Baby Bombers & the A-Rod Weekend

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Friday was the last day of Alex Rodriguez as a New York Yankee! He was released from the team but was given a ceremonial send off, which had a lot less pomp-and-show than the send off for Derek Jeter. Still, it was a send off worthy of a 13-year Yankee, not perfect but not without talent either.

I am not an A-Rod fan. I actually prefer Bernie Williams as an example of a good player who does whatever needs to be done quietly. It is important to celebrate low key souls like Bernie. Rahul Dravid in India and Tim Duncan from San Antonio are two players who are less flash and all fact. Anyway A-Rod was on my fantasy team last year, helped me finish in top six and well that’s something.

Anyway, after the game, when he said his final goodbye, I got a little misty eyed. I guess, I am not a hater at heart and as a result even I got over the A-Rod’s sins! Or perhaps I know that I live in a glass house myself. Anyway it was sad end to a splashy career of once in a lifetime player. It was a rude reminder that no matter who you are, time finally gets you. Somehow, time sends you a rude reminder that you are human, here on this planet for a short time and then gone, back to being carbon in the soil.

Saturday was a celebration of the 20th anniversary of Yankees World Series after a long one. It was thanks to the infusion of youth and a blend of veteran talent that made that championship possible. It is a great formula – fearlessness and lack of any institutional memory of the young with the steadying experience of the established.

The young don’t grow up with baggage of the “what ifs” while grown ups come with answers, pattern recognition and most importantly, ability to get it done right. They come with the knowledge of now and more seasoned come with an arsenal of how.

It is true in movies, startups or baseball teams. It was so good that the Yankees kept on winning and then they forgot what made them great.

At trading deadline this year, Yankees finally realized that they need to get rid of their bad habits of buying big names and start stocking and developing their own farm system and bet on some of the young kids. Spending money to buy aging all stars is not a sustainable strategy. And Saturday was a great example of the type of energy young talent brings to the field. Tyler Austin who grew up a Yankees fan joined the team, and hit a home run in his first bat. Aaron Judge, another rookie call up, too hit another dinger in his first at bat. I would take losing with the new talent than mediocrity.

I am excited for the first time in a long time for Yankees are watchable again. And yet I can’t think about A-Rod and the end of the road for him. I have been there – it has taken a long time to get comfortable with the idea that I won’t get up at 4 am to get on a press call or break a story by chasing down sources for days at length, forgetting about everything else. It is how the circle of life goes – around and around. Till someone new comes around. Thanks for all the memories Alex. Too bad I couldn’t appreciate you more, but I hope you find happiness.

PS: I became a US citizen three years ago. And now I get to vote, for the first time. Time flies!

August 13, 2016 San Francisco!

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Gruber & I disagree about a few issues about Apple

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My comments (made on Leo LaPorte’s Twit) about Apple, Eddy Cue and the fragile state of iCloud services have struck a nerve, with most disagreeing with me and only a few actually agreeing with the general sensibility of the comments. One of the co-panelists Philip Elmer-Dewitt disagreed vehemently with what I was saying, though he was in agreement about Planet of the Apps as a distraction.

This is coming from the so-called celebrity influx into the company, whether it is through the Beats acquisition or Eddy Cue. I mean, look at Eddy Cue. The guy was hanging out at the playoffs when iCloud was burning. For six hours. You know, he wouldn’t have survived a day if Steve was around. I’m sorry, that’s what gets me worked up about this company. They have all these wrong priorities. They want to do entertainment content? Buy damn Netflix and move on from there. Do it properly if you want to do it. Don’t try to do this stupid penny-ante stuff which adds no value to the company. Absolutely none.

Today John Gruber (a dear friend and a fellow Yankees fan) and I find ourselves on opposite sides of the spectrum and he disagrees with me as well. He picked up on my argument that Eddy Cue would have struggled to last under Steve Jobs. Here is what John said:

I’ll just point out that Eddy Cue started at Apple in 1989, and reported directly to Jobs while creating and running the iTunes Store, App Store, and iLife suite. You’re free to argue that Cue is doing a shitty job, but “he wouldn’t have survived a day if Steve was around” doesn’t hold water.

And the whole thing about Cue attending a Golden State Warriors game — game one of the NBA Finals — during an iCloud outage is nonsense. If Cue had skipped the game, the iCloud outage would not have been fixed a minute sooner. Not one minute.

I think Gruber is missing the point — attending a game when a division you are responsible for is down for six hours is a clear lack of empathy for the customers, and also is a sign that standards are falling of what used to be an Apple Standard for building products of delight. Sure, things might have taken as much time to fix the iCloud, but the message you would have sent out to rest of the Apple team would have been different.

In the wake of Antenna Gate, I distinctly remember reading about the then Apple executive responsible for hardware, Mark Papermaster leaving the company. “From what I’ve heard, its clear he was sacked,” John wrote on his blog. The continuous iCloud and Apple Services challenges are on the same plane as far as I am concerned, as they impact millions of users.

If Apple is indeed serious about services and its services business, it needs to own up to the fact that it’s iCloud can’t go down for six hours. This isn’t 1999! And the company’s executive team needs to show with actions and not just words, and that means leader of its services oriented products must prioritize uptime over Steph Curry!

Sometimes the game isn’t just a game!

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On another note, Gruber disagrees with my argument that Apple should buy Netflix and writes:

… he’s off his rocker on this one. I’m as skeptical as anyone about this Planet of the Apps show and why Apple is producing it. But I highly doubt it’s a distraction for anyone at Apple. It’s not even shooting in the Bay Area; it’s shooting in L.A.

Buying Netflix, on the other hand, would be a huge distraction. I’m not saying it could never happen or would certainly be a bad idea, but Apple’s services are built to take advantage of its hardware. Netflix is the opposite — it’s a service designed to be available on any device with a screen. With iTunes, Apple already has a library of movies and TV shows. If Apple wants to produce original content, they could start their own production company for a tiny fraction of Netflix’s $42 billion market cap. A fraction. To me, this reads as Om being bored with Apple, and wanting them to just do something.

Actually it not me being bored with Apple, but pointing out what Apple observers constantly miss — Internet services and infrastructure are its Achilles heel. They are in tough competition with services provided by Internet native giants like Google, Amazon and Facebook. Even Microsoft has decided that desktop is their past. Ask around the cloud-circles, and even the most generous souls give Apple’s infrastructure and its growing army a “B” at best. Whether it is Siri or Music or even the always syncing desktops, Apple’s infrastructure has to work flawlessly – and not go off for hours at length.

Should Apple Buy Netflix?

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I was on Leo Laporte’s TWIT show yesterday and ended up going on a bit of a rant about Apple and “Planet of the Apps.” My view on “content” efforts like this is pretty simple. It is distracting, non-core to Apple and basically avoids the bigger challenges: how to add data and Internet DNA into a company that has managed to struggle with services. The App Store needs more smarts and better search, and it needs to take a contemporary, data-centric approach to surfacing apps. “Planet of the Apps” is just an old media-like thinking applied to “apps.” I might be the only one who feels that way, but the reality is that these kinds of efforts are really not good for Apple at a time when it is competing with Google, Amazon and Facebook.

Apple—if it really wants to get into content and wants to make a strong statement to the Hollywood establishment that has stymied its television efforts so far—should make a big, bold bet. It should use its massive stock market capitalization and cash hoard to buy Netflix. Apple is currently valued at $584 billion and it can afford Netflix, which is valued at around $42 billion. This is a way better use of its financial resources than spending $58 billion on stock buybacks over the next two years. Apple already has spent $117 billion on stock buybacks since 2012 and given out $46 billion in dividends. That is more than enough to buy Tesla.

What does Apple get with Netflix? It gets a large library, and a company that has presence on all major platforms and has partnered with most (if not all) major entertainment hardware makers and is well represented in the Android ecosystem. It has established relationships with top broadband providers and has a big infrastructure to support its nearly 83 million subscribers. It already is an established brand—but most importantly, it brings some much-needed Internet DNA into Apple. Netflix’s engineering and cloud teams are amongst the best in the business and have contributed to the modern cloud movement. In more ways than one, they could help add the vital Internet and cloud DNA to Apple, which seems to be fairly serious about its services business.

Apple, Amazon & Google & the Advantages of Bigness

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….the bigness of today’s Big Five gives them an opportunity to keep building larger moats around their platforms. For starters, these companies are able to hoard data, which allows them to become smarter in learning about their customers. Because of their leviathan-scale operations, they have the infrastructure and resources to write algorithms and make their platforms more effective. As I pointed out in an earlier post, this amalgam of algorithms, infrastructure, and data is highly potent.

Goodbye Brother Blake!

“You don’t know Blake?,” yelled Quincy. “How can you not know Blake? You will love Blake. He will love you. Let me connect you two.”

Quincy Smith, the co-founder of technology investment bank Code Advisors and connector supreme, was talking about Blake Krikorian, who was then the founder of a young, stealth mode company called SlingMedia. Quincy and I were talking about what comes after TiVo, the future of video content in the age of mobile and if he knew about this company called Sling.