Doing What’s Right, Not Necessarily Profitable

From Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, in response to questions raised at a recent shareholder meeting about the company’s investment in sustainable energy and the it’s impact on profits.

“When we work on making our devices accessible by the blind,” he said, “I don’t consider the bloody ROI.”1 He said that the same thing about environmental issues, worker safety, and other areas where Apple is a leader.

He didn’t stop there, however, as he looked directly at the NCPPR representative and said, “If you want me to do things only for ROI reasons, you should get out of this stock.”

Argue all you want about the merits of their products, iPhone vs. Android, Mac vs. PC, this is an attitude and corporate policy we should see from more CEOs.


  1. ROI=Return on Investment

Happy Birthday, Mac

Ok, this is going to be a very geeky bit of nostalgia, so you may want to just move on to something more substantial right now.

Anyway, today is the 30th anniversary of the announcement of the Apple Macintosh computer1 and, having owned and used a variety of command-line computers prior to 19842, the graphical interface in this new machine grabbed my attention like nothing before it. Based on the message boards I frequented at the time (Facebook’s great grandfather), I wasn’t alone.

My first Mac was the 512K, the second edition, released in the fall of 1984. I sorta kinda bought it illegally. Apple was allowing a few colleges to offer Macs to faculty and students for large discounts through their bookstores and a colleague at my school arranged for his daughter to buy one for me. She was an English major, owned a top of the line IBM Selectric, and had no interest in computers of any kind.

Since then I’ve lost track of how many Macs I’ve owned and used, certainly more than two dozen different desktops and portable machines. The only representative of those earliest editions I still have is that SE/30 (on the left in that picture), which was my second purchase. It still works (booting from that massive 40mb hard drive) and is still an amazing piece of engineering.

There’s no need to go into any more details. Someone else can relate the rest of the history of the Macintosh (like this list of favorite models), I’m more interested in the future of personal, portable, connected devices, regardless of whether they are called computer or Mac.

However, for as far forward as I’m able to predict technology (which frankly, is not very far), I’m pretty sure I’ll be buying the best of that category from Apple.3

Happy birthday, Mac.


  1. That video makes clear that Jobs had already developed his Reality Distortion Field™.

  2. Apple II, TRS-80, and Commodore PET among them

  3. Feel free to tell me why I’m totally wrong, either the “best” part or about me continuing to waste my money on their overpriced products. :-)

Design is More Than Good Looks

Steve Jobs on design:

Most people make the mistake of thinking design is what it looks like. People think it’s this veneer — that the designers are handed this box and told, ‘Make it look good!’ That’s not what we think design is. It’s not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.

When it comes to most products, it’s always been true that functionality is more important than appearance. But there are still plenty of people who believe the outward style of Apple’s devices is the primary reason why they have a loyal customer base, one that’s steadily growing.

If rumors are correct, at tomorrow’s keynote for their annual developer’s conference, Apple execs will present new models in the MacBook Pro line. Soon after, I’ll be replacing my nearly five year old MacBook Pro with one of them.

No computer is going to be perfect, and the Mac OS has it’s quirks. However, more than any other company I can think of, I’m very sure their engineers will have sweated the details on both hardware and software to assure that the device is far more than just good looks.

Now if they can just do something about updating Aperture. :-)

Work That Means Something

According to a post at Geek.com, Apple gives this welcome note to all new employees at the company.

There’s work and there’s your life’s work.

The kind of work that has your fingerprints all over it. The kind of work that you’d never compromise on. That you’d sacrifice a weekend for. You can do that kind of work at Apple. People don’t come here to play it safe. They come here to swim in the deep end.

They want their work to add up to something.

Something big. Something that couldn’t happen anywhere else.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could swap out “Apple” and insert the name of our school or district? And mean it?

Plenty of Choices. Just Not Good Ones.

With the next version of the iPad being announced later today, I was thinking about the way some in leadership positions here in the overly-large school district talk about using “tablets”, using the generic term when it’s pretty clear that most others are hearing iPads.

They try very hard not to lean toward a specific product since the system has also blessed the purchase of the Xoom device by Motorola and running Android. In effect, they want schools and offices to think of the two operating systems as equal and to make a choice based on needs. Or something like that.

Early in the school year when we started working with tablets in the system, I tried to be balanced when discussing which device someone should consider, with a collection of plusses and minuses for each. Now, after spending some time with the Xoom and watching others struggling with it, I’ve pretty much given up on being “fair”.

The big problem is that iOS and Android are not equal, not even close, especially when implemented on tablets.

I could go into my long list of reasons why, but instead read what Fraser Speirs, who has a whole lot more experience using mobile devices in a classroom, has to say on the matter.

His conclusion is that Android represents solid engineering on the part of Google. However, the way manufacturers deploy it – with multiple versions, confusing upgrade policies, inconsistent user interfaces and hardware integration – is a “deal breaker”.

Read the whole post which is a great analysis of Android’s problems. Speirs is focusing on a school environment but many of the points he makes will be relevant to anyone considering purchasing any mobile device.

Other than the rumors being passed around, I have no idea what Apple will show in their presentation. But I do know that whatever the products, the hardware and software involved will be tightly integrated, producing a user experience that’s just not available on any Android device.

You may not like Apple or iPads or stuff with i names. But the company’s recent successes (computers sales are also growing fast) shows that there are plenty of us who like our technology to just work smoothly without a lot of fuss.

And, of course, when it comes to tablets you do have plenty of choices. Just not good ones.