TMO Interviews We-Envision: The Art of Software, Part II

In Part I, Jim Teece spoke to a point in Steve Jobs’s WWDC keynote where he detected some real emotion. He continues in Part II with the second instance of that visible emotion by Mr. Jobs. It’s that passion for great products that keeps customers standing in line and also percolates into the developer community.

Mr. Teece: The second choke up point that I saw was when Mr. Jobs showed the commercial for the new iPhone, and at the moment in time when they showed video conferencing, they had a deaf couple, sharing a moment on the iPhone 4. The audience spontaneously erupted in applause and goosebump appreciation of that moment. I think that, honestly, put Steve back on his heels. I think that was a “Whoa! They really responded to this” moment. And that’s at our core what we’re all about: empowering people. So not only do we want to make money, we want to empower people. I think that we get so caught up in negative things about Apple… We should be thinking, my god, we’re finally there, we’re finally at the place where we can impact people’s lives in dramatic ways.

Think about it. In three months, we wrote an app that people connect with because they love art. And they love that we’ve kind of curated that for them. A thousand artists, 40,000 works of art. For the people that love art, it connects with them. If other developers can do that, and keep doing that, I’m excited because I think we’ll be focusing on enlightenment, things that matter. Right now, there’s a lot of focus on negativity. So that’s what I hope for [in app development].

Jim Teece

Jim Teece

TMO: Your passion is fantastic.

Mr. Teece: Thanks. But I do believe that all that is at the core of Apple. But, they’re a business, and they’re still figuring things out. I run a business, and I know we stumble sometimes on our own success — because you’re not ready for it.

Look at the saturation of 3G [wireless] bandwidth that people are using on their iPhones. It’s unprecedented. That’s just another change in the way that this [iPhone phenomena] is going to evolve.

We have all that, but the other side of it that we’re looking at is … have you ever looked at people as asked yourself: what makes them play Farmville. Where did that reconnecting online come from? I met with the Newtoy guys here and they told me that they work hard at trying to think of reasons why people would want to come back and play their app. Talk about sustainability. They’ve got it figured out. They’re tapped into that new phenomena of social networking. And that’s where our next move will be. Because we have to get to sustainability. We can’t keep doing all these on-offs. Relating back to the music industry, we can’t be the one-hit wonder. We want good, long term, sustainable, development opportunities.

TMO: Does not the ever expanding nature of the interface represent additional sales opportunities for you?

Mr. Teece: Oh, sure. You’re always gong to have that. But, again, when you have 250,000 apps out there, and everyone who wanted an iPhone, for the sake of wanting one has one, already bought one…. Now, were getting to the people who, at ninety-nine bucks a pop, don’t know the difference between a 3G and a 3GS or iOS and iPhone OS, nor do they want to know. They think, “It’s a phone. Can I make a call on it. Yes. Can I see pictures of my grandkids on it? Yes. Can I play games on it? Yes. Cool.” That’s who we’re getting to.

But when you talk to them and ask,”So what apps did you get?” I’m always asking people this. They say, “I really haven’t started doing that yet.” Or maybe they have two apps. Back before the iPhone first came out, I think Steve mentioned that the average number of apps downloaded to a smartphone back then was one. And it was a tedious process. And it was twelve bucks. And it was not always the greatest app. And thinking back to then, what were people downloading? Ringtones! But ringtones aren’t the thing now. It’s the app. In my case my phone is not about ringing. It’s about how I use it. I use it every day for banking, or e-mail of course, SMS… it’s my business companion.

People are going into Wall-Mart these days to buy an iPhone. then what apps do they buy?

If you talk to Alan [Oppenheimer] who’s a successful software developer on the Mac with desktop apps, his quantity of apps sales pales in comparison to how many apps we’ve sold on the iPhone. The scale is so different.

With social networking, we’re experimenting now with MyPin for Facebook. And the idea is, can we create an app that you would want to use every day, at least once. You just check in with it. MyPin is free. For example, I travel a lot, I take a picture, I can voice annotate it, I can text annotate it, I can categorize it, and I upload it to Facebook. Share it with all my friends. They can comment on it… Well that’s social networking tie-in with global reach. It’s being used every day. You have the opportunity to say that your pin is public. It’s wild to see pins drop all over the planet… and all we did was write the app. So we’re excited to see how the future of social networking plays in the future of everything we do. The iTunes Store is a social network. How can we interact together in that space? Coming to this conference is a social network. How do we interact together in that space? I have tons of ideas, just from being here! Ideas that I hope to being back next year as a social network experiment for developers. With 5,000 developers all under one roof, all with these tools, what kind of painting could we paint? What kind of orchestra could you create? Fun stuff like that.

TMO: Are you a Mac guy too?

Mr. Teece: I’m a Mac user. I don’t develop desktop apps for the Mac.

TMO: Okay, I’ll pose my question to you anyway. In the blogosphere, there’s been a minor “to do” to the effect that the announcement of iOS and the complete dearth of information about Mac OS X in the keynote means therefore that the Mac is going away. Do you have any thoughts on that?

Mr. Teece: I can see why people are concerned about that, but you have to remember that a Mac is required for development on the iPhone, iPad. So, until Apple says “we’ve made Xcode run on a Windows PC and we’re going to abandon our hardware,” it’s still the best hardware you can buy that’s tightly coupled with its operating system, that’s tightly coupled with the development environment. So I can’t imagine that Apple’s going to step away from the Mac.

I still believe that, at its core, Apple makes the world’s most technically elegant hardware combined with tools like iMovie … But then I didn’t get why Apple first came out with the iPod, a music player. So I guess I’m not smart enough to think like they think. Apple thinks at the global, consumer level, and I just can’t think at that level.

TMO: Jim, it’s been an informative and inspiring interview. Thank you!