Resumen Mensual: Bienvenidos a Apple Vía Santa Fe

En Septiembre cerca de 200 empleados celebraron la apertura de Apple Vía Santa Fe en México. Fotos como esta demuestran la forma en la tecnología puede salvar las diferencias culturales. Esto es especialmente importante hoy cuando parece que el mundo se ha vuelto más dividido.


Translation: In September about 200 employees celebrated the opening of Apple Via Santa Fe in Mexico. Photos like this show how technology can bridge cultural differences. This is especially important today when it seems the world has become more divided.

Even the website for the new store has that familiar Apple look and feel with the same kinds of support services and workshops. Several years ago, the region I managed included Mexico and I found professionals in that country to be very similar to the US. The biggest difference was the way they treated their equipment. With fewer resources and higher prices, equipment that was decades old looked brand new despite constant use.



However, the new Apple store in Mexico and the two year old store in Brazil are the only two stores in Central / South America (versus 286 stores in the US). While the reasons for this are based on complex economic, cultural, and political issues, it still highlights how technology can create a common ground that transcends perceived differences. Obviously Apple is only a small part of this, especially when Google’s estimated 80% worldwide mobile operating system market share and Microsoft’s desktop dominance is factored in. Also, Google’s amazing “Translate” capability is rapidly breaking down barriers to global communication. I’ve added the Google Translate plugin to the right hand column of this website if you’d like to try it.

What is needed next is awareness of global issues. It’s an especially critical issue in the United States where xenophobia is widespread. Less than 50% of US citizens have a passport! Earlier this month, the post “Apple Watch: Don’t Forget to Breathe” explored the contribution that the new “Breathe” app for the Apple Watch is making. It reminds people to take a minute for “mindful breathing” a couple times a day. Now imagine if global mindfulness were added to the equation. It’s certainly something we all share as humans. As the immortal John Lennon wrote in his eponymous song, “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us and the world will live as one.”

Apple Watch: Don’t Forget to Breathe

Back in May, investors were angry about the lack of innovation from Apple. The stock price had hit a two year low and many had sold shares, except for Warren Buffet who bought $1B more! Then the iPhone 7 was released. Suddenly the controversy shifted to the headphone jack. The news was filled with stories about the “Apple Conspiracy” surrounding removing this 19th century technology. There were multi-page analyses written on the reasons and results of this decision, positive and negative. People threatened to switch to Android, but Samsung was nice enough to discourage that switch by releasing a phone that tends to unexpectedly explode into flames.

What a difference a week makes! Now the current problem is lack of availability. The iPhone 7 Plus and Jet Black color for both new models are already sold out, “Anger Consumes iPhone 7 Queues at Apple Stores.”

breathePlease everybody, stop and take a deep breath! Luckily, the Breathe App is one of the best new features of the Apple Watch. You don’t even need to buy anything. Watch OS 3 has Breathe built-in, turned on by default, and it costs nothing to upgrade. Sure, there were apps for this before, but making it part of Watch OS is a powerful statement.

So thank you Apple for not only encouraging us stand-up every hour, but also taking it a step further by adding mindful breathing every five hours. Maybe that minute of reflection a couple times a day will help drop the collective stress level. Now THAT would a true innovation!


Monthly Recap: Insanely Great Products

The title of this post comes from a 1985 Steve Jobs quote in Playboy magazine, “Making an insanely great product has a lot to do with the process of making the product, how you learn things and adopt new ideas and throw out old ideas.” He said this only a year after the release of the first Macintosh. Fast forward 21 years and you can find a similar quote in the recent Washington Post interview of Tim Cook, “Tim Cook, the interview: Running Apple ‘is sort of a lonely job’.” Cook commented, “The North Star has always been the same, which for us, is about making insanely great products that really change the world in some way – enrich people’s lives.” The similarity is exciting because it highlights a concept that has withstood the test of time and has resulted in products that have truly changed the world.

August’s posts explored the idea of insanely great products from a variety of perspectives.

  • Exploring the Digital Ocean of Cloud Computing” featured a company called Digital Ocean that provides virtual servers for software developers which run in the cloud. While their core value, “Love is what makes us great” is my favorite, “striving for simple and elegant solutions” has certainly resulted in amazing products.
  • What Cameron Learned From 10 Years of Doing PR for Apple” was a reminder that despite recent criticism, Apple still adds value to a massive number of customers and, just as importantly, consistently communicates that value effectively.
  • Finally, “Is Google Heading Down the Same Path as Yahoo?” explored the challenges that Google is facing in light of Yahoo’s recent demise. There are definitely some “insanely great products” at Google (Search, AdWords, Gmail, Maps, etc.), but the concept is far from a corporate philosophy.

Obviously not every company needs to be an Apple to change the world. Even imitators fulfill an important role in technological advancement. For example, many people prefer Android over IOS for good reasons. It is often considered more customizable with many hardware options available at a much lower cost. However, there would be no Android without the breakthroughs that the iPhone pioneered such as the multi-touch touchscreen, IOS, and the App Store. Today Apple continues to be a pioneer in new areas that have expanded beyond pure technology such as the environment, social responsibility, shifting investor focus to longer term thinking, and protecting individual privacy.

What is critical is the positive intent and focus on improvement and advancement. It sounds cliche, but it is the one thing that separates humans from the other species where survival is the primary focus. If you have one more minute, watch this moving Apple ad called, “The Human Family.” The final line is beautiful and appropriate: “We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.” (From a poem by Maya Angelou.)

The Original Apple Newton and the iPhone 1
Photo courtesy of Blake Patterson from Alexandria, VA, USA (CC BY 2.0)

Is Google Heading Down the Same Path as Yahoo?

This post is a continuation of last week’s post, “What Cameron Learned From 10 Years of Doing PR for Apple” which ended by asking if Google could eventually end up like Yahoo. It was a sad ending for the company that was the Google of its day. Verizon paid only around $5B for it (it was worth $125B in 2000). One of the reasons commonly cited for Yahoo’s prolonged decline was simply “a lack of focus.” A recent New York Times article, “Yahoo’s Sale to Verizon Ends an Era for a Web Pioneer” has the details and there are some eerie similarities to Google.

googlebillboard small

On the one hand, Google is doing well at the moment. Android is extremely popular, their stock price has tripled in the past three years, and their advertising business continues to generate massive revenue ($50B in 2015). However, the trap of losing focus is a seductive one. Are they beginning to head down the same path as Yahoo? There are some worrisome signs.

GSearchFirst, the “2016 Doodle Fruit Games” is certainly strange and complex. It even begins to break their strong philosophy of keeping their search homepage pristine. Also, if you have four hours to spare, you can compare Google’s “Code I/O” conference keynote to Apple “WWDC 2016” keynote. If you don’t, the TL:DW (too long, didn’t watch) version is that almost everything Google announced is still “coming soon.”

Even Google’s most recent major product releases have been met by yawns (and head scratching) by the Android community. Their new video calling app Duo seems to work well, but adds additional fragmentation to an already crowded product area. Are new Duo users really going to convince all their friends to switch from Skype, Facebook Messenger, FaceTime, WhatsApp, etc.? This is especially problematic when users have been burned by Google discontinuing products that don’t immediately succeed such as Hangouts, Reader, Wave, and others. Even if the Duo does generate interest, only 14% of Android users have upgraded to Marshmallow (the version released in October 2015) compared to 85% of IOS users.

GMailOn the positive side, Gmail is still the king of email solutions with excellent spam filtering and a clean interface  while Google Maps is still the best option for navigation with accurate routing and traffic information. So is Google doomed? Not in the near future at least. There is still no better option for searching the internet and that alone will insure that their advertising business remains insanely profitable. Is there reason for concern? Definitely. With the incredible pace of technological change, it wouldn’t take much for Microsoft Bing or a scrappy search engine like DuckDuckGo to make a dent in Google’s critical search business. Hmmm. Sounds like a good topic for the next post in this series. Have a great weekend!

What Cameron Learned From 10 Years of Doing PR for Apple

A recent post about the Cloud Computing company, Digital Ocean, got me thinking about what makes certain corporations superstars in their industry. It seems to be an elusive combination of outstanding products that add value to peoples’ lives and great communication about those products. Cameron Craig highlights his five most important communication lessons in the Harvard Business Review article, “What I Learned From 10 Years of Doing PR for Apple.”

  • Keep it simple
  • Value reporters’ time
  • Be hands on
  • Stay focused
  • Prioritize media influencers

It’s a fascinating read and the article was so popular that he wrote a short follow-up on LinkedIn called “One more thing.” This post explained the importance of Apple’s Surprise and Delight philosophy as well as the benefits of in-house versus outsourced marketing. I worked with Apple before, during, and after their “turnaround” and saw their acoustics team apply these concepts. Apple went from one acoustic engineer using the anechoic chamber as a storage room to multiple state of the art chambers staffed by the best and brightest acoustic engineers in the industry. We were all “surprised and delighted” when even the first iPhones were a breakthrough in cell phone audio quality.

ApplePainting smallThe pros and cons of Apple’s products are constantly argued, sometimes quite vocally. For example, a recent Reddit thread “The Galaxy Note 7 is miles ahead of the iPhone” has over 1,200 comments. However, the fact remains that Apple still adds value to a massive number of customers and consistently communicates that value effectively. It’s a lesson many tech companies ignore at their own peril. Even Google, with a virtually unlimited marketing budget has some questionable practices like announcing news too far in advance. Yahoo, of course, is the ultimate recent example because less than a decade ago, it was in Google’s dominant industry position. Could Google succumb to the same fate? The next post in this series will explore some of these questions.