Thursday, April 28, 2011

My View on…pursuing a relationship in teenage years

It has been a long time since I last blogged with topic of ‘My View on…’ which is a way that I wanna share my view on a certain topic that perhaps my son will read it someday…

My son is still a toddler; he is cute and adorable at this age. Soon, he will grow, learn and mature. That’s a natural development for a young boy. I think I’m a quite liberal parent and would not intervene too much on his love life. So far, I think my son has about average intelligence. So, I think I would just tell him something that a normal person can understand, I won’t dumb him down or making ‘Zen’ like statements that he has to ‘guess’ what I wanna say. I think I would respect his privacy and intelligence. If he wanna fall in love during his teenage years, I don’t think I can stop him from doing that. Cuz, he has his own mind and ultimately walks his own path.

Instead, I think I would like to lay out the pros and cons of having a girlfriend as well as the roles and responsibility of being a boyfriend for his reference. Yes, time changes and so does social culture. It is like a swinging pendulum, in future, people can be more open/conservative than we are. Technology advancement is a double-edged sword that affects relationship. Interpersonal relationship and privacy in the pre-mobile phone/facebook days are just not the same. Nevertheless, there are still values, protocols, and things about relationship that are not gonna change much (at least I guess) when my son is old enough to have desire in starting a relationship.

In terms of having a girlfriend during his teenage years, I would tell him something like these:
Life is full of choices, and you need to make decisions at some points. The earlier you spend time to analyze what’s good for you, the better. Otherwise, if you just procrastinate your decision, you may lose the best opportunity to make good decision. On the contrary, you may be rushed to make subpar decision, or simply have the decision made by someone else for you. So, it is better to think EARLY.

We all have 24 hours a day. There are responsibilities that have to be fulfilled. So, free time is limited. In terms of optional activities, you can only do ‘some’ but not ‘all’. Therefore, you need to make decision wisely. Being in school, learn as much as you can, be a decent student is something your parents would like you to do at your age. Yes, there are exceptions in the world that some people at your age are selecting different paths and some of them end up doing really remarkable. However, many of them failed as well. Staying in school, be a good student, doesn’t guarantee success down the road. However, it is a relatively ‘easy’ and ‘straightforward’ path for ‘most’ young people of your age. Unfortunately, to be a successful person by going ‘alternative’ paths would take double if not more effort in this society under the current social structure. So, when I say ‘effort’ here, that certainly includes ‘Time’. So, going back to what I said before, there is only so much time you have in day for you to allocate, so there is only so much you can do.

In terms of time allocation, there are generally two strategies. One is to do few things, but go deep into those things. For instance, you can be a very good student at school, and a very good pianist by intensive practice. The other is to do a lot of things, but don’t (because you can’t) go deep into most of them. Namely, you are a below average student, spending time playing soccer, going movies, playing video games, go window shopping, taking pictures, reading comic books, novels, etc. Certainly, there can be combinations of both, like being a good student, and have few hobbies but not being good in any of those. These are decisions that you can make. Pursuing a love relationship is different, it is an activity that would heavily depends on another person that you will NOT be able to make all decisions or arrangement that you want the most.

Having a dream girl as your girlfriend can be tempting and enjoyable. It is one activity that you can’t be in control of most situations. You will be happy when things are working out or favorable if your desire comes true. But, believe me; she has her own mind and desire as well. She has no responsibility or whatsoever to obey you or listen to you. When that happen, i.e. conflict of interest, you will feel sad. Relationship development takes a lot of time and effort. I’m not even talking about money which will be an issue for you. You will have some pocket money to spend, but believe me, it is limited! Learning how to allocate your limited resource is critical in your life development. Unfortunately, resource here is not just about money, it includes time and energy as well. Just say, you need to really think about what is best for you.

You need companionship. Yes, your parents love you, but you do need friends. Learning how to get along with other people is important. Certainly, you need to select who you should spend time with. I’m not saying that you should only pick friends with hidden purpose in mind, and put off others who are without value even if they are nice to you. Nevertheless, it would be very natural that you will bond with someone who can share your interests and thoughts, and will not be close to someone who has nothing in common with you. Regardless, there are protocols, customs and responsibilities to be a good friend of others. However, that set of protocols, customs and responsibilities for being a boyfriend can be very different.

Regarding friendship, there are gives and takes, for the most part, it would be more or less 50-50 overall. For a love relationship, 50-50 would NEVER happen. I think you can imagine what the ‘gives’ are in setting up a love relationship. But, remember, it is not just the setup part; there is also the maintenance part that is by no mean easy at all.

Well, here we go the ‘takes’ in a love relationship. If you simply want to have a companion in activities and to share thoughts, friends or good friends would be enough. There must be different goals for pursuing a girlfriend.

On the emotion side, you want to love and be loved. That’s something good and admirable. On the physical side, having close body contact to certain extent is definitely the dream of most boys. I don’t think I would need to go deep in this topic. However, just remember few things. (i) If you love someone, respect her, even if her decision doesn’t match your desire. (ii) Sex is natural, but it has its natural function. The reason why sex can be enjoyable is because the natural result can be painful. There are consequences to unprotected sex – pregnancy, diseases, etc. You may think you are lucky this time, but DON’T count on it. The downside would be very very severe. Cuz, you are lucky once, doesn’t make you lucky next time or thereafter. Also, don’t forget there are additional ups and downs in emotion that are sex-related in a relationship as well. For example, how to convince your girlfriend to have physical relationship with you, to what degree? the location? the timing? the precaution? How to keep a secret from others, like her parents, your mom, perhaps me? How do you know if she would not exploit sex as a leverage to get something from you? How to deal with the confusion afterwards? Believe me, things will turn out not what you have imagined beforehand. Should there be next time? What is the goal of your relationship? If you put having sex as the goal of the relationship which is wrong, then what’s next? If your answers to most of the questions above is ‘I don’t know!’ or you have never thought about any of these, then you perhaps are NOT ‘ready’ to go far in that direction, continue to hold hands then.

Diving in a love relationship is actually very complicated. Yes, things can be learned and one of the best ways to learn is to experience it. But, it is always advisable to learn something when you are ready. It is like jumping off a plane alone. You need to have a trained body, thorough knowledge of the parachute and jumping technique, where to jump, how high to jump, how high to pull the string to open the parachute, how to land, how to take off the parachute. You need to check your gear beforehand, any broken strings or holes? Have a knife with you? Goggles fits? Functional Walkie talkie? GPS? Etc. Maybe my analogy is bit too much, but I hope you see my point.

Well, I hope what I said wouldn’t be too overwhelming, but that’s my view, hope my son would be able to understand, and it would be up to him to make the best decision he can.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Insight in Steve

Before the 'official' autobiography of Steve Jobs - 'iSteve, the book of Jobs' to be released in early 2012, all things about him are just he says, she says. I came across an article in MSNBC which is an interview of a former boss of Steve. I think it is quite an interesting read. Just wanna share with you all below -

True confessions of Steve Jobs' former boss
After 27 years, John Sculley admits he should have never been Apple's CEO

updated 10/24/2010 1:27:17 PM ET


Steve Jobs was 28 years old in 1983 and already recognized as one of the most innovative thinkers in Silicon Valley. The Apple board, though, was not ready to anoint him chief executive officer and picked PepsiCo President John Sculley, famous for creating the Pepsi Challenge, to lead the company.

Sculley helped increase Apple's sales from $800 million to $8 billion annually during his decade as CEO, but he also presided over Jobs' departure, which sent Apple into what Sculley calls its "near-death experience."

In his first extensive interview on the subject, Sculley tells editor Leander Kahney how his partnership with Jobs came to be, how design ruled—and still rules—everything at Apple, and why he never should have been CEO in the first place.

Q: You talk about the "Steve Jobs methodology." What is Steve's methodology?

A: Steve, from the moment I met him, always loved beautiful products, especially hardware. He came to my house, and he was fascinated, because I had special hinges and locks designed for doors. I had studied as an industrial designer, and the thing that connected Steve and me was industrial design. It wasn't computing.

Steve had this perspective that always started with the user's experience; and that industrial design was an incredibly important part of that user impression. He recruited me to Apple because he believed the computer was eventually going to become a consumer product. That was an outrageous idea back in the early 1980s. He felt the computer was going to change the world, and it was going to become what he called "the bicycle for the mind."

What makes Steve's methodology different from everyone else's is that he always believed the most important decisions you make are not the things you do, but the things you decide not to do. He's a minimalist. I remember going into Steve's house, and he had almost no furniture in it. He just had a picture of Einstein, whom he admired greatly, and he had a Tiffany lamp and a chair and a bed. He just didn't believe in having lots of things around, but he was incredibly careful in what he selected.

Everything at Apple can be best understood through the lens of designing. Whether it's
designing the look and feel of the user experience, or the industrial design, or the system design, and even things like how the boards were laid out. The boards had to be beautiful in Steve's eyes when you looked at them, even though when he created the Macintosh he made it impossible for a consumer to get in the box, because he didn't want people tampering with anything.

That went all the way through to the systems when he built the Macintosh factory. It was
supposed to be the first automated factory, but it really was a final assembly and test factory with pick-to-pack robotic automation. It is not as novel today as it was 25 years ago, but I can remember when the CEO of General Motors, along with Ross Perot, came out just to look at the Macintosh factory. All we were doing was final assembly and test, but it was done so beautifully. It was as well thought through in design as a factory as the products were. Now if you leap forward and look at the products that Steve builds today, today the technology is far more capable of doing things; it can be miniaturized; it is commoditized; it is inexpensive. And Apple no longer builds any products. When I was there, people used to call Apple "a vertically integrated advertising agency," which was not a compliment.

Actually today, that's what everybody is. That's what [Hewlett-Packard] is, that's what Apple is, and that's what most companies are, because they outsource to EMS — electronics manufacturing services.

Q: Isn't Nike a good analogy?

A: Yeah, probably, Nike is closer. The one Steve admired was Sony. We used to go visit Akio Morita, and he had really the same kind of high-end standards that Steve did and respect for beautiful products. I remember Akio Morita gave Steve and me each one of the first Sony Walkmans. None of us had ever seen anything like that before, because there had never been a product like that. This is 25 years ago, and Steve was fascinated by it. The first thing he did with his was take it apart, and he looked at every single part. How the fit and finish was done, how it was built. He was fascinated by the Sony factories. We went through them. They would have different people in different colored uniforms. Some would have red uniforms, some green, some blue, depending on what their functions were. It was all carefully thought out, and the factories were spotless. Those things made a huge impression on him.

The Mac factory was exactly like that. They didn't have colored uniforms, but it was every bit as elegant as the early Sony factories we saw. Steve's point of reference was Sony at the time. He really wanted to be Sony. He didn't want to be IBM. He didn't want to be Microsoft. He wanted to be Sony.

The Japanese always started with the market share of components first. So one would
dominate, let's say, sensors, and someone else would dominate memory, and someone else hard drives and things of that sort. They would then build up their market strengths with components, and then they would work toward the final product. That was fine with
analog electronics, where you are trying to focus on cost reduction — and whoever controlled the key component costs was at an advantage. It didn't work at all for digital electronics, because you're starting at the wrong end of the value chain. You are not starting with the components. You are starting with the user experience.

And you can see today the tremendous problem Sony has had for at least the last 15 years as the digital consumer-electronics industry has emerged. They have been totally stovepiped in their organization. Sony should have had the iPod, but they didn't — it was Apple. The iPod is a perfect example of Steve's methodology of starting with the user and looking at the entire end-to-end system.

Q: I want to ask about Jobs' heroes. You say Edwin Land was one of his heroes?

A: Yeah, I remember when Steve and I went to meet Dr. Land. Dr. Land had been kicked out of Polaroid. He had his own lab on the Charles River in Cambridge. It was a fascinating afternoon, because we were sitting in this big conference room with an empty table. Dr. Land and Steve were both looking at the center of the table the whole time they were talking. Dr. Land was saying: "I could see what the Polaroid camera should be. It was just as real to me as if it was sitting in front of me before I had ever built one."

And Steve said, "Yeah, that's exactly the way I saw the Macintosh." He said, "If I asked
someone who had only used a personal calculator what a Macintosh should be like, they couldn't have told me. There was no way to do consumer research on it, so I had to go and create it, and then show it to people, and say now what do you think?"

Both of them had this ability not to invent products but to discover products. Both of them said these products have always existed —it's just that no one has ever seen them before. We were the ones who discovered them. The Polaroid camera always existed, and the Macintosh always existed — it's a matter of discovery. Steve had huge admiration for Dr. Land. He was fascinated by that trip.

Ross Perot came and visited Apple several times and visited the Macintosh factory. Ross
was a systems thinker. He created EDS [Electronic Data Systems] and was an entrepreneur. He believed in big ideas, change-the-world ideas. He was another one.

Akio Morita was clearly one of his great heroes. He was an entrepreneur who built Sony and did it with great products — Steve is a products person.

Q: You say in your book that first and foremost you wanted to make Apple a
"product marketing company."

A: Steve and I spent months getting to know each other before I joined Apple. He had no
exposure to marketing other than what he picked up on his own. This is sort of typical of Steve. When he knows something is going to be important, he tries to absorb as much as he possibly can.

One of the things that fascinated him: I described to him that there's not much difference between a Pepsi and a Coke, but we were outsold 9 to 1. Our job was to convince people that Pepsi was a big enough decision that they ought to pay attention to it, and eventually switch. We decided we had to treat Pepsi like a necktie. In that era people cared what necktie they wore. The necktie said: "Here's how I want you to see me." So we have to make Pepsi like a nice necktie. When you are holding a Pepsi in your hand, it says, "Here's how I want you to see me."

We did some research and discovered that when people were going to serve soft drinks to a friend in their home, if they had Coca-Cola in the fridge, they would go out to the kitchen, open the fridge, take out the Coke bottle, bring it out, put it on the table, and pour a glass in front of their guests. If it was a Pepsi, they would go out into the kitchen, take it out of the fridge, open it, and pour it in a glass in the kitchen, and only bring the glass out. The point was people were embarrassed to have someone know that they were serving Pepsi. Maybe they would think it was Coke, because Coke had a better perception. It was a better necktie. Steve was fascinated by that.

We talked a lot about how perception leads reality and how if you are going to create a reality, you have to be able to create the perception. We did it with something called the Pepsi Generation. I had learned through a lecture Dr. Margaret Mead had given that the most important fact for marketers was going to be the emergence of an affluent middle class — what we call the baby boomers, who are now turning 60. They were the first people to have discretionary income. They could go out and spend money for things other than what they had to have. When we created [the] Pepsi Generation it was created with them in mind. It was always focusing on the user of the drink, never the drink.

Coke always focused on the drink. We focused on the person using it. We showed people
riding dirt bikes, waterskiing, or kite flying, hang gliding — doing different things. And at the end of it there would always be a Pepsi as a reward. This all happened when color television was first coming in. We were the first company to do lifestyle marketing. The first and the longest-running lifestyle campaign was — and still is — Pepsi. We did it just as color television was coming in and when large-screen TVs were coming in, like 19-inch screens. We didn't go to people who made TV commercials, because they were making commercials for little tiny black-and-white screens. We went out to Hollywood and got the best movie directors and said we want you to make 60-second movies for us. They were lifestyle movies. The whole thing was to create the perception that Pepsi was No. 1 because you couldn't be No. 1 unless you thought like No. 1. You had to appear like No. 1.

Steve loved those ideas. A lot of the stuff we were doing and our marketing was focused on when we bring the Mac to market. It has to be done at such a high level of perception of expectation that he will sort of tease people to want to find out what the product is capable of. The product couldn't do very much in the beginning. Almost all the technology was used for the user experience. In fact, we did get a backlash where people said it's a toy. It doesn't do anything. But eventually it did as the technology got more powerful.

Apple is famous for the same kind of lifestyle advertising now. It shows people living an enviable lifestyle, courtesy of Apple's products. Hip young people grooving to iPods.

I don't take any credit for it. Steve's brilliance is his ability to see something and then understand it and then figure out how to put it into the context of his design methodology — everything is design.

An anecdotal story: A friend of mine was at meetings at Apple and Microsoft on the same day. And this was in the last year, so this was recently. He went into the Apple meeting (he's a vendor for Apple), and as soon as the designers walked in the room, everyone stopped talking, because the designers are the most respected people in the organization. Everyone knows the designers speak for Steve because they have direct reporting to him. It is only at Apple where design reports directly to the CEO.

Later in the day he was at Microsoft. When he went into the Microsoft meeting, everybody was talking and then the meeting starts and no designers ever walk into the room. All the technical people are sitting there trying to add their ideas of what ought to be in the design. That's a recipe for disaster.

Everyone around him knows he beats to a different drummer. He sets standards that are
entirely different than any other CEO would set.

He's a minimalist and constantly reducing things to their simplest level. It's not simplistic. It's simplified. Steve is a systems designer. He simplifies complexity.

If you are someone who doesn't care about it, you end up with simplistic results. It's amazing to me how many companies make that mistake. Take the Microsoft Zune. I remember going to [the Consumer Electronics Show] when Microsoft launched Zune, and it was literally so boring that people didn't even go over to look at it. … The Zunes were just dead. It was like someone had just put aging vegetables into a supermarket. Nobody wanted to go near it. I'm sure they were very bright people, but it's just built from a different philosophy. The legendary statement about Microsoft, which is mostly true, is that they get it right the third time. Microsoft's philosophy is to get it out there and fix it later. Steve would never do that. He doesn't get anything out there until it is perfected.

Q: That drives some people a little bit crazy. Did it drive you crazy?

A: It's O.K. to be driven a little crazy by someone who is so consistently right. Looking back, it was a big mistake that I was ever hired as CEO. I was not the first choice that Steve wanted to be the CEO. He was the first choice, but the board wasn't prepared to make him CEO when he was 25, 26 years old. They exhausted all the obvious high-tech candidates to be CEO. … Ultimately, David Rockefeller, who was a shareholder in Apple, said let's try a different industry and let's go to the top headhunter in the United States who isn't in high tech: Gerry Roche.

They went and recruited me. I came in not knowing anything about computers. The idea was that Steve and I were going to work as partners. He would be the technical person and I would be the marketing person.

The reason why I said it was a mistake to have hired me as CEO was Steve always wanted to be CEO. It would have been much more honest if the board had said, "Let's figure out a way for him to be CEO. You could focus on the stuff that you bring, and he focuses on the stuff he brings."

Remember, he was the chairman of the board, the largest shareholder, and he ran the
Macintosh division, so he was above me and below me. It was a little bit of a façade, and my guess is we never would have had the breakup if the board had done a better job of thinking through not just how do we get a CEO to come and join the company that Steve will approve of, but how do we make sure we create a situation where this thing is going to be successful over time?

I made two really dumb mistakes that I really regret, because I think they would have made a difference to Apple. One was when we were at the end of the life of the Motorola processor … we took two of our best technologists and put them on a team to go look and recommend what we ought to do.

They came back and said it doesn't make any difference which RISC architecture you pick, just pick the one you think you can get the best business deal with. But don't use CISC. CISC is complex instruction set. RISC is reduced instruction set.

So Intel lobbied heavily to get us to stay with them … [but] we went with IBM and Motorola with the PowerPC. And that was a terrible decision in hindsight. If we could have worked with Intel, we would have gotten onto a more commoditized component platform for Apple, which would have made a huge difference for Apple during the 1990s. So we totally missed the boat. Intel would spend $11 billion and evolve the Intel processor to do graphics … and it was a terrible technical decision. I wasn't technically qualified, unfortunately, so I went along with the recommendation.

The other, even bigger failure on my part was if I had thought about it better, I should have gone back to Steve.

I wanted to leave Apple. At the end of 10 years, I didn't want to stay any longer. I wanted to go back to the East Coast. I told the board I wanted to leave, and IBM was trying to recruit me at the time. They asked me to stay. I stayed, and then they later fired me. I really didn't want to be there any longer.

The board decided we ought to sell Apple. So I was given the assignment to go off and try to sell Apple in 1993. So I went off and tried to sell it to AT&T, to IBM, and other people. We couldn't get anyone who wanted to buy it. They thought it was just too high risk, because Microsoft and Intel were doing well then. But if I had any sense, I would have said, "Why don't we go back to the guy who created the whole thing and understands it? Why don't we go back and hire Steve to come back and run the company?"

It's so obvious, looking back now, that that would have been the right thing to do. We didn't do it, so I blame myself for that one. It would have saved Apple this near-death experience they had.

I'm actually convinced that if Steve hadn't come back when he did — if they had waited
another six months — Apple would have been history. It would have been gone, absolutely gone.

Q: People say he killed the Newton — your pet project — out of revenge. Do you think he id it for revenge?

A: Probably. He won't talk to me, so I don't know.

Copyright © 2011 Bloomberg L.P.All rights reserved.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Source Code

I managed to see the movie ‘Source Code’ over the Easter weekend. I didn’t know too much about this movie, except that few critics did praise this movie. It ended up exceed my expectation and I love it. I would say that it is the best sci-fi movie since ‘Inception’!

Obviously, this movie doesn’t have a high budget, but it doesn’t need hurt the movie at all. Cuz, great vision and CG doesn’t help if the story and acting are not in place. That’s exactly what ‘Source Code’ has that many higher budget movies, like ‘Star Wars Prequels’ and ‘Tron Legacy’ lack.

I don’t even wanna breakdown the movie into goods and bads, cuz the down side, if there is any, are not obvious enough to put me off a bit. First of all, this movie is an intelligent sci-fi movie. It has a concept about keeping the soul in a control environment that can be send back and forth to alternative reality or parallel universe at ease for 8 minutes. So, the story is confined within a time limit. Then, the U.S. military has a goal of using such technology but the main character ‘Sean’, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, has its own mind as well. The story is mostly about how the main character out whizzed its imposed limit to fulfill some human dignities that aspire audience, like love with an aspiring lovely female victim, like to comforting his dad over his own death, saving the innocents. That’s much more inspiring that using hi-tech weapons to shoot and kill all the time.

Jake’s acting is good as usual, I’ve seen his previous works of “Brokeback Mountain’ and ‘The Day after Tomorrow’, so I know what to expect. I think he is a very versatile actor that usually can help a movie even it is bad, somewhat like Matt Damon. The female leads Michelle Monaghan and Vera Farmiga are decent actress that play their characters well. They kinda remind me of like Cate Blanchett.

I read some critics compare this movie to Inception, Jacob’s Ladder, and even Avatar for various reason. However, I think this one more remind me of “Groundhog Day” more which is one of my favorite movie. I don’t wanna review too much the plot of ‘Source Code’. No, there is no twisted or surprise ending in this one. However, the ending is logical and smart, not too Hollywood typical ending, but it can certainly open to a sequel if necessary. Though I’m fine with it, and sequel is not necessary to be called for. I would say that the 90 minutes of it is very smooth, the viewing experience is certainly enjoyable and this movie is certainly recommended.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Apple's new Data Center

Being an avid reader of Apple related news, I’m just fascinated by the function of the newly built back-up center in North Carolina. Yes, most of the articles in the net are usually covering predictions of iPad3 or iPhone5, their features, release dates, etc. However, I would say that the data center, though it is less sexy than the shinny polished gadgets that we can get our hands on, it is much more interesting and would have far reaching consequence to the Apple ecosystem than most consumers would think.

Before Apple made iPhone, people had predicted that Apple would make a phone. Before, iPad was release, people already know Apple was making a tablet. This time, when Microsoft, Amazon, and Google are drumming for the possibility of Cloud Computing, you think Apple will sit around and do nothing? Certainly not, I think the data center would the key for it.

Apple’s strategy (non-financial wise) is to provide the best consumer experience in using personal technology to interact with information and consume entertainment. Desktops, laptops, phone, tablet, etc take care the physical part, the OS, itunes, app stores, etc are the software part. Apple still has to work on negotiation with content providers to get their contents on Apple’s platform to be delivered to consumers. Cables will be gone, wireless is the future, that’s where the cloud computing come into place. I’m no expert on this subject, but I read the article this morning and just love the analysis of what Apple’s data center would do. Just wanna share with you all:

What No One has Dared Think About Apple’s Data Center
Columns and Opinions by Adam Christianson and John Martellaro 2:29 PM, Apr. 20th, 2011
“When you are solving a difficult problem, re-frame the problem so that your solution helps you learn faster.” — Aza Raskin

There is a classic puzzle about a fellow in a rowboat who is rowing down a river and drops his hat overboard. The puzzle involves calculating how long it takes him to turn around and row back to the hat floating in the water. The problem is a lot easier to solve if one changes reference frame and works from the guy in the boat instead of from the shoreline view. It’s an example of how a change of reference frame is often useful for solving a problem. Another example comes from physics. Some problems in electromagnetism are a lot easier to solve in spherical coordinates. In other words, recasting the problem to make it easier to solve is a helpful technique. The quote above for this article extends that idea to not only re-framing, but also doing it in such a way that we learn faster.

It’s that recasting that I want to talk about with respect to Apple’s data centers.
A lot has been written about Apple’s new data center in North Carolina, but no one has been able to put together a coherent picture of what it all means. Most articles wax into lofty notions of a massive data center to deliver a better MobileMe experience, untethered iPads synced to the cloud instead of a PC — or a massive movie databank. And leave it at that.

Apple’s North Carolina Data Center
The problem arises when we start to formulate an idea about just exactly how the data center (and possibly more like the NC center worldwide) would be utilized. For example, if one takes all the assumptions about Apple’s DNA, it’s easier to re-frame the question about what Apple trying to achieve.

Let’s start with some easy analysis about Apple’s competition, Netflix. If Apple intends to out-Netflix the Netflix Corp., then how will Apple convince Hollywood executives to give them rights to a massive movie archive as Netflix CEO Red Hastings has done? (We know that Hollywood executives are alarmed at the prospect of Apple obtaining control over movies in the way Apple seized control of music.) We also know that Hollywood and the networks don’t want to upset the apple cart with the lucrative deals they have with cable and satellite carriers.

We suspect that buying Netflix, with its huge inventory of plastic discs and likely exclusive contracts with Hollywood, isn’t Apple’s style. (That is, Netflix’s contracts might not be inheritable if the company is bought.)

In fact, everywhere we turn, it seems like the problem is insurmountable and in desperate need of reformulation. The whole scenario suggests that we’re asking the wrong questions, making the wrong assumptions, and, worse, not analyzing the problem that Apple faces and imagining a next generation solution.

Seeking an Analogy
A good analogy comes from looking at the music industry and the development of the Apple iPod. The music industry in the 1990s was going strong and was all too happy to sell complete albums on a plastic CD. And we know how much they charged for that piece of plastic which forces us to buy all the songs in the album. It also forced customers into ridiculous collections, bookcases, boomboxes, and awkward CD players. Apple came along with a 140 gram iPod that could hold 1,000 songs and that changed the game completely. The labels’ obsession with money and the status quo blinded them to the next technological step, which was user choice, playlists, and massive storage in your pocket.

Asking a New Set of Questions
Let’s ask some new questions and see where it goes.

1. What if Apple’s analysis of the TV industry has led to the same kind of ground breaking, imaginative solution?
2. What temptations could Steve Jobs lay before Hollywood and the networks that would allow them to maintain the kind of control they want yet lure them into experimenting with Apple at a higher level?
3. How could a massive data center become, essentially, the next (super) iPod?
4. Apple recently made headlines by purchasing 12 petabytes of storage. One of our readers calculated that 12 petabytes would take up about 180 sq ft of floor space. Apple’s data center has more than 500,000 sq ft. We’re talking exabytes of possible expansion. More as storage continues to use less space over the lifetime of the data center. What service could use that kind of storage?

Some Assumptions
Let’s summarize our reasonable assumptions about Apple’s situation.
1. Apple doesn’t want to buy Netflix because it doesn’t want to inherit a mail order business of plastic discs. It may not be able to inherit the movie rights.
2. Apple doesn’t want to buy an ISP like Time Warner or Comcast and inherit the lousy politics, bureaucracy and customer service reputation of these companies.
3. Apple can’t reasonably replace the broadband infrastructure currently in place by telcos and cable companies. Apple would have to spends hundreds of billions, as AT&T has, to build a new, national wireless network. That’s not a good use of Apple’s money.
4. The Apple TV has taught Apple a lot about the home TV industry. It remained a hobby because Apple hadn’t solved the basic problem at hand.
5. Apple doesn’t want to own the newspaper, magazine, book, music and movie industry. Instead, they want a 30 percent cut, a piece of the action, on the delivery of all that content.
6. By the end of 2011, Apple will have 50 million TV sets, called iPads, in customer homes.
Some Guesses

The questions above are a completely different set of questions than we’ve have seen asked, and while we don’t have all the answers, we’ll try to make some educated guesses based on the questions and the assumptions.

First, we note that here are too many fragmented delivery mechanisms owned by different players and which use different technical delivery mechanisms. And each has its own unique library and UI for delivering content. Recall how, in the early 1990s, many of us had cassete players, CD players and VCRs. Now, we have DVDs/Blu-ray, Internet (Hulu, Roku, Apple TV, Boxee, Google) and cable/satellite. Vested interests lure us into buying physical media that’s constantly being made obsolete. Vested interests are keeping the industry from thinking about how to deliver all this content is a new, more convenient and coherent way.

Our chief complaint is that American households are constantly changing between these delivery mechanisms to get a better price for bundled Internet service plus content as they also wrestle with new hardware and pray for better customer service. It would be better to take content out of the equation and reduce the carriers to fast pipes by offering customers a superior content purchase and management experience.

In other words, the problem is not the content. Many movies and TV shows are terrific — once they get delivered. The problem is all the fuss we have to go through to get that content delivered (and stored, and backed up). What we need is a better channel. (For example, who uses Epix? Who has even heard of it?) What Apple could be building is the channel everyone wants to be on.

So, like the iPod, it seems that the key to all this is a simple, easy to use, dependable, customer friendly channel that delivers the content that Hollywood wants to deliver. To do that, Apple needs a modern, capable data center.

For example, here’s how content delivery happens for many people now:
[Comcast (etc), DIRECTV (etc)] -> DVR -> HDTV

Here’s how Apple is slowly introducing an evolutionary new channel. Each step is part of Apple’s plan, but it’s been one step at a time.
Mac (iTunes) -> Apple TV 1G -> HDTV
Apple Cloud -> Apple TV 2G -> HDTV
Apple Cloud -> iOS device (AirPlay) -> Apple TV 2G -> HDTV
Apple Cloud -> iOS device (AirPlay) -> (optionally) HDTV

The last step suggests the elimination of the Apple TV, and that’s why we’ve been hearing about Apple making AirPlay available to the TV makers. (Even so, Apple can keep selling the Apple TV 2G as part of a stopgap household solution.) This evolution could also explain why we’ve heard rumors about Apple making its own TV: to seed customers with an AirPlay capable TV to trigger interest in the technology, not to globally compete with, say, Panasonic and Sony.

The overall idea here is to make the user experience with its family of iOS devices so superior that customers will naturally want to opt for the Apple channel rather than the old, obsolete technologies the cable companies have been delivering.The overall idea here is to make the user experience with its family of iOS devices so superior that customers will naturally want to opt for the Apple channel rather than the old, obsolete technologies the cable companies have been delivering. After all, these companies have been modestly successful delivering bandwidth, but have been terrible at delivering mobile technology devices with modern UIs. With hundreds of millions of iOS devices in consumer hands in the near future, customers will naturally opt for these devices rather than the sorry, disjointed services, UI and equipment the cable companies have been able to muster.

Apple hopes the content delivery services of the bandwidth suppliers will dry up and blow away thanks to customer demand for Apple iOS devices and technologies. At the very least, Apple will surge to the top when it comes to customer choice for delivery, making it very difficult for Hollywood and the studios to avoid doing a staggeringly large business with Apple.

The associated step is to point out to Hollywood and the studios that links to this content are everywhere. Every movie, every song, every book has a URL. The embedding of those URLs is everywhere in the web. Apple has 200 million customers with credit cards on file who are always just two clicks away from buying content from their iPhones and iPads, etc. That’s the leverage Steve Jobs will have, along with the insame popularity of the iPad, to lure content developers onto the Apple channel.

Apple will have bypassed the content from the cable companies without building its own network. And Apple gets 30 percent of all the action.
John Martellaro is a senior scientist and author. A former U.S. Air Force officer, he has worked for NASA, White Sands Missile Range, Lockheed Martin Astronautics, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Apple Computer. During his five years at Apple, he worked as a Senior Marketing Manager for science and technology, Federal Account Executive, and High Performance Computing Manager. His interests include alpine skiing, SciFi, astronomy, and Perl. John lives in Denver, Colorado.
You can follow John on Twitter at

Thursday, April 7, 2011

My recent thoughts on Politics, Economy, and Global Conspiracy

I’ve not blogged for a while due to the hectic pace of my personal life recently. On top of that, my thoughts have not been very organized lately. Just too many things fleshing around me that I kinda lost focus on some concrete topics that I really wanna blog about, it is somewhat like ‘jogging’ in department store. i.e. you see a lot of things, but nothing hold you attention long enough to tell people afterwards what you saw. You know what I mean? Well, fortunately, I feel a bit better today and am also able to squeeze few minutes to blog. Hopefully, this blog is not too confusing as I do have few items that I wanna blog about. The more I read news, the more I’m frustrated with the local political scene which is such a mess. Government officials are so incompetent; the opposition parties only make sound bites without providing any concrete alternative policies or suggestions to counter the half-baked policies from the government. Given the deformed political structure without real functioning democracy and empowered mass, the current regime is just waiting to pass its patron to the next who has yet to be ‘chosen’. Being a member of a relatively highly civilized population, I think that we deserve better. However, we are just too occupied with filling our bowls that we are still kinda passive in fighting for our deserved rights. I don’t think we are truly powerless; as our current relatively inaction state may not last long. Agreed with most social critics have said recently, the pressure is certainly building in the society rapidly. The young, the poor and the middle class will not be willingly kowtowed to the riches and powerful for long. If they don’t wake up and do the right thing soon, they will sure regret….. Internationally, the Jasmine revolution in Middle East is contagious, particularly the current situation in Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, Syria and Ivory Coast. How the West react to those uprisings differently just can’t hide the hypocrisy. Fighting for freedom and democracy are just hollow mottos that can’t fool any independent minds. I just think the nation that really holds the ‘key’ of peace is Israel. Cuz, its relationship with Palestine and Iran pretty much dictate the atmosphere in the region. Inflation is hitting home, I can tell from the growing grocery bill week by week. Things are just getting expensive. Bonus is not enough to cover tax, salary raise is a joke. Regarding the FX situation of USD, RMB, AUD, JPY, etc., what we earn and what currency we pay for goods are not in our favor. I’m ok financially for the time being, but I’m a pessimist in terms of our financial future. So, I’m really conscious about my spending. The financial picture of my household is still ok, but things could change easy down the road. Being a parent is expensive these days. That’s why I’m never a fan of luxury items and clearly know the difference between ‘needs’ and ‘desires’. As a result, looking at my current family situation, I’ve forfeited my desire of getting an ‘iPad2’ and perhaps an ‘iPhone5’ as well till next year for upgrade. The macroeconomic environment is not encouraging. Just look at the prices of oil, gold, foods, and all sorts of commodities, they are surging. The QE by the Fed floods the world with paper money that worth less and less….. I’ve long been interested in alternative, non-mainstream stuff. Reading articles and books of paranormal activities like ESP, ghost, UFO, aliens, etc have long been my favor pastime. However, what I’ve been reading recently are on ‘conspiracies’ like the Freemason stuff. Though there are reported that Freemason is related to the Pentagon which is alleged to work with aliens on secret bases and technology, etc. For me, I wouldn’t say I would completely discount the alien stuff from the whole picture. But, for the rest of stuff about conspiracies, the more I read, the more I found that the conspiracies can link up and explain ‘dots’ which are things that are happening and may happen in coming future. Those things are actually part of a complex matrix that cover political, economical, technological, social, and health aspect of our world that do affect us on personal basis. Yes, I can neither prove the conspiracies, nor make any meaningful change for some of those that may potential hit home for being a tiny powerless individual myself. However, just knowing something does give me a bit of comfort. It may sound silly to some people that if you gonna die, what makes a difference if you know the cause or not. Yes, that’s true from a point of view, but, as I said that I like alternative stuff that I don’t think along with the mass. I enjoy knowing something, i.e. to have a set of coherent belief/theory to explain how/why certain things happen, much more than being ignorant and then perish in veil. For the mentioned matrix above, I think the so-called conspiracies that I read so far did help me to link up the following ‘dots’: SARS, Swine Flu, Genetic-alternated foods, Monsanto, World Population control, IMF, World Bank, Center for Foreign Relations, U.S. Presidents, Iran, Stuxnet, CIA, War on Terror, 9/11, oil shortage, global warming, Hurricane Katrina, Drug Cartels, Rothschild, Freemasons, illuminati, Zionism, the Pope, Media, Chinese Economy, WW3, EVP, U.S. National Debts, QE, New World Order, Federal Reserve, Wall Street, etc. I’m not gonna elaborate the connections of those dots, they can be found in internet easily. Let’s be honest, I’m truly fascinated by the materials that I read recently. Nonetheless, as I said, I don’t think I can do much in spite of ‘knowing’ how things are connected and what ‘may’ happen in near future. What I will do is simply living the way I can and to be what I should be: to protect/support my family and to be a constructive member of the society. I’m not sure if what I’ve just blogged too confusing or not. Well, that may simply reflect part of what have been on my mind recently.