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Artificial Intelligence vs. The Typewriter

I’ve spent most of my life evaluating the impact of new technology and pondering how it can make life better, work more efficient and people more knowledgeable.

I’ve found that often people seem to get very frustrated when technology changes. Facebook is a famous example of this, as they change their interface regularly. I recently noticed that since switching to Timeline that Facebook had defaulted to showing all my photos and friends to all 800 million Facebook users. The interface to set Facebook privacy is poorly designed and de-centralized, so for the first time I find myself joining the bandwagon of discontented users.

But I’ve noticed it coming up in other discussions recently, such as learning to type on the iPhone and getting used to threaded or “smart” email systems. People often use the word, “intuitive” to describe technology interfaces when they really mean “familiar.”

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Remembering Steve Jobs

I owe a lot to Steve Jobs. My family got an Apple IIc computer when I was in the 1st grade (thanks Mom and Dad!) and it defined my entire career. I was an early card-carrying member of the cult of Apple. It wasn’t just about being cool or different. There are hundreds of tangible reasons why that platform was and is superior. Not just for artists, but for everyone. An evangelist was born.

In the 2nd grade, my 1st grade teacher came to get me out of class to help her “fix” her Apple IIe. Remember those guys with the green and black monitors? Turns out she just didn’t have the monitor on, but I found it remarkable that she came to me rather than any other adult in the school.

That was my first consulting gig.

steve jobs Remembering Steve Jobs

I often don’t write about “big news” since I figure everyone is doing it and the world probably doesn’t need one more blog post. But in this case, this isn’t just news. This is the end of an era.

But it’s not all sadness. Steve’s legacy is so strong, inspiring, and lasting that his untimely passing also marks the beginning of a new era — for Apple and all technology companies and geeks.

We’ve seen social media take hold in the past few years, and I believe we have yet to realize the true potential of that technology. In its infant state of exploration, experimentation and fundamental learning, social media remain anyone’s game.

Apple fueled the growth of new technologies such as social media by exploding the potential of open mobile app distribution. I clamor to ideas like this — philosophies, frameworks, and factories working together to empower everyone and level the playing field.

At the center of all this was Steve, whose singular vision and demanding standards merged artistry and technology into some of the most empowering devices and software ever created.

Being a life-long Apple fanatic means I’ve been there in good times and bad. I saw Steve get booted from Apple, and then triumphantly return to save the company from disappearing altogether. I painfully tried to help my college buddies with their late-90’s Mac’s that just weren’t very well-built.

When the Mac came about in 1984, I became mesmerized by desktop publishing and later PageMaker. The Mac made that world possible at the time, and once again I found it easy to dazzle people by doing what I enjoyed most – using the things that came out of Steve’s mind to solve problems and create.

This lead me to pursue journalism through high school and college. I was also an Apple Student Rep at Northwestern, which is the only time I received a paycheck from Apple. While I didn’t specifically pursue journalism as a career, my life has led me along the path of the new journalism in the form of social media and communication technologies. I apply these lessons on behalf of my company and clients every day.

And yes, I still use a Mac. Now I have several. I feel like much of the world has come to understand what I’ve known all my life. Vision like this is rare and deserves to be revered.

Steve would be the first to tell you that his path was not without mistakes. Whose life isn’t? But his journey is an extraordinary one worthy of reflection. He had a unique way of bringing teams of varied talent together to create something profound around a singular vision. It’s no surprise that Pixar is one of most successful film studios and business success stories in any industry.

Five years ago, who would have thought that thousands of executives would be walking around with an Apple logo on their phones?

If you’ve never seen it, take a few minutes to watch Steve Jobs’ address to Stanford graduates in 2005. These words continue to inspire me.

Thanks Steve for all you’ve given me and the world. We’ll never forget what you did and we’ll do our very best to carry your torch of innovation.

Update:
I was going through some old Apple memorabilia (yes, I have a lot of it), and found this photo of the rock we painted at Northwestern University in April 1997 before they changed to a single color logo. We made the student newspaper, The Daily Northwestern, the next day. However, the article was titled “Macintosh Misery” due to our decision to create hopeful art during a dark chapter in Apple’s life. Steve’s return and recovery of the company shortly thereafter thankfully make these mere anecdotes of history.

Apple Computer Mac logo NU Northwestern University Rock Painting 19972 Remembering Steve Jobs

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Google-Motorola Deal Fuels Patent War

You might have heard about Google’s announcement to purchase Motorola Mobility Holdings for $12.5 billion. On the surface this would seem to be a move to solidify the Android ecosystem and cult by starting to build and distribute their own mobile hardware (cell phones and tablets).

That’s part of it. Apple has demonstrated the market power and profitability that a proper cult following can generate and continues to demonstrate this commitment by practically giving away their newest operating system, Lion ($29), and actually giving away their upcoming iCloud service to all Lion users. Not a bad way to get people to buy the latest and greatest.

Google Android Takes Over World3 Google Motorola Deal Fuels Patent War

Not too far beneath Google’s surface brews a tempest that has significant implications for all mobile technology innovation in the years to come. Google’s main interest in Motorola is 17,000-plus patents that allow them to enter the patent wars currently underway. In this war, patents are conglomerated legal cards to be played as part of an ongoing legal strategy for each company vying for market share.

Patents were designed to fuel innovation by rewarding someone’s original idea, allowing him or her a specific period of time to capitalize monetarily on that idea. Technology moves much faster than the law, and we’re quickly seeing the limitations of copyright, trademark, and patent law as they currently stand.

On the heels of reports saying Android phones occupy nearly half the market, one might wonder how such a deal could get through anti-trust court. To Google’s credit, this does represent a new business sector for them as they wisely licensed the Android OS (classic Microsoft strategy) rather than building hardware (Apple). Now how do you think those dozens of hardware manufactures feel about competing directly with a company owned by their licensor?

While Larry Page states that the deal will “enhance competition and offer consumers accelerating innovation, greater choice, and wonderful user experiences,” I’m not convinced. The little guy doesn’t have the legal muscle to enter the patent wars, and is often only brought in unknowingly after he’s had some success.

Certainly Google has offered much innovation to the world, and some see as a defensive move. I have a limited amount of trust for any large corporation, and these days that includes Google and even Apple. If you’ve been watching this game awhile, it may seem somewhat ironic to see Apple and Microsoft banding together to sue Google. The enemy of my enemy and all that.

This situation makes me squirm the way much of our stock market does. What was created as an institution to allow anyone to invest in a company, hitching his or her star to the success and failure of that company, has become an abstraction that allows people to place bets on the success or failure of anything or nothing. We’ve seen how well that played out in recent years.

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