Good Reads for July, 2018

Every month, we’ll be bringing you a handful of whimsically wordier reads about the wonderful world of Apple. Sometimes these will be reviews of their latest laptop, inside stories from the annals of Apple history, or even timely republished interviews with Steve Jobs following the just-passed tenth anniversary of the App Store. All I know is, bring your own Instapaper account, because this is Good Reads.

  • July saw the first hardware update to Apple’s laptop lineup since June last year. Depending on which way you look at it, Apple’s timing was either perfect or way off the mark, as the refreshed 13 and 15-inch MacBook Pro somehow managed to land right in the middle of a cacophony of keyboard-related complaints. The good news is, both machines got slightly more than the usual speed bump, making them the fastest and most secure Mac laptops ever released. As for keyboard reliability, while Apple’s stuck to their butterfly-switched guns and added a silicon barrier to prevent dust and debris from throwing a spanner in the proverbial works, it remains to be seen what long-term reliability is like. Samuel Axon from Ars Technica has the full review.

From marketing to design decisions, we can see exactly which professional users Apple targeted with this refresh: video editors, software developers, music producers, photographers, and, to a lesser degree, scientific researchers. The refresh doesn’t necessarily serve every kind of professional who has ever wanted a high-performance Mac, but it generally does an admirable job of offering something to get excited about for people in a wide range of professions.

  • Although the App Store turned ten in July, there weren’t that many lengthier pieces about how app stores have changed the world. So instead, we’re going with an interview with Steve Jobs from August 2008, published for the first time by The Information and The Wall Street Journal. The full, if lightly edited, audio recording and transcript of Jobs’ take on the App Store’s earliest successes, developer relationships, and the future of gaming is a really great reminder of the kind of person Jobs was and the kind of charisma he exuded.

The way we think about this is that the App Store is to iPhone like iTunes is to iPod. Just like with the iPod, where we enhanced it with an internet service to bring content to it, we’re doing the same thing with the iPhone. We’re enhancing it with an internet service to deliver content right to the phone. In this case, since we already bring the iTunes music content to the phone, we’re bringing applications.

  • One of the best things about Apple having such a storied history is the variety and depth of the tales we hear about the company and how it came to be. You’re probably already familiar, at least tangentially, with how Apple acquired NeXT and, perhaps more importantly, its CEO Steve Jobs under the leadership of Gil Amelio in the late 90s, only for Ameilio to be ousted and replaced by Jobs as interim CEO. At the time, there were questions raised about why Apple acquired NeXT instead of the very respected Be (under the leadership of former Apple exec Jean-Louis Gassée). As it turns out, there might have been one secret phone call that made all the difference in the world.

I got Andy’s assistant on the phone. His assistants were executives-in-training who spent 2 years mentoring under Andy. I explained that if Steve heard about this call I would be fired. I justified the call by saying sometimes history has shown you have to do the right thing and keep it secret from Steve until later, as the Mac team famously did when they hid a Sony engineer in the Apple building so Steve wouldn’t find out.

  • Every now and again we’ll feature a piece that’s only somewhat-related to Apple, and this month is one of those times. David Montgomery of The Washington Post tells us the quest of Laurene Powell Jobs, who founded Emerson Collective to lead a new kind of philanthropy, one at the intersection of technology and social change. Now the sixth richest woman in the world thanks to inheriting Steve’s fortune, Laurene is aiming to take on society’s most intractable problems.

Emerson Collective did not appear to conform to traditional models of philanthropy. Its worldview seemed more or less clear — center-left politics with a dash of techie libertarianism — but its grand plan was unstated while its methods of spurring social change implied that simply funding good works is no longer enough. The engine Powell Jobs had designed was equal parts think tank, foundation, venture capital fund, media baron, arts patron and activist hive.

  • Even though this is good reads, I rarely share really long reads. But The Thing About Jetpacks by Jon Bell and Lukas Mathis is too good not to, if you’re even half-interested in design. Apple is cited throughout the piece, which you might remember from 2013 when the website fuckjetpacks.com rose to prominence and died out, all in the same month. It was a book, and can now be yours to read on Medium, or via freely-available ePub, if that’s more your style and speed.

Until the iPod. And then iPhone. And iPad. And somewhere along the way, Macs started taking bigger chunks of the market. Apple made it look easy, so companies took notice. They soon realized Apple’s key strength was that they designed the hardware and software to work well together. Apple knew before many others in the industry that there’s a 1+1=3 effect that happens when a product’s hardware and software are done by a single company.

Notable Replies

  1. That story about Next was fantastic!

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