JCL Blog

Two Big Speakers this Week

Two of the most iconic figures of our time took the stage this week. To someone who has been a student of public speaking since I took my first public speaking class in the 9th grade I am bound to find the performances interesting regardless of the content or context.  Add to this my interest in both technology and our nation and Wednesday was quite a day.

Steve Jobs Introduces the iPad

Technophiles and ordinary citizens alike are all hoping this is not the last new product presentation we get from Steve Jobs. His gifts are many and to see them on display is a thrill. He himself has raised the bar so high with the Mac, the iPod, and the iPhone that it seemed almost impossible for him to deliver yet another home run. Of course only time will tell on the success of the iPad but and I found the presentation to be short of my own expectations.

He did not help his credibility when he massaged the numbers to position Apple as the largest mobile devices company in the world. Comparing all of Apple's forward looking revenues to just the current mobile devices revenues of Sony, Samsung, and Nokia does not hold up to event the dimmest scrutiny. This illuminated the fact that he was really speaking to the already converted and I find that the underlying fabric of the whole presentation and product.

There were many references to how the iPad will interact with existing Apple products. This emphasizes the closed nature of the Apple environment, and with their own chip, the porting of existing iWork apps, the exclusion of flash, and the extension of iTunes into iBooks -- this is putting another layer of bricks on the wall around the Apple community. The fans are going to love it, but the product is not cool enough to be the catalyst to new conversions from other platforms.

Ahead of the announcement some had speculated that the device and deals with content partners would save the TV industry. It appears that was never part of the vision for the product. Featuring the NY Times was nice but incremental -- no revolution there. As a gaming platform bigger is better, but gamers are not going to make this their main device -- so I don't really see that as a big change either.

In the end I did not think Steve really was wowed by the product either. If they have sold 250 million iPods -- they clearly will sell tens of millions of these things. But the primary motivation will be for one Apple fan to tell another Apple fan that they have it.

I will get into my thoughts about the Apple upgrade cycle some other day, but that is another reason to not buy the iPad now. Apple will continue to innovate on the platform and 12 months from now the new version will be cooler, cheaper, and maybe not even backwards compatible with this one.

Regarding killing the Kindle -- since Steve proclaimed that ALL iPhone apps work out of the box on the iPad -- that means that anyone buying the iPad can read their Kindle books on the Kindle App for the iPhone. This is great news for Amazon. Amazon has never been a hardware company and I bet they make much higher margins on the books than the Kindle device. So iPad could mean more Kindle book sales for Amazon. Also, Jeff Bezos will be off the hook with the publishers now that Apple is in the biz. So I don't think the Amazon people are going to be unhappy about this.

President Obama Calls it Like it is

It has been quite a year for the President. The vitriol between the parties has left everyone diminished and the independents in between seem to jump back and forth every day. It will be years before we understand how the decisions made by our well intentioned President re-shape our universe. Getting out of the financial crisis by turning from bank regulator to bank owner, and getting out of the war by putting more of our people in harms way, are hard things to explain even when over half the members of the choir are your own.

The good parts came when the President focussed our attention on the reason we need to make changes: The "How long should we wait? How long should America put its future on hold? ...I do not accept second-place for the United States of America." sequence hit the target right in the middle. All of the references to the things we are going to do -- particularly those laced with details like forgiving student loans in 20 or 10 years or $20 billion in savings in government spending next year -- do not resonate at all because we are skeptical about our government's ability to do anything. With the possible exception of sending tax dollars to special interest groups on Wall Street and the Pharmaceutical companies -- there is very little evidence that our government can do anything.

One year into his term, the repeated claim that the problems were not created on his watch, were tiresome and hurt his credibility.

Our President did rise to the occasion however and he showed his resolve calling out the "Deep and corrosive doubts about how Washington works." His proposal to put all earmarks on the web is bold and would be a big step in the right direction. His willingness to get some of the mud on himself by calling out the broken nature of our political process is great leadership. President Obama believes that the government can do good work. He has called out the bad stuff, committed himself to do something about it, and I believe his intentions are honorable.

We should not give up hope and all of us should do what we can to contribute to his success.