Microsoft’s Productivity Future Vision

This is a neat video, I guess. It reminds me of one thing I don’t like about Microsoft, though, and that is how consistently aspirational they are. From their “to the cloud” commercials to Bill Gates talking about speech and vision at the D5 conference, they talk about all this stuff, but they don’t provide any innovation in terms of helping us get there today.

Steve Jobs would never indulge in blue-sky speculation about what the future holds. Part of the reason Apple commercials are great is because they tell you what you can do with the product right now. Go buy an iPhone, and you can video chat today; you can use voice commands today. Go buy a Windows 7 PC, and give me a call when you’re able to stream recorded TV content from your home to your laptop at the airport.

Jonathan Ive on Steve Jobs

My favorite speech from Apple’s “Celebrating Steve” event last week was given by Jonathan Ive. He used personal stories to illustrate the qualities that made Jobs special, and he clearly spoke with emotion about the loss of his self-described best friend.

His remarks about the fragility of ideas were particularly good:

Hey Jony, here’s a dopey idea.“

And sometimes they were. Really dopey. Sometimes they were truly dreadful. But sometimes they took the air from the room and they left us both completely silent. Bold, crazy, magnificent ideas. Or quiet simple ones, which in their subtlety, their detail, they were utterly profound.

And just as Steve loved ideas, and loved making stuff, he treated the process of creativity with a rare and a wonderful reverence. You see, I think he better than anyone understood that while ideas ultimately can be so powerful, they begin as fragile, barely formed thoughts, so easily missed, so easily compromised, so easily just squished.

Here’s the full clip:

Some People Will Just Never Agree

About two months ago, The New Yorker published an article surveying the latest crop of books foretelling American decline. (This isn’t a post about American decline.)

One section regarding people and their beliefs stood out to me:

The reason we don’t have beautiful new airports and efficient bullet trains is not that we have inadvertently stumbled upon stumbling blocks; it’s that there are considerable numbers of Americans for whom these things are simply symbols of a feared central government, and who would, when they travel, rather sweat in squalor than surrender the money to build a better terminal. They hate fast trains and efficient airports for the same reason that seventeenth-century Protestants hated the beautiful Baroque churches of Rome when they saw them: they were luxurious symbols of an earthly power they despised. Friedman and Mandelbaum wring their hands at “our” unwillingness to sacrifice our comforts on behalf of our principles, but Americans are perfectly willing to sacrifice their comforts for their ideological convictions. We don’t have better infrastructure or decent elementary education exactly because many people are willing to sacrifice faster movement between our great cities, or better informed children, in support of their belief that the government should always be given as little money as possible.

For most of my life I’ve tended to believe people can have their thinking straightened out. That there exists an objective truth, and if the facts can just be presented in the right way, almost everyone can be persuaded to understand that objective truth.

I’m not talking exclusively or even mainly about politics. Maybe you’re at work, and some people on your team just have completely different visions for your product. When I was younger, I felt like there was a better than average chance of convincing these people given the right arguments applied persistently.

Now that I’m a bit older, I don’t really believe that anymore. I believe that there’s such a thing as truth as I see it, but I don’t think most people who disagree can be persuaded to think the same way. Their truths are different.

It’s far more effective to simply surround yourself with the right people.

Some industry watchers suggested Apple should appoint an independent chairman from outside the company to take charge.

Some industry watchers suggested Apple should appoint an independent chairman from outside the company to take charge.