My take on Inside Apple
I just finished reading Adam Lashinsky’s new book, Inside Apple. It’s very good.
Lashinsky’s subtitle for the book is “How America’s Most Admired – And Secretive – Company Really Works”. I was captivated from start to finish and Lashinsky’s analysis is great, but if you’ve been following Apple heavily for several years, you aren’t going to be shocked by the information or the conclusions. This is not a treasure trove of leaked secrets from the infamous Apple University management training program. This is a well thought out collection of insights with a well chosen set of supporting material. A good amount of that supporting material is new (or at least new to me).
If you normally read as much as you can about Apple’s business practices, and you want to see the whole picture in one place, you’ll like this book. It’s a very quick read and Lashinsky does not over-explain. You will come across tidbits that you’ve never heard before. If you do not know much about Apple’s internal culture but are a fan of Apple products and you want to hear how those products come to market, you’ll like this book.
“We had a few weeks to find a wedding on a beach and to get it shot, edited and approved by Steve. The tight time frame allowed for now margin for error.” – Alessandra Ghini on prepping for the iMovie HD reveal
The first 7 chapters each focus on a characteristic of Apple’s business practices. These chapters highlight ways that characteristic has helped Apple, while carefully noting how it impacts Apple’s employees, partners, contractors, suppliers, competition, customers and the press. For instance, Apple’s leadership model and internal secrecy help it create efficient teams, and fulfilling work, but the author’s sources did not describe working at Apple as fun. These 7 chapters are “Rethink Leadership”, “Embrace Secrecy”, “Focus Obsessively”, “Stay Start-Up Hungry”, “Hire Disciples”, “Own Your Message”, “Overwhelm Friends/Dominate Foes”.
“While each store is distinctive, Apple’s architects work with a limited vocabulary of design elments; only three materials, for instance – wood, glass, and steel – are used for store interiors. That’s how you know you’re in an Apple store regardless of location.” – Adam Lashinsky
Chapters 8 and 10 (“Plan for After Your Successor” and “One More Thing”) deal with Apple’s post Jobs strategy, including the preparations to ensure Apple’s values will remain intact, thoughts on the leaders involved and challenges that Apple-Post-Jobs will face. Lashinsky showed great restraint in saving most of his speculation about Apple’s future for these two chapters.
Chapter 9 (“Inspire Imitators”) takes a look at other companies, some whose leaders came from Apple, some not. The idea here (I think) is to suggest that we can learn about Apple’s business practices by monitoring companies who will leverage practices and/or personnel that came from Apple.
I’m not a heavy reader. It’s extremely rare that I’ll read a book in one sitting. This one kept me hooked start to finish – I could not put it down. The stories in “Own Your Message”, and the Apple Store details in “Overwhelm Friends/Dominate Foes” were particularly informative and fun.
“Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”
I honestly can’t imagine what the state of the art in personal computing would be today without Steve Jobs. Look at the difference between the “smart” phones of 2006 (pre-iPhone) and the smart phones of 2011 (post-iPhone). We owe a lot to him and the team of people he put together and inspired over the years.
I’m looking forward to his biography, but word is that he and a team put together a manifesto of sorts to guide Apple (Apple University). That’s what I really want to read.
Steve Jobs was an amazing, driven, creative man that made my life better. I’ll miss him.
Great Mac Software
Here are some of the apps I use frequently.
- LittleSnapper is my favorite screen capture app. Like many similar apps, it stores a library of your captures and has hot keys for common use cases.
- Things is a todo app from Cultured Code. It’s a little expensive (you have to purchase the desktop, iPhone and iPad apps separately), but it adds the right amount of structure without getting in the way.
- Soulver is a tape-based calculator with the edit-ability of a spreadsheet. Watch the video before you put your $ down. If you find yourself making a lot of calculations for a project and you want to see them all at once – Soulver might be exactly what you want.
- DropBox is great for sharing files with other people, other computers and even your iPhone.
- I use Acorn for image editing (including creating the image at the top of this post). I like it, but I know some prefer Pixelmator and others, Photoshop. They are all great options.
- Fantastical sits in your menu bar, showing today’s date. Click on it to get fast, interactive access to your iCal calendar. I use it most for it’s large, drop down month view.
- Boom at http://www.globaldelight.com/boom/index.html is a fantastic utility that nearly doubles the volume of your MacBook. It’s incredible for listening to podcasts, music and video when the sounds is just a little to quiet. A recent software update fixed my only concern with Boom – it no longer crashes.
- I prefer VMWare Fusion over Parallels for running Windows apps on my Mac. Historically, it eats less battery life, in my experience.
- iStat Menus puts CPU utilization, memory usage and other computer-health metrics in your menu bar, along with a very nice calendar.
- Stock Menulet shows one or more stock prices in your menu bar.
- Hyperdock emulates some of Windows 7’s best features. Drag a window to the side of your screen and it will snap-resize to fill exactly half of your desktop. Move your mouse over an app’s icon in the dock to see a preview of the windows owned by that app.
- DaisyDisk: if your hard drive fills up quickly and you find yourself cleaning out media files or downloads frequently, DaisyDisk can help. Like many other tools, it helps you visualize where all your space is going, but it’s much more fun to use than its cousins.
- xScope provides awesome tools for measuring distances and areas on screen. Magnifying glass, guide lines, etc. I use this a lot.
- Hues replaces your color picker with something much more useful. Save more custom colors, work with more color formats – it even has better copy/paste and an eye dropper!
- Transmit is great for FTP, S3, etc.
- iTerm 2 is a great replacement for the built-in Terminal. Split panes, colored output, scriptability. Good stuff!
Multitasking Accessories for Smartphones and Tablets
Often, while using an iPad or smartphone, I want to multi-task. I don’t mean ‘fast app switching’ or running something in the background, I mean I want to see two applications at one time. That’s not possible with today’s smartphones, so I’ve been experimenting with using two devices at once. 2 screens = 2 apps.
In many settings, this kind of experience is easy. Sitting at a table, you can prop up one device and hold the other in your hands. In other settings, it’s very difficult. On a train, in a comfy chair, in bed, it’s difficult to use 2 smartphones or other multimedia devices simultaneously.
To solve that problem, I’ve tried a number of solutions to fix two or more devices together. I’ve focused on non-permanent techniques, since on device is always my phone and I need to be able to carry that alone.
Attempt 1: Use Shapelock (a plastic substance that melts and re-hardens easily and can be molded by hand) to create a case that holds two devices. That was not successful at all. The Shapelock is just too hard to coax into the desired shape.
Attempt 2: Velcro devices to a metal ruler. This works extremely well. The devices can be rotated to any orientation and the ruler can be bent to put the devices at an angle to one another. Unfortunately, the velcro gets gummy and dirty quickly.
Attempt 3: Combine rubber bands, a small clipboard and those grippy dashboard pads to hold multiple devices in place against a plastic plate (the clipboard). Too complicated. I used it twice, but it was difficult to get the devices situated.
Attempt 4: 3D printed clips that connect two or more devices. I modelled these in Google SketchUp and had a little trouble getting the fit right. The first batch of these that have the right dimensions to grip my iPhone 4, iPad and Droid X correctly just arrived today. I have several more clips coming from Shapeways over the next week or so. It’s too early to say if this approach will be successful, but there are a lot of reasons to believe it will be. The clips are small – they are pocketable. The clips grip well enough to feel confident that nothing will fall (except for the iPad clip-it needs to be a little tighter) if I’m reasonably careful. The clips are modular. Though I have to order a new clip for each device (each device has a different thickness), they aren’t very expensive. The nature of the clips makes it possible to have extenders or angled connectors to get exactly the orientations you are looking for.
In a few weeks, once I have the dimensions cleaned up a bit, I’ll post the final models you can use for printing – at your own risk, of course. If you desperately want the models AS-IS to make your own prints before I’ve had a chance to refine them, let me know in the comments and I’ll send you the files.
Below are a few photos. First, the clips themselves, alone. They look like Tron Recognizers… Second, 2 pieces holding an iPhone 4 and iPad together. Third, a Droid X and an iPhone 4. The multitasking shots are a little contrived (researching Star Trek while watching it; reading techmeme while watching a movie). The more likely use cases involve email, feeds (MobileRSS!!), Twitter, etc. The last picture shows several more clips and adapters that haven’t arrived, yet.
[If 3D printed iphone accessories are your cup of tea, also check out the Glif (although the Glif is now injection molded).]
Fun Stuff This Month
The Glif Kickstarter projectjust hit $100,000 funding. They only asked for $10,000! Glif is an iphone stand and tripod adapter. Kickstarter is a great place which connects project teams with people willing to fund those projects. My first taste of Kickstarter was donating to the Makerbeam project last year. Both of these projects followed the best practice of making donations the equivalent of pre-orders for product.
Lego Universe, Fable III, Borderlands ClapTrap Revolution DLC and DoubleFine’s Costume Quest all come out this month. I’ve already spent significant time with Lego Universe and the Borderlands DLC. Both were terrific. High hopes for Fable III and Costume Quest.
The new PP3DP $3000 High Resolution 3D Printer is shipping. Tempting. Very Tempting. Probably means high quality desktop 3D printers at a sub-$1000 price are only a couple of years away. Meanwhile, the Shapeways service continues to improve. You can now print Sterling Silver. Crazy.
Apple’s Back to the Mac event is October 20th. The big rumor is a smaller MacBook Air. If it has excellent battery life it could be a winner.
Project Tuatara is under-hyped. A gun shaped controller with a gyro sensor and an embedded projector giving you the ability to pan around in 3D space. Watch the video (you can safely skip to the middle).
By the way – new favorite game for the iPhone and iPad. No, Human. Play it.