Since Apple introduced the Siri personal assistant with the new iPhone 4S I have read several blogs how much better it is compared to Google Voice Search or to GPS and other voice recognition products. How about compared to IBM Watson?
IBM has marketed Watson’s natural interface for months now after its impressive Jeopardy! performance but there are few, if any, commercial apps yet. And when they have them ready you know there will be a healthy and expensive dose of their services.
It reminds me of the scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark where the swordsman makes a lot of noise, and Indy just pulls out his gun and shoots him. That is Siri to IBM’s Watson. Usable, affordable, nimble…
So, I read Steve Mills of IBM saying they will be pursuing application acquisitions – a reversal after decades of deemphasizing products like MAPICS and instead partnering with vendors like SAP.
I just hope they don’t keep bringing knives and swords to gunfights!
Robert de Niro notwithstanding, if Puzo and Coppola had made the younger Don Corleone as the first Godfather movie rather than the second would it have worked? And if they had not fleshed out characters like Fredo and Clemenza would Brando’s character been so riveting?
I asked these questions as I read Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs. Stylistically, I would have loved for him to have the started the book around 2000 and spent 3/4 of the book on the amazing string of Apple and Pixar achievements since then, and SJ’s own just as amazing willpower and strength through all the medical procedures he endured, and woven in as appropriate snippets from SJ’s previous history. But Walt presents a chronology from birth so the first half of the 600+ pages is somewhat plodding and repetitive. Plenty of references to vegan diets, body odor, drugs, piercing glances and “reality distortion” fields. And it leaves him much less space to flesh out so many interesting people and incidents around SJ. I would love to have seen more on Laurene Powell, Tim Cook, Apple’s retail stores, its Apps ecosystem. Did SJ ever worry about AT&T’s network problems with the iPhone? What did he think of Foxconn and its employee suicides and other labor issues as it assembled most of his iPods, iPhones and iPads?
My nitpicking aside, the book has plenty of humorous moments – you have to laugh at SJ’s audacity in many of his dealings the book documents. Larry Ellison talks about the torture of being a guinea pig of SJ’s perfectionism – as he showed him various pre-production versions of Pixar’s Toy Story and later endure multiple weekend trips to the warehouse which was a mockup of Apple’s retail foray. SJ’s wedding cake, describes Walt, “was strictly vegan – devoid of eggs, milk, or any refined products – more than a few guests found it inedible”
And there are plenty of tender moments.
One of my favorites is when Walt asks him if he often thought of being put up for adoption.
“These days, he said, he thought more about getting older than about his birth. That led him to play Joni Mitchell’s (on his iPad) greatest song “Both Sides Now” with its lyrics about being older and wiser”.
I wanted to read the book as soon as it came out to see if I needed to change much in my next book’s manuscript in sections about Apple. Since he focuses more on the man, and my book more on its operations, the answer is no. But I may need to change to change the Corning case study in the book. Presumably, because of an NDA with Apple they would not acknowledge if the iPhone used their Gorilla Glass. Walt spends two, again humorous pages, describing how the deal between SJ and Corning’s CEO, Wendell Weeks got done.
The book will shock you, touch you, entertain you. Get a copy. But when the movie is made about SJ, I hope they start with the later life – the Brando version if you will.
In aviation, shattered windows aside, we have always admired planes which break the sound barrier. Over the last decade, the general assumption has been cloud/SaaS is a SME phenomenon. But that’s a barrier Workday has refused to accept since its inception.
An extract from my next book
“It was the meeting where our IT Council gave me the green light to proceed with a major global project to consolidate 80 different HR systems across the world. We had settled on our existing ERP vendor’s software” says David Smoley, CIO of Flextronics, one of the world’s largest electronics contract manufacturers.
“I thanked them for approving such a large project and then I surprised them. I told them I may come back to them in the next month with a “better, faster, cheaper” option”
“Mind you. this was after we had already spent months of evaluating options, systems integrators, building budgets and business cases. But we have a “fail faster” culture here at Flextronics so they more intrigued with what I may come back with than surprised.”
Smoley’s alternative for the massive global project – Workday. And this was 4 years ago when the “sound barrier” seemed even more daunting.
While that has meant fewer customers (just over 200), Workday has not swayed from the target larger, more complex customer. Other large customers include Time Warner, Thomson Reuters, Chiquita Brands among others.
And it is being rewarded – just announced another financing round valuing them at an estimated $ 2 billion.
SAP announced recently it was moving to smaller, more frequent modifications to its Business Suite every three months: “In the past, we have delivered innovation with enhancement packages or releases in a bundle, but our customers gave us clear feedback that they want easy, more digestible pieces which they can implement in a non-disruptive way,”
My question is what took so long? SaaS vendors like Workday and Zoho have for years now delivered a continuous stream of new features. And they can instantly propagate those changes through most of their customer base – it will be interesting to see the pace at which SAP customers adopt even these “digestible pieces”.
At least some progress. But why stop there – and this applies not just to SAP but most on-premise vendors?
Why not persuade their hosting partners to adopt data center best practices around cooling, UPS, container design and other innovations coming out of Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook? Why not persuade their application management partners to adopt share services and multi-tenancy concepts from salesforce and NetSuite? Why not move their maintenance pricing and those of hosting and application management to a customer usage based paradigm, not a time and headcount based model?
Purists will argue about “false clouds”. The reality is we make decisions in every day life – mineral versus synthetic oils for our cars, natural versus synthetic fabrics in our clothes etc. Let’s give customers the choice of a synthetic cloud with many of the benefits cloud vendors have been pioneering.