Friday, February 16, 2007

Steve Jobs and his case of incredible backdating stock options

Looks like some stock options were being backdated at Pixar as well. Ouch.


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Gates: Vista sucks, dunno how to fix it

OK, I've just read the infamous Bill Gates Newsweek interview, where the man tells some of the most embarrassingly bold-faced lies ever heard.

As the interview went live, like, five decades ago in internet years, it has since received most of the flak it deserves, for example, by the excellent Macalope.

However, I would like to reflect on a few things now, when the dust has more or less settled.

It has been covered that the interview sounds like a frustrated rant about Apple and the Mac, even though the whole piece was supposed to be about Vista, the brand new shiny Windows version that should have licensed the "65 million years of adventure in the making" slogan from Jurassic Park (at least, in internet years). Yet I find it noteworthy that in the interview, it was Gates who brought up Apple first:

The number [of violations] will be way less because we’ve done some dramatic things [to improve security] in the code base. Apple hasn’t done any of those things.
Boom! He is talking about Windows security, and suddenly, he has to leash out against Apple, apropos nothing.

When did Microsoft become the underdog? Is it the beginning of the end? Is Microsoft growing tired of playing catch-up to Apple in just about everything except sheer volume? Is Bill Gates relapsing into the state of mind of his youth when Apple was the big guy and Microsoft was the poor wannabe? Does he fear that his company is going full circle after all these years?

But the real shocker comes later. When asked whether there will be another major version of Windows in three or four years, Gates has a staggering, unbelievable thing to say. I had to read it like four times, just to make sure I'm getting it right, and not missing a comma or a word somewhere. Here's what the chairman of Microsoft is saying about the latest and greatest version of Windows, the ubiquitous operating system that powers (yeah, right) 90% of all PCs worldwide:
Absolutely. We'll tell you how Vista just wasn't good enough, and we'll know why, too. We need to wait and hear what consumers have to tell us. We don't know that, otherwise, of course, we would have done it this time.
There you have it, ladies and gentlemen. Microsoft knows that Vista isn't good enough. But it has no idea how to make it better. So check back in about three or four years.

Um... If you're this bad about what you're doing, Dear Microsoft, and even your chairman knows… shouldn't you just quit?!

This is not humility or modesty. This is a flat-out admission of incompetence.
Looks like Microsoft has no quibbles about manufacturing the operating system for people who don't care. Hm. Maybe they should trademark that and use it as a slogan.


Thursday, February 08, 2007

Fake Steve should write Apple's PR

Fake Steve's thoughts on the iPod lock-in complaints:

it's akin to people saying, "I already bought this record on vinyl and it will only play on my turntable and not on my CD player. I mean I've tried putting it in the CD player and it's not even the right size! How can you sell me a piece of music that locks me in to one kind of player? And forget about putting it on my Zune! I tried that too and there's not even a slot where you can load the vinyl record in."
The man is good. He should be Apple's next CEO after the real Steve retires.
But here's a real prediction: he will either write editorials for mainstream newspapers, or have some sort of a presence at an Apple event within 12 months.


Tuesday, February 06, 2007

In search of Spotlight on the iPhone

Only a handful of people outside Apple have had the chance to hold an iPhone in their hands, so we only know about it what Apple has publicly demonstrated (or allowed some lucky journalists to see on the few working prototypes).

Almost all of the functionality that Steve Jobs showed at the keynote is being presented as a series of demo movies on Apple's iPhone page, with the same glaring omissions (e.g. Notes and Calendar are both MIA).

This indicates that the iPhone isn't ready yet. Apple hasn't commented on the iPhone's features beyond what was revealed in January, so the product is still shrouded in a great deal of secrecy. In other words, what we haven't seen is either not planned, or simply not yet ready. We just don't know.

But one thing we really should have seen (but didn't) in a lot of the demos is the famous Mac OS X search box. The box with the rounded corners and the magnifying glass icon that first appeared in iTunes user interface, and became its main selling points. The box that has become synonymous with Mac OS X itself, the box that now appears in the Finder, in Mail, and just about every self-respecting Cocoa application. The search box that is now the front door to an excellent (and much-hyped) OS X search technology: Spotlight.

And that search box ain't there on the iPhone*.

We know that iPhone runs OS X. (Not Mac OS X, mind you, but still, some OS X. Jobs made a big deal of it at the keynote, listing its advantages and features.

Conspicuously missing was Spotlight.

Is it conceivable that Apple would ship its (first version of the) iPhone without Spotlight?

If one of the most important features of iTunes has been the easy searchability of large music libraries, how can the same feature be absent from the first iPod where it would be conceivable?

Scrolling through songs and genres and albums and so on is great, and it's fun, too, with the addictive multi-touch user interface. (I haven't tried it, but I'll believe whomever says so.) Yet why not let me search, too, just like in iTunes? What if I don't know the first word of a song's title? What if I only know the last name of the singer?

Jobs seemed especially proud of the iPhone's solution for a keyboard. Why not put it to some use then?

How about contacts? The Treo has got that one thing right. Shouldn't the iPhone at least match it?

As Jobs demonstrated the official way to select contacts, I was shaking my head. Again, flicking through names is cool, but quickly selecting contacts from a list has been done, and has been done better. Way better.

Even ordinary cellphones let you type in the first few characters of a name, and narrow your often-huge contact list down to your search results. Even with the cheapest multi-tap (not to be confused with Multi-touch) Nokia phones, one can quickly find a contact this way.

And if your phone has a QWERTY keyboard, the speed increase becomes dramatic. Add a smart search functionality, like that of the Treo, and (as Jobs would say) Boom! In literally less than a second after taking your smartphone in your hand, after all you did was type a few characters from a contact's name (could be as few as three keystrokes), you're one button press away from placing a call to the person you had in mind!

Flashy graphics aside, OS X notwithstanding, and however natural scrolling feels, it's dramatically less efficient to find and select a contact on the iPhone without a search functionality.

And again, what if you only remember a first name? A company name? A job title? A city?

Doesn't it just feel wrong if the iPhone won't give you one of the coolest, most useful OS X features: the possibility to narrow down a long list based on simply entering various uncategorized search criteria? Wouldn't such search functionality be the most useful on a handheld device, notably a cellphone, which you often use in urgent situations?

Spotlight alone, if fully implemented, could make the iPhone stand out even among the geekiest of smartphones. On the other hand, without any implementation of a search functionality, the iPhone could prove to be woefully inadequate in a field with cut-throat competition.

*Google Earth does have a search box, but I haven't found one anywhere else in any iPhone demo.