Yours truly, on Medium:

In general, Apple’s past behavior is an excellent indicator of its future behavior, which makes many aspects of its events quite predictable. But Apple’s famous secrecy has one main purpose: to create a sense of wonder and surprise during announcements. Keeping future products secret enables announcements to feel like “major leaps forward.” The alternative, complete transparency during development, can make each update seem merely incremental. A new hardware product category, new size formats for the largest existing category, and a new service make for more potential surprise than we’ve seen in nearly a decade.

What are the potential surprises? Assuming the 3 announcements above, here are 16 big questions:

Brilliant, beautiful, haunting.

Deeply ideological brands are powerful and rare. Deeply ideological founders help. That may be the driver for this one too, in some ways even more explicitly positioning Steve Ells as the hero of the respective stories.

One critique of ‘The Scarecrow’: the story seems to lack a pivotal moment of catharsis like ‘Back to the Start’ has. The consumer’s role in the narrative also seems absent – the message is a bit too much “we’re heroes, line up and get some of our heroic work” rather than “Chipotle is a movement you can be a part of.”

It seems sure their brilliant ideological narratives will continue (unlike fleeting brilliance). Maybe the next one will even be more inclusive, with a community-driven narrative using the same formula: ideological story + nasty cover of a classic song.

(Thanks to Zack for helping codify thoughts on this.)


My second post on Medium:

99.98% of Apple revenue can be attributed directly to the end user experience
I’m not convinced the potential increase in developer support is worth even the smallest risk of compromising the end user experience that drives their core business. And the risk doesn’t seem all that small.

Ads never enhance the user experience. At best, they avoid ruining it.

There are too many animations shown in the new iPad commercials. Too many because they leave no room for demonstrations of direct manipulation of on-screen objects.

The obviousness and clarity of interfacing with technology through direct object manipulation with your fingers has always been the iPad’s primary differentiator among personal computers. And the smoothness of those interactions is the primary differentiator among post-PC devices.

Seems fishy.

David E. Sanger, David Barboza and Nicole Perlroth, reporting for The New York Times:

An unusually detailed 60-page study, to be released Tuesday by Mandiant, an American computer security firm, tracks for the first time individual members of the most sophisticated of the Chinese hacking groups — known to many of its victims in the United States as “Comment Crew” or “Shanghai Group” — to the doorstep of the military unit’s headquarters.

The big question: how useful could the things they’re gaining access to be?

While Comment Crew has drained terabytes of data from companies like Coca-Cola, increasingly its focus is on companies involved in the critical infrastructure of the United States — its electrical power grid, gas lines and waterworks.

Staff at Digital Bond, a small security firm that specializes in those industrial-control computers, said that last June Comment Crew unsuccessfully attacked it. A part-time employee at Digital Bond received an e-mail that appeared to come from his boss, Dale Peterson. The e-mail, in perfect English, discussed security weaknesses in critical infrastructure systems, and asked the employee to click a link to a document for more information. Mr. Peterson caught the e-mail and shared it with other researchers, who found the link contained a remote-access tool that would have given the attackers control over the employee’s computer and potentially given them a front-row seat to confidential information about Digital Bond’s clients, which include a major water project, a power plant and a mining company.

But the most troubling attack to date, security experts say, was a successful invasion of the Canadian arm of Telvent. The company, now owned by Schneider Electric, designs software that gives oil and gas pipeline companies and power grid operators remote access to valves, switches and security systems.

Telvent keeps detailed blueprints on more than half of all the oil and gas pipelines in North and South America, and has access to their systems. In September, Telvent Canada told customers that attackers had broken into its systems and taken project files. That access was immediately cut, so that the intruders could not take command of the systems.

Far too useful. Chris Sacca: “Make no mistake about it. Our nation is under attack.”

Mr. Obama alluded to this concern in the State of the Union speech, without mentioning China or any other nation. “We know foreign countries and companies swipe our corporate secrets,” he said. “Now our enemies are also seeking the ability to sabotage our power grid, our financial institutions, our air-traffic control systems. We cannot look back years from now and wonder why we did nothing.”

Mr. Obama faces a vexing choice: In a sprawling, vital relationship with China, is it worth a major confrontation between the world’s largest and second largest economy over computer hacking?

From Adam Lashinsky’s excellent interview with the founding partners of a16h:

Ben Horowitz, on venture capital:

It’s not an asset class. It’s not an industry. It’s the very small number of firms that the best entrepreneurs in the world are willing to take money from.

And Marc Andreesen:

The classic quote was JP Morgan himself testifying in front of the Senate, and he said, it doesn’t matter how much collateral anybody has [...], you lend entirely on the basis of character.

Worth reading the whole thing.

Seth Weintraub, writing for 9to5Google:

An extremely reliable source has confirmed to us that Google is in the process of building stand-alone retail stores in the U.S. and hopes to have the first flagship Google Stores open for the holidays in major metropolitan areas.

The mission of the stores is to get new Google Nexus, Chrome, and especially upcoming products into the hands of prospective customers. Google feels right now that many potential customers need to get hands-on experience with its products before they are willing to purchase.

Smart move. The go-to-market strategy for the Nexus device line seems non-existent right now.

I had terrible experiences trying out the Google TV a couple years ago and the Nexus devices last year in Best Buy stores. I know Google can create a far better experience better than that, and I don’t know anywhere else to go play with a Google device.

While Microsoft has struggled to create products that deliver on the “sell the experience rather than specs or features” vision, Google is getting much closer. If Google is going to continue investing in device design and manufacturing, they need far more people to feel that experience.

NOTE: Google Glass – which I’m reserving judgement on until I have the device – seems like a particularly difficult product to try/play with in an indoor space. IF the product is impressive in a retail store, though, I’d guess it will be their biggest sales channel by far.