Whatever happened to Blackberry?

I loved my Blackberry Pearl. It was the first consumer device that was directly targeted at consumers with a usable e-mail function, and as a self employed freelancer, it was incredibly liberating to have always on access to e-mail.

I also remember my first iPhone. Either an iPhone 3 or an iPhone 3GS – I’m no longer entirely sure. I do remember clearly however getting the device and very quickly wondering had I made a terrible mistake. The virtual on-screen keyboard seemed unusable and I recall a sinking feeling as I tried to use it and realised I’d signed up to an 18 month contract with this device. So I had no choice, I had to get used to it.

But get used to it I did, like pretty much everyone else. If you’re curious what happened exactly to RIM and it’s Blackberry platform, this recently released documentary on Youtube is excellent. Get a cup of coffee and enjoy.

Book review: Becoming Steve Jobs, by Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli


By Alex Meehan. First published in The Sunday Business Post, May 24th, 2015.

When it comes to Apple there are two kinds of people – those who ‘get’ the company and those who think the other kind have been indoctrinated into a cult.

If you think that Apple fans are irrational in their love for what is, after all, a commercial entity then you probably think that Steve Jobs was every bit as messed up as his personal myth suggests. An unpleasant control freak who fathered a child and — even after a DNA test confirmed his parentage — refused for years to have anything to do with them.

Someone who could be an arrogant bully and ruthless when it came to using those around him and discarding them as soon as his interest waned.

But those who ‘get’ Apple largely appreciate that while Steve Jobs was a flawed human being, he nevertheless had a colossal effect on the way millions of people around the world live their lives, debatably more so than anyone else in his industry.

Becoming Steve Jobs is the second but by far the most interesting major biography of Jobs to appear since he died in 2011. The first, Walter Isaacson’s ‘Steve Jobs,’ was authorised by Jobs himself but was largely disappointing. While Isaacson got hours of personal interviews with his subject and was reportedly told that his un-vetted book should be a warts and all dissection of Jobs’ life, it failed to get under the skin of why Jobs and his company have endured.

In contrast, Becoming Steve Jobs delivers in spades what Isaacson’s significantly thicker work didn’t. In particular people interested in the intersection between Job’s personality — his strengths, weaknesses, successes and failures – and the success of his company will find this a fascinating read.

Whereas Apple design guru Jony Ive didn’t take part in Isaacson’s book and was subsequently quoted as saying his regard “couldn’t be lower” for the book, he was extensively interviewed for Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli’s book, as was Tim Cook, Bill Gates and Job’s widow Laurene Powell Jobs.

The resulting book has as good a claim as any to be a semi-official official Apple-endorsed account of its founder’s life and influence on the company. Schlender and Tetzeli trace Jobs’ life, starting with his pivotal early relationship with initial Apple partner Steve Wozniak and their first meeting in 1971 to the creation of the first Apple computer in 1976 in the Jobs’ family Palo Alto garage.

From there, the book covers the major episodes in Jobs career and life, from Apple’s earliest days to Job’s early mistakes and steep learning curve as a business leader, culminating in his notorious sacking from the company he helped found in 1985.

This book goes into much more detail on the founding of NeXT and Job’s acquisition of Pixar in 1986 than Isaacson’s book does, and in the process rounds out the story of how Jobs coped with this period of his life when he seems to have largely felt as if he had been cast into the abyss. His subsequent return to Apple in 1996 is extensively documented, as is the manner in which he brought the company from near bankruptcy to profitability in just two years.

In his second stint at the head of Apple, Jobs oversaw the introduction of the iMac, iTunes, the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad as well as introducing Apple’s high street network of stores and creating the iTunes store and App store.

At the heart of Schlender and Tatzeli’s book is the central thesis that Jobs was never really about the technology he sold. In particular, once he returned to Apple he cultivated a level of detachment from the company’s products that allowed him to constantly focus on the next thing.

At a time when the IT world was largely obsessed with processor speeds and storage capacity, from the early 1990s onwards, he understood that what really mattered and continues to matter is the user experience. The average person on the street doesn’t care how their car works, or their phone or laptop for that matter — they only care about how easy it is to use, how reliable it is and what it lets them do.

And this is the point that continues to confound those who don’t understand why the general public queues up on launch day to hand over more money than they need to in order to get the latest Apple gadget. Jobs moved the conversation on past the point of technical specifications and humanised the way people interact with the technology around them.

Schlender first met Jobs in 1986 while working as a journalist for The Wall Street Journal covering Silicon Valley. His relationship with him seems to have been at times close but also complex in nature. The two men maintained contact for over twenty years and at times Jobs took a close interest in his family and personal health.

The closing chapters of the book, dealing with Jobs illness and decline make for an emotional read. It’s clear that Schlender regrets some of his interactions with his subject. Becoming Steve Jobs is an important book for the additional light it sheds on Jobs, his company and his life and it seems likely that part of its success is due to the investment its authors have in getting their story right.

iOS 7: first impressions

So I’ve been using iOS7 on my phone for the last two days and thought I’d post something about it.photo

Firstly though, some people will want to know how I have it now when it was barely announced this week and isn’t available to the public until the autumn.

I don’t actually actually have ‘it’ because nobody does, outside Apple itself. What I have is a pre-release beta version. Apple released this build to developers this week so that they can get working on apps that will complement the operating system well in advance.

And actually, anyone can have it now. You just have to register with Apple as an app developer. It costs around €80 and then you can download and install it. Doing so entails a certain risk because by definition beta software isn’t fully finished.

However in this case, the ios7 beta seems pretty stable to me. There are one or two niggling little things that are obviously not quite right, but to all intents and purposes, it works properly and all the functions seem ready to go.

Because it’s beta software, it’s not really fair to write a review of it. Any review published now doesn’t reflect the experience that customers will have when they download the finished version later this year.photo 2

But I do think I can give an opinion, with the caveat that I won’t mention something about it which I feel is likely to be fixed by the time it appears. First impressions? It’s fantastic. A really great operating system that is substantially different in look and feel from iOS6.

Some things will take some getting used to. For instance, the colour scheme is challenging at first. I think it’s no coincidence that Apple has used a white phone in all its promo videos as the colours it’s using now for its flagship app icons look better with that body colour.

Undoubtedly lots of people will be turned off by the bold use of colour and typography, but please remember that Apple was faced with an impossible task here. This operating system is used by so many millions of people that it’s not unfair to say that almost everyone is familiar with it. How do you make a product that makes everyone happy?

photo 1You can’t really. If you’re clever you try to make a product that makes you happy and you hope that this is acceptable to enough people that it’s a success. I think that with iOS 7 Apple has decided not to be all things to all people, and that’s to be lauded. Some people will be put off by the look of it, but you know what, it grows on you.

I looked at my wife’s iPhone 4 next to my iPhone 5 last night to compare the two, and when you see them together, iOS6 looks old fashioned, heavy and clumsy. iOS 7 looks light and vibrant and modern.

Will it age well? We’ll have to see but for now I can’t see myself uninstalling this for iOS 6.

Nice iPad walk-through

As the title suggests, Macworld has published a really nice iPad walk through on youtube.

Very interesting. In particular it’s nice to see the accessories clearly demonstrated. My last post on this piece of kit generated an absolutely ridiculous number of views – north of 3,000 as of now and still climbing. I’ve read all your comments with interest and find myself in agreement with the posters who have pointed out that while the iPad looks pretty interesting right now, it will probably come into its own in a year or so when OS updates for it start to appear, apps written just for it are plentiful (or more plentiful at any rate – right now there seems to be around 3,500 in the App store) and the bugs have been worked out.

The iPhone was pretty impressive when it first appeared, but it was really with the second generation hardware and later OS updates appeared that allowed it to do cut and paste with text and a few other bits and bobs that it really came into it’s own. The same is likely to be true with this – at the moment, there’s no multitasking, no camera, no Adobe Flash compatibility and it remains pretty expensive for a piece of kit that  nobody actually needs but that would merely be very nice to have, if you get the distinction.

From the video above though, it certainly seems to be an elegantly designed machine.