September 20, 2013 § Leave a comment

From the press over the past week, the iPhone 5s looks to most users and pundits like an incremental change. Same form-factor, no amazing whizz-bang headline feature. There has been the predictable “end-of-innovation at Apple” backlash. As a programmer, though, and as someone who appreciates that what is going on inside the box is of much greater significance than what the box looks like, the innovations apple have put into the 5s are obvious and significant. The sheer amount of processing power, managed by a great architecture, will let developers run wild with new ideas. The user experience will be fantastic because of the sheer responsiveness of the hardware. The result will be a superb experience for the user, even if the user has no idea what it took to give them that experience.

Anyone can take a processor, a screen and an OS and stick them in a box and sell a lot of cheap devices, but building something that has intrinsic quality at all levels is a rare ability.


The core of Microsoft’s problems

September 20, 2013 § Leave a comment

From The Verge:

“The Nokia deal is a lot of things,” said Ballmer. “One of the things it is, is a way to make sure we can capture the gross margin upside because we’re making most of the investment today, that we need to make even owning Nokia.” It’s clear Microsoft wants to take some of the smartphone profits away from giants like Apple and Samsung, and Nokia is a key part of that plan.

That, right there, is the difference between Microsoft and Apple and, I believe, the core of Microsoft’s problems. I appreciate that this is a conversation with investors, but Balmer is laying out his goal purely in financial terms; a goal that is simply to take profits away from the other players. Even on investment calls Steve Jobs always talked about the passion to create great products that people want to use. He knew that the profits are a side-effect of that goal. It’s not always what the investors wanted to hear, but he didn’t change his message depending on who he was speaking to.

When your goal is simply to make money, to take profits from others in the market, then you can’t focus on making great products. If you always have one eye on the bottom line you can’t keep both eyes on the ball. You are prone to panicking, and doing things like buying Nokia, a company that has already been ruined by pursuing the same strategy.

Balmer also said:

“We know that we’ve gotta do a great job”

There’s no doubt that’s true. The question is, do they know how?

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