I Am Responsible for Apple’s Cratering Stock Price

Apple’s stock price seems to be in free-fall of late. The experts and pundits are offering up all sort of reasons why.

I’ll save them the trouble: It’s me.

How so?

I’m THAT guy. The guy who buys every gadget the minute it hits the store. That especially applies to Apple iDevices. I have bought so many iPod, iPads and iPhones over the years, I’ve lost count.

Except now. In the last three months, Apple has introduced:

  • iPhone 5
  • iPad mini
  • iPad 4
  • new iPod touch
  • new iPod nano

And I have purchased exactly… none of them. All of my current iDevices work just fine and none of the above mentioned new products are compelling enough to make me want to run out and buy any of them. On top of that, I have a considerable amount of money invested in an iDevice “ecosystem” of accessories and the change to the new Lightning connector renders all of them pretty useless.

So, thanks but no thanks Apple. Not only are you NOT inducing me to buy your new products, you are actually providing considerable incentive to hang onto my old ones as long as possible.

On the one hand, that’s a good thing. Your previous generation products are excellent, high-quality devices that work great. But viewed from the perspective of an Apple stockholder who paid north of $600 for your stock, I am a really bad dream come true.

Mark Zuckerberg is the next… Mark Zuckerberg

Last week, I had dinner in San Francisco with a friend/technology journalist. Facebook had finished its first week as a public company and the stock was off 20 percent from the offering price.

I asked him if the Facebook IPO was still fun/interesting to cover or if it was getting old. He said it was getting old, because, at the end of the day, Facebook is… Facebook.

We both agreed that if, by some quirk of fate, we all woke up one morning and every product made by, say, Microsoft or Oracle had vanished, the world as we know it would come to a grinding halt. Even Apple products, if they went missing, would cause a major disturbance in the Force, though an iPad is not quite as mission-critical as a relational database.

But Facebook? Yes it’s fun and useful and a time-suck and many other things. But if tomorrow we all woke up to a world without Facebook, we would take to Twitter, say “WTF???!!!” and then get on with our lives. (But we still wouldn’t use Google+).

So any notion that Mark Zuckerberg is the next Bill Gates or Steve Jobs seems, at best, premature and at worst, just plain silly. Maybe Mr. Zuckerberg has plans for Facebook that only he knows and that will fundamentally remake the world, but they aren’t readily apparent and maybe that’s why the stock continues to fall. No one else sees it either.

My Day with Steve Jobs

Image: EzineMark.com

Right around 1989/1990, in my days working in IBM public relations I got to spend an entire work day with Steve Jobs – his PR person, an IBM executive and me.

No, he wasn’t at Apple then. That was in his Apple hiatus when he was heading up NeXT computer. IBM was about to introduce the RS/6000 – its UNIX workstation/server – and was licensing the NeXTStep software for its hardware. (For a full account of these days, take a look at Steve Vaughan-Nichols article published today.)

I wasn’t a Steve Jobs fanboy but left IBM’s office tower in midtown Manhattan that day knowing it was a very special day. We did a series of media interviews the entire day – one after another – with Jobs and an IBM VP (Nick Donofrio, if you really need to know). Jobs spoke in quotable quotes and every writer took notes when Steve spoke. My favorite was, “This isn’t an operating system for the common man.”

He was very business-like, kind of aloof from all of us and kind of kept to himself. It struck me at some point then that we were the same age – and, for that matter, so is Bill Gates. I felt some sort of kinship knowing we’d grown up in the same times. (Somehow, I don’t think the same thought crossed Steve Jobs’ mind, but I digress.)

The IBM space never looked better than that day. We’d done lots of events and meetings on that floor but on this day when I arrived there were tulips and other flowers all around – red and white. It wasn’t overdone and was very tasteful. I was told Steve thought that was important. It cost someone a fair bit of money but definitely made an impression. I never forgot. It was an early lesson for me that “design matters” and one that Steve Jobs knew very well.

The day concluded without fanfare. We got lots of great media coverage – partially because of IBM’s stature and largely because of Steve Jobs charisma in dealing with the media and giving them what they wanted. That was another lesson I took away from the day.

Since that time, I’ve heard more than one account of Steve Jobs high standards and how people would come into a meeting with something they thought was finished work and be sent back to do more work because Steve felt it wasn’t ready for prime time. He is a perfectionist with high demands and expectations. That felt consistent with the one day I spent with him. It struck me that he held himself accountable to the highest standards.

I believe we’ll miss him in the tech industry and from my experience that he cannot be replaced. I’m not predicting the doom of Apple. I’m just saying that my one experience with him makes me believe no one can do exactly what he did.

Why Darwin Would Have Loved Technology

The tech industry is one of the ultimate expressions of “survival of the fittest.” It seems a day does not go by that a company or hot tech product that was on top is being left for corporate road kill and yesterday’s also-ran is the most valuable company on the planet.

Some examples:

- Before Steve Jobs re-joined Apple in 1996, the stock was trading for about $6.00/share and there was chatter that Sun Microsystems would buy Apple. Today, Sun no longer exists as an independent company and Apple is king of the world.

- Just five years ago, MySpace was the most popular social networking site in the U.S. and was poised to take over the world. It was so hot that the dark lord Rupert Murdoch forked over $580 million for MySpace in 2005. As Murdoch’s colleague Homer Simpson might say: “D’oh!” Facebook came along and today MySpace is essentially worthless.

- I once used Yahoo! for all my searches. Be honest: when was the last time you used ANYTHING but Google? (Sure, Bing is pretty good, but I don’t use it and neither do you.)

- In May 2010, Microsoft, with great fanfare and after about a $1 billion in R&D, launches it “Kin” mobile phones. Hope you didn’t sneeze because they were such a hit that Microsoft killed them off after a month and a half.

- While BlackBerry maker Research in Motion is (to quote Monty Python’s “Holy Grail”) “…not dead yet,” its travails are well documented, having gone from first to almost worst in the past 12 months or so.

- Just this week Motorola, the same guys who created the walkie-talkie and the RAZR cell phone, decided that it can’t compete against Apple and Google in the phone and tablet space, so it sold itself to… Google. And HP decided the same thing just one year after paying a billion dollars for Palm and just two months after launching its own tablet.

I don’t mean for this to be a snarky litany of tech failures. To the contrary, in a way, this should be viewed as a celebration of innovation, capitalism and corporate Darwinism.

Technology moves so fast that the next best thing is always just around the corner and you can throw all the marketing and PR and spin you want at a product, but at the end of the day, customers decide who wins and who loses. In a world where banks are too big to fail and the alleged smart guys at places like Goldman Sachs would be on the unemployment line if they didn’t have the U.S. taxpayer to bail them out, it’s great to see an industry that thrives and dies on its own wits, merits, successes and failures.

Will Google always be on top? Can Apple continue its run? And nothing could possibly replace Facebook, right?

Right?

Well, if I were in Las Vegas a few hundred million years ago, I would have bet my cave on Tyrannosaurus Rex. He was big, powerful and a bad-ass carnivore (much like Microsoft used to be) who had a nice run, but a meteor and some pesky start-ups called “mammals” changed all that.

Yep – Darwin would have loved the tech industry. And I’m pretty sure he would have followed it all on his iPad.

“The Future of Computing” or “The End of the Desktop as We Know It (Amen)”

jetsons

Okay, I’m drinking the client Kool Aid here admittedly. But, I can add and 1+1 and that still = 2.

#1 – Not a lot of computing seems to go on at the endpoint (PC, notebook, even smartphone). Everything we do seems tied to something that is on a network or the Internet. (Think about it, how useful is your computer or phone without a connection?)

Next #1 – It’s wicked complicated to upgrade your endpoint with all the data, specific settings, configurations, passwords, applications, downloads, music, etc. I will bet you it takes a day, at least.

And so, that equals 2, which is there has to be a better way.

The better way emerging is a form of desktop virtualization. Take a look at some examples from beta users cited on the Wanova blog.

And, have a look at this Forbes article, “The Death of the PC”.

Both point to the better way ahead, which amounts to the same computing experience for the user without all the hassles and baggage that come with the user maintaining their endpoint – and dealing with it when something goes wrong.

Wanova beta users report big problems are fixed in minutes as opposed to days that it took before. I’ll take that!

Goin’ Rogue, IT-style

Rogue computer guy

I read Nick Wingfield’s Wall Street Journal article, “It’s a Free Country… …So why can’t I pick the technology I use in the office?”

The underlying premise is that there was a time when technology in the office was ahead of technology in the home. This article makes it abundantly clear that those days are behind us. The implications of that role reversal are huge.

Let’s face it, rogue use of technology in the office never has been, and never will be, controlled. And that has huge implications.

It got me thinking that our clients reflect this changes – and are exploiting it. No wonder they’re successful. I long ago gave up thinking it was our help.

Final thought: What technology would Sarah Palin use, bein’ all rogue-ish and all?

Perhaps some (or all) of these:

Likewise (www.likewise.com) cleverly provides software that helps Macs, Linux and Unix systems to connect into networks using Microsoft Active Directory (intended for Windows), which is used everywhere. Lots of big, recognizable name companies are using Likewise software to permit secure access to the corporate network with those rogue computers.

LogMeIn (www.logmein.com) fits the tamest of rogue users in the world. It’s software that lets you get to another computer – like the one at home – from another computer connected on the Internet – like the one at work. No software needs to be loaded onto the computer doing the accessing, which in this case is the one at work, and you have complete control over the home computer. Magic, yes … I use it all the time.

Open-Xchange (www.open-xchange.com) offers an alternative to Microsoft Exchange e-mail and groupware that can be accessed by the user from a web browser, Outlook, Apple iMail, Blackberry, iPhone, just about any other smartphone, and Mozilla Thunderbird (soon-to-be-announced, you heard it hear first). Another innovation from Open-Xchange is the ability to import contact information from social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn so those aren’t isolated islands any longer.

Wanova (www.wanova.com) is introducing a new virtualization software technology that realizes the realities of the rogue enterprise users and enables “customization” by the user, while preserving the benefits of centralized IT management and support when they get into trouble. (Yeah, it’s been known to happen.)

BTW – whether you are presidential candidate or not, you can try most all of these fine software products for free!

Free(dom’s) Just Another Word…

Free price tag

Remember when we used to pay for stuff?

• AOL was $25.00 a month for 14.4kbps service;

• Mobile phones cost $1,000, were the size of shoe boxes and calls cost a dollar a minute;

• Regular phone service was $50 a month;

• Computer software was a small fortune;

• Newspapers were $1.00 a copy and people, you know, BOUGHT them.

Now, it’s all free. Nobody pays for any of this stuff any more (or pays practically nothing for it.)

And Google seems to be behind a lot of it. From phone calls, to applications to video, Google is giving all of this away for free.

Today, Google announced it was giving away free WiFi for the holidays. Yet through it all, the company seems to be printing money, even in the midst of a recession.

I guess this is all good for us consumers. But taken to the Nth degree, where do we end up?

Nobody pays anything to anyone – except Google.

Want a hamburger? Stop at McGoogle’s for a free meal while you watch banner ads on your table/display unit.

Need a new car? No prob. The new Google Malibu is free for the taking, but you have to listen to a non-stop stream of ads while you drive.

Growing family? Time for that new Google house, totally free, with walls made out of LCD displays so you can watch text ads 24/7.

I know – a discussion about Google’s ubiquity and dominance is so 2008. We had the same discussion about IBM in the ’70s and Microsoft in the 90s.

We are all keenly aware that some snot-nosed dweeb is right now inventing the thing that will topple Google in a few months. Let’s just hope it’s not a Steve Jobs-spawn, who will no doubt swing the other way and charge us a premium for the “designer” Internet.

Does Tech Need a Boost? How About “Cash for Vista?”

If Vista Were a Car

The wildly popular (unless you are a dealership not yet paid) Cash for Clunkers ends today.  So, how about the man giving something up for the tech industry? Perhaps “Cash for Vista?”

Come on -  all you Vista users know you want to get off the platform as soon as humanly possible. Let’s all write our congressmen for a little incentive.  Heck, Snow Leopard launches Friday, Windows 7 and Ubuntu Karmic Koala both launch in October.  All shine with the promise and warmth of a new day after the long, cold night that was Vista.

So, give us some love Washington. Imagine the HUGE productivity increases, the release from the power drains and stress reduction we’ll all feel when dumping Vista.

Please Mr. President – give us Cash for Vista.

VMware: Big Ape or Desperate Bully?

Gorilla

Who would have ever thought that we might actually feel sorry for Microsoft? It seems that Redmond is getting it from all sides these days:

- In its TV commercials, Apple continues to hammer Microsoft on …everything.

- Google is doing everything it can to become the new monopoly.

- Open source software ubiquitous on servers and growing on the desktop.

- And VMware is trying to push those oh-so-lovable Microsofties around all over the place. First, VMware said that a 10 foot by 10 foot booth would be the largest that it allows Microsoft (and some others) at its upcoming VMworld trade show. (To put that in perspective, the last time Microsoft had a 10×10 booth anywhere, Bill Gates was probably worth less than a million dollars.) Then, VMware posted a nasty, anonymous video on YouTube that purports to show how unstable Microsoft’s virtualization software – Hyper-V – really is.

At least VMware apologized – sort of. It is one of those politician-type “I’m sorry I got caught” apologies, rather than “I’m sorry I did it.”

Anyone who follows virtualization knows that VMware is the 800-pound gorilla. It basically created the virtualization industry and its products are used with great success by companies worldwide. But its recent tactics are a bit sordid, low-brow and unworthy of a great company. (In other words, they are sort of Microsoft-like). They point toward a primate that has shed some fur and a few pounds.

IBM to Business – Yes Virginia, There IS a Cloud

corporate-cloud-computing

Sitting in the audience at PCExpo in 2000, and hearing now head of IBM’s Software Group Steve Mills pronounce Linux real, was sort of anti-climatic for me personally. I’d been working with Steve and Irving Wladawsky-Berger and John Patrick for several months at that point and knew of open source’s ability to disrupt the technology landscape (something I had even more fun with running communications at SUSE several years later).

But what Steve did at that show was announce to businesses world-wide to have no fear – IBM would cover your Linux bets.

Well – IBM has done it again, this time for the vast, anomalous, cloud computing. The concept isn’t new. IBM, Sun and others have been talking about and dabbling in cloud computing for years. But the branding and yes, the capabilities, have finally caught up to make cloud not just a reality, but a reality that really does have some value.

Cloud computing has the potential to dramatically increase flexibility, innovation and redundancy (in the best sense of the word) for companies large and small.

Welcome to the fray IBM – good to have you.