From “Apple Forever” To “Apple? Whatever…”

Today, Apple is steadily losing people like me. I’ve been a Mac user since Apple created them, and have been a loyal user ever since. There was also a certain exclusivity to Apple products,

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A contact of mine commented on my light-hearted FaceBook post about it being time to stop using Apple products like iPhone etc. 

She wrote, “Apple til I die”.

That made me think how in 1996Apple was written off for dead, and my web post (before it was called blogging) Imran Anwar’s Opinion on The Future of Apple Computers told Apple users not to give up hope as Apple would survive. Yet now I have no love for Apple now, which acts far more monopolistic than Microsoft was accused of with its Internet Explorer domination back then. 

Today, Apple is steadily losing people like me. I’ve been a Mac user since Apple created them, and have been a loyal user ever since. There was also a certain exclusivity to Apple products, the same market share as Mercedes Benz and BMW was not a bad thing to have with a company that was still profitable and made really cool stuff. But, even before I joined Microsoft, I had been getting fed up with Apple.

In the interest of full disclosure, since last year I have been working with Microsoft, on a strategy consulting project at the Department of Defense. But, my frustration with Apple, which began a few years ago, and has reached total disgust levels, is easily seen from my posts (many even deleted by the criticism-rejecting-content-Nazis at Apple’s discussion boards) on the Apple customer fora. 

More and more often flakier and flakier services (including being ripped off by the class-action lawsuit worthy Music Match that never worked, and the promised refund that was never delivered), major bugs Apple idiotically tried to ignore (antenna gate, the known but never acknowledge static noise bug in iPhone 4S), stupid ugly apps (like GameCenter, PassBook, etc. that you cannot delete and can’t even push to end of apps lists off the phone screen, Apple deliberately shoves them to front screen on reboots), the Maps app that various police departments have called LIFE-THREATENING-TO-USE, Apple’s total lack of variety in phone models, making iPhone 5 a bit longer and with no truly desirable new features, … the list goes on.. would be enough. But even the air of exclusivity is gone… on top of the actual ability to deliver major innovation.

I am not a fan of Android at all, but, I have to give credit to Samsung for really shaking things up in more and more categories, while Apple is playing defense even in segments it made commercially successful.

So, I am not dumping my dozen old Macs and MacBook Pros, iMacs and tens of thousands of dollars in Mac OS based software I bought. But even as an Apple tech (not company) fan, I did not buy the iPhone 5, I did not buy the iPad mini, I did not buy the MacBook Pro Retina, etc. {Though I apparently will need to spend money because the 2010 MacBook Pro I use is apparently one that has a known manufacturing defect. Apple will quietly replace the logic board on it — if you can afford to part with your machine for nearly a week — but I can’t do that as I had since then upgraded to a larger hard drive and do not know where my original drive is). 

I am not the only one from the core Mac loving Apple customers who find the company is due to be kicked off its high horse, that has been limping even more noticeably since Steve Jobs’ passing.

What are your thoughts? Do you think Apple will right itself, go back to innovation, and actually building quality products again?

PS Note, these are my personal opinions. I do not even work on any products or software for Microsoft but do strategy consulting for one of its clients.

Why Email Is Here To Stay, Whatever The Platform Or Interface

We do not hold discussions with clients (or even personal family members) in newsgroups or mailing lists. We interact with them usually in one-to-one exchanges of messages sent in “electronic” “mail” called “EMAIL”.

It is ironic, and a sign of the times, that the two most interesting discussions in my office email (with many colleagues far smarter than me!) AND on my personal FaceBook page (with many friends even more opinionated than me!) are both about Email, and whether its time has come and gone.

My prediction: Email is here to stay.  Here is why.

Everything has a time and place (and audience). Face to face, telephone, old fashioned hand-written letter, email, post, tweet, all have their uses and none of them really replace any of the others.  As a matter of fact, they complement each other. They enable us to build deeper relationships leveraging these micro-contacts even when we are time-constrained and distance challenged.

I am all for social media. I love interacting with many among the nearly 10,000 people following me on Twitter (http://twitter.com/imrananwar if you’d like to connect), and nearly 10,000 more on FaceBook and Flickr. But it would be highly impractical to pull all of them  into my “real” Address Book or inundate my EMAIL Inbox.  The ones who become important to me on social networks are “upgraded” (or as they become real friends, colleagues, associates) to communicate with me via my “real email.”

BUT, here is something I like to point out to people who wonder if Social Media somehow will be a replacement for EMAIL? No!

What they are talking about is simply exchanging emails in much less robust, far less searchable, far less open, and far less secure, proprietary platforms of social media firms than traditional email systems.

Here is what that means….

We do not hold discussions with clients (or even personal family members) in newsgroups or mailing lists. We interact with them usually in one-to-one exchanges of messages sent in “electronic” “mail” called “EMAIL”.

The irony is that the “one on one” communications that takes place on Social Media (FaceBook, Flickr, you name it) is in one-to-one exchanges of messages just like traditional web-based email, that are exchanged out of the public eye, not on the Wall, not in the Timeline, not on a stream, but in specific areas, e.g. called Messages. And with far less flexibility, accessibility, security, or manageability. 

In other words, using  social media to “replace” Email simply means sending private “messages” on their platforms, simply email by another name!

Social media firms know email is, and likely will, remain the most used mechanism for one-to-one exchanges…. with the flexibility of multimedia multimodal multiple-use that even telephone calls do not offer.  

FaceBook is even more obvious in showing its recognition of this fact, by forcibly inserting  YourName@facebook.com as your default EMAIL address in the About > Contact Info page, until there was a huge outcry about it. Trust them to go back on their word… Even today they have NOT “fixed” the problem as they promised and most people’s pages still show FaceBook.com addresses.

Even worse, for those of you daring enough to place their entire (email) stock in a social network, think about this…

You post something that FaceBook deems inappropriate, or if you send out 20 invitations to people and 10 are not accepted, the clerical-gods of FaceBook (and other networks too) may strike you with e-Lightning and cancel your account. If that happens, good luck recovering your email, or any of your content, from there.

With traditional email providers, even if, say, Yahoo shuts down one day (sorry, Marissa!), Hotmail migrates to Outlook.com, Gmail spying gets too intrusive, you can still easily drag your emails onto another provider/server/account/computer/device. You still “own” or have far greater control over your emails/messages in these “legacy” email approaches than you do, or likely will, in the social media sites’ Messages boxes.

The tragedy of “regular” email is that many great discussions like the ones I mention above, including those with actual knowledge transfers from smart people answering questions, are lost in email folders’ deep recesses forever. Mail apps and operating systems like Windows and OS X are getting better at helping us “spotlight” what we need to find, but it can still be a pain, especially in corporate mailboxes. Sometimes you can have 200+ email messages with the same keywords mentioned and poorly written subject lines (a pet peeve of mine) making it next to impossible to find THE particular email you are looking for with the answer to that complex question someone had answered 3 months ago.

In my humble opinion, detailed technical topics, with specific questions asked and many valuable replies sent (that are the majority of traffic on most companies internal email discussions) would be so much more effective, less intrusive, and more useful to others later, if they were held on suitably tailored Microsoft SharePoint or Wiki type collaboration platforms. So, yes, for that email is not the right tool. And the unnecessary traffic (plus resultant bloated mailboxes with each reply-all containing the last dozens of emails in each discussion, in every instance of each message, in all of our mailboxes!) give rise to the type of very discussion my Enterprise Architect colleagues are having. 

When, over time, we are able to influence people to use collaboration tools where appropriate, social/mobile media (Yammer/Twitter/Lync/SMS) as practical or needed, somehow overcome a propensity to hit Reply-All on almost every email (another pet peeve 😉 ), get in the habit of writing better Subject lines (PLEASE, You can do better Subject lines than “Doc attached” or “Here it is” or the dreaded “RE:” !!), learn to judiciously delete previous body text not relevant or required, many of the reasons we complain about email would be reduced. 

So, yes, it may shift platforms, take on new interfaces, become more “intelligent”, but Email is here to stay, regardless of what platform we exchange it on…..

What do you think? Email me! 

 

Imran Anwar is a New York based Pakistani-American entrepreneur, Internet pioneer, inventor, writer and TV personality. His day job is with the world’s best software company, but these opinions are his and his alone. He can be reached through his web site http://imran.com . You can follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/imrananwar


Product Review: Eikon To Go USB Fingerprint Reader With Apple Mac + Windows Software

The product itself gets 3 stars, but the 4th star is for the fact that they made the effort to develop it for Mac, and even more so for how absolutely wonderful both the seller (reseller) and the manufacturer were to my emails about the bugs and frustrations I encountered.

I have always believed in the convenience of biometric devices. They have been hard to come by on Macs, but for many years I have used and appreciated a fingerprint scanner (infrared pad to USB) from Microsoft, that only worked on Windows, though sadly now does not work in Windows 7.

This Eikon fingerprint scanner is a USB plug in type for the Mac and comes with Windows software also. I tested and use it on both platforms, after buying from Amazon.

The product itself gets 3 stars, but the 4th star is for the fact that they made the effort to develop it for Mac, and even more so for how absolutely wonderful both the seller (reseller) and the manufacturer were to my emails about the bugs and frustrations I encountered.

It is finicky, it often takes 2-3 slides of the finger(s) or one slow very accurate swipe for it to work. Often I wonder if the 2-3 attempts are worth the hassle of using the device. On the other hand (no pun intended) it does log me in quickly when I do it “right”. Using it regularly and getting used to it provide the benefit that you can ( I did) make the password far more complex/long than when just typing it in my hand. E.g. &*mYpa$$word&*43!! Instead of just &*mYpas$$ etc.

The worst thing about the design is that it is useless to plug in to a typical MacBook Pro (i5 15″ for this case) when anything else is plugged in. It is too wide. So, it comes with a maybe 6″ USB extension, but then it makes it even less attractive, in visual and usage sense.

Now you have loose hanging thing twisted upside down or sideways sitting on the side of your laptop (as the cables often have an inherent ‘twist’ torque in them that flip the device on its side), and it is now even less usable as you almost have to grab is with one, hold it up firmly enough so you can swipe a finger from the other hand through it.

Since I use external USB keyboards with my MacBook Pros, I tried to plug it into the USB built in to Apple keyboards. No joy, as the device will not fit there and even if it did, it would be under the keyboard body and not usable. Hanging it by the USB tail extension I can use it but it will always move around, still requiring the 2 hand use, unless I scotch tape it. Then, it makes the laptop a little less mobile if I have to remove it every time I travel.

I am also disappointed that despite taking far more repetitions to learn a fingerprint than a 10 year old Microsoft infrared fingerprint reader (sadly not compatible with Mac or even Windows 7 now), it still needs the finger swipe to be so specifically accurate. But, it i doable, and when you get used to it, it does save time.

A plus is that I have it working on an office provided Windows 7 laptop. A disappointment is that it does not store finger prints on the device for MAC users. It does store the fingerprints for the Windows software! So, technically I think I can carry it to different Windows desktops/laptops without having to save fingerprints x 10 x 5 repetitions per finger on each machine, but for each Mac I would have to go through that process.

Based on just how cooperative the seller and the manufacturer have been, and the price, and overall tolerable usability, I am considering getting another unit so I can leave one taped to the desk and one to carry with me or use on the other laptop(s). Or, of course, I will be happy to buy the next great biometric device that comes out for my preferred platforms. 

But please be aware of the shortcomings (and advantages) before you order this or similar devices.

Imran Anwar

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Simonyi’s INTENTIONAL Software History Revision?

I am shocked that InformationWeek would allow the publication of an interview with someone without questioning some wild claims, or possible untruths, the person made in a High Five interview with J. Nicholas Hoover on August 20, 2007.

It’s bad enough that Microsoft still cannot even successfully COPY others’ products (anyone know how to spell ZUNE), still has its vision coming from people who thought 640KB RAM was enough for everyone and the Internet was a fad, and is a company that continues to blatantly practice anti-competitive behavior as showed by the recent court findings against it in many places.

But, Charles Simonyi, now of Intentional Software, and an ex-Microsoft executive, is either delusional or intentionally revising history of the tech industry. In his HIGH FIVE Interview in InformationWeek recently, he makes the laughable claim that Microsoft was working on the GUI (graphical user interface) and trying to sell computer mice way before Apple.

If only I could dig up an old letter from Microsoft to me, in response to the offer I made to license them a mouse I had invented for disabled computer users in the 1980’s. Microsoft’s management had clearly stated to me in writing and a follow up conversation, that Microsoft had no desire or intention of ever selling hardware or computer mice as they did not see a fit with their business!

Mr. Simonyi has the money to buy a trip to space, but is either now spaced out, or just high, or just not “intentionally” truthful in his claims in the InformationWeek High Five interview. The InformationWeek writer should have dug deeper on that question but seems to have let it slide.

Imran