Remembering Steve Jobs

This post will piss a lot of Apple Fans off. I’m going to say that now.

Steve Jobs was a great designer. He built a company up twice based on maximizing control over the hardware, design and the software. He was able to do this an incredibly well. He was able to use this skill to dominate the early computer industry. However, under more competition Apple faltered as it relied heavily on a single creative driver. The designs that Apple created were radical design, these designs in a way constituted a type of radical innovation. The components within the computers themselves weren’t radically improved over the competitors, the design was what made it special.

This is the same for the iPod. By the time the iPod came out there were already many MP3 players and many of them were doing very well. What Apple was able to do was make it simpler to move music onto the device and interface with the device itself. This is the radical portion of the iPod. I feel that this is exactly what happened with the iPhone as well. They created a radical design for the interface, but in many cases didn’t even have legacy features.

Apple does a great job in marketing what any other phone maker would have expected as a normal feature. Even some of the biggest changes, like the fantastic screen it’s an incremental innovation. As a consumer I fully expected some of the newest phones to have amazing screens.

One of the things Jobs did best was to get people to buy the newest version of Apple’s phones. The iPad was also a very similar type of innovation. It’s a gigantic iPhone. However, the reason it worked so well was the fact that iOS was able to scale up and work well on it. In the end I feel that Jobs was able to use cases of Radical Design innovation with incremental technological innovation a loyal consumer base to turn products into massive success.

However, Jobs has also turned Apple into one of the largest patent trolls in the world. With the level of control that Jobs had over Apple, it seems unlikely that he would not have initiated the litigation. Jobs did remember how they lost the PC war in the 80’s and 90’s. I think that Jobs is attempting to use patent law to control the market. There were no software patents during the initial PC battle, however there are software patents now and Apple has been patenting a great deal in order to control how devices are marketed and developed.

Finally, I think that Jobs was what Jim Collins called a level 4 leader. Similar to Lee Iacocca (of Chrysler), Jobs was able to control Apple through sheer personality and create a great company. However, he doesn’t like dissent and would probably pull a George Lucas and change the original Star Wars trilogy.

Jobs did have a vision of what devices should look like and how they should work. He was excellent at creating great designs. He will be remembered for saving a trouble company, bringing design back into mobile devices and forcing a huge number of companies to compete in the mobile market space.

Amazon’s Silk

Interesting read on Tech Dirt on Amazon.com’s Silk browser. They note that it’s a copyright infringement suit waiting to happen. If you’re too lazy to read the article, basically Silk will copy whatever website you go to onto it’s servers so it can send you a compressed version of it. For instance if a website that you’re on has a 3mb picture they’ll send you a 50kb picture instead. This does a few things. First, it will help relieve congestion on cell networks because smaller pieces of information are being sent. Second, it will save you data if you don’t have an unlimited data package. Finally, it could violate copyright. Why? Because it’s copying everything from a website and then sending you the information from a different source. Not only that, but it is effectively altering the picture they are sending you. I’m not sure if there have been any copyright cases based on compressing the quality of a picture, but for all intents and purposes it’s altering the picture. It probably should fall under fair use, but you never know some one will probably try to sue over that.

There are some other issues to consider too. The browser has predictive capabilities based off of aggregate users actions. This is actually fairly similar to what Facebook is doing, but there are no implications for ads with Amazon (at this point we don’t know if they store individual user statistics). The example they give on the website, is if you go to NYTimes.com and a high percentage of users then click on the business section Amazon will pre-load this information into their severs. This could have an impact on big websites’ server loads as well. They could potentially be hit twice for a lot of visits to their site. If Amazon predicts incorrectly, then it will hit the server at least twice.

Another interesting consideration is related to ad revenue. Let’s say users of some website like, I don’t know KBMOD.com, always visit a YouTube account after reading the front page, let’s go with InfiniteSadd, which would then auto play the video that’s on top. This of course have the ad pop up on the bottom. Now the question I have is in these situations would this count as a click, or would the ads start to filter out views and click throughs from Silk? The situation, I presented is unlikely as there’s no direct link from KBMOD to InfiniteSadd’s user profile. But’s easy to image that it could work that way.

I’d really like to know more about the user statistics that Silk will be collecting. Since the browser is going to be on their Fire device (who knows could also be an update for older Kindles as well), Amazon will know who is browsing what you are browsing and may actually keep that information in your account to predict your behavior better. I don’t see any reason why they couldn’t collect that data. I would imagine that it’s very technologically feasible to use a larger aggregate dataset for websites you don’t frequent, but for your most commonly visited websites for Amazon to have enough usage to figure out where you’re going to go next.

I think the browser is a great idea. However, I can also see this turn into another way for Amazon to better target your recommendations. If you are on your Fire and they see where you go, then they will also know what other products you might be interested in that you haven’t bought through Amazon before. If they know what interests you then they can put those into your “Silk based recommendations.” Now there hasn’t been any talk of that yet, but since they are selling the product at a loss they need you to buy a decent amount of product to get a return on their investment. I’ve seen two values, $50 and $10 losses.

Keep your eyes open for news on this, it could be a copyright and privacy issue before long.

Facebook dirty filthy liars

Facebook has patented the ability to continue tracking users after they have left their website. Despite this Facebook repeatedly claimed that they were not in the business of tracking their users. However, Facebook’s business is knowing their product as well as possible. You are their product. They are extremely interested in knowing everything they can about you. Why? It’s really simple. The more they know about their user’s online browsing activities the better they can customize ads for you. I imagine that they will create some pretty sophisticated models to determine who will click what sorts of ads. The more people click the more accurate the ad targeting will become.

While individual users do have a web “fingerprint” as the EFF puts it, people will typically browse the same types of websites together. For example people who play fantasy football will be going to yahoo! sport (or some other competing service), they then visit sites like espn, sports illustrated and probably a few sports blogs to try to figure out the best way to get an edge in their game this weekend. Facebook will take this data and aggregate it for a larger set of data. As there are 800 million facebook users and millions of players of fantasy sports, this data could be extremely useful for Facebook to use in placing ads. From these data they may be able to determine which sports team you’re interested in, which players are on your fantasy team, and then display ads for jersey’s from that team or for a specific player. They will also be able to figure out which ads will have an higher likelihood of someone with your browsing profile to click on.

Facebook will then be able to set a premium for ads that they do this with, or they will earn more money from the number of clicks a given ad gets. This of course is why Facebook has decided to collect this data. Some of it seems harmless enough. It’s not that big of a deal that Facebook is getting my fantasy football information, why should I care? Well, you don’t just use the internet for fantasy football, you use it for banking, shopping and a plethora of other activities. Do you know what data facebook is collecting? I certainly don’t. From the patent it is unclear what protections they are providing on the data they are collection. It also doesn’t say what data they will be collecting when you visit a third party site.

As a personal precaution I have started to use Facebook in a separate instance of Chrome using the Incognito function. This prevents my browsing history from being saved and deletes many cookies. I have also taken to deleting all my cookies every time I close my browser. I don’t do it myself Chrome does it for me. Additionally, these settings are available for both Internet Explorer and Firefox. I suggest that you look into doing similar safety measures to prevent Facebook from getting information from you that you don’t want them to have.

Finally, the other thing that isn’t really discussed in many places that mention the ads, this data is also being provided to law enforcement agencies. Now of course there’s the whole if you aren’t doing anything wrong then you don’t have to worry about anything. However, this worries me regardless because I’m losing my control over what information is going to the government and companies. I don’t like that. Patents like this one and cookies that record our daily activities are changing our private life into our public life.