid of government surveillance, activate the video camera, surreptitiously record conversations, or turn on location services to track the phone’s user? Nothing. ~ Apple Pleadings

And why stop there?

(A)ccording to the government… the courts can order private parties to do virtually anything the Justice Department and FBI can dream up. The Founders would be appalled. ~ Apple Pleadings

Not just the founders. I’m pretty darn perturbed too.

The FBI vigorously disagrees with the assertion that there would be no limiting principle if their interpretation of the All Writs Act were to be adopted:

The Supreme Court’s approach to the (All Writs Act) does not create an unlimited source of judicial power, as Apple contends. The Act is self-limiting because it can only be invoked in aid of a court’s jurisdiction. Here, that jurisdiction rests on a lawful warrant, issued by a neutral magistrate pursuant to Rule 41. ~ FBI Pleadings

FULL STOP! Let’s parse the FBI’s reasoning, shall we?

The FBI is saying that the All Writs Act is self-limiting because it can only be invoked when a lawful warrant is issued.

A warrant. Issued by a Court. At the request of the FBI. Limits the Courts. From using the All Writs Act.

Sooooooo, if a Court doesn’t issue a warrant, then the Court is powerless to invoke the All Writs Act. Got it!

It’s like saying the courts are powerless to do a thing because they’d have to give themselves permission to do the thing before they’d be authorized to do the thing.

Yeah. That the FBI’s definition of “self-limiting”. ((Just as an aside, I’d be willing to bet that the FBI think’s their powers are “self-limiting” too.))

What the FBI is doing here is using legal alchemy in an attempt to transmute the innocuous All Writs Act into an all powerful all surveillance act.

The government attempts to rewrite history by portraying the Act as an all-powerful magic wand rather than the limited procedural tool it is. ~ Apple Pleading

When Magistrate Judge Orenstein was confronted with the FBI’s interpretation of the All Writs Act in a legally identical, but factually distinguishable case, he was having none of it.

(The FBI’s) preferred reading of the law — which allows a court to confer on the executive branch any investigative authority Congress has decided to withhold, so long as it has not affirmatively outlawed it — would transform the (All Writs Act) from a limited gap-filing statute that ensures the smooth functioning of the judiciary itself into a mechanism for upending the separation of powers by delegating to the judiciary a legislative power bounded only by Congress’s superior ability to prohibit or preempt.

I conclude that the constitutionality of such an interpretation is so doubtful as to render it impermissible as a matter of statutory construction.


Is Judge Orenstein’s ruling binding on other Courts? No. But the ruling has to be taken into account whenever other courts are confronted with the same question, and its reasoning may prove persuasive.


What? We’re not done? No. Of course not.

There are many, many legal issues involved in this case but, in my opinion, the two biggest, and the two most immediate, legal stumbling blocks that the FBI must hurdle are 1) CALEA; and 2) Whether the FBI’s demands of Apple are “unduly burdensome” under the terms of the All Writs Act. And before we can address whether the FBI’s requests are burdensome or not, we must first determine whether this matter is about one phone, one time, or if it is, instead, about many phones, any time.

Until next week.

The FBI v. Apple Flowchart

In December 2015, Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, went on a shooting rampage at Farook’s San Bernardino workplace. The FBI wants access to data stored on Farook’s work-issued iPhone 5c. Farook’s iPhone is password protected. The FBI convinced a court to issue a writ, under the All Writs Act, compelling Apple to create a new operating system that could be downloaded to the phone in order to remove certain protections so that the FBI might “brute force” its way into the locked iPhone by rapidly entering numbers until the correct passcode was discovered.

The case is barely three weeks old, yet already, there have been a flood of legal pleadings, amicus curiae (friend of the court) briefs, letters to the court, not to mention numerous impassioned press releases. Further, there is a 50 page order from a court in New York denying the FBI’s claims against Apple in a legally similar, yet factually distinguishable, case.

I have read every word of the above so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.

The issues involved in this case are numerous and complex.

(The) case is like a crazy-hard law school exam hypothetical in which a professor gives students an unanswerable problem just to see how they do. ~ Orin Kerr, professor at George Washington University Law School

So very many words have been written already, and so very many issues have been raised in regard to this matter, that I thought it might be helpful to create a “flow chart” that would provide some structure and help us to understand the order in which these many issues are going to be considered and resolved. So let’s get started.

This matter can roughly be divided into five stages:

— Things that look interesting, but that don’t really matter
— Legal
— Legislative (Policy)
— Constitutional
— Technological

Let’s take a brief look at how each stage matters and how the stages will flow, one into the other.

Stage 1: Things That Don’t Really Matter

FLOWCHART: Skip stage 1, proceed directly to stage 2.

There are many, many speculative issues swirling in, out and around this case that are utterly fascinating to talk about…but which, in the long run, won’t matter a hoot. Some examples are:

— There’s nothing of interest on the phone and the FBI knows it. Doesn’t matter.

— The FBI could have gained access to the contents of the phone through a variety of methods that didn’t require Apple’s assistance. Doesn’t matter.

— The FBI was either incompetent or they deliberately changed the iCloud user name on the Phone so that iCloud backups could not be used, thus forcing the current legal case. Doesn’t matter.

— The All Writs Act is old. Doesn’t’ matter. (The Constitution is even older and we still consider it to be relevant.)

— The government could not get what they wanted from the legislature, so they are trying to use the All Writs Act as a vehicle for allowing the courts to grant them the power that the legislature denied them. Doesn’t matter.

I’m sure that I have missed a dozen more interesting, but ultimately unhelpful, issues.

Instead of focusing on what doesn’t matter, it’s best to focus our attention on those issues that matter and matter most.

Stage 2: Legal

All sorts of miscellaneous legal issues have been discussed in the press, but it all comes down to this:

Can the Courts order the relief the FBI is requesting using only the authority conferred under the All Writs Act?


To answer that question, the first thing we need to understand is what the All Writs Act is, what it does and what it doesn’t do. Briefly, the All Writs Act was an act passed by the first congress, after the passing of the constitution, but before even the adoption of first ten amendments, now known collectively as the Bill of Rights. So it’s old, yes, but it also keeps venerable company. (((T)he AWA was enacted the same week that Congress proposed the Fourth Amendment. The Judiciary Act of 1789, which included the AWA, was signed into law by George Washington on Sept. 24, 1789. The next day, on Sept. 25, Congress passed a joint resolution proposing the Bill of Rights that included the Fourth Amendment. In my experience, those who say the AWA is too old to be relevant also tend to believe that the Fourth Amendment should be interpreted expansively in our technological age. But it’s not obvious why one ages like a fine wine while the other ages more like milk. ~ Orin Kerr, professor at George Washington University Law School))

The All Writs Act is designed to allow the courts to use the power they already possess in order to fill in any procedural gaps necessary to implement existing law. The FBI argues that the All Writs Act gives the courts — as it has many, many times before — the power to compel a third-party to assist law enforcement. Apple argues that what the court is demanding — the creation of new software — is not a case of the courts filling in a “gap” between existing legislation, but rather a case of the courts granting themselves a wholly new power authorized neither by the legislature or the constitution.


CALEA is the acronym used to describe the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act. CALEA matters to us for five reasons. First, where the legislature has spoken, the All Writs Act does not apply.

Where a statute specifically addresses the particular issue at hand, it is that authority, and not the All Writs Act, that is controlling. ~ The U.S. Supreme Court, Pennsylvania Bureau of Correction v. U.S. Marshals Service, 474 U.S. 34, 43 (1985)

Second, CALEA directly addresses the question of encryption. Third, CALEA covers certain telecommunications companies but it specifically excludes companies like Apple. Fourth, the FBI tried, and failed, to extend CALEA to cover companies like Apple and to broaden the scope of the FBI’s control over the encryption made by those companies. Fifth, and finally, under CALEA the government cannot prohibit a company from using encryption, nor can they tell a company how their encryption must be designed.

Apple argues that CALEA is comprehensive and that there are no “gaps” for the All Writs Act to fill. The government argues that CALEA is old, out of date, ((It’s a little ironic that the FBI thinks the 227 year old All Writs Act is perfectly applicable to this matter, but the 22 year old CALEA is not applicable because it’s old and out of date.)) a hodgepodge of rules that do not comprehensively cover the issues at hand, and that the All Writs Act was created to create remedies, like the one currently being requested by the FBI, when no other remedy was available.


Even if CALEA, does not preclude the Courts from Applying The All Writs Act, the FBI still has to show — based upon case law interpreting the proper and appropriate usages for the All Writs Act — that their requests would not be “unreasonably burdensome.” ((United States v. New York Telephone.))

The government argues that Apple is a company valued at well over 200 billion dollars, and that it can easily spare the services of the 6 to 10 engineers for the 4 to 6 weeks that Apple has estimated the demanded task will require.

Apple argues that the short-term costs in terms of reputation, brand, customer loyalty and bottom line profits are far more extensive than the mere cost of losing some of their finest engineering talent for a finite period of time.

Further, Apple argues that the long-term damages are far more costly, and the consequences far more severe, than the FBI is willing to acknowledge. Apple would be creating software that was antithetical to their business purposes; software that hurts their customers by weakening security; software that would turn a part of Apple into a permanent FBI forensic laboratory. Further still, similar demands from the FBI, other government agencies and, eventually other foreign powers, would be virtually endless. Perhaps most importantly, allowing the All Writs Act to be interpreted in the manner desired by the FBI would allow the FBI to endlessly broaden the scope of its demands upon Apple, and others, in the future.

Apple’s last set of claims are all future oriented and only valid if this case does not just involve one phone, one time, in one case, but is a precedent that will be made applicable to all phone makers, and all phones made, going forward. This is why both Apple and the FBI are fighting so bitterly over the question of whether this case is about merely one phone or whether it is about setting a lasting legal precedent.

FLOWCHART: Go to stage 3

Stage 3: Legislative

I want to make one thing very, very clear. When I’m talking about the FBI not being granted the kind of investigative powers that they’re demanding, I’m talking about being unable to get them from the COURTS using the ALL WRITS ACT. That does not, in any way, preclude the FBI from getting what they want by obtaining a new LAW from the LEGISLATIVE Branch. What the Courts can’t or won’t grant to the FBI, the legislature can and may. After the courts have made their decision — and even before the courts have made their decision — the FBI can turn to the Legislature for relief. In fact, the legislative battle is well begun.

— Press releases designed to sway public opinion are issued on a weekly, and sometimes on a daily, basis.
— The Senate has already started congressional hearings on the matter.
— The French legislature has already voted on legislation that affects this matter and which may dramatically and unalterably change the terms of the debate.

FLOWCHART: Go To stage 4

Stage 4: Constitutional

Once Congress has crafted new legislation — and that may occur within months or it may take years — it will have to undergo Constitutional scrutiny. Since the legislation has not even been drafted yet, it is impossible to know what Constitutional challenges such legislation may face or how it will fare in overcoming those constitutional challenges. We can be confident that there will be First Amendment (compelled speech), Fifth Amendment, and perhaps even Thirteenth Amendment (involuntary conscription) issues, but everything else is speculative at this time.

FLOWCHART: Game not over. Go to stage 5

Stage 5: Technological

Stage 5 is the conditional “if-then” statement of our flow chart.

I believe that it is a certainty that Apple is closing the technological loophole (system updates without the phone owner’s knowledge or permission) that the government is attempting to use in the San Bernardino case. It’s only a matter of “when” not “if”. And when it happens, access to future iPhones will be beyond the reach of the All Writs Act and the FBI’s only recourse will be to obtain legislation demanding that Apple not make unbreakable encryption and instead always create a vulnerability in their encryption specifically designed to allow the FBI easy access to the contents of any iPhone, upon demand.

In other words, technology is going to clear the table and reset the game. Almost everything that has gone on before will become moot. ((Lawyers do so love to use the word “moot” and we so seldom get the opportunity to use it in its proper context.))

FLOWCHART: If (when) encryption improves, then go to stage 1.


The parties to this case are in it for the long run. It’s going to be a marathon, not a sprint.

Tomorrow, I will focus strictly on the legal aspects of the current cases and project who the winner may be.

Author’s Note: This article is part 1 of 2. Part 2 was going to dive into the Legal issues involved in this case since the legal issues are the ones that will most likely be decided first and foremost. I had intended to publish part 1 on Saturday and part 2 on Sunday. However, the FBI issued a 30 plus page reply to Apple late on Thursday afternoon and much of the material in the FBI’s pleading covers the very same legal questions that I was addressing in my article. I decided that it wouldn’t make sense to publish an article that didn’t integrate these pleadings into the discussion, so I am delaying my second article until I have had time to do that. When it’s done, the article will focus on:

1) Defining the scope and limitation of the All Writs Act;
2) Whether CALEA precludes the use of the All Writs Act; and
3) Whether the FBI’s request is “burdensome” as defined by the case law defining the All Writs Act.

In addition, I fear that I must also specifically address the question of whether this case is focused on just one phone or whether it is precedent setting. Normally, I would reserve examination of this question for the Constitutional issues, but it is directly relevant to the question of whether or not the FBI’s request is burdensome under the terms of the All Writs Act.

Author’s Query: I am most definitely going to write the second article in this series, but I would like to know whether you want to hear more about FBI v. Apple, or whether you are suffering from legal overload and would prefer that I return my attention to more business centric issues. Let me (gently) know in the comments, below.

Opening Pandora’s iPhone

According to Greek legend, Pandora, the first woman on Earth, was given a box that she was instructed never to open. Curiosity overcame her, however, and when she lifted the lid, all the evils of the world flew out. ((Men are always blaming women for all of their troubles. I think history has shown that men don’t need any assistance in creating trouble. We’re really, really good at creating trouble all on our own.)) ~ Endangered Phrases, Steven D. Price

On Tuesday, February 16, 2016, a judge at the United States District Court of California issued an order compelling Apple to assist the FBI in decrypting a phone used by one of the shooters involved in the San Bernardino shootings. Apple has balked at the request.

The key is finding that backdoor that can be used appropriately by law enforcement with the appropriate judicial oversight. Search warrants and appropriate court involvement,” Stickrath said. ~ Steubenville rape trial also hindered by iPhone encryption, NBC4i.com

No. That is not the key. That is not the key at all.

There are no fourth amendment issues here. No one is objecting to the police searching the phone with proper judicial oversight.


The San Bernardino shootings were bad enough, but let’s take this to its logical extreme. Suppose the FBI thought there was information in a suspect’s home that might help them PREVENT an imminent terrorist attack involving a tactical nuclear weapon.

Yikes! That’s about as bad as it gets, but plausible, no?

I’m absolutely convinced that the threat we face now, the idea of a terrorist in the middle of one of our cities with a nuclear weapon, is very real and that we have to use extraordinary measures to deal with it. ~ Dick Cheney ((The Military Quotation Book by James Charlton))

The FBI, having gone through all the proper procedures, goes to the suspect’s home to search for evidence. Only, there is a problem. The home is impenetrable, has only one door, and that door can only be opened with the homeowner’s password. And the homeowner is dead

The FBI goes to the company that built the home and installed the door and asks them for their assistance in opening the door. Perfectly reasonable request. The homebuilder would have to be some kind of monster ((Or Apple?)) to turn down such a request.

One of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results. ~ Milton Friedman

Here’s the thing. First, this homebuilder has installed the same type of lock on every one of the 1 billion (and counting) homes they have constructed. Just to put that in perspective, there are around 7 billion people on the planet.

Second, if the homebuilder creates a passkey for this home, the key would work on the doors of all the other 1 billion homes too.

And of course, we’re not really talking about 1 billion homes. If the FBI asks this homebuilder for a master key, they’re going to, soon enough, ask all the other homebuilders for their master keys too, right? Effectively, a master key to almost every home, almost everywhere, will be in the hands of the FBI.


No problem, right? The key will be safe and secure in the possession of the FBI, right?


The truth is that all men having power ought to be mistrusted. ~ James Madison

Well, it’s possible that, every now and again, the FBI bends the rules just a bit. But they only do so to get the bad guys, right? And we’re one of the good guys, right? We have no reason to fear the FBI having a passkey to our homes. We’ll never give them legal cause to use it, right?

Giving an encryption key and the power to use it to the government is like giving car keys and whisky to teenage boys. ~ paraphrasing P.J. O’Rourke ((Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys. ~ P.J. O’Rourke))

Even if we assume the FBI is 100% trustworthy 100% of the time ((That’s a mighty big “if”. I can trust my dog to guard my life, but I can’t trust him to guard my food. Similarly, I can trust law enforcement to guard my life, but I can’t trust them to guard my privacy.)) , we’ve still got at least three big problems.


1) Once the key is in the FBI’s possession, the FBI computers can be hacked and the key stolen.

2) Once the key is made, the integrity of the encryption will have been compromised and other clever people will be able to copy or create a duplicate of the key too.

3) If the FBI can order a key made, so can every other governmental body. From New York to New Zealand, from Chinatown to China, from South Africa to North Korea — everywhere the builder builds, they will have to provide the governing authority with a master key.

Source: Privacy Camp


If you want to see the future, look to the past.

— If you don’t believe the police will unlawfully use the key, then I encourage you to study the history of the fourth amendment
— If you don’t believe the key can be duplicated, then I encourage you to study the history of encryption
— If you don’t believe that government computers can be hacked, then I encourage you to study the history of computing
— If you don’t believe the key will be abused, then I encourage you to study the history of humankind

There is nothing new in the world except the history you do not know. ~ Harry S. Truman


So, do we allow a horrendous crime to occur we could have prevented? Or do we catch the scumbag and prevent the crime at the cost of subjecting our homes (actually, our smartphones) to a search by anyone powerful enough to demand, or clever enough to copy, the master key?

The answer can’t be “both”. It’s either/or. One or the other. You can’t have your encryption and eat it too. ((You can’t have your cake and eat it (too) is a popular English idiomatic proverb or figure of speech. The proverb literally means “you cannot both retain your cake and eat it”. Once the cake is eaten, it is gone. It can be used to say that one cannot or should not try to have two incompatible things. The proverb’s meaning is similar to the phrases “you can’t have it both ways” and “you can’t have the best of both worlds.” ~ Wikipedia))

Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety ~ Benjamin Franklin ((From the Quote Verifier, by Ralph Keys: “So many quotations are misattributed to Benjamin Franklin that it’s refreshing to consider something Franklin actually said but for which he rarely gets credit. His actual words, in the Pennsylvania Assembly in 1755, were “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” Twenty years later, in 1775, Franklin wrote in a political critique, “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” This thought of Franklin’s is sometimes credited to Jefferson.”))

I know where I stand. Where do you stand?

The boisterous sea of liberty is never without a wave. ~ Thomas Jefferson

Author’s Plea: I know it’s asking a lot, but let’s try to keep the political rhetoric out of the comments. The issue is divisive enough without it.

“It is the certainty that they possess the truth that makes men cruel.” ~ Anatole France

Let’s just take it as a given our political opposites are all mindless idiots and move on from there.

“Truth springs from argument amongst friends.” ~ David Hume

Part 2: Branding Tech Companies

On January 10, 2016, I wrote an article entitled, “Platforms — Past, Present and Future“. The comments on the article made it clear to me there was massive confusion surrounding the meaning and purpose of branding in general and value, premium and luxury branding in particular.

This is part two of a four part series on and around branding. Part 1, “Android is a Stick Shift and iOS is an Automatic Transmission”, can be found here. Part two focuses on Brands and how they are used by tech companies, in general.

If you don’t know jewelry, know the jeweler. ~ Warren Buffett

Few of us know anything about the products we’re purchasing and even fewer of us know a trusted expert to advise us. Brands are a communication tool for the seller and a shortcut to understanding the product being purchased for the buyer.


Brand Equity
Brand equity — or simply ‘Brand’ — is the premium a company can charge for a product with a recognizable name, as compared to its generic equivalent. Companies can create a brand for their products or services by making them memorable or easily recognizable or superior in quality or reliability.

A brand’s value is merely the sum total of how much extra people will pay, or how often they choose…one brand over the alternatives. ~ Seth Godin

The opposite of a brand is a commodity item with little or no perceived differentiation from like products.

Differentiate or die ~ Jack Trout

A commodity is merely one of many options available to the consumer. When every product is nearly the same and price is the only significant differentiator, consumers don’t look for the best brand, they look for the best price.

Remember my mantra: distinct… or extinct. ~ Tom Peters

Value Brand
A Value Brand has one or more significant advantages over its competitors — distribution, automation, location, limited availability, etc. — but the primary way in which Value Brands attract their customers is via lower prices.

There are two kinds of companies, those that work to try to charge more and those that work to charge less. We will be the second. ~ Jeff Bezos

Some well known value brands are K-Mart, Walmart Amazon and IKEA.

Let me make one thing very clear. There is absolutely nothing wrong with or inferior about a Value Brand. A Value Brand may charge less but that doesn’t make them less of a brand. Value Branding is just one of several different — and highly successful — branding strategies. The vast majority of the items we own and use every day are purchased from Value Brands.

Premium Brand
A Premium Brand is a Brand that holds a unique value in the market through design, engineering or quality. Premium goods are more expensive, i.e., they charge a “premium” because they have, and maintain, a significant advantage over competing products. Some examples of Premium Brands are Disney, American Express credit cards, and Bose speakers.

More than a 1-to-1 ratio of profit share to market share demonstrates a company’s ability to differentiate its products, provide more value than its competitors, command higher prices, charge a premium and enjoy pricing power. ~ ~ Bill Shamblin

Corollary: Business is hard because differentiation – for which you can charge a premium – is hard. ~ Ben Thompson (@monkbent)

The extra features of a Premium Brand provide the justification for its higher prices vis-à-vis a Value Brand. On the other hand, a Luxury Brand’s price greatly exceeds the functional value of the product. Qualities common to Luxury Brands are over-engineering, scarcity, rarity or some other signal to customers that the quality or delivery of the product is well beyond normal expectations. The Luxury Brand’s extraordinary excesses provide a rationale for the buyer to pay the brand’s extraordinary prices.

We’re overpaying…but [it’s] worth it. ~ Samuel Goldwyn

People can, and do, argue endlessly about where the line between Premium and Luxury Brands should be drawn. However for our purposes, the difference between Premium and Luxury is not so consequential that we need to delve into those nuances. What is important is understanding the concept of Veblen goods.

Give us the luxuries of life, and we will dispense with its necessaries. ~ John value Motley

Veblen goods are luxury goods — such as jewelry, fashion designer handbags, and luxury cars — which are in demand precisely BECAUSE they have higher prices. The high price encourages favorable perceptions among buyers and make the goods desirable as symbols of the buyer’s high social status. Veblen goods are counter-intuitive because they run against our understanding of how the laws of supply and demand are supposed to work.

I have the simplest tastes. I am always satisfied with the best. ~ Oscar Wilde

Some Brand examples of Veblen Goods are Chanel, Louis Vuitton, BMW, and Mont Blanc. Rolex for example, has created a watch to work at up to 200 meters below sea level. Who the heck is going to be fool enough to go scuba diving while wearing a Rolex watch? However, this is exactly the kind of over-the-top quality that helps buyers justify their luxury purchases.

One way to distinguish a Premium Brand from a Veblen Brand is to project what would happen if the brand’s prices were lowered. A significant decrease in the price of a Premium Brand would likely increase sales, while simultaneously decreasing margins. However, a significant decrease in the price of a Veblen Brand would likely DECREASE sales (and decrease margins) because the lowered price would destroy the brand’s cachet.

Although Veblen products are very prominent and therefore receive lots of attention, they are also fairly rare, at least in proportion to the Premium and Value Brands in their respective categories.

Question: Why Don’t More Companies Become Premium Brands?

Most companies don’t strive to become Premium Brands because it’s entirely unnecessary. Being a Value Brand is a very legitimate and very profitable strategy. Walmart is a Value Brand and it’s one of the richest companies on the planet.

Second, most companies don’t strive to become Premium Brands because Premium is hard. And moving from Value to Premium is even harder.

Half of being smart is knowing what you’re dumb at. ~ Solomon Short

Companies that try to become Premium Brands are like kids that try to have sex in high school. They all want to do it. They all claim they’re doing it. Few of them are actually doing it. And those who are doing it are doing it badly.

Once you start in the low-end in this country it is very hard to move up. ~ Ben Bajarin on Twitter

Trying to leapfrog from one brand category into another is like trying to leapfrog a unicorn. Very tricky. Very dangerous.

Question: Why Not Sell To Both Value And Premium Customers?

As I pointed out in last week’s article (Android is a stick shift and iPhone is an automatic transmission), while you can simultaneously appeal to both Value and Expert buyers, you cannot simultaneously appeal to both Value and Premium buyers. Not that many, many companies haven’t tried.

No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. ~ New Testament, Matthew 6:24

No Brand can serve two masters either.

It’s really, really tough to make a great product if you have to serve two masters. ~ Phil Libin, Evernote CEO

The ever present temptation is to chase sales by broadening one’s product portfolio, opening up distribution or even discounting products. This can cause real long term damage to the brand.

Never purchase beauty products in a hardware store. ~ Addison Mizner

People do not want to buy beauty products in a hardware store and they don’t want to buy Premium products from a Value Brand either. Do you go to K-Mart to buy high end goods? Do you go to Tiffany’s expecting to get a bargain?

Brands are always at risk of being caught in the deadly middle. Mix your brands, mix your message and your Brand will not appeal to both Value and Premium customers — it will appeal to none.

It is not wise to violate the rules unless you know how to observe them. ~T.S. Eliot

Gucci, and Pierre Cardin are recent examples of premium/luxury Brands that overexposed their Brand. Who wants to pay extra for clothes everybody else is wearing?

Samsung is an example of a Value Brand that tried to stretch to cover Premium as well. Who wants to buy a Premium phone from a Value provider?

Sparrows that emulate peacocks are likely to break a thigh. ~ Burmese proverb

Fire, water and markets know nothing of mercy. Stray from your brand and your customers will stray from you.

Some Examples Of Tech Brands

It is a test of true theories not only to account for but to predict phenomena. ~ William Whewell

Microsoft Windows (for PCs)
The Windows near-monopoly that existed for the past two decades was an anomaly, not the norm. When everyone has to buy the same product, the lines between Value, Premium and Veblen Brands become blurred. As soon as mobile computers provided significant competition to the Windows near-monopoly, customer segmentation quickly returned.

Microsoft Windows Phone
Microsoft has had numerous problems associated with its Windows Phone, but one of the problems is the Windows Phone did not neatly fit into any one Brand category. Microsoft wanted the Windows Phone to be a Premium Brand that could compete with the iPhone but, because Windows Phone was so late to market, Microsoft initially sold the phone at discount prices in order to gain market share. The phone’s lack of identity was undoubtedly one of the reasons why it was never able to gain traction against its Value and Premium competitors.

Windows Phone’s biggest challenge: it has neither scale of Android nor premium base of iOS. ~ Jan Dawson


IKEA is not a tech brand, but I list it here because it is a fascinating compare. IKEA is very Apple-like in design and very Value-like in Brand. It’s a unique combination and Brand that’s led IKEA to a unique level of Brand identity and corporate success. IKEA has no secrets. Anyone can copy the products they sell. Yet no one does. IKEA has been doing the same thing for 40 years but they also have no virtually no competitors. They have carved out an identity for themselves that is virtually unassailable.

Amazon Fire Phone

Amazon is an amazingly successful Value Brand. Once again, I refer you to Jeff’s Bezos’ clearly stated company philosophy:

There are two kinds of companies, those that work to try to charge more and those that work to charge less. We will be the second. ~ Jeff Bezos

You cannot have a corporate mindset that you are going to charge less than the competition and then turn around and attempt the sell Premium products. Whenever Amazon does stray into the premium sector, they usually receive a bloody nose. The latest case in point is the Amazon Fire Phone.

I greatly admire Jeff Bezos who is far, far smarter than I am, but I think Amazon would be better served if it stuck to its knitting.

Fitbit Blaze

Fitbit is a Value brand. When they recently strayed into the premium sector with the Blaze, the stock market smacked them. Investors and consumers just didn’t believe Fitbit could play as an equal with Apple in the Premium wearable arena.

Samsung Galaxy

Samsung is a Value Brand that had aspirations of becoming a Premium Brand. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say Samsung has aspirations of becoming both a Value Brand AND a Premium Brand.

Almost exactly four years ago, Samsung’s marketing boss sat down for an interview and made a claim that seemed almost comical at the time. … People had been obsessed with Apple’s iPhone line for long enough, and Samsung was going to shift their obsession to Galaxy phones. ~ Zach Epstein, BGR

And for a while, it seemed like Samsung had pulled off their audacious goal of challenging the Apple iPhone in the Premium sector. With a massive smartphone division and tens of billions of dollars to spend on marketing, Samsung’s star seemed to be waxing while Apple’s appeared to be waning. But it was not to be.

Samsung’s smartphone growth has come grinding to a halt. And it’s not because the company’s phones aren’t as good as they once were, or because Samsung’s advertising has slowed down. In both cases, the truth is quite the opposite — the Galaxy S6 and Note 5 are two of the most impressive smartphones that have ever existed, and Samsung’s marketing budget is still 11 digits each year. It’s also certainly not because Samsung is running out of room to grow; an estimated 1.4 billion smartphones shipped in 2015.

The bottom line is this: Samsung’s best smartphones simply aren’t exciting anymore. ~ Zach Epstein, BGR

By trying to sell to both the Value buyers and the Premium buyers, Samsung fell into the deadly middle. Apple stole away Samsung’s Premium customers from above while Xiomi and others undercut Samsung’s Value proposition from below.

Google Android

Android is a Value Brand because, despite its many significant features, the feature that most distinguishes Android and its associated products and services from those of its competitors is lower price.

People think I’m insulting Google when I call them a Value Brand.

First, being a Value brand is not an insult.

Second, Google Android not only is a Value Brand, Google WANTS Android to be a Value Brand and NEEDS Android to be a Value Brand. Android’s purpose is to extend Google’s reach — to have Android on billions and billions of phones. The more people use Android, the more information Google has access to.

Google Android’s entire business model is based on value. They give away the software for free, which allows manufacturers to sell their phones cheaper, which allows more buyers to buy smartphones, which puts Google services in more pockets everywhere. It’s a brilliant business model that has succeeded brilliantly. To claim Android is, or should aspire to be, anything other than a Value Brand is to not understand Google’s purpose in creating Android.

To be fair, Google has tried and tried and tried to go up market with the Nexus phone and, while the press has often been all agog over them, the buying market has all but ignored them.

While industry writers like to talk about how Google has “80 percent” share with Android, the actual units of Google-branded devices that compete with Apple are quite negligible (0.1 percent, according to IDC), despite the huge share of media attention provided to it. The number of people buying Nexus phones is less than even Windows Phone, and you’d be hard pressed to find any reasonable person who actually believes that Microsoft materially competes with Apple in the smartphone market. ~ Daniel Eran Dilger, AppleInsider

At best, the Nexus is the equivalent of a concept car. At worst, it’s a sign of misguided strategic vision.

RIM Blackberry
In its day, Blackberry was definitely a premium product. It was a best-in-class emailing machine. Geeky, yes. But very powerful.

We think of the BlackBerry device as the greatest communication device on the planet, one which enables you –a push environment, a reliable device. It’s the platform that enables this. ~ Anthony Payne, Director of Platform Marketing, Research In Motion, 13 May 2011

The above was absolutely true in 2006, but it was absolutely untrue when the above was written in 2011. By then, the iPhone had supplanted Blackberry in the Premium smartphone category.

What happened to Blackberry was a technology paradigm shift. The iPhone was as different from the Blackberry as the the steamship was different from the sailing ship. The Blackberry was a premium “sailing ship” but, in the long run, it couldn’t even begin to compete with the Value, more less the Premium, smartphone steamships that followed it.

Once a new technology rolls over you, if you’re not part of the steamroller, you’re part of the road. ~ Stewart Brand


Disney is a Premium Brand. I include Disney because I see a lot of parallels between Disney’s Brand and Apple’s Brand. Disney holds a very tiny percentage of the theme park market, yet they have a commanding grip on the top of that market. Disney could easily afford to create hundreds of additional theme parks, but to do so would diminish, rather than enhance, their product’s appeal.

Apple Watch
Apple Watch Edition ranges in price from $10,000 to $17,000 and it is unquestionably a Veblen Good. The price of the Apple Watch Edition is significantly greater than the price of the Apple Watch Sport and the Apple Watch without a corresponding increase in quality or functionality.

The Apple Watch has displaced Rolex on a list of luxury global brands, as measured by analytics firm NetBase…. ~ Luke Dormehl, Cult Of Mac

I don’t know whether the Apple Watch Edition will actually out-luxury Rolex watches, but I do know Rolex is exactly the type of Veblen good that the Apple Watch Edition is competing against.

Next Week

There are two great rules of life: never tell everything at once. ~ Ken Venturi

Next week I will focus on Apple’s Branding. Is the iPhone truly deserving of its Premium status or is it merely using the smoke and mirrors of marketing to fool us into believing it is a premium product? Or perhaps the iPhone isn’t a Premium product at all, but is a Veblen good instead. Join me next week at which time I will fail to answer these questions and many, many more.

Part 1: Android is a Stick Shift and iOS is an Automatic Transmission

On January 10, 2016, I wrote an article entitled: “Platforms — Past, Present and Future“. The comments to the article made it clear to me that there was a great deal of confusion surrounding the role that branding plays in tech. This really got me thinking, and what was supposed to be a short, one-off article, morphed into the brutally long 4-part series you see before you.

A healthy male adult bore consumes each year one and a half times his own weight in other people’s patience. ~ John Updike

Today’s article uses an analogy to examine why Android does not seem to neatly fit into any one branding category. The series goes rapidly downhill from there and then sort of peters out altogether.



I think the disconnect between Android Advocates and iPhone fans can best be explained by using an historical analogy.

When automobiles first appeared on the market, they all had stick shifts (manually operated transmissions). Stick shifts used a driver operated clutch engaged and disengaged by a foot pedal for regulating torque transfer from the engine to the transmission along with a gear selector operated by hand.


Although the automatic transmission was invented in 1921 it didn’t really become popular until the 1950’s and 1960’s and it didn’t become the standard until the 1970’s.

In the 1960’s, vehicles with automatic transmissions had advantages over stick shifts, but they had disadvantages too. Vehicles with automatic transmission were:

1) Easier to use; but they
2) Cost more to buy; and they
3) Cost more to fuel.

As a result of these tradeoffs, the automobile marketplace broke into three distinct types of buyers.

1) Premium customers who valued the convenience of an automatic transmission more than the money it took to buy, fuel and maintain their more expensive vehicles.

2) Value customers who might have aspired to own an automatic transmission vehicle but who either couldn’t afford one or who didn’t think the increased convenience was worth the increased cost.

3) Aficionados ((a person who is very knowledgeable and enthusiastic about an activity, subject, or pastime)) who far preferred the control and power provided by the stick shift over the ease of use provided by the automatic transmission.


Car buyers prior to the 1950’s were analogous to PC buyers prior to the introduction of the iPhone in 2007.

— Prior to the 1950’s, automobiles were mostly equipped with manual transmissions and one had little choice but to use a stick shift.
— Prior to 2007, personal computers were mostly notebooks and desktops and one had little choice but to use the Microsoft Windows operating system.

In 1995 there were 250 million PCs on the planet. Almost every one of them was owned by an early adopter, a tech enthusiast, and were either purchased by a business or for a business purpose. ~ Benedict Evans

— Automobiles with stick shifts suited the avid automobile owner just fine, but it suited the casual, non-expert automobile owner not at all.
— Personal computers with Microsoft Windows suited the avid computer user just fine, but it suited the casual, non-exert personal computer owner not at all.


The casual car driver and the casual personal computer user didn’t choose to use the stick shift or the Windows operating system. They had to use them, so they tolerated them.

There was no golden age when everyone was programming their own computers. Everyone who *had* a computer programmed it. Not the same thing. ~ Fraser Speirs on Twitter

Just as trucks evolved into cars and cars gave us a choice between manually operated stick shifts and automatic transmissions, desktop computers running Microsoft Windows evolved into touch operating systems which gave us a choice between Android phones and iPhones.

The advance of technology is based on making it fit in so that you don’t really even notice it, so it’s part of everyday life. ~ Bill Gates

People really don’t have to understand how computers work. Most people have no concept of how an automatic transmission works, yet they know how to drive a car. ~ Steve Jobs

As an aside, it should be noted that neither trucks nor desktops are going away. They still exist and they still do the heavy lifting in their respective fields. They’re just no longer the dominant players.

Old tech has a very long half-life. ~ Benedict Evans on Twitter


iPhones have advantages over Android phones, but they have disadvantages too. iPhones are:

1) Easier to use; but they
2) Cost more to buy; and their
3) Apps cost more to buy.

As a result of these tradeoffs, the smartphone market has broken into three distinct types of buyers.

1) Premium customers who value the convenience of the iPhone more than the money it takes to buy and maintain it.

2) Value customers who might, or might not, aspire to own an iPhone but who either couldn’t afford one or who didn’t think the increased convenience was worth the increased cost.


3) Aficionados who far prefer the control and power provided by Android over the ease of use provided by the iPhone.



The phones using the Android operating system appeal to both the high and the low end of the smartphone buying spectrum. Both types of Android buyers view iPhone iFans as iFools, but believe iFans are iFoolish for very different iReasons. The high-end Android owners have disdain for the Apple hardware, software and ecosystem. The low-end Android owners have disdain for Apple’s prices.

There is no love lost between us. ~ Miguel De Cervantes



This is hardly a one-way street. iPhone iFans, in turn, have disdain for both the high-end Android geeks, who don’t know what they’re missing out on, and the low-end Android value shoppers, who settle for less.

Let’s face it. If the high-end geeks were really intelligent, they’d be using iPhones.

If the French were really intelligent, they’d speak English. ~ Wilfrid Sheed

And if the low-end discount devotees had any taste, they’d be using iPhones too.

Question: What’s the difference between an Android owner and a catfish?

Answer: One is a bottom-dwelling, scum-sucking scavenger. The other is a fish.

The upside to being an iPhone owner is enormous. You get to look down on so very many different types of people. But the downside of having better taste than everyone else, is that people seem to think you are pretentious.

Never criticize iPhone owners. They have the best taste that money can buy. ((Never criticize Americans. They have the best taste that money can buy. ~ Miles Kington))

Personal Choice and Mr. Market

It requires less character to discover the faults of others than is does to tolerate them. ~ J. Petit Senn

So which is better: stick shifts or automatic transmissions; Android or iPhones?

There’s two kinds of people in this world: those who think their opinion is objective truth, and… there’s one kinds of people in this world. ~ Joss Whedon on Twitter

It doesn’t have to be either-or. It can be, and is, merely a matter of personal preference.

A man is getting along on the road to wisdom when he begins to realize that his opinion is just an opinion.

What a bunch of selfish jerks we are, assuming that what we personally like should be liked by all.

Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live. – Oscar Wilde

Besides, it’s the marketplace — not Android advocates or iPhone iFans — that is the ultimate arbiter. Every time you spend money, you’re casting your vote for the kind of world you want. But every time someone else spends money, they are casting their vote for the kind of world they want too. And unlike political elections, multiple candidates can win.

The great thing about capitalism is that we all get to decide for ourselves what products are necessary, important, trivial or pointless. ~ Benedict Evans (@BenedictEvans)

In smartphones, we have at least two clear winners: Android and the iPhone.

We find comfort among those who agree with us – growth among those who don’t. ~ Frank Howard Clark

So if you don’t like the Android ‘stick shift’, you can always use an iPhone ‘automatic transmission’ instead.

And if you don’t like the iPhone ‘automatic transmission’, you can always use the Android ‘stick shift’ instead.

And if you don’t like either of the choices that the free market has provided, there’s always a third alternative:

You can stick it.

Next Time

There are two kinds of people in this world: Those who need closure and

The next article in the series will be on Tech Branding. The third article will be on whether the iPhone qualifies as a premium brand, a luxury brand or a Veblen good. The fourth article will ponder whether the iPhone’s brand could survive a double-blind ‘taste’ test, and whether the iPhone’s brand is Coke, New Coke, Pepsi, of just a lot of caramel colored carbonated water.