About The Mike Daisey Thing

I have not seen Mike Daisey’s show, nor have I listened to the This American Life episode that featured him before it was retracted. But even without having directly heard the monologue, it’s been impossible to avoid in the drumbeat about Apple over the last quarter.

The coverage following the retraction has been fascinating. Clayton Lord’s apology to audiences shows the conflict in the theatre community over what Daisey hath wrought. Brendan Kiley said “I told you so“, pointing back to his review. Adrian Chen explained how the press was taken for a ride.

But it is perhaps John Gruber’s breakdown of the non-apology this afternoon that nails why lying in the service of a greater truth doesn’t work in this case:

Daisey told an entirely different story. Daisey’s story was this: Not only did those things happen, but they are all ongoing problems, right now, today, and they are so rampant, so commonplace, that a big white American wearing a Hawaiian shirt — a man who’s never before been to China and speaks neither Mandarin nor Cantonese — can simply travel to Shenzhen China and stand outside the Foxconn gates with a translator for a few shifts and he will find workers as young as 12, 13, 14 walking out. Any day, every day. That in the course of a single six-day trip, that same man could encounter a man who lost the use of a hand while assembling iPads, a group of workers poisoned by n-hexane, and that a man would drop dead after working a 34-hour shift. Just another week at Foxconn. That was Mike Daisey’s story — and it bears no resemblance to anything anyone else has reported.

My One Good Steve Jobs Anecdote

A few hours ago, [Apple announced that Steve Jobs had passed away](http://www.apple.com/stevejobs/).

While I had the opportunity to see Steve present seven keynotes – two MWNY, five WWDC – the one anecdote I have is about what didn’t happen at one of those keynotes. (It’s admittedly second-hand information and I never personally verified it, but I subscribe to the Tony Wilson/24 Hour Party People notion of choosing between the truth and the legend.)

People who have been reading this blog for ages will remember that in January of 2004, I traveled to Macworld San Francisco to work the Freeverse booth; the main title we were pushing was ToySight, our somewhat-ahead-of-its-time camera controlled minigame collection. It won Best Of Show, and many hours were spent flapping my arms to show the game off to people.

Despite the long-standing belief that Apple has never given a damn about games on the platform, they did – slightly. To that end, there was an Apple Games team, focused on developer relations, and at the time run by Rich Hernandez. (Rich was a great guy, and has since moved on to Microsoft.) Rich really liked ToySight, and wanted to see what he could do to see if it could be included in the keynote that year.

So Rich started trying to get it up the chain, showing it to his bosses, and their bosses, and their bosses still. Everyone loved it. It eventually reached the top tier – being reviewed by Steve for inclusion.

After being shown the game, or at least told about it, Steve’s reaction was apparently one of full interest, on one condition: that Phil Schiller be the one to demo it on stage. Long time Apple fans may recall Phil having to jump off a ledge holding an iBook to demonstrate the build quality, so I suppose this was part of Steve’s general love of making Phil look silly on stage.

Phil, regrettably, refused. The demo slot instead went to Aspyr for a Tony Hawk port. And so we grumbled and silently cursed Phil under our breath for denying us our brief shining moment at the keynote. But I love that thought of Steve: so ready to find ways to rib his team and push them out of their comfort zone.

(Thanks to Bruce Morrison for reminding me of this story.)

In all the rush to label him with titles like “this generation’s Edison”, I think people have missed half of Steve’s worth. He certainly brought innovation after innovation to the marketplace, showed the world that the conventional wisdom for how the tech industry “had” to run was flawed, and rebuilt a company on the verge of bankruptcy into the biggest technology company in the world. But just as importantly, he has served as a hero, a role model, and inspiration to a tremendous portion of the technology sector (myself included). It’s not just the products Apple brought to market under Steve’s leadership that will be felt for generations to come, but the products of the people he inspired.

It goes without saying that I will miss him greatly.

Some other reactions worth reading: [Walt Mossberg](http://allthingsd.com/20111005/the-steve-jobs-i-knew/), [Pat Kiernan](http://www.patspapers.com/blog/item/remembering_steve_jobs_my_first_apple/), [Brian Lam](http://thewirecutter.com/2011/10/steve-jobs-was-always-kind-to-me-or-regrets-of-an-asshole/).

Some Quick WWDC 2011 Keynote Thoughts

As you may have gathered, I’m not at WWDC this year – the recent job change made the timing difficult, as I’m still trying to get through the first 90 days. Not only that, this was the first year in quite a while where I made no effort to follow the keynote as it happened – if only because it again fell on my birthday, and I had more important things to obsess over.

But, as the sort of typical post that comes out of me around this time of year, here are my fractured impressions of what Apple laid out at the keynote.

OS X Lion

The most fascinating part of Lion for me is the new licensing model, which does a pretty good job at derailing what has been standard practice since the dawn of the PC. Most OSes are licensed on the basis of a single computer; Lion appears to be licensed per person. On the full feature list, Apple writes:

When you purchase Lion from the Mac App Store, you can install it on all your authorized Mac computers. Just sign in to the Mac App Store from each Mac and download Lion from the Purchases list.

This is great for consumers – given the five computer authorization limit, you are now potentially paying $6 a machine for a full OS upgrade. That’s pretty huge.

Of course, for IT organizations or anyone that has to worry about corporate licensing, this is a giant unknown at the moment – and there’s nothing IT fears more than the unknown. Details will undoubtedly appear soon, but for now this is a giant question mark.

The cost worth observing on its own, both for the client version ($30) and the server version ($50). OS X sales were always a big revenue generator for Apple, so I’m not sure what the driver is in bring the cost down this much (typical OS X point upgrades are $130; OS X server previously retailed for $499 or $999 depending on the user count.)

As for the rest of the bullet points in Lion itself – it seems like a pretty thoughtful upgrade across the board, perhaps lacking any particularly sexy features for the power users. I’m personally most looking forward to the auto saving, versioning, and the resume on restart (seeing as I frequently bounce between Windows and OS X for gaming).

iOS 5

“Fall” is a very nebulous release date, but since most major iOS releases have gone through about 3 months of developer testing (usually April-June), my expectation is a September-ish release for this, hopefully with accompanying new hardware. (My 3GS is long in the tooth.)

Like Lion, I’m not feeling anything groundbreaking here, but there are features that knock out pain points for me. The notifications tray will end the parade of modal popups that make me dread Foursquare. WiFi Sync will allow me to set up a charging station that isn’t in the middle of my desk. Tabbed browsing on the iPad is welcome, as is iMessage as a way to cut down on SMS fees. And having just played around with a recent Apple TV at my parents’ house two weekends ago, AirPlay is a point of interest for me.

I think the Twitter integration is an odd piece, given Twitter’s recent spats with third party client developers – but we’ll see what it turns into and enables developers for.

iCloud

A little over a year ago, I wrote off MobileMe:

if you’re going to provide core internet services, consider the price differential between you and your strongest competitor. If it’s a little, you only need to be a little better…$100 a year for what feels like a worse product than what’s available for free? Your business model is screwed. Start over, do better.

With that in mind, iCloud leaves me in a state that I can only describe as *meh*.

Undoubtedly Apple has nailed the price point – the majority of the service is free, and the things that do cost extra, like iTunes Match, appear reasonable in cost (without full details). MobileMe users, especially those that just renewed, may be taking a hit but I’m guessing they won’t complain about free going forward.

But the “service” itself is an amalgamation, just like most every version of MobileMe was. The iTunes version of iCloud is that you can redownload your music now, and auto-push it to your devices. That’s neat, but that’s not any particular cloud implementation for the redownloads – that’s just a licensing renegotiation that Apple finally got around to. The app re-downloads piece is even less than that – it’s just an extra screen within the App Store that they turned on as the keynote was ending.

Photo Stream seems suspiciously like the way my Sidekick used to automatically float photos up to T-Mobile’s servers. iCloud Mail is just rebranded MobileMe Mail. And so on. What’s missing is something that, like a good rug, ties the whole thing together. Maybe there are some great overlaps between the services, ones that will become more obvious as the thing grows closer to production. But from here, it just looks like nine services that happen to all be branded together – and that doesn’t strike me as very “Apple”.