Happy 30th Birthday, Macintosh

The computer that saved my life turns 30 today. My friends know I am prone to hyperbole, but in this case my words contain no exaggeration. The computer for "the rest of us" may be the most lasting, formative relationship of my life.


I was a nerdy, imaginative kid of nearly unlimited social ineptitude. Cast aside your preconception of nerdy shyness–I was anything but. My tendency to share anything and everything with anyone pushed me to the edge of first grade society. I remained there until high school.

I wasn't diagnosed with a learning disability until my junior year. It turns out I have great trouble with short term memory, auditory processing, and certain types of dexterity. Writing by hand is both taxing and frustrating: the shapes in my mind never pour from a pen correctly. I can not tell me right from my left, and I am perpetually unaware of the time, date, or day of the week.

I was such a poor early student that I was put in special classes. To this day, I'm not sure if the teachers suspected me of hidden brilliance or too-far-below-the-bell-curve intelligence. I suspect they were unsure as well. This individualized instruction didn't accomplish much, aside from a safe harbor from the teasing of my schoolmates. There were discussions in some years about holding me back.

That is, until the school got computers. I was born in 1978, and desktop computers and I entered the educational system together. I can still remember the room where the computers were kept, and the exhilaration I felt when you could simply *press a key and letters would appear on screen.* It was writing, but without handwriting. I could type thoughts far easier than I could write them. I took to computers like a man who meets the girl he's going to marry. Where have you been all my life?

I was a pretty decent programmer by fourth grade. But those were Apple IIs, a more primitive ancestor of the Macintosh. They were a life line, sure, but they were not the thing that would become an effortless extension of my own mind. That took the Mac.

I can remember the first Mac I ever saw. I walked into the computer lab in sixth grade, thrilled to see row after row of Apple IIgs (quite a hotrod in its day). But over in the corner were three curious little computers. They were black-and-white, with built in screens. I thought they seemed primitive at first, and I resented the fact that sixth graders couldn't use them.

I walked over to one of the older kids and said, "What's that?" He didn't even look away from the screen, "A Macintosh." I leaned in closer. "Is it made by Apple."

"Duh, yes."

I didn't take well to the "duh." I was the top dog when it came to computers back in fifth grade. None of my classmates even new what a CPU was, while I knew it was the computer's traffic cop.

"Why is it black and white? Apple makes color computers now." I felt happy about establishing the superiority of the computer I had to use in the class.

"It doesn't have to be color. It's got graphics."
"What are graphics?"
"Pictures on the screen that look the same when you print them."

Now that was an interesting notion. I was often frustrate with the way things looked when printed on an ImageWriter from an Apple II. Looking at the screen, I could see there was a certain sharpness and smoothness to the images on the display. My IIgs looked blocky and slow somehow next to this Mac.

I vowed to use one. I worked hard in computer class, and won the computer fair. That was enough to secure me a rare opportunity for a sixth grader–the use of the Macs. It was love at first touch. The pointer moved in perfect time with the mouse, as if your hand was in the screen.

I became an expert in Macs. I built a campus wide network out of unused intercom cabling. I connected computers to the Internet, and created shared printers and scanners. I helped the science teachers wire up Apple IIs, Macs and Laser Disk players. In eight grade, I was named "Computer Trainer of the Year." It's the only trophy I've ever received.

I started a computer business in high school, going from house to house helping people setup and use their computers. I learned how to fix them, and how to make them easier on people who weren't comfortable with them. Local businesses started to call me for help.

I got a job working in IT for the government at 17. Soon after, the owner of the local Apple Reseller and Service Provider hired me–a man to whom I still owe a debt of gratitude. For the first time I was a part of the Mac movement.

I went to MacWorld. I met Steve Jobs. I got a job running IT for an ad agency. I was a VP by 25.

I owe my life to that machine. Without it, I would have no career and no education. I wouldn't be able to blog. Steve Jobs said he wanted to put a dent in the Universe, and that dent created the space for me to have the life I live today.

As we've gotten older, some of the fire has left our relationship. I no longer espouse the superiority of the Mac over all other computers. I've learned that different computers have different uses for different people. Windows is a pretty good operating system these days. So is Linux.

But I'll always love the Mac. I'm not me without it. It is the bicycle of my mind, strong where I am weak. It gives me a whole brain. My Mac is as full of my thoughts as my own brain–and it knows more about my day tomorrow.

Happy 30th, Macintosh. Here's to 30 more.

It's time to buy APPL

Apple announced quarterly results yesterday, and I was in attending a conference when those results hit the web. A few things jumped out at me as I read from the corner of my eye. First, Apple just had the most profitable year in corporate history. Second, iPhone sales were the highest so far. One bruise stood out: Mac sales were down 20%. I knew this quarter was a week shorter than last year, but that didn't seem like enough to cover 20%. Even so, it was obviously a great quarter, so I returned my attention to the conference.

Imagine my surprise when I opened up USA today on my flight home and saw this headline: "APPLE SALES FALL SHORT." Apple sales fell short? You mean Mac sales, right? Macs (sadly) represent a pretty small slice of Apple's total business, so even a 20% year over year slide isn't enough to call Apple sales short. The summary on the front page directed me toward the business section for more details, and I turned there expecting more comprehensive reporting. "Apple misses iPhone forecasts" lead the business section, and even talked about how this is two disappointing quarters for Apple in a row.

What am I missing? Apple's sales are up. Apple's market share in smartphones is growing. Apple can't make enough iPad minis to meet demand. On the Mac front, a large part of the shortfall came from the new iMac: Apple can't ramp them up fast enough to meet demand. The primary limiting factor on growth for Apple is an inability to make products fast enough.

I checked the web to see what the sentiment was like in other publications when I hit 10,000 feet. The big news today is how Apple's shares are sliding against disappointing results. The market has lost its mind. The most telling quote I saw was from Patrick Moorhead in the L.A. Times: "Overall, compared to other companies, it's impressive. But for Apple's standards, it's not great." Apple's remarkable growth has finally elevated market expectations to a level that can't be matched. Those lofty expectations are beating up the AAPL share price. That's a good thing for investors.

It's a great time to buy Apple stock because Apple's growth isn't going away. The iPad has incredible growth potential as it consumes larger swaths of the PC market. The iPhone is well positioned to capture the profit in smartphones as smartphones take over the mobile market. Remember, Apple's finally established really great global distribution for the iPhone, and sales are rising along with that distribution. The Mac will rebound as iMac supplied increase, and you'll see the Mac sales continue very modest growth that beats the rest of the PC market.

In short, Apple will continue to iterate its product portfolio to make sure everything they offer is the best device in its market. If all Apple does is follow that path, the market's going to have to respond to consistent world-leading profitability and revenue growth. But Apple will do more. The company that gave us the Apple II, the Mac, the iPod, the iPhone, the iPad, the iTunes Music Store and other industry disruptors is not done disrupting. I think the market has grown impatient, and they expect Apple to deliver an iPhone level new product every couple of years. Look back at Apple's history and you'll find that's not how they work. Apple is remarkably disciplined about holding new products back until they are ready. At some point,  the Next Big Thing will be ready, and AAPL will begin a remarkable run when it becomes another billion dollar business for Apple.

AAPL is all upside. Let the market panic now, and take advantage of the discount on shares that result. Buy and hold Apple.

Disclosure: I own Apple stock. I'm not selling it.

The Plight of the 8 GB iPhone - How to install iOS 6 when you are low on free space

Apple released iOS 6 to the world at large yesterday.  Compared to Mountain Lion, or even iOS 5's initial release, iOS 6 seems a little rough around the edges.  I've experienced strange issues with Passbook with an even stranger fix.  More troubling is the ongoing issued with WiFi connectivity which may be fixed.  As always, the smart idea with any major update is to wait a week or two.  I tend to update on day one as a job necessity–if there's a problem I need to know how to deal with it.   Let other people deal with the teething issues of a news OS if you're not in IT or development.

There's one question, however, that I've gotten enough that it warrants a blog post: "How do I upgrade my iPhone or iPad or iPod Touch when I don't have enough free space to download the update?"  This is most common in devices with 8 GB of storage that support iOS 6, but I've also gotten it from people who use all the space on their device.  Dozens of people told me they've tried deleting apps, music and movies but they still can't install iOS 6.

Fret no more.  This procedure should work for any device that can run iOS, as long as you either use iCloud, sync with iTunes on a computer, or both.

  1. Backup your device.  If you're using iCloud, connect to a WiFI network and open Settings > iCloud > Storage & Backup.  Make sure iCloud Backup is on and then tap Back Up Now.  Let this backup finish completely.
  2. If you sync with iTunes, update iTunes to version 10.7.  Once iTunes is running 10.7, do a full sync/backup.  Open iTunes preferences and click Devices once the backup is complete.  Check the date and time and verify the backup you have is current.
  3. Make absolutely sure you did either step 1 or 2.  Preferably both.  The next step will erase everything you have, and you'll need these backups to get it back!
  4. On your device, open Settings > General > Reset.  Tap Erase All Content & Settings.  Confirm when your device asks if you are crazy.
  5. Wait.  Your device will reboot.  Don't fill in your Apple ID or setup iCloud.  Skip as much of the setup wizard as you can.
  6. Connect to a WiFi network.
  7. Open General > Settings > Software Update and install iOS 6.
  8. Wait.  Your device will reboot.  Don't fill in your Apple ID or setup iCloud.  Skip as much of the setup wizard as you can.
  9. On your device, open Settings > General > Reset.  Tap Erase All Content & Settings.  Confirm when your device asks if you are crazy.  I know this sounds familiar, but trust me.
  10. Now, when your device reboots you can either run through the setup assistant and restore from your iCloud backup (easy but slow) or connect your device to iTunes and restore from that backup (faster, but not quite as easy).
  11. Your device is now running iOS 6 with all your apps and data intact.

Some of my fellow nerds will argue that steps 8 and 9 could be bypassed, but I wanted to make sure these instructions were as easy and clean as possible.

The Power of Focus

Do you read Asymco?  It's one of my favorite blogs.  Horace Dediu applies deep data analysis to the tech world and produces some pretty amazing insights.  Almost every post brings me new perspective and understand on the forces at play in today's technology market.

The most recent post "Think Small" is one of the best pieces I've read.  It's based on comments from Tim Cook about Apple's product strategy.  He mentions that Apple's entire product strategy can fit on a table, and from that small line-up Apple produces incredible revenue, thick profits and rapid growth.


How many organizations need to learn this lesson: there is power in doing less.  There is this tendency to believe we need to offer more products, at more prices or more services to cover more markets in order to gain share.  All the while it is the specialists who win.  Apple is  great example.  Valve is another.  Instead of trying to be like EA or Activision with titles for every demographic, Valve focuses on a few franchises they can do extremely well.  When, like Apple, they decided it was important to control their customer experience they moved into digital distribution by launching Steam.  Steam is focused.

Think about the companies that are dominating today's markets.  They all do few things well and say no to anything outside their core mission.

In your next meeting, planning session or strategy summit think about what your organization stands for.  Ask yourself what you can do with extreme excellence–what you can do better than any other firm.  Say no to everything else.