Bill Raduchel’s life winds through the tech leaders of our time
On meeting Steve Jobs:
Tell the story about your visit with Steve Jobs when he was trying to sell NeXT, the computer company he founded after Apple.
I was working at Sun Microsystems, and one day, I went to present Sun’s offer to acquire NeXT Computer.
This was the early ’90s. NeXT was in a nondescript office building in Silicon Valley. I went over by myself, walked in and the receptionist said, “Mr. Jobs is waiting for you in the boardroom.”
I walked into the boardroom, and there was Steve sitting at the end of a table with a spotlight on him, but otherwise the room was dark.
So I sat down in the dark in the chair next to him, and I started making a comment on the latest Pixar movie, which I think was “Toy Story.”
He cut me off and said, “What’s the number?” I told him. He said: “Congratulations. You found the right number. That’s what I would pay if I were Sun. But I want my number, and someone will pay it. Goodbye.”
And that was it.
Steve was Steve.
What do you mean?
He was incredibly smart, incredibly brilliant and incredibly eccentric.
There’s a lot alike between Sean Parker and Steve Jobs. They could see things other people couldn’t.
Human beings’ horizons are limited by their experiences. Theirs weren’t. Most people hit a brick wall when they try to look farther ahead.
Steve and Sean don’t hit the brick wall. It makes them unique minds. Steve said himself several times that his greatest strength was understanding when something wasn’t ready. He killed multiple tablet ideas at Apple because he said it wasn’t good enough.
[AOL co-founder] Steve Case had the same abilities to understand what would work with consumers and what wouldn’t. What would succeed and what would fail. How much consumers could absorb. It’s an uncanny skill.
Law and Justice and George Zimmerman
Andrew Cohen in the Atlantic:
What the verdict says, to the astonishment of tens of millions of us, is that you can go looking for trouble in Florida, with a gun and a great deal of racial bias, and you can find that trouble, and you can act upon that trouble in a way that leaves a young man dead, and none of it guarantees that you will be convicted of a crime. But this curious result says as much about Florida’s judicial and legislative sensibilities as it does about Zimmerman’s conduct that night. This verdict would not have occurred in every state. It might not even have occurred in any other state. But it occurred here, a tragic confluence that leaves a young man’s untimely death unrequited under state law. Don’t like it? Lobby to change Florida’s laws.
If we understand and accept these legal limitations – and perhaps only if we do – the result here makes sense. Purely as a matter of law, you could say, it makes perfect sense. Florida’s material, admissible, relevant proof against Zimmerman was not strong enough to overcome the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. The eye-witnesses (and ear-witnesses) did not present a uniformly compelling case against the defendant. The police witnesses, normally chalk for prosecutors, did not help as much as they typically do. Nor was there compelling physical evidence establishing that Zimmerman had murderous intent and was not acting in self-defense.
The case was “not about standing your ground; it was about staying in your car,” the prosecutor cogently said during closing argument. But in the end, under state law favorable to men like the defendant – that is, favorable to zealots willing to take the law into their own hands – Zimmerman’s series of deplorable choices that night did not amount to murderous intent or even the much more timid manslaughter. The defense here wisely understood that and was able consistently, methodically, to remind jurors that prosecutors had not adequately explained (or proved) how exactly the altercation started and how precisely it progressed.
Who’s Watching the Spies?
Steve Coll writing about the recent revelations of N.S.A. spying on the European Union:
The most likely explanation is that President Obama never carefully discussed or specifically approved the E.U. bugging, and that no cabinet-level body ever reviewed, on the President’s behalf, the operation’s potential costs in the event of exposure. America’s post-September 11th national-security state has become so well financed, so divided into secret compartments, so technically capable, so self-perpetuating, and so captured by profit-seeking contractors bidding on the next big idea about big-data mining that intelligence leaders seem to have lost their facility to think independently.
Ben Thompson writes about why it’s in Apple’s interest for apps to remain free or very, very cheap:
In the case of apps, the current app store, full of a wide variety of inexpensive apps, is perfect from Apple’s perspective. It’s a reason to buy Apple hardware, and that’s all that matters. Anything that on the surface makes the store less desirable for hardware buyers – such as more expensive apps – is not in Apple’s interest.
This is a point I alluded to in my piece on the topic from about a month ago, but I wanted to call it out more explicitly. Both Thompson and I linked to a classic Joel on Software piece wherein Joel explains the strategy of commoditizing one’s complements. In the case of Apple, they’re commoditizing the apps that run on their platform. And they have succeeded spectacularly.
Thompson also includes this theory:
As I just noted, the great thing about productivity apps is that they add value, and the more you use them, the more valuable they become – the potential value of a productivity app is limited only by the amount of data you are willing to put into it.
The trouble for Apple – or any platform provider – is apps that cross that line from nice-to-have to completely irreplaceable. It’s at that point a user’s loyalty shifts from platform to app, and there are no greater examples than the aforementioned Photoshop and Microsoft Office.
He goes on to argue that Apple’s near-death experience in the 90s only reinforces the importance of maintaining independence from any one app among Apple’s leadership.
It’s been observed before that if Apple wanted to introduce App Store features that would help developers raise the prices of their apps – free trials, for example – they would have done it by now. I think that’s right. It’s been 5 years since the iOS App Store launched and 2 and a half years since the Mac App Store launched. The App Store limitations that work to keep prices low have remained in place. I don’t see that changing any time soon.