1. The Job To Be Done
Benedict Evans posted the other day that the number of Apple Computers-With-An-Asterisk (ie iOS and OS X devices that support an application platform, implicitly excluding the Apple TV hobby product) sold surpassed the number of Microsoft Windows PCs sold globally in the fourth quarter of 2014. The response and commentary on sites like Hacker News was a predictable case of completely missing the point: that for anyone who doesn't own a computer (surprise: that's most of the entire world), Apple Computers-With-An-Asterisk actually get the job done. And the job done is not necessarily one that requires general purpose computing in the sense that it's been deployed to the world through Microsoft's Computer On Every Desk vision. In a sense, the competing vision that Apple instead promulgated was one of a Bicycle In Every Pocket. At the risk of harping on, yet again, about Jobs' insistence (and somewhat tunnel vision focus) of Apple being at the intersection of liberal arts and technology: perhaps that's yet another distinguishing factor between the two companies' application of technology. Microsoft, a traditionally engineering heavy company, can be seen as historically focussed on the, well, engineering side of things. MS-DOS and Windows PCs were complicated beasts, capable of a great many number of things, but they were machines that had to be harnessed. They were raw power, with a bewildering set of options (which options are, naturally, alluring to a great many number of people), but they were not as focussed on, from the user's point of view, the Job To Be Done. And in the words of Sorkin-dramatising-Zuckerberg, if you'd invented iMovie, iPhoto or iTunes, you'd have invented iMovie, iPhoto or iTunes. And instead Windows get, well, Windows MovieMaker, Windows Photo, and Windows Media Player.
Let me put it this way, and I realise that this is more of a reiteration than a genuinely new insight. Tablets - in particular, the iPad - are good enough, now. A year ago, at the traditional Thanksgiving technical support open house, we replaced my in-laws aging laptops. For my father-in-law, a new Windows laptop (which I'll freely admit that even to myself, remains somewhat impenetrable, a situation I find amusing given I still remember building myself a Windows 2000 Pro workstation while at college), but for my mother-in-law, an iPad. And it's been fantastic for her. It does everything she needs, and she uses it more.
That's the thing about the job to be done - another illustration of the cars-not-trucks argument that Jobs put forward to, I think, Mossberg at an All Things D conference. In our house, for example, we do not need a general purpose cooling machine, that can take any configuration of things-to-be-cooled and cool them in any which way. Instead, we have a fridge/freezer. The general-purpose PC, in terms of form factor and use case, is turning out to be but an aberration. The problem that the PC industry has found itself in is that it optimised itself into a local maxima: they optimised and optimised and optimised for the market that they thought they were in - which was People Who Buy PCs - and found themselves sitting atop a pretty mountain. And for the landscape they were in, that was just fine. It's just that if you started looking in a different solution or possibility space, there turned out to be a giant, adjacent untapped maxima that we still haven't seen the ceiling of: and that's tablets and mobile.
The job to be done turns out to be things like staying in touch, or listening to music, or looking at or sharing photos, or playing a quick game: none of which require either being tethered to a desk or even on a couch with a laptop.
It makes you think, and hopefully without descending into Valley-esque dreams of capital D disruption, what other local maxima have been entirely reliant upon heavy, tethered processing.
2. The Ethics Board
3. The Good