Big Apple Conversations

Recently, while I was dining with friends in New York, Steve Greenwood (who started Brewster) remarked that Al Gore was now separated from his wife, Tipper, and was dating someone else from California. I have no recollection about why that came up, but it was enough for Elle Luna to point out the amorphous and diverse nature of conversations in the Big Apple. It is one of the most enjoyable aspects of New York — the variance of ideas, experiences, and interests.

This past week, while I was on official company duty, hanging out with the New York team, I also had a chance to sit down with Bradley Price, who, after designing phones and other electronics, started Autodromo, a boutique watch company based in Brooklyn. We talked about the Apple watch, Marc Newson, and what other product-design companies do wrong when it comes to product and design. A day later, a master shoemaker from Italy, Riccardo Bestetti, explained to me the meaning of “slow.” A self-taught shoemaker, he does what he does because it makes him happy and then thinks about money, not vice versa. His comments reminded me of what Pharrell Williams’ creative director, Mimi Valdez, said at a Fast Company conference: “Happiness isn’t hiding somewhere in some fantasyland.”

Later, walking on the street, I noticed many women had pastel-colored hair, though I didn’t know why that trend has caught on or what that means. It was here I saw people line up outside the Opening Ceremony store, much like they line up outside the Apple store — though I didn’t see scalpers here. I walked around and saw that while the average girl was better-dressed than one on the East Coast, the fashionista should walk out of the Conde Nast offices to lament the lack of style of boys in tech.

Vanessa Friedman’s column on Tim Cook and tech style was unusually shallow, mostly because I don’t think she quite understands the context of why Silicon Valley’s younger members dress a certain way. New York has views on fashion because culturally and professionally the focus is to fit in and impress those who can further their career. I wish someone as wonderful as Friedman would visit the West Coast before making generalizations. And, frankly, can anything hyped up by advertising and marketing dollars really be fashion? I see Everlane and its basics and I see an emergent Silicon Valley style and aesthetic. It is just different and doesn’t necessarily rely on gaudy labels like Louis Vuitton, Prada, and Gucci.

The challenges of Silicon Valley are more profound than sartorial. The young and the restless have a lot of learning to do: When you want to change the world, it is good to tread lightly, understand the big picture, and perhaps connect the dots. John Borthwick of Betaworks, a fellow New York member of the tech tribe, pointed out that we in technology have become so obsessed with looking at thin slices that no one wants to take a moment and understand the impact of that slice.

Consumer robotics will change society, but its social and cultural impact remains outside the grasp of tech creators. The somewhat childish and bumbling response of the Whisper team to the Guardian story was another example of not understanding that words and actions have a different meaning with “tech” and outside it.

Whenever I visit New York, I have a deep desire to come back here, but I realize too much of everything is never a good thing. New York likes the shiny and new; it lives in the present and no longer invents the future. But it does provide a nice cultural and social context. It gives a sharp focus to the world I choose to live in — on the coast where the future seems like just one crazy idea away!

Apple’s Swift has open source challenger, Phoenix

Aral Balkan who is an ardent campaigner against privacy-bending & exploiting platforms such as Facebook and Google. He is also not a fan of closed platforms. And that is why he has embarked on a Herculean quest to team up with like minded developers and hackers to develop a truly open source phone and mobile platform — the Indie phone and platform. He is also a very visible member of the indie-web movement.

It is no surprise, that I I have been following its development and often read Aral’s Twitter feed to find out the status of the project. Today, he messaged to let me know that they are now releasing Phoenix, a free and open source version of Apple’s recently released programming language, Swift. It is being developed by Greg Casamento, who has years of experience in Objective-C and compiler developer to Ind.ie and also leads the GNUStep project. Phoenix in greek mythology is a long lived bird that is cyclically regenerated or reborn. I am guessing, the open source renewal is what Aral has on his mind! 

In in an open letter to Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, Aral points out that that Swift and Metal are Apple’s way to keep the programmers away from the Android platform but in doing so, Apple is going closed and forgetting that it has reaped the benefits of open source software. He said it was shortsighted of Apple as it fights Google for platform dominance no different than the fight with Microsoft, a generation ago. Here is an excerpt from the open letter. 

Just as your customers should not be your product, your developers should not be your prisoners. Swift is a beautiful language but you want to keep it all to yourself. That’s just not on.

Imagine how different Apple’s own story would have been if Richard had not written the GNU C Compiler and released it under a free license. Steve could not have had an Objective-C compiler built on top of it at NeXT. Or what if Chris had not released LLVM under an open license? Now you’re releasing the hier to Objective-C, but you seem to have forgotten the legacy that got you to where you are.I know you must see Swift, like Metal, as a way to make it harder for developers to port their apps to Android, and therefore be forced to make a decision between the two platforms.

These moves will, no doubt, gain iOS more exclusive titles. But only those who lack confidence in their ability to otherwise compete resort to lock-in as a competitive advantage. You don’t need this. You’re better than this. You stand today against Google where you stood a decade ago against Microsoft. They may look unstoppable now, but just as you rode the user wave past Microsoft, you can ride the upcoming privacy wave past Google.

I am a firm believer in open source software, and more importantly open source ideology as a business practice. I think Aral’s group are asking the newly open Apple to go one step further and be open, not in just telling the story, but shaping the technology narrative. It would be fun to see how high Ind.ie’s Phoenix flies!

October baseball

New York in Autumn is a very special place though this year no one cared about baseball — after all New York Yankees aren’t playing — and the world was talking about the Giants and the Rangers, of the football and ice hockey kind!

After decade and a half riding on the backs of core four and the massive amount of television moe by, New York Yankees baseball like all aging teams is on its way down. Money, makes things easy, but it does help fix the core of the problem.

While rest of baseball has learned how to build great teams by building a strong core of talented young players and surround them with veteran talent — a playbook Yankees wrote — my favorite baseball team still tries tired old ways of winning. It is not that my love for pinstripes has diminished, but in this post-Jeter era, who do I love, who do I cheer for? I can’t muster any enthusiasm for the new guys — Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCaan and Carlos Beltran. A-rod? Can we just eat these losses and move on and head back to the future?

If baseball seasons are going to end in September, we don’t need aging stars. So why not making youth part of our future plans. Shawn Greene and David Phelps have shown that our farm system can surprise. But it’s an ideological shift and it is hard to make, especially for an organization that talks about “product” and “business” more than the game.

October is particularly painful for ever so often my neighbors, aka SF Giants remind what is wrong in Bronx. It is a taunt from rest of baseball fans – reminder that Yankees need to change. For next few days, I am ready to hear that roar of the Giants fans, with stadium lights piercing into my apartment. I am not a fan of either the Royals or the Giants — how can I be when I love someone else . But I love the game of baseball. And I admire a team made of imperfect players, certified aces, fresh faced new comers and those who can feel the chill of the autumn of their carrier.

A team that does little things right and knows winning isn’t about how you look, where you are from and how much money you have in the bank! You don’t have to be a fan to like magic and joy of winning.

From the archives: San Francisco Giants and the D-Word, where D is for dynasty Related: ESPN asks is Buster Posey is the next Derek Jeter. Now let’s now get carried away guys! 

Some new stories on Storehouse

I have been posting some visual stories on Storehouse — it is backed by True Ventures and I sit on the board — and it is a perfect platform for telling stories through photos and videos. Here are some of the more recent stories: 

You should get their app to really enjoy the service. Or you can keep tabs on my recent stories by following me here.

30days of blogging: Week #2 wrap-up

Break

It has been a while since I felt complete and utter exhaustion — so today will be a quiet, blogging free day of contemplation and composition! I am heading home shortly after an intense and busy visit to NYC. I need the weekend. Have a good one everyone! In the interim, enjoy this new Storehouse story by me.

3 things to read this weekend

Have  great weekend everyone!

Apple & rise of the carrier antagonistic SIM

Today, Dan Frommer wrote a piece about the new SIM in the newly announced iPad Air 2 (and other iPads) and why it was disruptive. This is quite a big deal. 

It was almost four years ago when Stacey Higginbotham reported that Apple was working on a new SIM that would allow its iPad customers to seamlessly pick between various cell phone carriers. In a subsequent piece, European economist and policy expert Rudolf van der Berg (now with OECD) explained why this new SIM card (co-developed with Gemlato) was a big deal and could turn Apple into a new kind of variation of MVNO. Rudolf wrote: 

If I had to advise Apple, it wouldn’t be to use a fancy SIM card that can be remotely changed, but instead to use an Apple-proprietary SIM card that contains no changeable data and is fully controlled by Apple. Then, the consumer could buy access to mobile networks throughout the world either through post-paid or pre-paid options offered by Apple. Apple would manage the subscriptions and authenticate the users on the correct networks. The user could switch mobile networks but have all of it managed by Apple.

You should read Rudolf’s post to get a deeper explanation that what Quartz offers. Holland became the first country to offer carrier agnostic SIM card. The implications of the carrier antagonistic SIM are much more profound when you start to think about our data plans, connected car and other connected devices.

Mimi Valdés Makes Happy

“Happiness isn’t something out there in some fantasy land, it’s out there for us to grab” — Mimi Valdés, creative director for Pharrell’s i am OTHER, a multimedia company.

Happy has become a global phenomenon — 11 million copies of the song sold and nearly a billion video views of the song and its offshoots — mostly because at the end of the day people want to connect, share and be happy, Valdés said. It was a wonderful lesson I got from Valdés talk at FastCompany magazine’s Design Awards conference in Manhattan. Check out 24hoursofhappy!

Long Day

A long day awaits me! I start with a coffee with two of my favorite people — Hiten Shah and Brian Lam (not together) and then go down to Palo Alto for our partner meeting. And after that I turn back and spend time with a portfolio company, including a quick early dinner and then a RedEye to New York. I am really excited about tomorrow, for I will spend an entire day at Fast Company’s design conference — it would be a wonderful way for me to reset my mind around design and how the creatives are thinking. But that’s tomorrow! 

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