The Story Of Steve’s Turtle Neck

Steve Jobs’ black turtle neck is probably as famous as the man himself. Every time he unveiled an industry shaking product in the last decade or so, there it was gently draping his fairly built frame. As his body grew more frail looking every time he stepped onto the stage to do his thing, which many industry observers call, ‘disruptive innovation’, the black turtle neck t-shirt tried its best to mask his physically vulnerable body. Perhaps, the t-shirt gave a sense of familiarity for people watching him on stage. It was like an all clear sign for the mob that watched and admired his every single move.

Apparently there is a story behind how it became his signature look. In a soon to be published Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson, the author reveals the events that preceded the ‘turtle neck’. Since this book is the first officially sanctioned biography of the secretive CEO and the fact that Steve Jobs himself gives an account of the incidents makes it a matter of great significance.

Man And His Turtle Neck

This whole thing started with Sony. Yeah, that company that is known for its Walkman and its superior taste in design. When visiting the company in Japan, Steve learned about the uniform that everyone in Sony wears. Apparently its common in Japanese companies to have their people wear an attire that is something unique for the company. This acts as uniting bond between the employees and the company they work for. It is like the team jersey worn by sports teams. It gives a sense of belonging and a common purpose.
Ever the marketing man, Steve Jobs thought it would be great for Apple to have a similar bond with its employees. But this idea was soundly rejected by Apple staff. The exact quote from Steve is “Oh man, did I get booed off the stage. Everybody hated the idea.”.

Of course, Steve Jobs did not get to be Steve Jobs by letting others dictate what he liked and what he did not. He says that he really liked the branding idea, having a signature for himself. He worked with Issey Miyake – the guy who designed the brand uniform for Sony – to create his now instantly recognizable black turtle neck. He also says, that it gave him ‘daily convenience’. If you did not know what that means, its ok. It took me a while too. He wears them everyday. He had the designer make a hundred of those turtlenecks and jeans and he filled up his wardrobe closet with it. He says in the book “I have enough to last for the rest of my life.

The turtle neck is an odd choice. Not many people wear just the turtle neck. It is actually a bit weird. Its not the ‘casual genius’ look of Mark Zuckerberg nor is it the ‘brilliant from birth’ look of Bill Gates. Like most things about Steve Jobs, it was unique and, because of its association with him, it was also cool.

Since his death, sale of the turtle neck has spiked significantly.

Me personally, never liked uniforms. It insinuates that everyone is the same, which is obviously not true. But since The Great One has endorsed the idea, now I am conflicted.

What about you? Do you like the idea of everyone wearing the same clothes while on a common mission?

Or do you think clothes are irrelevant when people are united in their minds?

[Post: 106 of 365] [Days Missed: 46]
I am on a blog-a-day-for-a-year crusade. Keep me motivated with your comments. Or teach me how to make good tea.

What Is Up With Netflix ?

I have been a Netflix member for about 5 years now. For the first couple of years, I was a happy customer utilizing Netflix’s popular two weeks free trial offer. I would cycle through each of my credit cards for each two week period and as a student I had quite a few credit cards. My roommates who also had credit cards did the same and as a result we had a constant flow of the now iconoclastic red DVD mail covers. Once I got a job, of course, I became a paying customer and have not reconsidered it even for a single moment.

That of course changed a month back, when Netflix announced that it is modifying its price structure. Now, instead of paying 10 bucks for one DVD and unlimited streaming on my laptop, iPod Touch and my Xbox, I had to pay 15 bucks for the same service. The other option was to pay 7 dollars for DVD or streaming alone. As a business decision, it made sense for Netflix to increase its price without increasing value, but customers, including yours truly, did not appreciate it. We can’t be blamed too. When was the last time you heard a company hiking its product’s price while offering nothing more in return.

There was mild uproar regarding the way the price hike was announced over the net, too. Many called it insensitive, even arrogant, to the company’s customers, who were cancelling their membership at this point. Earlier this month, Netflix reduced its projected customer base for this year by one million and its stocks plunged close to 11%. To top everything, the company has announced that it will spin off its flagship DVD business into a separate service, cheaply named, Qwikster, while the streaming part will remain, and become the sole focus, of the existing service, which everyone knows as Netflix.

Just the fact that, the streaming service gets to keep the well known ‘Netflix’ brand name is a strong indicator that the company wants to get out of DVD mailing business. Yes, the CEO’s letter said that Qwikster will allow its customers to ‘upgrade’ to rent video games but that’s just to get some buzz around the new service. Qwikster and Netflix will operate as completely separate systems, with different movie queue, rating system and even the billing statement. Clearly, they see the DVD mailing service as an end of life product.

I have always been fascinated by business decisions that make the web go crazy. It is either a brilliant move or a crazy one. Netflix’s business model has always been one of impending doom. It is always tied to the infrastructure cost of bringing the DVD to your home and then taking it back. It is remarkable how its co-founder and CEO Reed Hastings made it to work and grew the company into something that tech giants like Amazon and Apple look to compete with.

With the new spin off announcement, Mr. Hastings is clearly steering the company towards fully digital and over the Internet distribution which is more into iTunes and Amazon Video territory. Here, Netflix is not a prime player, its not even among the top contenders since Netflix’s streaming only customers are much less compared to the customer base of iTunes and Amazon. Netflix’s streaming catalog is unimpressive, with few new releases and, lacking one of my favorite feature, subtitles.

Tech experts and wall street analysts have set the web on fire with so much commentary regarding the Netflix/Qwikster’s current state and future. If you own Netflix stock, then this is a tricky time for you. Hastings’ ploy is either very smart or very dumb. Then again, he also founded the company, so he probably knows what he is doing.

Either way, as a paying customer for the last 3 years, I for one, am sad that I will be getting those red mailing covers with, not Netflix but, Qwikster printed on it. And that too only for a short while.

Soon the DVDs will stop arriving.

[Post: 95 of 365] [Days Missed: 35]
I am on a blog-a-day-for-a-year crusade. Keep me motivated with your comments. Or make the days go at normal speed.

Is Chennai Worthy Of An iPad?

“But it is not working.” she said.

“Did you turn it on?”. I am asking her this question for the fifth time now.

“yes, I did it. I did it a long time ago.”

“Then it should be coming up”. I am tired and frustrated at this point.

“Well, It is not. I think its broken.”

I have been on an international call with my mom for the past 20 minutes. I am trying to get her online from our home computer in Chennai.

“Its not broken. Is the CPU power light on?”

“What?”

“The tall white box on the table, there should be a small glass ring in its front. Is it glowing in green?”

“No. I am telling you its broken. How much would it take to fix it?”

“It was working few minutes ago. Its probably needs a reboot”

“Will it work if I press Enter now?”

“Ok, the computer seems to be off. Pressing Enter key will not do anything. The computer is OFF”

“But Naren [my brother] pressed Enter before when the monitor was off and the video came back. May be it will work for me too”

“Its not a TV. The images on the screen are not some movie. We have had a computer for almost 7 years. You should know these things by now”

“Stop your lecture. It worked for naren, so I am going to try it. It might just work.”

“Ok, try it. I am sure pressing ENTER will magically start the computer.”

“Shut up. I am pressing it”. Sound of key being pressed carefully. Twice.

“….” [me trying very hard to not laugh or shout in frustration]

“I think its broken for sure”

“IT IS NOT BROKEN. You just need to turn it on”

“I turned it on 10 minutes ago. The monitor is not showing anything”

“I don’t think you turned it on properly. Tell me what you did”

“I turned on the switch for the plug”

“Okay then, what did you do”

“what else, I turned on the switch and nothing has happened since. Why are you not listening to me?”

“Ok, do you know what a TV is?”

“What? Of course I know what a TV is”

“Did you also know that a computer is NOT a TV? You know that you don’t get TV channels there right?”

“Don’t mock me. If the computer is so great how come it does not even start when you turn on the switch. At least the TV has remote. I have to come to the computer every time to start it. Why don’t they have a remote for the computer?”

“What are you going to do with a remote? Change the channel and watch KTV? Just press the CPU button”

“What button?”

“oh God! In front of the tall white box there is glass circular ring in the middle. Press it”

“Are you sure?”

“PRESS THE FREAKING BUTTON!!”

[a mild clicking sound followed by the CPU beep indicating that its booting up]

“Yeah, the green light is blinking. Something in English is coming in the screen”

“Yeah, NOW its starting up. OK, after a while, when it asks for it, you have to login and then get to …”

“Wait, the power just went out. EB cuts the service for about an hour everyday. I’ll try it once the current comes back. So how are you?”

“…”

So I am thinking I should buy my mother an iPad 2. Its much easier to use and thankfully there is only one button. We mainly use the computer at our home for video chatting, but the computer is operated by my brother. Since he will be traveling to Singapore in a couple of days for his masters degree, it leaves my parents cripplingly challenged as far as technology is concerned. With the new iPad’s touchscreen, camera and Skype it should be much easier for them to use it. Its a good idea in theory. The only information I am lacking is real world data from the ground. I have not personally used the iPad and neither do I kn0w anyone who has it or used it in Chennai.

Does anyone know how the iPad performs overseas? Any mothers, fathers, aunties or uncles you know of who use the iPad in Chennai, or really any part of India? Let me know if its useful.

Or is there any other solution to this harrowing struggle? You have a chance to bring some peace between a mother and her son. Please do you part.

[Post: 55 of 365] [Days Missed: 9]

I am on a blog-a-day-for-a-year crusade. Keep me motivated with your comments. Or get me an iPad with tamil font.

Managers Are The Greatest People Ever

Have you been surprised before? And I mean genuinely surprised, like, wide eyed, jaw-dropped totally freaked out surprised? If you have, consider yourself lucky. I myself have never been totally surprised like that. Not until today.

I get up today in the morning, cursing to the Gods of the seas and mountains, totally grumbled about today being a Monday, the first day of work week. More sadly, it will be 5 more days before weekend rolls in again and I don’t even want to think about what goes on during those 5 days. We, as in myself and my team at the office, have been working very hard for the past few months hitting each short deadline, working weekends, nights and what not. And sadly, there is still, at least, a couple of weeks left for the big release and even though we are very much in the safe zone, we cannot put our guard down. Not to mention, there is still big piece of the project on my plate which is in progress. Combine this with the near hundred degree Fahrenheit temperatures in Phoenix these days, this Monday is as good as any a day of the week to take a day off. But of course I, like everybody else, went to work.

I start up my laptop, and in comes the furry of emails in my Outlook. I grab a cup of coffee and simply peruse through the emails, trying to figure out which one to reply, which one to can, but wait. Something catches my eye and refuses to let go. I see something that spells – MacBook. Wait, it is not just MacBook, it says MacBook Pro. Hmm, interesting. Could it be, really?. I click the email and a neatly and succinctly written message with glorious blue fonts appear on my screen. The complete, unedited text is as shown here.

Subject: New MacBook Pro

You have been authorized to recieve a new MacBook Pro. Please le…

There were other stuff in the email, but I don’t seem to notice any of them. It took a while to sink in but it finally did. I am going to get a MacBook Pro at my office. I don’t remember the last time when I was silently laughing so much with such joy. I know its just a piece of uni-body aluminum containing a bunch of third-world made and America assembled hardware running a few easily over priced software but still, its a f@%king MacBook. A truly genuine surprise is very powerful and this one literally washed over me, cleaning out all the tiredness and frustrations I had in the morning. More I thought about it, it made sense even more. Its not like they are giving this laptop to everyone; Many contend and compete but only select few are chosen by the uber-lords of employment to be worthy of such highly priced artifact. I had a great day throughout, there was a spring to my step and I rattled off commands and executed functions effortlessly like lightning shooting out of Poseidon’s hands. Overall it was a good day. Also I gave myself the ‘Best Employee Of The Year For Today” award for being such a wonderful and priceless asset for the company. I am sure the chiefs above me would totally concur.

As you know, I am a humble man. I am not one to brag about my laurels often, but truth be told, I feel pretty amazing right now. I would go so far as to say that this has been due for a long time. They should have given this to me as soon as I joined, even though back then I was just happy to have a job, for I am smart and special. I am, if I may say so, a true genius. I have always carried my humility plainly to see in my hands and from now on I shall a carry my MacBook also along with it. I was carrying the humility in both hands, now I have to share them. One hand MacBook – One hand humility. And that’s the way of life.

Don’t feel belittled. Just try your best. That’s all one can ask. Peace be upon you.

Post: 32 of 365 Days Missed: 2

I am on a blog-a-day-for-a-year crusade. Keep me motivated with your comments. Or thank you notes.

An Apple A Day..blah,blah..I Want An iPhone

Are you an Apple fan? And, of course, I mean, not the fruit, but the most recognizable brand in the world as of March of this year. From Macs to iPods, iPhones to iPads, Apple is the company that has somehow managed to decimate competitors by conjuring one market crushing product after another. By doing so it has also managed to change a wide variety of industries that impact people’s lives everyday. They do all this while maintaining a sizably higher price margin along with products that exhibit shorter life cycle. Love them or hate them, one must agree that the deciders at Apple have shown how a company can come back from the brink of bankruptcy to become widely successful, nonstop. The current global cash reserve of Apple is valued at a whopping $40 Billion and that was six months ago. These guys at Apple not only know what the customers want, they also know it before most of the people outside the Infinite Loop campus do. They have literally changed the digital life landscape, and they are not done yet.

Today was the WWDC, the annual conference where Steve Jobs had introduced most of Apple’s pioneering products like the OSX, Macbooks and of course he unleashed the iPhones and iPads in the same venue. The keynote speech has been made available for streaming in Apple’s website here, check it out. Its a particularly interesting presentation for WWDC in many years, for three primary reasons.

One, no iPhone release today. For every year since the original iPhone announcement back in 2007, Apple has managed to either introduce a new model or at least improve an existing model. But this year the company decided to focus entirely on its software division.Two, a majority of the presentation and demo was provided by other members of Apple executives which is in contrast to previous years’ conferences where Mr.Jobs held the stage for a bulk of the time. This clearly shows Mr.Jobs’ limited participation in Apple’s operation. The third, and perhaps most intriguing factor in today’s event was the announcement of cloud services from Apple. Apple has never been so great with cloud based systems (read: MobileMe)

If you did watch the keynote, you would have noticed the one thing that makes Apple products seem so magical. Its the extreme simplicity of each and every individual stuff they spoke about. Be it the new Notification system of iOS, or the Multi-Touch gestures of OSX or, the astonishing, entire distribution mechanism of iCloud, you could literally see that it was all about user experience. All of the features were admittedly powerful and very much sophisticated, but the sophistication does not come from flashy graphics or intricate steps, but from the features’ incredible simplicity. Take the new Mission Control feature for example. If you have not used a mac, the Spaces and Expose´features of OSX are extremely handy in the current Snow Leopard version. By combining them with other widget and context controllers they have produced a one stop control room for managing all of your presentation layers. But that is only an engineering feat. When you come to the useability side is when you see its true power. The different spaces within the control manage themselves and all the user has to do is to drag something onto another entity. The user does not have to worry about the type of the screen, size of the file or anything else that does not require the user’s attention. The user has to focus only on his work and everything else is almost invisible. That is the true elegance of these applications.

If you were not completely blown away by the iCloud features demo, then there is a good chance that you are not alive. Although Amazon and Google have made some significant inroads into the cloud way of data delivery, none of these guys came even close to what we saw today from Apple. Apple of course has a huge advantage in terms of existing subscribed customer base via its iTunes and App store ecosystems but, nevertheless, the way photos and movies, songs and books seamlessly transfer from one iOS device to another s is truly remarkable. There was often just one or two button clicks which was all required to make it happen, and what-more those were the only buttons on the screen. In terms of intuitiveness and user experience its nothing short of a design masterpiece.

A few days ago I blogged about the differences between minimalistic-design Vs feature-first-design in software development. Today these guys showed what I so crudely tried to explain and this was what that blog was all about. No matter if you agree or disagree with Apple’s certain policies, you can’t disagree to the fact that they surely know how to make their products seem magical.

Post: 26 of 365

I am on a blog-a-day-for-a-year crusade. Keep me motivated with your comments. Or food.