Podcast: Exponent 007 – "Growing Up" v "Hungry and Foolish"

On the newest episode of Exponent, the podcast I co-host with James Allworth:

There’s a bit of a consensus building post WWDC: Apple has grown up, and it’s great. Consider the conclusion from John Gruber’s excellent piece Only Apple:

New Apple didn’t need a reset. New Apple needed to grow up. To stop behaving like an insular underdog on the margins and start acting like the industry leader and cultural force it so clearly has become.

Apple has never been more successful, powerful, and influential than it is today. They’ve thus never been in a better position to succumb to their worst instincts and act imperiously and capriciously.

Instead, they’ve begun to act more magnanimously.

In my own reflection on WWDC – What Steve Jobs Wouldn’t Have Done – I noted that Apple was moving from a place of fear to one of confidence:

By “moving-on” I don’t mean moving-on from Jobs’ death, but rather moving-on from the darkest parts of Apple’s past. Apple is not about to go bankrupt, they hold the power in every partnership they enter, developers around the world desperately want to work with them. It is not 1997, and to make decisions with a 1997 mindset simply doesn’t make sense.

In short, perhaps my fears for Apple’s future were precisely backwards: Apple didn’t need to always remember 1997; in fact, they needed to forget. And so they have.

There is something deeply satisfying about this type of analysis. The idea of the brilliant but wayward adolescent, finally pulling together her immense talents, and truly reaching her potential. It’s something to which we can all relate, and, surprisingly, it’s something to which other companies can relate as well. From the New York Times in 2002:

Yet only after fighting the biggest antitrust case in a century has it begun to sink in with Ballmer that in most ways he has already won, and that with victory he might be expected to behave less like a petulant adolescent and more like a statesman, comfortable in his power. Recently, in the span of one week, Microsoft first received the news that a federal judge approved the company’s settlement with the Justice Department and rejected the remaining suits by individual states, then came out with a powerful new-product launch, its much hyped Tablet computers. Both of these developments indicate that the company is exiting the fog, legal and otherwise, of the last few years and is entering a period that will largely be shaped by Ballmer. With his schedule rigorously organized, his managerial duties more defined than ever and his personality in a state of self-imposed overhaul, he aims to prove that he can be a different person and that the Microsoft Bill Gates has essentially handed over to him can be a different company.

To be clear, Apple is not Microsoft. But why? And is it possible that something essential has been lost?

In this episode we examine what it is that makes Apple unique, and why things might turn out different this time – and why they might not.

(In addition, we discuss the end of privacy and what might be done about it.)


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