Blog Archives

Tim Cook to Employees: “Apple Is Not Going to Change”

Less than 24 hours after the jarring revelation that Apple’s revered leader, Steve Jobs, would be stepping down from his post as CEO, his replacement has set the stage for the beloved company’s continued growth and success.

Tim Cook, who previously served as Apple’s COO and as interim CEO during Jobs’ previous medical leaves of absence, sent a note to all Apple employees today promising them the company they knew under Steve Jobs won’t change under his leadership.

The note, originally obtained by Ars Technica, reaffirms Jobs’ commitment in his resignation letter that Apple will continue to be a successful and innovative leader in the always-competitive tech sector:

——

Team:

I am looking forward to the amazing opportunity of serving as CEO of the most innovative company in the world. Joining Apple was the best decision I’ve ever made and it’s been the privilege of a lifetime to work for Apple and Steve for over 13 years. I share Steve’s optimism for Apple’s bright future.

Steve has been an incredible leader and mentor to me, as well as to the entire executive team and our amazing employees. We are really looking forward to Steve’s ongoing guidance and inspiration as our Chairman.

I want you to be confident that Apple is not going to change. I cherish and celebrate Apple’s unique principles and values. Steve built a company and culture that is unlike any other in the world and we are going to stay true to that—it is in our DNA. We are going to continue to make the best products in the world that delight our customers and make our employees incredibly proud of what they do.

I love Apple and I am looking forward to diving into my new role. All of the incredible support from the Board, the executive team and many of you has been inspiring. I am confident our best years lie ahead of us and that together we will continue to make Apple the magical place that it is.

Tim

——

Cook is no stranger to the tech community, often appearing alongside Steve Jobs at Apple events and giving important keynote speeches in Jobs’ absence. Cook has been a part of the Apple team since 1998, joining as Senior Vice President of Global Operations, and rising to his previously-held position of Chief Operating Officer in 2005.

Tim Cook at Apple - CHART

Cook’s execution of supplier contract negotiations has made it virtually impossible for competing firms to deliver comparable products at a competitive price. Cook previously held executive positions at Compaq and IBM.

With Jobs remaining as Chairman, and a suite of Jobs-era products in the pipeline, Apple likely won’t even see a hiccup for the next few years. Jobs created a system of excellence and creativity and instilled these values in every Apple employee, and Tim Cook will continue to execute Apple’s mission of innovation and growth. Investors and insiders are confident in Cook’s ability to lead – Apple stock is down just 1 percent through midday trading Thursday.

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From Avatar to the iPad 2 – We’re in an Experience Driven Economy

You know the feeling. Being so profoundly overtaken by awe, laughter, incredulity or amazement. Experiences like these tap into the deepest and purest of human emotions, and serve as powerful motivators. We are in a new economic era; an era in which savvy businesses craft their product and service strategies with the specific and overarching goal of creating compelling consumer experiences.

Hollywood was among the first industries to recognize that even the best stories need great packaging to become the mega-hits that bring swarms of people to theaters in costumes and tents, waiting for hours to experience the story. Avatar was not a multi-billion dollar smash hit because the story was particularly exceptional or because audiences were deeply committed to the film’s message of environmentalism. The film attracted an enormous and diverse audience of moviegoers craving to immerse themselves in the engrossing experience James Cameron expertly crafted. The impressive 3D effects, captivating majesty of Pandora and exceptionally-directed audio throughout the film catapulted audiences into a foreign world, allowing them to experience the story in a way that simply was not possible even twenty years ago. James Cameron isn’t just selling movie tickets. He is selling an experience. Entertainment locations like Universal’s Harry Potter theme park and Disneyworld don’t sell roller coaster tickets and concessions. They sell an experience. Starbucks isn’t selling coffee and pastries. It is selling an experience.

Avatar Movie Wallpaper

The entertainment industry was a pioneer, but new players are encouraged by the success they’ve seen and are increasing their efforts to weave the overall consumer or experience into every decision they make.

The resurgence of Apple as a beloved consumer and cultural icon can be directly linked to its insistence on providing unique and powerfully positive experiences to its customers. One only needs to step inside an Apple retail store to understand how well this strategy has caught on. Flocks of current and would-be customers seem suspended in a perpetual state of bliss and fascination as they explore and tinker with the latest iPhones, iPads and MacBooks. Even months after a product is released, Apple stores are bustling with activity and energy. Why? Because Apple created a hands-on experience and instills a sense of ownership in its customers.

But what makes Apple such a unique and powerful example of experience-driven strategy is its array of products designed to wow the users’ senses. The touch, audio and visual interactions that characterize the company’s most successful products have taken a company that was once a quarter or two away from a low-ball acquisition and made it a beloved symbol of quality, innovation and excellence. (Author’s note: I give high praise to Apple, but I’m no ‘fanboy’ – I have happily used a PC for 15 years and will critique Apple if/when necessary.)

Apple iPad 2 Customers in Store

Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and others are carefully crafting new and addictive user experiences that have led to astounding engagement and interaction metrics. The genuinely positive experience of interacting with your social connections and having the ability to share your own story is an experience we – as humans – crave.

From luxury car dealerships and IMAX theaters to retail stores and theme parks, business are trending toward products and services driven by a foundation of selling experiences. These experiences are powerful, and as technology advances even further, the experiences will become deeper, more interactive and more compelling. An incredible, truly wowing experience with a product or service is rare, but if businesses can deliver one, they are poised for transformative success.

NOTE: Visit www.letschatbusiness.net on your iPad for a unique, Flipboard-esque experience driven by Onswipe and WordPress.

Is Advertising Content?

Like many of world’s Internet users, when I browse my favorite websites my eyes tend to scan past the navigational elements of the page, take a quick glance at any advertisements, and move directly to the content of the page. This week, Dave Morgan and Joe Marchese of OnlineSPIN took to the headlines to debate a critical question: “Is advertising content?” Before presenting my argument, here are the key points outlined by each side.

Advertising Is NOT Content:

  1. Consumers would rather experience content without advertising
  2. Consumers are even willing to pay to remove advertising
  3. Regardless of the quality of the advertising, users don’t want to be interrupted

Advertising IS Content:

  1. Consumers value advertising content as much as media/editorial content
  2. In a recession consumers prefer free services, advertising provides that
  3. Consumers don’t hate all ads, they hate being bombarded by irrelevant ones

Each position has its own validity, and neither can be universally applied to every user and every platform. However, after careful analysis of the facts, it is evident that if done properly, advertising is content, and plays a critical role in the success of any website or business.

When an advertiser develops and releases a powerful, relevant, meaningful ad that adds value to the consumer experience by eliciting strong feelings and inspiring interest in users, the advertisement becomes a portal for a potential customer/subscriber/user to learn something new, experience something different, or discover a product or service that enriches their lives. However, when consumers are overexposed, constantly flooded by too widely-targeted ads, their effectiveness is dramatically reduced, and the value added the the viewer becomes less and less.

For every one hour of television, there is between 14-18 minutes of advertising. So when I watch Fringe live on Thursday nights, between 23-30% of my time is spent viewing advertisements as I wait to return to the show. When I’m watching live I am offered very little choice as to whether I see the advertisements, and more often than not, the ads are more of a necessary transition than valuable content. To combat this, advertisers utilize integrated product placement to more seamlessly mesh the content of the program with the content of the ad. As the original debaters noted, television commercials can be content in the proper context. Super Bowl advertisements, with a hefty price tag of $3 million every 30 seconds, are a critical element of the viewing experience and undoubtedly provide additional value to the viewers (some of whom believe the football game is the “commercial break” until the next set of ads).

Google Super Bowl
Online, the dynamics of advertising as content change as choice, customization, and interaction become increasingly available to users. Display advertisements from industry heavyweights like Yahoo!, Facebook, and Microsoft have revolutionized the way users view and feel about the advertisements they see. By involving users, advertisers create an interactive, participative environment in which ads become a source of entertainment, and have the potential to overtake the page media to become the primary content on a website.

I visited the Yahoo! Sports Golf page today, checking in on the commentary about the PGA Tour FedEx Cup Playoffs, and encountered an ad that I spent more than six (6) minutes interacting with. The American Express video ad featured several levels, allowing me to select a topic, and control a video featuring David Toms, a prominent PGA Tour player. I viewed three short instructional segments, and absorbed tips that I can use next time I am out on the course. When I had completed my interaction with the advertisement, I continued down the page to read the rest of the article.

The ad did not get in the way, it did not distract from the original content, and it did not detract from my experience. In fact, it did the exact opposite. I wantedto interact with the ad, and it became a critically important and positive part of my experience on the website. Relevant, engaging, dynamic, and complex advertisements can become content as elemental as the site media itself. There is no doubt that if done properly (adding true value to the consumer/user experience through engagement, choice, and interaction), advertising is content that can be as important a definition of the user experience as the core page media.

See how intent targeted advertising is reshaping the way publishers target users to give you the most relevant ads, click here.

To read the original articles, click here and here.

Loved By Wall Street, Hated By His Employees – Now He’s President

After tripling profits during his tenure at his previous company, the powerful men and women of Wall Street praised him. After slashing 50,000 jobs in five years and cutting costs across the board, he was the most hated man in tech. Now, he makes his move to a company whose own CEO came to his defense when most wouldn’t dare.

In a move that was widely speculated upon in recent days, ex-HP CEO Mark Hurd joined the Oracle executive team as co-president and gained a seat on the board of directors. This comes alongside news that Charles Phillips, another Oracle co-president and director, resigned.

Larry Ellison, the billionaire founder and CEO of Oracle, was one of the few who stood up for Hurd during the scandal that forced the HP CEO to resign, said Monday that “Mark did a brilliant job at HP, and I expect he’ll do even better at Oracle. There is no executive in the IT world with more relevant experience than Mark.” More than anything, this proves that Ellison’s early comments defending Hurd weren’t just lip service.

Hurd’s track record at HP is indisputable. He took over the struggling tech giant, cut costs mercilessly, and oversaw a 300% increase in profits during his tenure as CEO. For this, he gained respect among investors on Wall Street, and HP’s share price recovered from the failed Carly Fiorina era and steadily rose. For this, Hurd’s reputation took a heavy hit among employees.

According to a Glassdoor.com report, Hurd was the most hated CEO in tech. He had a 34% approval rating, and a 66% disapproval rating. His approval rating dipped as low as 19% in the second quarter of 2009. In comparison, Apple CEO Steve Jobs had a 98% approval, 2% disapproval rating, and Cisco CEO John Chambers had an 81% approval, 19% disapproval rating. Oracle CEO, Larry Ellison, who is Hurd’s new boss, had a 78% approval, 22% disapproval rating.

Glassdoor.com

Image Credit: TechCrunch, Glassdoor.com

The reasons behind these numbers aren’t exactly a mystery. As Mark Hurd made drastic cost cuts at HP, employees at the tech company were stripped of many of the benefits and luxuries they had grown accustomed to. Let’s not forget to mention the 50,000 employees Hurd cut, many of whom surely had friends still at HP who weren’t too happy with the extra workload they now were responsible for. Anytime a manager requires more productivity and revenues from fewer employees and resources, stress will skyrocket and employee morale is likely to plummet. With employee satisfaction being a significant factor in productivity at any company, this situation begs the question many managers face on a daily basis: “How can I squeeze the greatest profits from the fewest resources?

Hurd left his old employer disgraced and hated, but success in his new position at Oracle may redeem him among detractors. The balance between cost-cutting and employee satisfaction is a fine line, and it will be intriguing to see how Hurd chooses to fulfill his new role as co-president.

Have you ever faced this dilemma? Did you hold cost-cutting measures personally against your boss, or do you recognize it as their duty to maximize profits at any cost? Share in a comment below.

Why Social Proof Is Your Best Friend

Have you ever wondered why sitcoms use laugh tracks? Or why bars and coffee shops put money in the tip jar before they open? Why nightclubs gladly keep long lines of customers waiting outside even though there is more than enough room inside? Each of these are a representation of social proof, the powerful force that indicates we look to others to guide our own actions. It is highly beneficial to take advantage of this psychological phenomenon to increase customer interaction, brand awareness, and product adoption.

Many of the highest-traffic websites and blogs (including Mashable, SEOmoz, and Yahoo!) use social proof to generate buzz and portray an image of a popularity and success. By displaying their feed subscriber counts, the number of users who “Like” their page on Facebook, the number of followers they have on Twitter, the number of times a post has been shared, and so on, they are presenting a very calculated image to outsiders who have not yet experienced their brand. Strong numbers in these categories say: “We’re successful, everybody wants in on what we’re offering, so you should, too.” The true value of social proof lies in the fact that the higher the numbers, the faster the numbers grow. The faster the numbers grow, the more exposure, interaction, and recognition the site receives. This phenomenon of compounding exponential growth exemplifies the importance we place on social reference and the powerful influence it has over our decision-making.

Mashable - Social Proof

The concept is playing a critical role in the implementation of social search, which Facebook is developing as a key part of their growth strategy. Today, it was announced that Facebook is including articles “Liked” by a user’s friends in search results. This is promotional gold for bloggers looking to increase their exposure and presence online. (Last week, I wrote a post about how Facebook needs to capitalize on Social Search if it wants to maximize its online dominance.)

Facebook Social Search

While some dismiss these number displays as bragging points that don’t add any value, the site administrators who recognize the importance of user validation ensure they are a prominent element of their design and strategy.

Here are some great write-ups about the power of social proof:

1) http://www.doshdosh.com/social-proof-optimization/

2) http://www.copyblogger.com/social-proof-herd-it-through-the-grapevine/

3M’s New Device Redefines Capability and Portability

3M’s award-winning new device, the MPro150 has taken capability, compatibility, and portability to a level unparalleled in the industry. The incredibly powerful cordless device combines an impressive array of business tools and solutions in a uniquely small package.

3M MPro150

The innovative device’s list of features and capabilities includes:

  • Data storage (1GB internal, 2GB removable Micro SD card)
  • Image/video/audio support
  • Microsoft Word/PowerPoint/Excel file compatibility
  • Adobe PDF compatibility
  • Audio playback (2 half-watt speakers)
  • LED projector (8″-50″ diagonal image)
  • Inputs/Outputs: USB/VGA/Composite Video/Component Video/Audio Out
  • Rechargeable battery (90 mins per charge)

To top it all off, the MPro150 packs this bundle of features into a pocket-sized frame: 5.1″ x 0.9″ x 2.4″.

All the features in the world don’t mean a thing to consumers unless they provide solutions that meet their business needs. This device meets that standard of excellence, providing individuals with the capability to store, organize, and present a wide range of files and formats, including Microsoft Office products, Adobe PDF, and videos. Perhaps one of the most exciting features of the MPro150 is the device’s ability to connect to virtually any digital media source you desire. 3M boasts that the MPro150 can connect with PCs, DVD players, MP3 players, iPhones, digital cameras, and other cellular phones.

3M MPro150

This device has the potential to take an elevator pitch or a meeting proposal to the next level, providing visual and audio context to the spoken element of the presentation without the hassle of connecting to a ceiling-based projector, loading your PC/Mac, or leaving the room while you prepare your equipment. Imagine the young account manager whipping out the device during a meeting, sharing with his bosses the customer analysis chart that he has been working on all week that reveals a need for a change in strategy. Picture the architect and interior designer projecting their ideas onto the wall at the construction site, providing visual context to their partners. This instant-impact potential makes the MPro150 an exciting proposition for individuals throughout the workplace.

Is this device something you would consider purchasing at its current price of $395? How would you use it?

DISCLOSURE: I received no compensation in any form for this article, and I am in no way affiliated or associated with 3M or any of its subsidiaries.

Horowitz on Technology and Innovation

A common theme in business and management philosophy: if one does not innovate, they will become extinct.

“The technology business is fundamentally the innovation business. Etymologically, the word technology means ‘a better way of doing things.’ As a result, innovation is the core competency for technology companies. Technology companies are born because they create a better way of doing things. Eventually, someone else will come up with a better way. Therefore, if a technology company ceases to innovate, it will die.”

-Ben Horowitz
Founding Partner, Andreessen Horowitz

Never be satisfied with the status quo, not in times of success, nor in times of failure. Striving for endless innovation and allowing for the inevitable failures along the way – not a bad way to navigate your career.