While Steve Jobs Is Away; 10 Priorities

I will not add to the craze about Steve Jobs (Apple CEO) health rumors on the internet, and I seriously hope he recovers quickly and is in excellent health.

Anyone trying to sue Apple or its board for inconsistent information should back-off and be glad they are not faced with a similar diagnosis. One of my friends (much younger than Steve) was recently diagnosed with the same type of (a rare) cancer and treated by the same doctor at Stanford.

Having heard his stories first hand, I side with Steve that he cannot project with accuracy what is going to happen as 1/ what causes cancer is still fairly misunderstood (follow the cancer series on Charlie Rose and you’ll understand), 2/ his rare type of cancer (with about eight known derivatives) is even less understood. So, give the man some space.

Steve has proven to be the best guy ever to run Apple, but that doesn’t mean the company can’t improve. Here is what I would do, given a chance:

1/ Making the current OS work “as promised.”

Snow leopard is on its way, and without knowing any of the details, the OS needs some fundamental improvements in Expose and Spaces that are simply not working correctly, those (and many other) flaws have been in OS X for quite a while, and since it affects the user experience, that is not acceptable by Apple standards. In many other areas, it is clear that the rapid pace of innovation in other areas has taken its toll on the focus on the OS. Also, the OS needs an Applications Store similar to the iPhone App Store.

2/ Consumer OS, major OS overhaul.

It is time for Apple to define a new trajectory for the OS. The current OS trajectory is too technology-centric and focuses primarily on local operating capabilities. Today’s use of computers requires a transparent blend of offline and online capabilities. I have formulated new specifications of what this new hybrid OS should look like, which is more powerful and easier to use (and gesture ready) than any of its predecessors. This new OS is a continuum of the iPhone experience yet dramatically exposes the increased power of a personal computer platform. This OS will provide similar experiences across the Apple TV, iPhone, and computer platforms.

3/ Increased focus on digital photography.

Music and photography are the two most important applications consumers use. Digital photography needs a fundamental new focus and an application that manages photographs across offline and online repositories. Think of iTunes and the iTunes Store for digital photography. We have formulated the specs for these new capabilities. Also, Apple should explore new camera technologies as well (for inclusion in later devices). The current DSLR vendors leave behind unique software opportunities that can improve the quality of images dramatically (even without changing the hardware).

4/ Put support in product group P&L.

Apple’s support is better than other vendors, but a little better is not good enough. Apple’s organizational structure separates support from product groups, which, in every company, disconnects the product promise from its realities. I would make product groups responsible for their P&L, ensuring implementation of innovation is a closed-loop. No longer will product groups be able to ignore the 5000+ complaints about a single bug in Apple TV, for example.

5/ Network backup (Time Capsule) needs an overhaul.

The Airport wireless base station is a fantastic, no-hassle device that works. The backup capabilities with Time Machine that uses a USB-connected disk (to the Airport) are fundamentally flawed. These networked storage devices have no fsck (file-system-check) built-in that prevents disks from becoming unstable because of lost network connections or other aberrations that can occur. Based on the documentation, I assume Time Capsule also omits fsck and is unreliable as a backup drive.

6/ Broaden adoption of Professional Applications.

Most professional photography and movie applications provide editing tools, requiring the operator to understand the often complex language and methodologies involved. But the power of professional tools becomes obvious when the application provides methodologies that hide the underlying composition of tools. Using styles derived from a marketplace, both Aperture and Final Cut Pro can be dramatically enhanced to provide new capabilities to expedite new editing techniques for experienced users and enthusiasts.

7/ Implement movie rental subscriptions.

The iTunes store needs a movie rental subscription model to adopt the ‘old’ Blockbuster and Netflix model; many Americans are used to it. A fixed monthly rate allows you to watch a certain number of movies per month, perhaps with rollover credits to compete with alternative distributors that can’t follow due to their dependence on low-usage profits.

8/ Apple TV needs a tuner; make that two.

Apart from a new “front-row” user interface (supported by a new OS described in 2), the Apple TV must embrace DVR capabilities. Like the iPhone and AT&T, Apple should take a swing at giving customers a better end-user experience (and integrated with iTunes content) with Comcast, or else threaten to take the business from under their noses. The cable-card mandate allows virtually any vendor to displace the current set-top-box and DVR experience. I would bet customers would pay a premium to eliminate the Comcast Experience.

9/ Build an Apple TV server.

Longer-term (preferably after a deal with Comcast), I would like to see an Apple TV with tuner capabilities feeding all my TVs rather than having individual AppleTV and DVR tethered to each TV. Record once and playback anywhere (for traditional and new media).

10/ Deep dive into enterprise server sales.

The enterprise server strategy of Apple is a mystery to me. Having built a couple of new business lines within large businesses (Oracle, HP) and SMB segments (Symantec), I don’t see Apple applying the pressure that warrants building products for this segment.

Again, as a 20-year empathetic Apple user, I would like nothing but to see Steve return soon and hope this blog will consequently void itself.

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