Friday, December 19, 2008

parallels between Steve Jobs and Mao Zedong, and where they break down

Make no mistake about it, Steve Jobs is a capitalist, if not by predilection then at least by necessity and long association, and as such he's done rather well.

But you don't have to scratch him very deeply to find a sort of revolutionary, someone who can't abide the absence of progress. In this he's rather like Mao, who became nervous as ‘his’ revolution seemed to be reaching a conclusion, even if a nominally successful one. Jobs is a wiser man than Mao, however, and his inclination to keep pushing forward is unlikely to produce anything even remotely analogous to the widespread devastation that precipitated from some of Mao's less clueful decisions. The withering of Macworld is about as close as you're likely to see, and there's good arguments on both sides for that.

But, just as Mao retired rather early as head of state, you can expect Jobs to increasingly leave the day-to-day details to others, even if he remains CEO for a few more years. In his case it's likely to be a conscious decision from the outset, to free up his time, enabling him to give more attention to Apple's long term future, and for those close enough to him to have a good idea of what he's choosing to spend time on, the degree to which he becomes personally involved with any deal or issue will be a good measure of how critical he views it as being over the long term.

This doesn't play as well to the public as a keynote, but once he quits emceeing any keynotes himself, if and when he shows up for a cameo, whether in person or via remote link, pay close attention to what he has to say; it will have a density of significance many times that of the casual comments he might make in the context of a longer presentation, and you can bank on it not being hogwash.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

marching to someone else's drummer

Appleinsider quotes Needham & Co. analyst Charles Wolf as saying "I think Apple wants to get away from the tyranny of MacWorld where it is forced to introduce new products on IDG's schedule, rather than its own."

This makes perfect sense.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

countdown to Macworld 2009

One of the two most significant yearly events on Apple's calendar, Macworld 2009 begins three weeks from tomorrow, and the obligatory frenzy of anticipation and speculation should be beginning soon, certainly no later than a week before the event itself.

If previous Macworlds can serve as a guide, there will be a keynote address by Steve Jobs and company, on Tuesday, January 6th, but this has yet to be confirmed.

Since Apple's portable computers were recently updated, early speculation has centered on new desktop machines (Mac mini, iMac, and Mac Pro), and possibly a reshuffling of the low end of Apple's product line, recombining functionality as well as bumping component performance. There's also been considerable talk about the possibility of an iPhone-like portable device with a larger screen, sometimes referred to as a tablet computer.

Personally, I have no predictions to offer at this time, other than, if there is a keynote, I'll be watching the streaming version of it within a few days after it's delivered, as well as the altogether safe prediction that we'll be hearing more about Snow Leopard, the next version of Mac OS X, and arguably the biggest Mac OS X related news to come along since version 1.0 went gold master.

Update: Apple has announced that while there will be a keynote, Phil Schiller will be doing it instead of Steve Jobs. What's more, this will be the last Macworld in which Apple will actively participate.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

wondering how Obama is playing with the ‘lunatic fringe’

I'm not in the habit of using that phrase - ‘lunatic fringe’ - and I expect Barack Obama is also not in the habit of using it, even in the privacy of his own mind. Others are, however, and it's their perspective along with that of those they use it to refer to that I hope to invoke here.

Now, to be fair, either extreme of the conventional left-right political spectrum might be described as a lunatic fringe, particularly by moderates of the opposite persuasion, but since Obama is a Democrat, and therefore presumably left-of-center, those on the left are more likely to think of him as their man and it's their view of what constitutes the ‘lunatic fringe’ that's intended here.

Frankly, I don't think Obama is all that far left-of-center, in conventional terms, but that depiction fails to capture that he is nevertheless a radical, one whose radicalism is deeply rooted in the values of the political center. I doubt that is lost on anyone who really cares about how America is changing and where we're headed; Obama also really cares, and that has to resonate with them, even if they might quibble about the details.

But that's only a theory, without the benefit even of knowing whether the leaders of the political right wing are taking a wait-and-see attitude or doing their best to undermine Obama's momentum, much less which of these the man on the street is more inclined to listen to. So I'm left to wonder whether the sheer quality of the man we just elected as our next President is apparent to those who are likely to wrongly assume they have nothing in common with him.

I wish him well, and hope his leadership has the effect of pulling America closer together, not least by mobilizing the energies of those who care the most, at both ends of the political spectrum, behind a common purpose.