By Chris Sorensen - Thursday, November 1, 2012 - 0 Comments
One of the more interesting revelations to come out of Apple’s management shuffle this week, which saw iOS software head Scott Forstall turfed because of the Maps fiasco, is the apparent war on skeuomorphism inside One Infinite Loop. For those who aren’t design-minded, a skeuomorph is a product design element that hints at something which previously served a functional role (like spokes on a car’s hub caps).
Forstall was a big proponent of using these sorts of ornamental—some say “tacky”— flourishes in Apple’s software: the green velvet background of the games application, the leather binding on iCal or the wooden bookshelf in Newsstand. The late Steve Jobs also favoured the approach, believing it helped put a soft edge on the sometimes cold world of technology. In fact, Jobs instructed Apple’s software designers to use a linen-like texture in the iPhone’s notifications menu, which is swiped down like a roman blind.
By Chris Sorensen - Thursday, October 4, 2012 at 7:00 PM - 0 Comments
After failing in the tablet market, Hewlett-Packard is jumping into smartphones
Meg Whitman, the CEO of Hewlett-Packard Co., caused eyes to roll after revealing the computer-maker is “working on” a smartphone. While she’s no doubt aware of the trends—the rise of mobile; the decline of PCs—HP hasn’t had much luck in this area to date. It once made phones that ran Windows Mobile and then, two years ago, bought struggling smartphone pioneer Palm Inc. for US$1.8 billion—a bid to better compete with industry-leaders Google and Apple. It wasn’t to be. The following year HP shuttered its smartphone business, effectively killing off Palm in the process. There is, however, at least one reason to take HP’s continued mobile aspirations seriously: the late Steve Jobs, Apple’s visionary co-founder, long admired the company and its engineers, calling its recent struggles “tragic.” The question now is whether HP still possesses any of the qualities that made Jobs a fan in the first place.
By Chris Sorensen - Wednesday, October 3, 2012 at 3:04 PM - 0 Comments
Thanks to blogger Marcel Brown, we now have another piece of evidence that the late Steve Jobs was indeed a visionary. Brown tracked down a cassette tape recording of a talk Jobs gave in 1983 to a relatively obscure group called the International Design Conference in Aspen. The title of the talk was “The Future Isn’t What it Used to Be.”
Although Brown says Jobs’ prepared remarks from the talk had already been posted in June, the full recording also includes a lengthy question and answer session where Jobs’ most intriguing insights are revealed. In the tape, Jobs talks about how he sees the personal computer and Internet evolving as primarily a communications tool that supports a wide range of niche interests (at the time the Internet was a network that linked mainly university computers and it would be another six years before Tim Berners-Lee wrote his proposal for what would become the World Wide Web).
Jobs also talks about his goal of shrinking a computer down so that it fits in a book, possibly equipped with a radio antenna. In addition to the iPad, he even appears to have already been thinking about iTunes and the App Store, talking about the need for the software equivalent of a radio station that would allow people to sample different programs, over the phone lines, before buying them for their machines. At the end of the Q&A, Jobs is asked about speech recognition and launches into a discussion about how tricky it is to accomplish—a challenge Apple’s engineers still wrestle with today as they attempt to perfect Siri, the iPhone’s voice-activated personal assistant.
By Jesse Brown - Monday, August 27, 2012 at 1:27 PM - 0 Comments
It took jurors three days to decide what an eight year old could have told you in seconds: Samsung copied Apple. Look at an iPhone, then look at a Galaxy. It’s obvious. But so what?
Though Apple was quick to describe the decision as a victory for its core values of “originality” and “innovation,” let’s remember some of the real values Apple is built upon. Steve Jobs, who once quoted (stole?) Picasso’s line about great artists stealing, was himself a wonderfully original thief. All of Apple’s innovations are slick remixes of pre-existing ideas, from the graphic user interface Jobs lifted from Xerox (which Bill Gates later copied from him) to the iPod, which Apple has acknowledged was basically invented by this British guy in 1979. Technology, like all of human culture, progresses bit by bit as we build on each other’s work. Patents are a regulatory system imposed on technology, intended to make sure that inventors get paid for inventing. But they didn’t work out for the British dude who invented the digital audio player, and they aren’t working now.
By Chris Sorensen - Friday, August 17, 2012 at 1:42 PM - 0 Comments
The leading players in the global smartphone market have very different ideas about what the future should look like
Siri, the iPhone’s voice-activated “virtual assistant,” kicked off this year’s Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in June by cracking jokes about San Francisco’s weather, Silicon Valley’s venture capitalists and other subjects only software engineers could find funny (“How many developers does it take change a light bulb? None, that’s a hardware problem”). But it wasn’t long before Siri launched a few verbal jabs at Google, as well as the Asian manufacturing giants that now churn out millions of iPhone-esque devices to run on its Android mobile software. “I’m excited about the new Samsung,” Siri deadpanned in her digital twang. “Not the phone—the refrigerator. Hubba, hubba.”
Siri’s gentle ribbing masked a deeper fallout between Apple and Google, once strategic partners. Before he died, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs told his biographer that Android was “grand theft” of the iPhone concept. “I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple’s $40 billion in the bank, to right this wrong,” he said. “I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go thermonuclear war on this.”
Many assumed Jobs was referring to the avalanche of patent infringement lawsuits Apple has launched against Samsung, HTC and others. But in recent months it’s become clear he had other plans too. At the same June developer’s conference, Apple unveiled a new mapping application that will replace Google Maps on the iPhone and iPad. Then, earlier this month, Apple revealed that iPhones and iPads would no longer ship with Google’s popular YouTube app pre-installed. Even Siri, though still a beta project, is considered by some to be an eventual replacement for Google’s ubiquitous search engine on future Apple machines. “Apple wants to cut the cord—any ties it has to Google,” says Kevin Restivo, a senior analyst with research firm IDC. “It’s a classic turf grab. The more control you have over the smartphone operating system and the user experience, the more lucrative it is.”
By John Geddes - Thursday, June 28, 2012 at 11:03 AM - 0 Comments
The spherical Nexus Q, the new Google device Jesse Brown writes about with critical insight here, is meant to connect your TV, stereo speakers and the movies you’ve rented online. It’s interesting as a bid by Google to grab a technological edge, but the lack of edges on the thing itself is also worth noting.
Roundness is the obvious antidote to the persistent linearity of modern design. Your phone is a rectangle. So is your iPod. The mid-century modern look that defines mainstream cool now more than ever is dominated by corners and cubes and clean lines. Think of the Mad Men offices (or read about the show’s look here). When we talk about the way we’re connected to the world, we use a metaphor of infinite right angles: the grid.
By Erica Alini - Monday, March 19, 2012 at 6:28 PM - 0 Comments
If Apple was a woman, she would be one of those heavenly goddesses whom time does not touch. One of those creatures whose hair never grays, whose skin never ages and whose generous endowments seem to be completely unaffected by the laws of gravity with which the rest of us have to contend. In other words, one of those women most other women hate.
That pretty much sums up how unnaturally youthful Apple looks for its age—and how the competition feels about it. As Nick Wingfield wrote in the New York Times this morning, Apple has been on a “growth spurt” that’s very unusual for a company that’s three-and-a-half decades old.
One sign of aging emerged this morning, though, when the tech behemoth announced that, for the first time since 1995, it would pay a stock dividend. Handing stockholders cash is lady-like behaviour—one of those things slow-growing giants like Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard and IMB do, but that Apple, the hot chick on the block for years now, had refused to.
By Jesse Brown - Tuesday, March 6, 2012 at 2:07 PM - 0 Comments
As a tech journalist, I aspire to no greater goal than providing you with details about Apple products slightly before this information is officially announced. That’s why I started working eight months ago on this post. I wanted to be the first to give you a sneak peek at the iPad 3, and I am proud to announce that I have succeeded. Suck it, Gizmodo.
Tech specs to come, but first, my journey: it began in San Francisco, where I hoped to snatch a prototype from a drunken Apple employee. I loitered in Mission district bars, buying drinks for anyone with an iPhone just in case they had the goods. The drinks were expensive, but geeks are lightweights. It typically took only a couple of acai berry spritzers before I could dash away with a laptop bag. I obtained masters for Kanye’s secret country album and photos of Osama Bin Laden’s new Miami condo this way, but alas, no iPad 3. It was time to try unconventional methods.
By Colby Cosh - Tuesday, February 7, 2012 at 10:20 AM - 0 Comments
Consumers are waking up to the ugly truth about how iPads and iPods
“All companies have secrets,” goes an epigram in Adam Lashinsky’s new book. “The difference is that at Apple everything is a secret.” Lashinsky’s Inside Apple shines an X-ray on the bizarre culture of rivalry and silence that Steve Jobs built at the tech giant’s famous campus in Cupertino, Calif. The price of working for Apple in America, it turns out, is security harangues, legal threats, and paranoia—along with extensive explanations of exactly why you, as an Apple employee, ought to be paranoid. Without obsessive secrecy, Apple’s new-product rollouts wouldn’t have the dramatic quality that keeps the cultists mesmerized.
Under Jobs, Apple was traditionally just as secretive about its manufacturing arrangements abroad. Which is what made the company’s Jan. 13 press release so portentous. Its opening words: “The following is an alphabetical listing of Apple production suppliers.” Nothing special for a publicly traded company, you might say, but the list, from AAC Technologies Holdings Inc. to Zeniya Aluminum Engineering Ltd., had long been sought by Apple-watching activists and critics without success.
“For Apple, this is huge, the equivalent of the Berlin Wall coming down,” says Leander Kahney, a tech journalist who edits the Cult of Mac news website. “It goes against all the company’s instincts. There’s a lot of trade-secret stuff the company has released here.”
By Richard Warnica - Friday, February 3, 2012 at 11:02 AM - 0 Comments
Ruse said not to include Canadian bureaucrats
A Taiwanese electronics company is using an actor playing the ghost of Steve Jobs to pitch its products, CBC reported Friday. That’s the bad news. The good news: There are no reports said ghost is being played by a Canadian bureaucrat. (Hi-yo!)
On a serious note: I have a hard time getting too mad about this story. Jobs was a businessman who made cool stuff. Nothing more. He was also a massively public figure. Is it sleazy to use his ghost to pitch goods? Sure. But it’s nothing worth shaking your fists about. Just laugh and move on.
By Jonathon Gatehouse - Monday, November 7, 2011 at 10:00 AM - 2 Comments
The Steve Jobs biographer on the Apple founder’s genius, cruelty, obsessions, and indifference to money
In his final months, Steve Jobs opened up all aspects of his life to his sanctioned biographer, Walter Isaacson, granting more than 40 interviews. In an exclusive Canadian interview, the author of Steve Jobs talks about the computer mogul’s genius, and his dark side.
Q: You write that Jobs was “the ultimate icon of inventiveness, imagination and sustained innovation,” but you could also add master salesman to that list. Wasn’t his greatest product himself?
A: No, I think his greatest product was actually Apple, because it combines his marketing skills with his engineering and design skills. At Apple, everything is integrated—all functions of the company. He was a master showman; he knew that the unveiling of a product should be a grand moment. But he personally helped design the packaging, so when you opened an Apple product you felt a bit of excitement as you saw the iPhone in the little cradle. I know that seems silly and small, but it was marketing tied in with the sort of whole aura of owning an Apple product.
Q: So was his ability to synthesize all of these various things in itself singular?
A: Yes. Look at the grand philosophy of Steve Jobs: it’s to control the user experience from the silicon chip to the shirt on the store clerk. The hardware, the software, the content and the devices are all tightly integrated, and the marketing is part of that as well. Companies like Microsoft and Google make software they license out to other people who put it on hardware and it’s sold in other people’s stores. That’s a good business model, but it doesn’t make for artistically pure and delightful products.
Q: When Jobs first approached you to write a biography about him in 2004, you turned him down. Why was that?
A: Well, in a casual conversation, he said, “Would you ever think of writing a biography of me?” And I thought, well, he’s younger than me, and in the midst of an up-and-down career, so I said: “You know, maybe 20 years from now, when you retire.” I didn’t realize that he was sick, and once I did I also realized he was transforming industries while battling cancer, and what a dramatic story that was.
Q: But the turning point came when his wife, Laurene, approached you in 2009 and said it was sort of now or never?
A: Yes, we just happened to be together, and she mentioned, “If you’re ever going to write about Steve, you ought to do it now.” It was right after he went on his medical leave that involved a liver transplant in ’09, and I hadn’t really focused on the fact that he was that sick. He had just transformed the music industry and was doing it to the telephone industry, so it was a pretty dramatic time.
Q: He was a famously controlling guy, yet he pledged that he wasn’t going to interfere with your work. Did he keep that promise?
A: Yes, except for a cover he thought was ugly. He started expressing that sentiment strongly to me, and said he would only keep co-operating if he got some say over it. I thought that was a great offer, since he had a great design sense.
Q: What did he object to about the first cover?
A: Oh, it had a little picture of him when he was young inside of an Apple logo. It was gimmicky.
Q: When he called you, was it one of those infamous Steve Jobs conversations?
A: Well, he expressed himself clearly and forcefully, but I knew enough about Steve that it neither surprised me nor worried me, because that was his way of being honest. He could be brutal, but it wasn’t something you were supposed to take personally.
Q: He was also a charismatic figure with an ability to get people to buy into his vision, which was so powerful his friends referred to it as his “reality distortion field.” How did you deal with that?
A: I tried to talk to as many people as I could. The tough thing about Jobs is that he had such a strong personality that those around him remember the exact same meeting in different ways, like the movie Rashomon. Even the scene of his resignation from Apple—I interviewed Steve and three other people, and I got four different versions.
Q: Your book is filled with examples of Jobs’s wilful cruelty to others. Is there one instance of his callousness that really stood out for you?
A: No, just the opposite. He could be tough on people, [but] it was never deeply cruel. It was all about the moment, and it ended up creating a team of brutally honest star players who loved to have strong conversations and disagreements. Once you learned to take it, it was in some ways inspiring.
Q: Inspiring for some people, right? I mean, you’ve quoted one of his friends saying that his big question for Steve was, “Why are you so mean?”
A: Right, but that’s about snapping people’s heads off, or saying rough things. You judge it by the outcome, and even the friend who said that remained close to Steve to the end, and was at the memorial service.
Q: One of his former girlfriends suggested to you that he had narcissistic personality disorder, and the former CEO of Apple called him bipolar. Do you think there was an element of mental illness in Steve Jobs?
A: He had an incredibly intense personality, and certainly felt like he was special and all the rules didn’t apply to him. But I don’t think there was a mental disorder.
Q: Jobs was adopted at birth into what was a pretty loving family, but some people still see that as an explanation for his later behaviour. Do you think he had abandonment issues?
A: He said his adoptive parents made him feel special and chosen. But I do think that there was a journey throughout his life for understanding and enlightenment that had, as one of its elements, figuring out who he was and his place in the world.
Q: You’ve dealt with that spiritual side of Jobs too, what you call “his compulsive search for self-awareness.” Was he self-aware?
A: Oh, yeah. He even had a good sense of humour about himself. If you asked, “Why are you so tough on people?” he would say, “That’s who I am. I don’t want to be one of those artificially polite people who never can make a dent in the universe.”
Q: That attitude manifested itself in a kind of binary viewpoint as well, where products were “amazing” or they were “sh—y,” and people were “enlightened” or they were “a–holes.” How was that outlook linked to his success?
A: I think it gave him the temperament of an artist, which is either “It’s perfect” or “It sucks.” That separated him from most technology executives, who put out version 3.1, then 3.2, and never try to nail it. I think that passion was also the reason he wanted end-to-end control over all the products he made. I’m not a psychologist, so I don’t know what causes somebody to become such a perfectionist, but that’s the way he looked at the world. Even the original Macintosh team, he made them sign the inside of the computer case because, he said, “real artists sign their work.”
Q: In the book there are a lot of scenes of Jobs crying when he’s confronted, or told no, or even when he’s happy. Was that manipulative, or was he really that fragile underneath it all?
A: I don’t think his crying was manipulative, I think he was a very emotional person who could be deeply touched by the people he loved, such as his wife, or by a great design, or even a beautiful piece of ad copy.
Q: In 1985, he was ousted from Apple, the company he had founded. What lessons do you think he absorbed from that?
A: I think his real learning experience was after, at NeXT Computer, where he got to indulge all of his best and worst instincts. He wanted to make the product a perfect cube, and over-designed it so that it became overpriced and flopped in the marketplace. So I think that once he came back to Apple he realized he had to be more sensible and more mature. In a broader sense, that’s the whole narrative arc of the book, whether it’s in his personal life or in the way he ran Apple the second time or even the way he handled cancer, which was in a romantic and poetic way at first, but he quickly then looked for the most advanced scientific ways to handle it.
Q: What about his relationship with money? Compared to a lot of moguls, he lived a fairly simple life with a modest house in Palo Alto.
A: Yes, he lived in a normal house in a normal neighbourhood, having dinner almost every night around the kitchen table with his family. He didn’t try to become a celebrity or have an entourage. When he was very young and went to India on a pilgrimage, he was penniless, and a few years later he was worth more than $100 million. He said money didn’t matter to him much when he had none, and it didn’t matter to him much when he had all he could possibly want.
Q: He was a guy who was capable of acts of generosity, but not particularly generous. You write that his philanthropic foundation was left to wither.
A: Right. His wife is a very noted and active venture philanthropist who has started Education Track, which is a great after-school program in America, but Steve focused more on work. And I think that when we look at what’s going to transform education, all the good work of the non-profits might not end up being more important than the invention of the iPad, which could transform education for everybody.
Q: You quote Bill Gates as saying that he wished he had Steve’s taste. But in some ways Jobs’s obsession with design was almost paralyzing. You tell this amazing story about him refusing to put on an oxygen mask after his liver transplant because he didn’t like its looks. Did he care too much about form?
A: Well, he cared passionately about it. But how else do you explain why the iPod and the iPhone and the iPad were completely transformative, whereas rival products have trouble catching hold? There’s an artistry infused into them that doesn’t exist in HP tablets or Microsoft music players.
Q: You write that Jobs was a genius, but not overly smart. What do you mean by that?
A: He didn’t approach things in the rigorous, analytic way that a Bill Gates would. When Steve came back from India, he said, “I learned the importance of intuition as opposed to just relying on Western rational thought.” And that ability to use intuition, imagination and aesthetics in assessing a problem allowed him to think differently. He was ingenious more than simply being really smart.
Q: Sometimes that became a trap. When he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, he spent nine months trying to heal himself through juices and diet. How he could he be so dumb?
A: Well, he had a poetic, alternative aspect to his personality that went back to his hippie days. His romantic side first looked for alternative ways to deal with it. Then he engaged his rational side and ended up with the most advanced cancer treatments based on DNA sequencing and targeted therapies. So, as always, with the cancer, with his work, with his personal life, the romantic side of Steve connects to the sensible side of Steve.
Q: The devices he created or helped create at Apple are a huge part of his legacy right now. But technology changes so fast that soon even the most amazing of them will be obsolete. Will his accomplishments seem so amazing 20 or 30 years down the road?
A: I think he will be judged by how well his greatest creation, Apple the company, fares. Devices come and go. The question is, can you continually reinvent the future by connecting artistry with great engineering? And I think at the moment, the people at Apple who trained under him can keep that legacy alive, just as the people who trained under Walt Disney could do it.
Q: Did the public reaction to his passing surprise you?
A: The emotion surprised me, but it’s connected to the emotion inherent in the products he made. He knew how to make a connection. I can’t imagine any other business leader provoking this outpouring upon their death. I just think people felt that Steve Jobs was able to create things that showed he had an understanding of our desires.
Q: In the book, you compare him to Henry Ford and Thomas Edison, and say he’ll be the sort of business leader who will be remembered 100 years from now. But you’ve also written biographies of Benjamin Franklin and Albert Einstein, and you don’t invoke their names. Jobs doesn’t belong in that pantheon?
A: I think he’s very much like Benjamin Franklin in being inventive. Franklin knew how to tie imaginative ideas to practical products—the lightning rod being the best example. And he was always curious, always driven. As for Einstein, he’s in a different quantum orbit. He was the ultimate person who knew how to think different, to use the words in Steve’s famous advertising campaign.
By Julia Belluz - Wednesday, November 2, 2011 at 3:41 PM - 52 Comments
Herbal medicine can be beneficial and effective–everything else… not so much
Steve Jobs’ tragic death may have added a new urgency to Edzard Ernst’s work. In October 2003, when Jobs was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, he turned not to conventional medicine but acupuncture, macrobiotic diets, and visits to a spiritualist, delaying surgery some doctors suspect could have saved his life. About ten years before that diagnosis, Ernst—an award-winning, U.K.-based physician—began establishing an evidence base for alternative therapies. Since then, Ernst has become the world’s first professor of complementary medicine at Peninsula Medical School in Exeter, England, founded two academic journals on the topic (Perfusion and Focus on Alternative and Complementary Therapies), and published more than 1,000 papers and over 40 books (including the recent Trick or Treatment? Alternative Medicine on Trial).
So far, only five per cent of the alternative therapies Ernst turned his critical gaze to have shown curative powers beyond those of a placebo. The demise of Apple’s founder, then, seems a fitting occasion to reflect on the powerful allure that alternative medicine holds—even for the geniuses among us. “My first thought was, ‘How tragic,’ and the second, ‘When will we learn the lesson?’” said Ernst. “People—even if they are smart—are all too easily misled to do the most stupid things, particularly with the promotion of alternative medicine being as viciously effective as it is.” Indeed, Jobs wasn’t the first VIP to use alternative medicine: Bob Marley, Peter Sellers and Steve McQueen were all enthusiastic proponents. And in this country, recent estimates put our out-of-pocket spending on alternative-care providers at $5.6 billion.
So what does Ernst think we need to know about this type of care? I caught up with him at Evidence2011 to discuss the evidence base for alternative therapies.
Q: You’ve said you are fed-up for being known as a quack buster. Why?
A: Quack busters, just like enthusiasts of alternative medicine, do their work to confirm their prior beliefs. They are not even trying to be objective. Scientists test hypotheses initially with an open mind and bend over to be objective.
Q: So what areas of alternative medicine are helpful or effective, according to your research?
A: The best evidence by far emerges from herbal medicine. Some herbs, like St. John’s Wort, are both effective and safe if used properly.
Q: If you had to pick, are there particular claims that alternative medicine practitioners make that irk you most?
A: That their pet therapy somehow defies scientific scrutiny. A close second would be: “My notions have not been proven wrong, so they might be correct.”
Q: What are some of the direct risks associated with alternative medicine that people need to consider?
A: Chiropractic neck manipulations can injure an artery that supplies the brain. This can cause strokes or deaths.
Q: Can you give me an idea of the absolute or relative risks related to complementary medicine?
A: Risks of alternative medicine are under-researched and under-reported. We know of some 700 serious complications after chiropractic. We also know that under-reporting is such that this figure could be larger by one or two orders of magnitude.
Q: Do you think regulating this industry would help? If so, what kind of regulation would you like to see?
A: Yes, regulation is essential. But it must be regulation according to accepted standards. If not, regulation will just be a way of giving credence to people or products that do not deserve it.
Q: Have you looked at whether alternative medicine can lead patients to postpone seeing conventional health professionals? If so, what are the dangers here?
A: Even homeopathic remedies, or other treatments which are pure placebos, can kill someone if they are used as an alternative to effective therapies. The most recent, tragic example is Steve Jobs.
Q: Are there any good, trustworthy references for patients who want to learn more about the risks or benefits of alternative therapies?
A: Because there is so much misinformation and so much unreliable information, we have decided to write Trick or Treatment. I recommend it as an honest attempt to summarize the evidence.
Q: A lot of people use acupuncture, yet high-level studies show that sham acupuncture is just as good as ‘real’ acupuncture. What does this tell us?
A: It shows how important the placebo effect can be, particularly if expectations are high. But we do not need bogus treatments to benefit from a placebo response. Any effective therapy also comes with a free placebo effect in addition to its specific therapeutic effects, as long as it is administered with compassion and empathy.
Q: Taken as a whole, your research shows that only five per cent of the therapies you have studied have rendered a benefit above and beyond a placebo or hint that further research might be warranted. How do evangelical alternative-medicine users or practitioners react to this finding?
A: The 5 per cent figure is based on the evidence we evaluated for our book Desktop Guide. For that, we pre-selected the most promising areas. Thus, the five per cent figure is a gross over-estimation. Across the board, the true percentage is probably one dimension less. Believers react with disbelief in such data. You cannot easily disprove a religion.
Q: What do you say to people who argue that conventional medicine kills more people than alternative medicine and that the latter is even more dangerous, so we should focus on this threat to public health?
A: I say it’s true but misses the point. Treatments must be judged by their risk-benefit balance. If a therapy causes some harm but, at the same time, saves thousands of lives, it still might be worth considering. Very few alternative medicines generate a lot of benefit. This means even small risks can affect the risk-benefit balance significantly.
Q: Any final messages for consumers who are considering alternative medicine?
A: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
By Scott Feschuk - Monday, October 31, 2011 at 8:30 AM - 28 Comments
Steve Jobs’s advice to graduates is very practical…if you happen to be a rich genius
After Steve Jobs died, his famous 2005 speech to university graduates went viral all over again. Many find the address moving and inspiring. But in a magazine issue dedicated to students at the beginning of their adult lives, it’s worth asking: just how practical is the late Apple CEO’s advice?
Jobs began his speech by talking about his decision as a young man to quit college. Only after dropping out, he said, was he able to drop in on the classes he actually found interesting, such as instruction in calligraphy. (His knowledge of fancy lettering later paid off when Jobs was designing the typeface for the first Macintosh computer.) His point: you should always go with your gut, make bold decisions and “trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”
Surely we can all agree that giving up on formal education and, instead, learning how to draw pretty letters worked out well for Steve Jobs. Then again, Jobs was a genius and a once-in-a-generation creative talent, so I suspect that dropping out of school to study the banjo or grow the world’s largest pumpkin would also have done the trick.
By Anne Kingston - Monday, October 17, 2011 at 8:50 AM - 2 Comments
Jobs didn’t just sell Macs and iPods, he made beautiful objects—a revolutionary idea in his industry
When Steve Jobs introduced the iPod in 2001, he did something that would have been counterintuitive for any other consumer-product company CEO: he showed the back of it first. “I’m in love with it,” he said of the elegant, shiny surface reflecting the Apple logo in matte relief. “It’s stainless steel; it’s really, really durable. It’s beautiful.” By then Apple devotees expected such attention to detail from the man in the black mock turtleneck who took computers from geek to chic—the imperative was embedded in his company’s very DNA.
In his 2009 TED lecture talk about inspirational leadership, Simon Sinek observed that Apple challenged the status quo and expressed its ability to think differently precisely by making products that are consistently “beautifully designed, simple to use and user friendly.” And certainly the public’s appetite for innovative, human products is reflected in consumers’ willingness to pay a premium for Apple products. But Jobs’s greatest design legacy was reframing its parameters in the mass market. As he told the New York Times in 2003, Apple didn’t see design as product veneer: “That’s not what we think design is. It’s not just what it looks and feels like. Design is how it works.”
The iPod, coveted to the point of theft, exemplified Apple’s fusion of function and form: the technology was revolutionary (“You can put your entire playlist in your pocket,” Jobs boasted), yet every user touch point was carefully considered to be familiar and seem pleasing—its gift-like packaging, playing-card proportions, intuitive scroll wheel, even the tiny clip that prevented its distinctive white earbuds cord from tangling when it was packed up. The Museum of Modern Art put an iPod in its collection and extols the device for raising expectations for all consumer products—and also “stimulating manufacturers to recognize the importance of good design and to incorporate design considerations at the highest levels of their corporate structures.”
By Jay Teitel - Monday, October 17, 2011 at 8:30 AM - 0 Comments
The key to Jobs’s subversive style lay in technology and the democratization of information
In 1969, the year of Woodstock and the first moon walk, Steve Jobs was 14. A yearbook photograph from Homestead High School in Cupertino, Calif., shows him with the rest of the electronics club, looking as geeky as his buddies. Three years later, the 1972 yearbook includes a grad photo that shows Jobs, virtually unrecognizable, with long hair, in a tux and bow tie. Something about the Summer of Love had gotten to him.
For the past week or so, in the instantly mythic aftermath of his death, Steve Jobs has often been characterized as a nerd who made good, but he was never a nerd: he was the coolest tech guy who ever lived, a little foppish, a little ascetic, like a combination of Oscar Wilde and St. Augustine. What Jobs was—in an American do-it-yourself, perfection-unto-arrogance tradition that few admirers today are aware of—was a hippie.
Some of the counterculture trappings of Jobs’s life were sixties stock. After dropping out of college in his freshman year, he worked at the pioneering video-game firm Atari to raise money for a trip to an ashram in India. He returned a Buddhist, complete with Indian garb and a shaved head. He took LSD, later describing it as one of the defining experiences of his life. And of course there was his legendary Jobsian observation that Bill Gates would have been “a broader guy if he had dropped acid once or gone off to an ashram when he was younger.”
By Jonathon Gatehouse - Monday, October 17, 2011 at 8:20 AM - 0 Comments
The new CEO, Tim Cook, is a lifelong number two, and a relentless boss
Tim Cook took the stage, but not the spotlight. In his public debut as Apple chief at the unveiling of the updated iPhone on Oct. 4–the day before Steve Jobs died—the 50-year-old seemed comfortable enough, dressed in jeans, a button-down shirt and his trademark Nike runners (he also sits on the sportswear giant’s board). He even cracked a couple of jokes in his measured Alabama drawl. “This is my first product launch since being named CEO,” he said, the threat of a smile crossing his face. “I’m sure you didn’t know that.”
But it was the things that Cook didn’t do that garnered the most notice. There were no stirring Jobs-ian speeches about future-altering technology. The “ta-dah” introductions of the new phone, a social network, and a greeting card application were all left to other Apple executives. And the CEO’s sales pitch—such as it was—was all about the brand, rather than the vision. “I’m so incredibly proud of this company,” Cook told the assembled journalists. “I consider it the privilege of a lifetime to have worked here for 14 years and I am very excited about this new role.” The message was clear. Apple’s cult of personality begins and ends with its founder.
And all indications suggest that is just the way the new boss likes it. A lifelong number two—he even finished second in his class at high school—Cook has always preferred to stay in the background. He almost never gives interviews, or speaks in public settings. (The exception being his beloved alma mater Auburn University, where he gave the commencement address in 2010.) He was raised in Robertsdale, a small farming town near Alabama’s Gulf Coast, whose only other “celebrity” son appears to be Obie Trotter, a college basketball star now playing in Szolnok, Hungary. The middle of three boys born to a shipyard worker and a homemaker, Cook played in the marching band and was voted “most studious” by his peers. He went on to take engineering at Auburn, where professors remember him as “very quiet, very reserved.” After graduating in 1982, he took a job at IBM in North Carolina, distinguishing himself as the guy who volunteered to work over the Christmas holidays so that the company could fill its orders by year-end. In 1994, he joined the computer-reselling division of an electronics wholesaler, rising to COO before jumping to Compaq in 1997. Six months later, an executive recruiting firm came knocking on Apple’s behalf.
By macleans.ca - Monday, October 17, 2011 at 8:10 AM - 15 Comments
‘He looked at me for 10 seconds. And then he went absolutely nuts’
In the mid-’80s, if you’ll recall, there was a massive rivalry between Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. Gates decided early on that he would license his operating system to every manufacturer who wanted it. In a matter of years he got 97 per cent of the PC market. On the other hand, Jobs said, “I’m never going to license the Mac operating system to anybody. I am going to control the hardware and the software and package it to consumers.” He lost huge. He ended up with two per cent of the market.
At the time, The Learning Company was the largest provider of educational software. I’m the guy that’s providing 80 per cent of the market for reading and math software in schools and for consumers, with brands like Reader Rabbit, Carmen Sandiego and Oregon Trail. It cost about $500,000 a title to develop software for Windows and $500,000 for Mac. It was very easy for me to find my Windows user—97 per cent of people who have a computer can use the software. But my cost of acquiring the Mac customer keeps going up the more share Jobs loses in the market. I’m losing about $50 million a year doing that and my board is squeezing my head saying, “What the hell are we supporting Mac for?”
We were working closely with teams at Apple and I finally said, “I’ve got to go see the big guy. We can’t go on like this.” I planned to ask him for $50 million, but was willing to accept $12 million [to continue making software for Mac]. I got there and sat down at a boardroom table; there were five or six of us on each side. It started with the pleasantries of the product management teams and then probably half an hour into it, Jobs walked in and the whole room shut down. It went silent. Nobody would say anything when Steve was in the room. He was the king.
By Chris Sorensen and Michael Friscolanti - Monday, October 17, 2011 at 8:00 AM - 4 Comments
How an LSD-using college dropout, who was a horrible boss and hard to like, made magic and changed the world
Theo Gray was at the wheel of his car when he learned his friend Steve Jobs was dead. The call from his assistant came as a shock, not because Gray didn’t know of Jobs’s failing health—“I had some information about how bad he was”—but because it was difficult to comprehend a world without the legendary Apple co-founder. Jobs not only built one of the world’s most successful companies, with a market value of more than US$350 billion, but he elevated technology into the realm of the magical and gave us our first true glimpse of its potential. “I don’t know, maybe I was repressing the knowledge,” says Gray, who has known Jobs since 1988 and whose software company, Wolfram Research, has worked closely with Jobs and Apple for the past two decades. “I hoped maybe he would have another year or something.”
One more year. It boggles the mind to imagine what a digital dreamer like Jobs could do with 365 more days on this planet; the wonders he might conceive, or even the little annoyances of the mobile age he would inevitably solve. Jobs reshaped the world and how it communicates more in his 56 years than almost any other person of the last century.
It was why, moments after Apple Inc. confirmed Jobs’s death on Oct. 5, tributes began to pour in on sites like Facebook and Twitter, by the tens of millions. A few hours later, makeshift shrines popped up outside Apple stores throughout North America, Europe and Asia. President Barack Obama was moved to write: “Steve was among the greatest of American innovators—brave enough to think differently, bold enough to believe he could change the world, and talented enough to do it.” Steve Wozniak, who co-founded Apple Computers with Jobs in the 1970s, put it even more simply: “It’s like the world lost a John Lennon.”
By Claire Ward - Friday, October 14, 2011 at 10:28 AM - 25 Comments
An off-broadway show in New York looks at what it takes to make all those iPods
In what seems like an endless stream of Steve Jobs tributes and devotions, one voice stands out as a reality check. Mike Daisey, New York-based author and monologuist, is hoping to cut through the nostalgia and remind people of the nastier side of Jobs’ legacy.
“I’m almost tired of hearing what a genius he is,” says the 37-year-old creator and performer of The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, a one-man show about the life and work of the former Apple CEO that opened off-broadway at the Public Theater in New York City on Tuesday. “I think he’d be disgusted by this level of nostalgia. He was a very unrelenting, unwavering person—focus was really the centre of his skill set, his genius.”
Daisey’s show touches on everything from Jobs’s mastery of industrial design to the objectionable practices of iPhone and iPad manufacturing plants in China. The monologue tells the story of Jobs’s obsessions and his impact on humanity—from Silicon Valley to Shenzhen. Daisey’s style is semi-improvised, or what he calls “extemporaneous monologing”—which means the show differs from night to night, often depending on the mood of the room. “The work happens in the room so it’s hard to say what is going to change,” says Daisey. “At the same time, the fundamentals of the story aren’t affected by his death. In fact, they’ll be amplified. The end of an era, the loss of individual personal power in the face of corporatism.” Continue…
By Paul Wells - Friday, October 14, 2011 at 7:50 AM - 20 Comments
Let us now argue about how to create the next Jobs
Having paid Steve Jobs the full measure of our devotion, let us now argue about how to create the next Steve Jobs. Which choices can governments and educators make that will encourage the next miraculous hybrid of gearhead, design genius, marketing whiz and change catalyst?
It’s fair to answer, “Give up. It’s impossible.” The rise of Jobs 1.0 looks more like a happy accident than anything else. He dropped out of a liberal-arts college in Portland and then stuck around to audit the calligraphy course. And yet I’m pretty sure that if everyone in Canada were required to take calligraphy without credit, it wouldn’t spark a new renaissance. To be fair, probably people would send more and nicer thank-you notes.
But still. It’s worth spending a little time to ask what was germane and broadly applicable in Jobs’s life. After all, no matter what governments do, it won’t be long before they’re claiming to be producing a new generation of Jobses.
By Andrew Coyne - Friday, October 14, 2011 at 7:40 AM - 20 Comments
From mere number-crunching marvels, Jobs made computers into tools for the artistic imagination
When I was growing up, the world was in the grip of what was then called the Computer Age. Computers, everyone knew, were where things were going. And so we were all given training in computer science to prepare us for the Jobs of Tomorrow, which as everyone knew were in computer programming.
To program a computer meant poking little holes in punch cards, stacks and stacks and stacks of them, which you then handed in to the computer lab. When your turn came in the queue, they would feed your stack of cards into the computer; you would get your homework back the next day in the form of a printout. If, as often happened, you had made some small mistake—somewhere—and the computer, bafﬂed, had responded with a string of hysterical gibberish, you simply repeated the whole fiddling, nitpicking exercise.
And for most of us, that was that. The premise, that we were all going to be computer programmers, was false, and we knew it. Computers were for geeks, science fiction enthusiasts and others even further beyond the pale. Though in some ways my own mildly obsessive-compulsive nature made me a natural for it, my teenage identity was even then coalescing around the idea that I was actually some kind of artsie, or at least destined for the humanities.
By Jaime Weinman - Friday, October 14, 2011 at 7:40 AM - 4 Comments
Music was free online, until Jobs showed that people still wanted to pay
It seems strange to think of Steve Jobs as the man who saved traditional media. After all, everywhere you look, his products are wreaking havoc on old media formats: people are watching TV shows on their iPads instead of staying home to watch them live; people are reading e-books instead of lugging around paper; bookstores and record stores replace much of their shelf space with iPhone and iPod sections. But never mind the shakeups that are occurring in businesses like music: if it hadn’t been for Jobs and iTunes, there might not be a music business to shake up. Jobs’s fellow corporate tycoon, Viacom’s Sumner Redstone, put it very simply in a 2007 speech at Boston University: iTunes “resurrected the music industry.”
Think back to 2000, before the iPod and iTunes existed. Napster had cut deeply into music sales, and while the service itself was shut down, there was no shutting down the concept of music piracy. The ’80s and ’90s compact disc boom, when people ran out to buy physical albums in little plastic jewel cases, was over, and music companies couldn’t accept that: Michael Geist, a law professor at the University of Ottawa who specializes in technology issues, told Maclean’s that “they sought to sue the MP3 player out of existence. Any sort of innovation that left someone other than the industry with control was something to be feared and stopped.” But no lawsuit could change the fact that people wanted music that they didn’t have to stuff into suitcases and carry from place to place, and they wanted it for free.
Computer Weekly proclaimed in 2000 that “the battle against piracy may be lost completely,” and that “mass copyright infringement over the Internet” would be the future. The music companies countered by trying to create their own music services, which bombed because, as Geist puts it, “They were label-specific, they only played on a limited number of MP3s. It was just so consumer-unfriendly.” Jobs realized that no one was going to sign up and pay for only the music that Sony or Universal was willing to give them. “People don’t want to buy music as a subscription,” he told Rolling Stone in 2003. “They want to own their music.”
By Andrew Coyne - Thursday, October 6, 2011 at 4:26 PM - 11 Comments
Jobs’s story reminds us not only of the heroism of the entrepreneur, but of the nobility of craft
Someone was on CNN last night comparing Steve Jobs to Edison, Ford and Disney in one, and for once it didn’t seem like the usual Apple fanboy hype. Jobs had Edison’s flair for innovation (and his ruthlessness in exploiting others’ ideas), Ford’s concern for process, and Disney’s sense of the culture.
So much of what the computer became was made possible or driven by Apple that it’s difficult to separate the two, just as it’s difficult to separate Apple’s story from Jobs’s. Often he wasn’t the first, but he took things that others had tried and failed with and made them succeed, by doing them better (Microsoft’s formula was a little different: it took things that others had done first and did them worse.)
His emphasis on the primacy of design, his fanatical attention to detail, his strategic vision—standing by the closed, proprietary, all-in-one model even after it had been “proved” wrong, long enough to see it triumphantly vindicated—would make him a business legend quite apart from any innovative wonders. That’s significant not only for Apple, but America—at a time when the Big Three and other long-time industrial titans were being eclipsed by foreign competition, often from low-wage economies, Jobs showed how advanced economies could still compete: by innovation, design, quality. And of course, marketing: there really was none better at delivering the sizzle with the steak.
And there’s the sociological impact: more than anyone else, Jobs made technology cool, and not just technology but business itself. I can’t remember young adults discussing business strategy, back when I was one of them, with the intensity that today’s young adults do about Apple’s, at least among the tech-minded. But these days that’s just about everybody. He not only made geeks hip, but made everyone into a geek, at least a bit—including, not insignificantly, women, who in the computer age’s early years would have not been caught dead using a computer, should anyone have thought to ask them.
Before Apple, the scientific and artistic worlds rarely intersected. After, a “techie” was as often as not a creative type. With a Mac, technology could be used not only to make things, but works of the imagination. Artists, musicians, photographers, film makers, even writers—one by one, they all entered the digital world.
I can’t think of any other business figure whose death would have prompted such widespread mourning, especially among people you would not ordinarily have thought would have any interest in business. One well-known tech-girl tweeted last night that she was hugging her MacBook Air while she watched the TV coverage. I don’t think it was just because he made great products. I think it’s the vision he offered of what business could be, what it could mean—that being in business could be a meaningful way to spend your life. Jobs’s story reminds us not only of the heroism of the entrepreneur, but of the nobility of craft: of what an honourable activity it is to make useful, beautiful things for each other, even if you make a fortune doing it. .
By macleans.ca - Thursday, October 6, 2011 at 12:29 PM - 0 Comments