Daily Archives: January 14, 2009

Steve Jobs’ bad news heralds the real-time web age

UPDATE: yes, I’m insensitive, but this post isn’t an editorial opinion about Steve Jobs, just a note about how his news spread and how his announcement brought into focus the real-time web. Tragedies and bad news tend to focus our attention and bring into relief how our world has changed. I remember how 9/11 did that for blogs. Today the bad news surrounding Apple’s CEO and co-founder brought a new development into our focus: the real-time web.

As I said in my earlier post, I wish Steve and his family all the best.

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I’m sure that Steve Jobs didn’t want his announcement to be one of the seminal events that ushers in the real-time web age, but what just happened today will be remembered for years to come.

What happened? While CNBC was reporting it on TV the real-time-web was going nuts. Passing along little tidbits. Stories. Links. Rumors. And all that. It was interesting, and I couldn’t take my eyes off of it.

There were 40 Tweets coming in every three or four seconds on Twitter search. And it stayed up!

Friendfeed was going nuts (that’s where I saw the news first).

While I wrote this post, which only took about a minute or two, 191 new Tweets came in.

But this points to some dangers and problems:

1. If you aren’t online there’s no “warning” system that something is happening. I wish I could tell Twitter to SMS me whenever a “high flow” event is underway.

2. It’s hard to separate out the real facts, from the fiction. I have a better filter than most people. I know who is credible based on past experience with them. Quick, who is more credible, Allen Stern or Ralph Sanders. I am following both and know who Allen is. Ralph? Not so much and I’ve never seen him involved in a breaking news story.

3. Our mechanisms for tracking stories and important tweets are really lame. Right now, hours after the news has broken, there are TONS of tweets coming through the system. Hundreds every few minutes. But, in that stream of “noise” is there any “news?” Yes. I’ve been clicking “like” on the best ones that I see, but I can’t see them all, so we need an even better system that lets the crowd expose the best tweets and friendfeed messages. I like friendfeed a lot more because it shows blogs and photos and youtube videos and other things instead of just tweets. All of those will play a major part in many news stories (like, say, a big fire or an earthquake).

Anyway, thank you to Steve Jobs for demonstrating to lots of people that real-time news is indeed important and that blogs are not the only way to go. Now you understand why I invested so much time in friendfeed and twitter last year.

You are an idiot if you sell your Apple stock tomorrow

It’s too late to sell your Apple stock. If you sold it today, you are a genius. But tomorrow? You’ll be the biggest loser.

Why? Apple has the best team, the best distribution, the best supply chain, the best management in the business.

Everyone, from Palm to Microsoft to Google wants to be like Apple.

Hint: they can’t.

Hint: they won’t (although Palm got very close by hiring a ton of key iPhone execs and developers and PR people away from Apple).

Apple is more than just Steve Jobs. Now you’re about to find out just how much more.

If you sell your stock you’re an idiot. Yes, it’ll be down big in the morning. Yes, the news is sort of shocking. But Apple is fine and we’ll all buy the next big thing that they do no matter who brings it to us. Steve Jobs has built a killer team that everyone wants a piece of and that culture will be around for years. I met many of them in China and they are regarded among supply chain guys there as the best in the business (and the most demanding). That won’t go away because Steve isn’t at the helm anymore.

Oh, and to Steve Jobs: I wish you and your family all the best. This is a tough business to be in front of all the time and you’ve set the standard very high for your team. Now stand back and watch them shine.

Steve Jobs out of Apple due to health reasons

Thomas Hawk (his day job is as a financial planner and stock broker) just posted this to friendfeed:

CNBC says Apple’s stock has been halted pending news.

Twitter is going nuts.

CNBC just reported that Steve Jobs is out until at least June due to medical reasons. More over on this thread on friendfeed.

Here’s the email that Steve sent to all Apple employees (as posted on Apple’s web site):

Team,

I am sure all of you saw my letter last week sharing something very personal with the Apple community. Unfortunately, the curiosity over my personal health continues to be a distraction not only for me and my family, but everyone else at Apple as well. In addition, during the past week I have learned that my health-related issues are more complex than I originally thought.

In order to take myself out of the limelight and focus on my health, and to allow everyone at Apple to focus on delivering extraordinary products, I have decided to take a medical leave of absence until the end of June.

I have asked Tim Cook to be responsible for Appleā€™s day to day operations, and I know he and the rest of the executive management team will do a great job. As CEO, I plan to remain involved in major strategic decisions while I am out. Our board of directors fully supports this plan.

I look forward to seeing all of you this summer.

Seagate’s future now that colorful Bill Watkins is out of CEO job

First, a disclaimer. Seagate is the sponsor of my video show at FastCompanyTV. It has been my biggest partner in the journey I’ve been on for the past three years and it’s been very tough watching my friends there deal with some very tough business issues which ended this week in the ousting of Bill Watkins, CEO. Here’s the details on that from CNN Money.

Bill is always good for a fun quote and is one of the nicest guys I’ve met and dealt with in the tech business. He started as a surf bum and moved through the ranks at Seagate. It’s an American success story that looked like it would have a great ending. But not this time.

One thing I always loved was that Bill said outrageous things. This always made it difficult to find a seat next to him at dinners because press people would jockey to see if he’d say something quotable.

But the really outrageous thing he said that probably cost him, and lots of others at Seagate, their jobs is the lack of fire about SSD. Bill never had a very satisfactory answer about SSD and the market doesn’t like it when a storage company doesn’t have a good answer. That might have made Bill’s life tough anyway this year but the economic downturn turned up the heat too much on Seagate. Add into that Bill’s lack of fire about the coming economic downturn (in an interview last year he told me he wasn’t seeing any downturn) didn’t demonstrate authoritative leadership.

I really will miss Bill. He was my biggest supporter. He loved social media and gave me my break and not asked much in return. He, and his team, are a dream client. They don’t come along very often. It’s a bummer to me personally to watch Bill and the executives at Seagate (and other companies, cause most are going through the same tough times) have to negotiate very turbulent waters.

Here’s what Seagate needs to do to get out of its funk and be in a good position for when the economy repairs itself:

1. Have a good story about SSD. I know they are working on one, but they need to get there and fast. Lots of netbooks (the hottest things at CES) don’t have hard drives and are using SSD’s instead. Lots of enterprises are putting more and more of their data on SSD-based storage. Seagate needs to have a good answer to these trends and fast. Seagate already has world-class manufacturing experience, which we witnessed close up when we visited its hard drive factory in China. Now it needs to demonstrate it can build other things than just hard drives.

2. Seagate needs to be a bigger player in cloud-based services. Everytime I hear about Amazon S3 or Rackspace’s Cloud or Google’s App Engine I wonder why didn’t Seagate get into that business, especially since Seagate’s business is about storage of the world’s digital data (it’s hard to rip out beliefs that Seagate is a hard drive company). Why not do a partnership with one of these companies to get its brand out there? Most people don’t know that these companies use mostly Seagate drives (Rackspace told me they only use Seagates and when I was in a Google data center I only saw Seagate drives). Is there any way they can change that so that they can build a consistent brand across both enterprises and consumer devices? Every Seagate drive should come with a cloud partner built in. Imagine if your Seagate drive built an Amazon S3 service automatically and shared its stuff there?

3. Seagate should either bet the company on consumer stuff, or stay out. I like what it is doing with its HD media sharing device but not putting an HDMI connector on it ensured that Engadget and Gizmodo will not approve. I walked around with Best Buy’s strategy guys at the Consumer Electronics show and they want gadgets like that, but they are a lot like Engadget’s reviewers. No HDMI? It’s going to be tough to get past them. Seagate needs to do what Palm Pre did. Go all the way or don’t show up for the game. Also, Seagate should associate itself with all the cool companies that are making devices that use storage, like the new Pogoplug or the Drobo unit that takes multiple hard drives. My photography friends love those and if they came filled with Seagate drives it’d be a good thing all around.

4. They need to see the new trends faster. All my friends are building data center racks in their homes to store their bittorrented videos. Some already have 20 terabytes of drives. But Seagate’s latest USB drives, while very cool looking, quiet, and colorful, aren’t designed to be put into a nicely designed rack next to an HD screen. Hint: we don’t want to see tons of wires. We want to store them out of the way of our young kid’s prying fingers. But when I told them about the idea of a rackable set of USB drives they didn’t quite get why that’d be important. Go hang out with anyone who has a Canon 5D MKII and see how many hard drives they buy.

5. Continue to use social media to build relationships and demonstrate industry leadership. Here I think they are actually going in the right direction. They opened a friendfeed room for people to discuss Seagate’s stuff with them and for them to post what is most interesting for their customers. They sponsor my show, which gets them good coverage on Facebook, Twitter, Friendfeed, blogs, and all that. But they need to go further. They still haven’t quite figured out that they can use these services to actually design products and understand the market faster than their competitors. This will be very important to them as they move into the consumer space and work to diversify their product offerings.

6. But worst of all, they MUST regain the “biggest, cheapest, fastest and quietest” leadership in hard drives. Lots of my friends are buying Canon 5D MKIIs that chew through storage at a huge rate. But will these people buy Seagate drives or will they buy something else? Whoever has the biggest cheapest fastest and quietest drives will win their dollars. Seagate fell behind last year and, while they are leading again now, must make dramatic pushes forward.

7. Finally, Seagate needs to ask more of me for its investment in social media and my show. That exercise I’ll leave for the readers. What should Seagate do with bloggers, video bloggers, and people who hang out on social networks? If you were at Seagate what would you ask me to do in return for your marketing dollars?

Anything else that Seagate should do?

Leo Laporte: The King of Tech Talk

Ever wonder about the business of being on the radio or on TV? Leo Laporte is one guy who has done it all. On the way to this interview we were listening to him in the car on KGO Radio. He was one of the key people who started ZDTV/TechTV, which now is mostly gone. People who work with him have become household names. He is the king of tech talk and in this interview Leo tells us all about what the bleeding edge of creating media is like today. We talk a bunch about how media is changing now that everyone can create media and there no longer are gatekeepers you need to talk into distributing your videos or audio shows.

Part I. 18 minutes.
Part II. 17 minutes.