Last week I wrote a one-week review of the iPad Mini. And said that I was thinking of selling my Apple stock. Update: I still have both the Mini and the stock.
I got a lot of grief because of the piece. I've come to expect that. Seriously, Apple zealots might want to someday tone it down a little. This has been going on a long time. For such an elegant company, it sure attracts some inelegant fans.
I said what I think, and since it's a blog post, no one will think it's a final judgment, allowing no disagreement. Maybe the judgers are the kinds of people who leave no room for other people's opinions. They must think I am like them. I am not. I thrive on different opinions, because I learn from them. I'm truly interested in knowing what other people think, as long as its respectful.
For example, I love talking about movies with my friend NakedJen, because she so totally loves movies, but the ones she loves are different from the ones I love. We've seen a lot of movies together, and I don't recall us ever coming out of the theater both in love. She tends to like movies I that I find boring or trite. But I always look forward to talking with her, because I like viewing things through her eyes. In that way I like almost everyone -- if an idea is well-expressed, it doesn't matter whether I agree or disagree. I love human expression. I really don't care so much about whether they're right or wrong. And in the case of how one person feels about a product or a movie, they just can't be wrong. They can't miss the mark, as long as they try to say what they see and what they think. And don't pretend it's anything more than that. I sure don't think my opinion is more than that.
I love products. I especially love products that hit the mark perfectly. Of course I've never seen one. But some products come pretty close! And I've even had a couple myself that hit the mark squarely, and of course not perfectly. When I make a new product, that's what I try to do.
It's not just products I love, but strategies.
In baseball, you can look at an individual pitch, and see how perfect it is, but then look at it as part of an at-bat, or an inning, a game, a season, career.
Every act can be looked at in a lot of contexts.
It's possible for the iPad Mini to be a perfect product for one person, or everyone -- at one time. But it also exists in a sequence of products.
There are a lot of variables a strategist gets to tweak. And one of them is when to play the hand. You could keep accumulating cards for the perfect moment, and then wham lay them down. As Steve would say -- Boom.
Sports, and theater, hardware and system software. It's all fun to put together and think about in a lot of different ways from all angles.
When I saw my first Mac, it actually spoke to me. No kidding! It wasn't like I walked into a room and knew there would be a Mac there. I saw it in a random office from a hallway on Bandley Drive in 1983, while it was still a secret project. I saw it out of the corner of my eye, and instantly and viscerally I knew it was going to consume a big part of my life. I knew it was the machine I wanted to make software for. All in an instant. I'd say that was about as close to "hitting the mark" as any product I've ever seen. Even though it was a famously flawed product.
So when Marco says I was far from the mark with my piece, that made me stop and think. He could be right, but we won't know for a while.
Let's think about it this way, how might Apple have approached this, assuming what so many people think is true, that in a year or two, they won't be limited to the current low resolution screen. Let's assume for the sake of argument that there's an 80 percent probability that in 2015 we'd be able to ship the absolutely killer product, one that makes you scream it's so cool. Never mind what it means to the users, of course that's important to you and me, but that's not how the Apple of Steve's Eye made its decisions. Doc Searls wrote about this in 1997, and talk about hitting the mark. Dead bull's eye for Doc. You want to understand Steve's Apple -- read that piece.
Remember when netbooks were the rage? I kept saying Apple should ship one. And Apple kept saying we'll ship one when we're ready. The ones everyone is selling aren't good enough for us to put Apple's name on it. I think Cook even said they were junk. I thought that was extreme, but I respected the drama of it. That's some kind of confidence. So we waited. And what came? The iPad. I still wish they had shipped something that worked like the netbooks of the day, but they didn't. Apple wouldn't compromise. It took guts and vision and certainty, patience, and an absolute desire to hit the ball out of the park in a historic way. It would have been a lot easier to just ship something like a netbook. Just as it's easier to ship a compromise like the current iPad Mini.
I also mentioned a change in the way I was thinking about my Apple stock. I felt that's part of the deal of writing a blog, when I write about companies I own stock in. If I'm thinking about selling, I have to say that, unless there's a really good reason not to. I put it at the top, at the beginning, so it would stand out. Because when I tell my readers that I bought the stock, and then tell them that I hold it, if one day I tell them I sold it, I'd like to have told them inbetween that I was thinking of selling it. It seems to me the honest thing to do. After all I didn't buy an ad and say this to random people as some kind of great proclamation. I wrote a blog post, on my blog, to people who read my blog, and said "I'm thinking of selling my stock, and here's why."
But the main point was to put a little stake in the ground, so a couple of years from now I could go back and see what I thought about this product when I first got it. My blog has lots of posts like that, and it helps me as a person who is into products and has changing tastes, and makes mistakes, and learns new stuff along the way.
They said, repeatedly -- they have something in the pipe, but it will be much better. Couldn't have been the MacBook Air -- because it was already out.
Netbooks were big in 2008 and 2009. The MacBook Air was already out (released in Jan 2008). The product Apple was talking about, the one that was in the pipe and secret, was the iPad, not the Air. The first iPad came out in April 2010.
The first netbook that Apple shipped was not the iPad, it was the MacBook Air. And the first ones sucked worse than the iPad Mini does. And the Airs got a lot better over the years, just like the Minis will (I hope, and expect).