Steve Jobs and Constraints

Nice article by Matt Gemmell regarding constraints in today’s technology products. As I read it I was reminded of Steve Jobs’ similar philosophy as he described it at the AllThingsDigital D8 conference.

For example, after discussing Flash, Jobs was asked what Apple’s “ultimate goal” is in not using it for the iPhone/iPad.

Jobs: You see our goal’s really easy. We didn’t start off to have a war with Flash or anything else, we just made a technical decision that we weren’t gonna put the energy into getting Flash on our platform… and that was it.

“We just made a technical decision.” A simple statement, but when Gemmell describes the plethora of ports, switches, jacks and other “choices that weren’t made by the designers”, it’s clear those designers should’ve made technical decisions, too.

Later, Jobs was asked what would happen if customers insisted on Flash and thought the iPad was “crippled” in this respect.

Jobs: Well I’d say two things. Number one, things are packages of emphasis. Some things are emphasized in a product, some things are not done as well in a product, some things are chosen not to be done at all in a product. And so different people make different choices…

“Packages of emphasis.” Another simple statement, and when Gemmell discusses various factors — “Performance and power consumption. Size and weight. Noise and heat. Beauty, durability, and portability” and others — he’s listing opposing points of emphasis. Many designers try to cram them all in one box, Apple chooses an emphasis then designs a package for it.

Jobs continues: We’re trying to make great products for people, and so we have at least the courage of our convictions to say we don’t think this is part of what makes a great product, we’re gonna leave it out… we’re gonna take the heat because we want to make the best product in the world for customers. And we’re gonna instead focus our energy on these technologies which we think are… gonna be the right technologies for customers and—you know what?—they’re paying us to make those choices. That’s what a lot of customers pay us to do, is to try to make the best products we can…

“They’re paying us to make those choices.” This is perhaps my favorite statement. When other firms toss every feature into a product and call it choice, what they’re really saying is “here, you figure it out.” But Jobs believed customers expected Apple to make the choices required to build the best product Apple can in a given category. As Gemmell puts it, not doing so results in compromises that “illustrate not only a damaged assessment of the choice that was made, but also a failure to grasp the product’s vision and intended usage scenarios.”

I think Jobs would agree.

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Best Jony Ive Quote Today

Committees just don’t work, and it’s not about price, schedule or a bizarre marketing goal to appear different – they are corporate goals with scant regard for people who use the product.

I couldn’t get the essence of this quote into a tweet.

It perfectly explains why Apple’s competitors are struggling to keep up. “Bizarre marketing goals” are why we have Pico projectors, or 41MP cameras, or styluses, or whatever crammed into new devices. It’s something different for the sake of something different, but it’s no way to build something better.

Steve Jobs answers Android UX designer’s question

In this interview with Matias Duarte, the head of user experience for Android, I was struck by something the author observed:

“What is the soul of the new machine?” The words are emblazoned across Matias’ laptop display.

It struck me because it sounded familiar, as if that question had already been asked and answered. And it was. By Steve Jobs

In his WWDC keynote a few weeks ago, Steve Jobs said the following. “You know, if the hardware is the brain and the sinew of our products, the software in them is their soul.”

When Duarte is asked if that’s the first time anyone at Google ever asked that question, he replies: 

“I don’t think anybody ever asked about the soul,” he answers in a very matter-of-fact way, “This was my question, it was the question I challenged the team with.”

Right. Maybe the team didn’t see Jobs’ WWDC keynote. 

Apple Discontinues A Failure (in 2001)

Apple_cube

It was early July, 2001 when Apple finally threw in the towel on the Cube. Introduced to much fanfare as the G4 Cube only a year earlier, the device never met Apple’s sales expectations. 

Not all was lost, however, the radical design earned it a place at the New York Museum of Modern Art. 

What was probably most interesting about the Cube’s demise was Jobs quoted as saying: 

“That was not a failure of design,” Mr. Jobs said. “It was a failure of concept. We targeted the Cube at a professional audience. We thought they would rather have something small on the desk than expandability and we were wrong. It was a wrong concept — fabulously implemented.”

Apple’s Philosophy Summed Up By Steve Jobs Quote From the D8 Conference

We have at least the courage of our convictions to say we don’t think this is part of what makes a great product, we’re gonna leave it out. Some people are gonna not like that, they’re gonna call us names, it’s not gonna be in certain companies’ vested interests that we do that but we’re gonna take the heat because we want to make the best product in the world for customers. And we’re gonna instead focus our energy on these technologies which we think are in their ascendancy and we think they’re gonna be the right technologies for customers and—you know what?—they’re paying us to make those choices. That’s what a lot of customers pay us to do, is to try to make the best products we can. And if we succeed, they’ll buy ’em, and if we don’t, they won’t. And it’ll all work itself out.

Lots of good observations from Jobs’ D8 interview, but the above might say the most.

It’s Adobe Flash he’s talking about leaving out, but the gist of the quote has little to do with Adobe or Flash. It’s about Apple’s philosophy of trying to build the best product and then letting the end user decide. Not some IT group. Not some research or analytics firm. Not some tech pundits. Not some advertising company. Not some record label or movie studio. The end user.

You’ve got Microsoft trying to please the enterprise, Google trying to please Madison Avenue, NBC, ABC and CBS trying to please cable operators, etc. In each case the consumer is dealt with using rules and practices designed primarily to keep the pleased entity happy, not the end user. The end user comes second. By contrast, Apple takes their products to the consumer, trying to please the individuals that vote by paying with their own money.