One day in January 2007, this correspondent was taken aback by the sight of a crowd. It had literally camped outside the glass cube of the Apple store on Fifth Avenue and 59th Street, in New York. The scene looked like a siege.
There were security guards the size of a small bulldozer, and a velvet rope ran along the esplanade. Surprise only lasted a fraction of a second. Your correspondent remembered that a few days later the very first iPhone would hit the market.
Some of these people had brought sleeping bags. A few had an expression in their face more commonly associated with mystics or zealots of any conviction. And they probably felt a very strong, almost religious urge to be among the first to experience the magic of an iPhone.
The scene was truly surreal, like people waiting for the last boat out of Pompeii. Yet when a long time later this correspondent laid his hands on an iPhone, he, too, converted to this faith. Kind of.
It is true that the later models look lame. But there can be no bigger compliment, and acknowledgment, than imitation. The dispute of Mac versus Windows about the originality of icons on a screen is a false one. That credit goes to PARC, Xerox’s lab for futuristic projects. It spawned much of the modern consumer technology as we know it. But the iPhone was a true pioneer. If you have a doubt about, look around and see who set the template of today’s smartphones.
Bloomberg reports that Apple has decided to scale back on its self-driving car project. This has resulted in people from the car team reassigned or let go, in addition to those who quit. Now the goal is apparently to develop an autonomous driving system that would allow Apple to either partner with existing carmakers or resume its own automobile initiative at some point in the future. In any case, Apple customers will be better off for it (and probably the company as well). Let the cobbler stick to his last.
It is too early to tell if Microsoft’s purchase of LinkedIn for more than $26 billion will go the way of its purchase of Nokia, the Finnish mobile telephone company, a deal that tanked and had to be undone, sadly for all parties involved. Or if it will be like Skype, a stationary asset that has certainly a large user base but the market value of which has not grown significantly. Neither can we tell if it will, indeed, become a game changer. At this point, we don’t know. If there is one thing we can say, from our humble experience, there is this: when someone pays that amount of money, will want, and will feel entitled too, to see results soon. When those results are not forthcoming, there will be unbearable pressure on the acquired company (i.e., its employees) to “show the money,” and a lot of office disgruntlement will ensue. One reason why mergers and acquisitions end up making everyone miserable is not too different from what makes empires unhappy and causes them to collapse: the conquerors assure they will bring happiness and wellbeing for everyone, but they impose an alien culture and take away the freedom. After struggles that see the demise of a lot of jobs—not as bad as lives, but still—the parties decide to split. It happens all the time. Perhaps the boss of Microsoft, Satya Nadella, has his sight set on the very long term. Is this part of the struggle for supremacy against the other titans in the field: Google, Apple, and Facebook? Is Nadella the chess player that envisions the checkmate after the first couple of moves? To his credit, he was opposed to the Nokia acquisition. But he has now made an even bolder and more expensive move. In the meantime, we quote an analyst from Forbes: “For $26 billion, the acquirer should be getting something that either produces prodigious and rapidly expanding profits or has immeasurable strategic value. It’s not possible to argue LinkedIn offers either.” We will just wrap up by saying that it’s too soon to tell.