Apple Goes Back to the Future to Fight Google

For a long time, observers have tried to figure out Google's overall product strategy. It's not that Google doesn't have a vision based on its long-standing angle on people's needs and associated advertising. But when Google started rolling out hardware, then we started to wonder about the grand product plan. What have been the driving values that, in turn, confer respect and admiration for the company?

Meanwhile, Google was hiring some very smart people and unleashing them. Lots of things have been tried, and lots of things have ended up being cancelled. The consensus, at least what I've read, is that many of these projects were dreamed up and implemented because they seemed cool, and the hope was that because they were cool, they'd appeal to a broad range of people.

A lot of them did not.

This week, I was directed to a fascinating article by Thomas L. Friedman at the New York Times, who tells the story back in February of how a Google executive, the senior vice president of people operations for Google, Laszlo Bock, has reconsidered whether the prospective employee's G.P.A. rules. “G.P.A.’s are worthless as a criteria for hiring, and test scores are worthless. ... We found that they don’t predict anything.”

We should welcome him to the club of experienced hiring managers who've been saying this for decades. Friedman continues the article by citing the many other factors that Mr. Bock has found to be useful. Those factors are exactly what you thought they'd be. What took Google so long?

What I find fascinating is that in our fast-paced technology development, the backwards looking window of wisdom is compressed. As data, experiences, web words and products increase exponentially, we can only look back in time so far before everything that was done before seems irrelevant. That, of course, can also lead to overlooking a century of insights about the basics of human behavior and needs.

When Apple presents us with TV ads and when Apple develops products, one of the things that we realize is that there are long-standing human values at work. Part of this comes from Steve Jobs, but part of it comes from the people who have trained under him and who are still at Apple. Some are irritated by these Apple ads because the values expressed fall outside their backwards-looking window.

One of the things we expect of Tim Cook is to not only continue to be an effective CEO in the operation of Apple, recognizing change and seizing opportunities, but also to preserve, protect and defend core values that Apple is famous for. Mr Cook doesn't have to be Steve Jobs. He only has to be himself — smart, insightful and a solid leader who maintains a proper focus. Then, everything important about Apple's values takes care of itself, and observers will seldom find themselves questioning Apple's new products as they have with Google's. 

However, it's one thing to forget the past.  It's quite another to institutionalize it for your own gain.  And that leads us to...

Next: The tech news debris for the week of July 14.

Page 2 —The Tech News Debris for the Week of July 14


Apple's new programming language, Swift, has gotten a lot of attention. We naturally want to know more, and so good articles are those that give one a feel for the language without bogging us down in language details and syntax. Here is a very good one: "Why Apple’s Swift Language Will Instantly Remake Computer Programming."

Articles that interview experts often provide a lot of technical information, but creating an attractive title is always a dilemma. Good titles present a bold assertion and the reader will often want to find out the reasoning behind the assertion. In this case, the assertion is "USB SuperSpeed will relegate Thunderbolt to a niche."

Despite the bold assertion, I recommend the article because it has just so darm much information that we need about the relationship between Thunderbolt and USB 3 (and successors). For example, the article reminds us that Apple likes Thunderbolt because it carries both data and video and TB devices can be daisy chained. So then the question becomes what is Apple's long-term roadmap? That's a different question than which technology is faster or cheaper. Articles like this one help put it all in perspective.

Ted Landau is one of my favorite writers because, it seems to me, we were cloned at birth and think alike. Anyway, you should check out this great piece: "With iPhoto's demise, writing may be on the wall for iLife."

Regular readers of this column know that I have provided overview coverage of Dish Network's Hopper DVR. I cover that (and Aereo) because if Apple is ever going to change the way we watch TV, it must wade through all the legalities and precedents currently in place. In this story, "Another Court Ruling, Another Win for Hopper," the United States Cour of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has handed Dish its fifth consecutive win.

For those who are new to the dispute, the Hopper DVR has the ability to set a preference to automatically skip TV ads on recorded primetime content. An ordinary DVR requires us to manually skip over prerecorded commercials, and the DVR does it slowly enough that an ad might actually attract our attention. That's what's hoped for anyway. The Dish argument is that it's okay to let the software in the Hopper do what we would have to do manually, and the courts have agreed.

Along these lines, one of the things we know about our technology driven life is that it changes fast. However, clever people can often make headway by pretending, and even legalizing the idea, that nothing has changed.

For example, there was a time, as Ken Segall explains it (below), when people who developed ads had a code of ethics. As that has dwindled, ads have become more obnoxious, insidious and tedious. And so a modern era viewer expects to be able to use technology to fight that trend. Advertisers would rather maintain the conceit that nothing has changed for the worse. And that brings us to the insightful missive by Ken Segall. "The relentless (and annoying) pursuit of eyeballs."

After you read Mr. Segall's thoughts, you'll know why people love the Hopper.

Finally, in the preamble, I talked about Tim Cook's leadership and insights. The new arrangement with IBM reflects Mr. Cook's ability to change his thinking based on new market conditions and understand the weaknesses of his competition. I found two good articles amongst many. In the first, Jonny Evans explains: "Why enterprise IT pros should fear Apple and IBM." The second article, by Larry Dignan, explains the fix Samsung and Google are now in and how they may have to respond. "In IBM and Apple's wake, what will team Android do?"

Suddenly, Apple and IBM need each other to fight the competition, and the results will be interesting to watch.


Future & Past plus TV salesman via Shutterstock.


Particle Debris is a generally a mix of John Martellaro's observations and opinions about a standout event or article of the week (preamble on page 1) followed by a discussion of articles that didn't make the TMO headlines, the technical news debris. The column is published most every Friday except for holidays.