Steve Ballmer, CEO and co-founder of Microsoft, recently gave an interview to Dyan Machan, SmartMoney senior writer.
Here is the main stuff, with my comments [Thanks to MacDailyNews for the heads up] :
Machan: Steve Jobs's iPhone announcement stole the thunder from Bill Gates's keynote address at the Consumer Electronics Show. Do you wish you had the iPhone?
Ballmer: No. Apple has put its brand into a new category. That doesn't mean it's a good product. I wouldn't be surprised if one of our partners came out with a device that looks exactly the same at a lower price in six or seven months [near the time when iPhones will ship]. There's a notion that there's magic with Apple. iPod is a hot brand — not Apple.
M.D. comment : a Microsoft partner coming out with ' a device that looks exactly the same at a lower price ' won't even succeed. Pricing is not the issue here. That's the user experience. The whole product solution : the product' design, features, ease-of-installation, ease-of-use, ease-of-maintenance, ease-of-upgrade, reliability, sales & technical support, cost-of-ownership... The post-1997 Apple got it all. Microsoft and its so-called partners are still trying to figure out why the iPod+iTunes model is so successful. Pricing is not the issue. Look Dell.
Machan: But Apple is in the home, winning in the very place Microsoft has identified as important to its strategy — that is, entertainment.
Ballmer: It's a romantic notion that Apple has the lead. People who build overpriced, underpowered equipment and then market it in an edgy way do not have a formula for broad success. In the home there are PCs; Apple has no presence. There are videogame machines; Apple has no presence. TVs: Apple has no presence; Microsoft has some presence. Music: Apple has a very large presence [via the iPod]; Microsoft has an interesting presence in the high-end market.
M.D. comment : First, Ballmer should have add "yet". "Apple has no presence yet ". Wait for the release of Mac OS 10.5 ' Leopard ' : I bet the AppleTV will become the media-center every one is looking for for home entertainment. Second, on the ' formula for broad success ' : on the contrary, Apple is building products which may seem overpriced (that might be true for the iPod as a simple MP3 player, but no longer for the Macs), which offer ' just-enough ' feature set, and are visible enough to become mainstream faster than Windows Vista ;-)
Machan: You mean the Zune? Please.
Ballmer: We don't kid ourselves. We won't come out our first Christmas and take over. There will be a phase two and three. But at the end of the day, entertainment devices will be a very good business for us.
M.D. comment : as long as they run Microsoft Windows, yes...
Machan: People complain about feature bloat. Most of us use 5 to 10% of features. People won't buy for features.
Ballmer: No. They will buy for features. People use more of these products than they think. Maybe you couldn't write [a great PowerPoint presentation]. But now you can read it. The user interface is sexier. Sex sells.
M.D. comment : okay, sex sells. Look the iPod. But please Mr. Ballmer, don't tell us PowerPoint is a sexy product (otherwise, I wonder what is a sexy woman for you ;-). Plus, the possibility to read a file is the minimum a software company can offer to its users.
I will come back to those points later, with the comparison between Ballmer's statements and what we did at Agilent Technologies to overcome our main rival on the optical network testing arena (I know, it's not as sexy as the iPod, but still, that's marketing as unusual ;-)
For the time being, here is one out of a dozen of reasons why I will never apply to a job at Microsoft - at least as long as Steve Jobs don't put his hands on it ;-)
Direct link to the video on YouTube here.
Once upon a time in the (South)West of Dubai, I discovered the chicken shawarma. It was during a beautiful night, back in the late 90's, at the Sheraton Jumeirah Beach hotel. Thanks to my friend Abubakr, this place quickly became my " house " when I was travelling in the region for business - at this time, Agilent Technologies' employees were still allowed to stay at five stars hotels ;-)
I've been a frequent guest for 8 years. I'm not sure I will stay there again. Here is why...
Sheraton Jumeirah, 1998.
Sheraton Jumeirah, 2006.
SlideShare's users will vote on the entries while the contest is on. The winning entries will be decided by (the) panel of judges, which is comprised of the who's who of the presentation world. The People's Choice prizes will be decided on the basis of the votes polled. Winners will be announced one week after the contest ends.
Provided the quality of the grand jury, I guess the winning presentation will have to really be an outstanding one. Both in terms of design - graphic design, overall concept - and content - the topic and the story. In the meantime, it will have to pass through the votes of the rest of the people. Here starts the real issue. Weisman, Decker, Reynolds, Kawasaki : they are seasoned businessmen, experts in their field(s), used to deal with high-level audiences. Hence their certain vision of presentation : a quick/captivating/eye catching story-telling, kind of. How about SlideShare average visitors and users ? Who are they ? My guess : 20-30 yrs old tech geeks. Finding the matching point between them and the jury is the key for success. The winner will be the one who will please * the average * and wow * the experts *. Sounds familiar ? It looks like " American Idol " and the likes to me. A great challenge...
A quick overview of the first applications here, and you'll get the point : for the time being, there is no "wow" stuff. Nothing that turns me on, nothing that make me want to click and watch.
Here is what I would do, should I decide to participate - who knows ?!. By the way, note that this a copy & paste of a comment I left today on Guy Kawasaki' s blog :
Maybe the point is to make the presentation a piece of theatre by itself. A *good* presentation is a story. In this case (Slideshare contest) there is no story-teller, means no speaker/presenter/actor. Hence the basic idea : imagine a presentation where the presenter is inside, 'on' the slides themselves. Then, this presenter will tell a story. A kind of cartoon, if you see what I mean.
Now, the absolute open question to resolve is this one : which topic ? In the introduction, SlideShare claims :
I'm pretty convinced that evangelizing Linux won't make it, nor a recipe for the perfect apple pie : that's too " common stuff ". Maybe evangelizing the perfect apple pie in the greatest city of the world driving a green car will make it though ;-)
Your presentation could be about anything you know or care for. From teaching 5th graders history to pitching your ideas to VCs; tell us why your city is great or convince us to buy hybrid cars; evangelize Linux or share a recipe for that perfect apple pie.
Thanks to MacDailyNews for the heads up :
Koloroo today announced the release of the first widgets that run on any iPod with a color screen. TipKalc is an easy-to-use tip calculator with instant check-splitter and KolorWheel is a color utility that provides scientifically formulated color schemes to match a web page, home decor, shirt or outfit ... in fact, just about anything. Both widgets can be loaded onto an iPod from either a PC or Mac and are available at an introductory download price of only $4.99 and $7.99 respectively.
More info: www.koloroo.com
My take : now I can start developping an OTDR for the iPhone platform.
As many of us around the Planet, I do prefer using emails and IM rather than plain old telephone for business. Electronics communications allow me to keep track of the discussions, archive threads, etc.
For instance, I like to use Skype for interviews : the 'View Chat History' feature is a great tool for reviewing the records. Emails : since the NeXT Cube (I bought one, back in 1993) and its wonderful Mail app, which is the ancestor of the current Mac' Mail app, I use my email client as a datawarehouse. I keep history of my different jobs in there, together with key files such as presentations, I send draft ideas and memos and to-dos to myself, etc. By the way, I'm not the only one to use Mail this way : have a look at this guy here (hint : it's about a Leopard).
Also, electronics means less paper, which is quite a nice trick for someone who wants
to save the Planet (not Superman, me ;-) to help saving the Planet.
Anne Zelenka of WebWorkerDaily has recently posted three articles which summarize the ' style & etiquette ' of the modern communication tools. It's so true. And fun ! Enjoy reading " How to Annoy People Using Instant Messaging ", " 27 Tips for Teleconferencing ", and " How to Screw Up An Email Negotiation " as much I did.
During almost four months last year, I've been working quite hard with a friend of mine to setup a new venture, so-called Wahoom (okay, I know what you're saying : just another Web 2.0 crap thing). Wahoom was intended to be a Design & Decoration firm, aimed at selling high-priced luxury items to * rich people *. From porcelain hand-made furniture to fiber-optics-illuminated swimming pools, we were going to make big money with the big guys of Dubai, L.A., Moscow, and Miami.
Actually, Wahoom was my friend's idea. He wanted me to work with him as a partner, because of my ability to develop new business from scratch. Brainstorming the business plan was an interesting exercise, writing down the product plan was fun, and putting together the sales strategy was exciting (hey, I never thought I was going to sell something to a sex-shop in Castro ;-)
Also, I discovered a couple of new areas : 3D-modeling, resin-made over-sized objects, sculpture...
Nevertheless, I pulled off. Because, according to my experience and more, to my convictions, this project was a dead-end. Making money just for the pleasure to make money doesn't make sense to me. We were willing to sell upper-priced stuff to super-upper-class people : what's the point here ?... We couldn't succeed on the long run.
To understand why I terminated the Wahoom project, there is no better explanation than reading the slide, from the famous presentation on the real secrets of success by Richard St. John at TED'05.
I got all the points on John' s success factors' scorecard but two of them :
Wahoom was no passion to me, and it didn't serve anyone for good.
To watch this remarkable 3-minute slideshow, which is a star on YouTube and blogs, please click here or... stay there and click on the video right now ! Enjoy the ride.
Over the last couple of weeks, I've spent a lot of time browsing the Net, seeking for new ideas for some new business I have in mind. Surfing from one site to another, from a blog to another, I finally landed on... ChangeThis. The funny thing here : before using blogs as my primary source of inspiration, ChangeThis was one of my favorite.
As John Jantsch wrote in his Duct Tape Marketing... blog :
Reading a ChangeThis manifesto is always a relaxing yet fruitful moment : it's all well designed, written, and, of course, thought. You may want to see it by yourself by clicking here.
"ChangeThis is a clever project, originated by Seth Godin and currently owned and operated by 800-CEO-READ. Anyone can post a proposal for a manifesto on the Change This site and then readers vote on whether or not they would like to see that proposal turned into a Change This Manifesto. A Change This Manifesto is basically a well developed thought on one particular subject and comes in the form of a smartly designed PDF file."
As someone with a certain taste for Aestheticism, I do really enjoy the creations of Jonathan Ive and Philippe Starck. Both of them bring Design at its highest level in their respective domains. Simplicity at its best, for the best user experience. Reading the recent post of PresentationZen 's Garr Reynolds on the elimination of the nonessential in presentation' design, I immediately thought about Industrial Design' father Raymond Loewy : " Never Leave Well Enough Alone " is one of my favorite books of all time. In my humble opinion - I am not a designer per se, as I don't do Design as a living - Loewy invented the whole stuff. To make it short, there won't an iPod, shall Loewy have decided to stay in France after World War I. Therefore, I am pretty surprised not to see that much reference to his work today. Maybe because he's French ;-)
Here are my ten favorite quotes by Raymond Loewy.
Note : I've added a couple of photos of actual products - from Apple, of course - for you to get the point, eventually. I bet you'll understand how visionnary Loewy was. And why all the modern Design gurus should thank him every time they get an award. Keep in mind : Raymond Loewy died in 1986 (at the age of 92).
"The main goal is not to complicate the already difficult life of the consumer."
"Today every city, town, or village is affected by it. We have entered the Neon Civilization and become a plastic world…. It goes deeper than its visual manifestations, it affects moral matters; we are engaged, as astrophysicists would say, on a decaying orbit."
"I alienated the automotive industry by saying that cars should be lightweight and compact…. I'd also kill chrome forever, or any other applied junk."
"It's shape is aggressively female - a quality that in merchandise, as in life, sometime transcends functionalism."
-- referring to the Coca-Cola bottle shape
"Form, which should be the clean-cut expression of mechanical excellence, has become sensuous and organic."
"I believe one should design for the advantage of the largest mass of people, first and always. That takes care of ideologies and sociologies. I think one also should try to elevate the aesthetic level of society. And to watch quality control always, while insisting others do, too."
"Between two products equal in price, function and quality, the one with the most attractive exterior will win."
"I once said that the most difficult things to design are the simplest. For instance, to improve the form of a scalpel or a needle is extremely difficult, if not impossible. To improve the appearance of a threshing machine is easy. There are so many components on which one can work."
"It would seem that more than function itself, simplicity is the deciding factor in the aesthetic equation. One might call the process beauty through function and simplification."
"Style for the sake of style alone will have less meaning to the consumer than value. An interruption of the spiral created by boosting sales from year to year with false inducements of style, bulk and flash gives design a new lease on life. Aesthetic beauty will be the direct result of careful planning and precision manufacturing."
Bonus Track, DRM-free : "The most beautiful curve is a rising sales graph."
Sometimes, there is no better way to kick-off the week than to receive a kick in the... you name it. Thanks to Guy Kawasaki, who posted the link on his blog yesterday Sunday, this sermon called “Jesus & Your Job” by Nancy Ortberg of Menlo Park Presbyterian Church made my day - and perhaps the rest of my week and the days to follow.
Beyond the core message of this sermon, which is about good leaders and the value of people’s work, I see something else : a kind of reminder. It is time for all of us to think different. I wish the combat against Global Warming will force us Humans to unite. For once. For the sake of our children's children.
I just discovered the American Museum of Natural History website. The Science Bulletins section features amazing animations and videos on the Universe, Space, and Earth. It's worth bookmarking, sharing, and, of course, watching here.
In the Earth section, the following three presentations are mandatory : Dead Zones on the Rise, Melting Glaciers: Clues to Climate Change, Arctic Sea Ice 1997-2006
Maybe those of you who are still skeptics about global warming will change their mind. Hopefully ;-)
Last week, I met with the founder of a WebTV startup here in France. During our discussion, the beta test issue came out : she was planning a 2-weeks beta phase, during which a dozen of selected target customers would have access to the WebTV website. And that was pretty it.
Of course, I did my best to convince her to change her mind, and go for a longer test period, to be offered to a larger audience. Here are my arguments :
For all those reasons, I suggested to launch as soon as possible, in beta mode, for 6 months, and worldwide. Keep your eyes open : there might be an eye-catching WebTV near you soon ;-)
Last year, Wired has published a long article : " Steve Jobs' Best Quotes Ever ". Here are my ten favorites. At the end of the day, those quotes tell who is Steve Jobs (did I ever told you that I would like to work for him before I die ? ;-)
I suggest that you read the date first, then read the quote :
you will then notice how funny or visionary it was.
Also, note that I sorted the quotes in perspective with the resurgence of the Cupertino firm since Jobs' s return at the head of the company... 10 years ago.
ps : BrainyQuote has some interesting stuff too (e.g. the 3 at the bonus track at the end of this post).
"Apple has some tremendous assets, but I believe without some attention, the company could, could, could -- I'm searching for the right word -- could, could die." -- On his return as interim CEO, in Time, Aug. 18, 1997
"You know, I've got a plan that could rescue Apple. I can't say any more than that it's the perfect product and the perfect strategy for Apple. But nobody there will listen to me." -- Fortune, Sept. 18, 1995
"The cure for Apple is not cost-cutting. The cure for Apple is to innovate its way out of its current predicament." -- Apple Confidential 2.0: The Definitive History of the World's Most Colorful Company, by Owen W. Linzmayer
"Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have. When Apple came up with the Mac, IBM was spending at least 100 times more on R&D. It's not about money. It's about the people you have, how you're led, and how much you get it." -- Fortune, Nov. 9, 1998
"It's really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don't know what they want until you show it to them." -- BusinessWeek, May 25 1998
"The desktop computer industry is dead. Innovation has virtually ceased. Microsoft dominates with very little innovation. That's over. Apple lost. The desktop market has entered the dark ages, and it's going to be in the dark ages for the next 10 years, or certainly for the rest of this decade." -- Wired magazine, February 1996
"Why would I ever want to run Disney? Wouldn't it make more sense just to sell them Pixar and retire?" -- Fortune, Feb. 23, 2004
"It's better to be a pirate than to join the Navy." -- Odyssey: Pepsi to Apple
"There are sneakers that cost more than an iPod." -- On the iPod's $300 price tag, Newsweek, Oct. 27, 2003
"We made the buttons on the screen look so good you'll want to lick them." -- Jobs, on Mac OS X's Aqua user interface (Fortune, Jan. 24, 2000)
bonus track, DRM-free ;-)
personal comment : the latest is another piece of evidence that Steve Jobs and Raymond Loewy have something in common...