32-year-old video of Steve Jobs, underscoring that Apple’s priorities lie in software

Even 3 decades ago, Steve Jobs had a clear vision of software‘s role in making computing personal. In this clip, dated a mere 4 years from the founding of Apple, he describes how he wants to use all this new hardware computing power to make the 1-on-1 interaction with a computer go smoother.

(From a rare clip contributed to the Computer History Museum by Regis McKenna)

Skip to 12:17 where he talks about this, specifically saying:

…we’re gonna start chewing up power specifically to help that 1-on-1 interaction go smoother – and specifically not, to actually do the number crunching and database management and word processing, we’re gonna actually start applying a lot of that power specifically to help us remove that barrier…

Of course, as with all great founders, he was quite optimistic about how soon this would happen:

…it looks like the timing is just right for that to occur. So hopefully, when we have our international Applecore meeting, the 3rd or 4th one from now, we’ll all be able to talk about how we’ve solved that problem, because I really think it’s gonna happen…

It’s incredible how well products Apple produced in the last 3 decades, under Steve Jobs, hold up against this articulation of Apple’s software strategy – and explains the inordinate level of effort expended in getting the user experience right. Apple products have a better user experience than other companies building similar products – not because they have incredible designers – but because these designers are building to solve a different, more aspirational, more human goal.

John Gruber’s recent post on Isaacson completely missing this centrality of software in the Steve Jobs narrative reminded me of this clip. People who marvel at how iPhone is truly a software-first device shouldn’t be surprised – Steve’s Apple has always been a software company first; they don’t make hardware because the margins are high, but because they need a certain kind of hardware to make the software vision a reality.



The ‘Coffee Break’ design philosophy: UI for Small Businesses

At Lexity, we’ve spent years talking with small businesses, understanding how they run their businesses. These lessons have been valuable to us in building our Advertising on Autopilot solution, and are instructive for all startups building tools and services for this market. In this occasional blog series, I’ll talk about a few of these lessons.

TL;DR: SMB products should be built such that your users can interact with it on their mobile devices, in 15-minute chunks of time.

The Time Fragmentation Problem

Inbox Overload a problem for ya? Try being in a small businessperson’s shoes for a day.

SMB managers are typically slammed with a hundred things vying for their attention. Most of these, unfortunately, are time-critical; so tackling them one at a time isn’t an option. Managers spend all day working on many things in parallel. With multitasking a given, most tasks get less than 15 minutes of their attention at a time – if they’re lucky!

This means any product built for SMBs needs to account for this time fragmentation problem.

No more than a Coffee Break

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Designing for varying attention spans (lessons from the Lexity launch)

When we relaunched Lexity recently, we got tremendous kudos for the new site design. ‘Sexy’, we heard. ‘Beautiful’ was a common refrain. ‘Effective’ too!

Well, we’re definitely very happy with the feedback so far – and I wanted to talk a bit about the thinking behind the rework.

When I first started fundraising for Lexity, I got sage advice to write the elevator pitch out in three different lengths –

  • 3 words (or 1 line) – for a quick soundbite
  • 1 paragraph – for a quick introduction at an event/party
  • 3 paragraphs – to use in an email introduction
This turns out to be excellent advice for more than just fundraising. Attention spans vary from person-to-person, even from time-to-time for the same person, so it’s always a good idea to thoughtfully design the delivery of your message, to suit your audience and their attention spans.

Applications to site design 

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Google’s “Plusify” feels like Yahoo!’s Searchify initiatives (what can we learn?)

Google is heavily promoting Google+ through all distribution channels it has – from promoting it on its homepage, to integrating it into every product it has – whether it makes sense, or not.

There is a well-known recent precedent for this strategy. Just like Google finds itself outflanked by a company that has a fundamentally different product, so did Yahoo! when faced with the unrelenting rise of Google. The response was similar – unleash the entire network of owned-and-operated sites, and standalone products, to prop up the competing service – Web Search in the case of Yahoo!, Google+ for Google.

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