Apple: Hardware as a Service

Two very interesting articles from analysts following-up on Apple's announcements last week. What both articles hint to is the fact that the strength of Apple's long term position is often underestimated because people do not take into account the systemic properties of Apple's offering. However, once you start considering Apple as a "Hardware as a Service" company, its position appears even more formidable than it already is.


It’s a lot easier to give the designers control when Apple’s business model is predicated on achieving high margin, not necessarily the lowest possible cost. Relatedly, all of the company’s software development, from operating systems to cloud services, exists to differentiate the hardware, not to make money in their own right, resulting in a virtuous cycle that means it is becoming more difficult to compete with Apple’s hardware products over time.

This cycle of design, differentiation, profit-taking, and reinvestment is seen most clearly in the iPhone. [...] Apple’s cycle of accelerating improvement only matters to the extent that iPhone customers perceive benefit from those improvements. It is easier, though, to perceive and value those benefits the more you use a device, and the more uses a device has; to put it another way, an infinite number of interactions with a slight improvement is even more valuable than a few interactions with a huge improvement. By extension, the mistake made by Apple bears who continually claim the iPhone is “good enough” is to underestimate just how much people use and value their phones.


Much more interesting than this value is the notion that Apple is in business to deliver a product/service mix to loyal customers and to preserve their loyalty through constant improvement and innovation. You can see strategic intent in increasing the attach rate per device of services. You can see a strategic intent in building loyalty and the right customer base which is likely to be loyal. You can see strategic intent in the iteration of the product in a way that extends loyalty and expands the solid base but also increases the $/day rate. This analysis correctly informs almost all decisions the company makes. [...]

The fact that Apple has just launched a subscription service for the iPhone makes what was clearly their strategy all along plain to see however it has been a strategy in effect for decades. It isn’t a difficult idea to embrace. It always surprises me that it’s not more commonly held.

Article: Forget about the mobile internet

Ben Evans:

For as long as the idea of the 'mobile internet' has been around, we've thought of it as a cut-down subset of the 'real' Internet. I'd suggest it's time to invert that - to think about mobile as the real internet and the desktop as the limited, cut-down version. [...]

Our mental model of how and where you used 'mobile' was that it fitted into specific, occasional places and times where you were walking or waiting or needed a single piece of information and didn't have a PC [...]

Mobile is not a subset of the internet anymore, that you use only if you're waiting for a coffee or don't have a PC in front of you - it's becoming the main way that people use the internet. It's not mobile that's limited to a certain set of locations and use cases - it's the PC. [...]

This is why thinking about 'mobile' as another bullet point next to 'SEO' misses the point: mobile becomes the platform, and it's a much richer and more powerful one. What happens when almost everyone on earth has a pocket supercomputer connected to the internet? It's not a subset of the internet - it IS the internet.

Great piece.

Article: Fluid Coupling


A more onerous issue is that companies have procedures for accepting technologies (capital expenditures) which require high degrees of interaction and decision making. In order to step though these procedures, the vendors need to have sales people who need to invest lots of their time and therefore need to be compensated with large commissions. If those commissions are a percent of sale then the total sales price needs to be large enough “to make it worth while to all parties”. As a result, paradoxically, an enterprise technology must be sufficiently slow and expensive to be adopted.

Mobility was disruptive to enterprise because the new computing paradigm was both too fast and too cheap to be implementable.

Article: 4am Panic


The 4am Panic is achieved when the work I need to complete exceeds my mental capacity to consider it. Something annoyingly biologically chemical is triggered at 4am where apparently I must uselessly consider all of my current work on my plate for no productive reason at all. Just stare at the ceiling and fret until I fall back to sleep.

You might not have the 4am panic, but you know the state because you’ve probably been there. It’s the state of constant reaction. It’s when you start blocking time off on your calendar just to keep up. You reinvent your productivity system, you write list after list after list, and you sleep poorly.

It’s worth taking some time to think about how you got here, but that’s not the point of this piece. I have simple advice and, well, it involves two more lists.

Article: Give It 5 Minutes

Timeless post:

What did I do? I pushed back at him about the talk he gave. While he was making his points on stage, I was taking an inventory of the things I didn’t agree with. And when presented with an opportunity to speak with him, I quickly pushed back at some of his ideas. I must have seemed like such an asshole.

His response changed my life. It was a simple thing. He said “Man, give it five minutes.” I asked him what he meant by that? He said, it’s fine to disagree, it’s fine to push back, it’s great to have strong opinions and beliefs, but give my ideas some time to set in before you’re sure you want to argue against them. “Five minutes” represented “think”, not react. He was totally right. I came into the discussion looking to prove something, not learn something.

This was a big moment for me.

I see this behavior regularly. You go to someone with an idea you think is great and their immediate answer is "Meh!" or "I've seen it before, it won't work!", which pretty much closes the discussion. Besides the potential opportunity cost of missing that specific idea, this type of behaviour kills creativity instead of empowering team members to think about and suggest new things.

Next time, give it some time - that idea may end up much better than you initially thought.

Article: The Art of Knowing When to Make a Decision

Great article:

The process of making and remaking decisions wastes an insane amount of time at companies. The key takeaway: WHEN a decision is made is much more important than WHAT decision is made.

If, by way of habit, you consistently begin every decision-making process by considering how much time and effort that decision is worth, who needs to have input, and when you’ll have an answer, you’ll have developed the first important muscle for speed.

Article: What You Can Learn from a Scorpion

Great article:

When I spend time talking with startups about this I usually start with a parable because it’s less heavy than political theory. I often tell the story about the scorpion and the frog. People act how they do because they can – it’s who they are. And the sooner you begin to think about that in your interactions in business (and life) the easier decisions become.

So my simple recommendation for everybody who is new to business and working in a startup (or frankly anybody in business trying to understand people and organizations around you) is to think about the scorpion in each of us.

Why does this person or company exist? What are her motivations? Put yourself in her shoes – what is she trying to achieve at her company? What is the company trying to achieve? How powerful or vulnerable is that company and why do they want to work with me? How will they act if I become extremely successful? How will they act if the market tanks? How will she act when my competitor comes along and offers the same product at 50% cheaper to steal marketshare from me?

We live in a Hobbesian world. Knowing your place in it is a great start. And it will make you a significantly better negotiator and operator.

Go read it!

Article: What Is Code?

Amazing book-length feature by Paul Ford in the latest issue of Bloomberg Businessweek:

We are here because the editor of this magazine asked me, “Can you tell me what code is?”

“No,” I said. “First of all, I’m not good at the math. I’m a programmer, yes, but I’m an East Coast programmer, not one of these serious platform people from the Bay Area.”

I began to program nearly 20 years ago, learning via oraperl, a special version of the Perl language modified to work with the Oracle database. A month into the work, I damaged the accounts of 30,000 fantasy basketball players. They sent some angry e-mails. After that, I decided to get better. [...]

What I’m saying is, I’m one of 18 million. So that’s what I’m writing: my view of software development, as an individual among millions. Code has been my life, and it has been your life, too. It is time to understand how it all works.

Every month it becomes easier to ​do things that have never been done before, to create new kinds of chaos and find new kinds of order. Even though my math skills will never catch up, I love the work. Every month, code changes the world in some interesting, wonderful or disturbing way.

The web-based version is great, though I went ahead and bought myself the print edition:

Well worth a read if you want to understand how every aspect of your life is or will be impacted by software!

Article: A Product Person’s Perspective on Enterprise Selling

Interesting article from Steven Sinofsky:

Most technology leaders are consistently amazed at the depth and sophistication in enterprise selling. Since most engineers or technologists have little experience big-ticket selling, other than perhaps buying a car, this isn’t a surprise. While you might not be a designer or engineer, as a product person you have an empathy or sense of the skills, roles, and processes used. The same usually can’t be said for sales and selling.

There’s really only one key factor that distinguishes enterprise selling from everything a product person knows, and that is enterprise selling ends with the product and starts with the enterprise. Of course that is the complete opposite of what one might normallythink where everything starts with a product. Even with the most amazing and inventive product ever conceived, selling at the enterprise level and enterprise scale requires inverting your perspective.

Go read the full article!