Weekly Update

Apple Q4, Gates disses Zuckerberg, Mayer’s Cultural Revolution, and Chautauqua

Apple Q4 and looking ahead to 2014

Apple met its own estimates and analyst expectations posting record numbers on Monday for the company’s fourth quarter. Profits were high with earnings per share of $8.26 on revenue of $37.5 billion, crushing expectations of $7.92 on $36.82. Bizarrely, Apple traded down after the news, even after reporting sales of 33.8 million iPhones in the quarter, up 26.9 million in the same quarter last year, 400 million visitors to retail stores, and sales of 14.1 million ipads this quarter compared to 14 million Q4 last year prior to the release of new iPads.

Tim Cook offered this insight into the company’s plan to make iWork, iLife, and OS X Mavericks free:

We wanted to make this software part of what it meant to own a Mac and an iOS device. IWork had become the best-selling productivity app on a mobile device, we wanted all of our customers to have access to it so they could have the best features. […] Other folks charge for their OS and productivity apps. We wanted to make it a part of the experience.

I wrote at some length on why this is important: it will force Microsoft to do the same (see Apple moves to edge out Microsoft Office and Google Drive).

Cook also alluded to building new products, so I am fairly certain that we will be seeing iWatches, and Apple TV as a gaming solution in 2014, and perhaps even the much rumored iTV. (Note that Intel is rumored to be trying to sell off its planned set top box business.)

As I wrote earlier this week, I think the emergence of wearables could usher in significantly different modes of computing and communication, and I am certain that Apple will be at the forefront of that in 2014 (see Wearables might make us live more in the moment).

Gates on Zuckerberg and Connectivity

Bill Gates — in a Financial Times interview — suggested that Mark Zuckerberg’s goal of connecting everyone on earth to the internet was dumb, compared to other priorities. Richard Waters, the interviewer, rendered Gates perspective this way:

These days, it seems that every West Coast billionaire has a vision for how technology can make the world a better place. A central part of this new consensus is that the internet is an inevitable force for social and economic improvement; that connectivity is a social good in itself. It was a view that recently led Mark Zuckerberg to outline a plan for getting the world’s unconnected 5 billion people online, an effort the Facebook boss called “one of the greatest challenges of our generation”. But asked whether giving the planet an internet connection is more important than finding a vaccination for malaria, the co-founder of Microsoft and world’s second-richest man does not hide his irritation: “As a priority? It’s a joke.”

Gates also said,

“I certainly love the IT thing,” he says. “But when we want to improve lives, you’ve got to deal with more basic things like child survival, child nutrition.”

Getting the world’s unconnected online?

“As a priority? It’s a joke.”

I am no techno-utopian, and I agree that fundamentals — like infant mortality, now slipping in the US — are critical to bettering society. As the same time, I don’t think we pretend that  disease prevention and other health and welfare issues need to be fixed before we start work on other initiatives. And I also think that making the world more connected is a foundational issue, too, but in my case it is not so obviously a matter of self interest as it might be for Zuckerberg.

Yahoo Applies The Screws

The rumors are flying about coming staff reviews at Yahoo, where Marissa Mayer famously ditched the company’s remote work arrangements in order to ‘get all hands on deck’ and turn the culture around. But as I said when the announcement was made last February, getting everyone in the office to be more closely supervised is a subtext for culling the outliers that don’t fit into her top-down Cultural Revolution:

Stowe Boyd, Yahoo’s Mayer thinks that remote workers are… too remote

Even if Mayer thinks she’s trying to kindle a new culture at Yahoo, pretending the 11,000 employee company is a startup and everyone has to toil endlessly under the watchful eyes of their fellow Yahoos to share culture is a bit much.

More likely this is the next step in a cultural cleansing of the company, one intended to scrape off all the folks who psychologically don’t fit in with the new cultural norms that Mayer believes she needs in place to make Yahoo go zoom. She wants more collaboration, by which she means she needs to get employees buying into long-term strategic goals, and the principles and practices that management believes are essential for meeting those goals. In this ‘collaboration’ is a code word for becoming part of a collective, where certain behaviors — like working independently outside of Yahoo offices — will not be tolerated.

The word is that Mayer’s highly numerical rating system — which mimics one used at Google, where she spent all of her career before Yahoo — will lead to the departure of as many as 500 Yahooligans.

Announcing Chatauqua

I broke the cardinal rule of journalism this week, burying the lede in a piece called ‘Social Business’ isn’t dead, but it isn’t enough, either. The post was a rebuttal of an argument advanced by Chris Heuer on the Brian Solis blog, in which he argued that the ideas of social business have failed and the term is dead because C-level executives that he has spoken with don’t really get it, and so we should come up with ‘a phrase that is more attractive to corporate leadership’.

I spend a few paragraphs taking that argument apart, especially attacking the CxOs aspect of his argument, concluding with this:

Social business isn’t dead, but it isn’t enough, either. And simply getting the meaning of the term straightened out — if such a thing is possible, at this point — won’t add much, either. At the best, there are a set of ideas derived from the social revolution on the web — like pull versus push communication, and the benefits of defaulting to open, not closed, communication — that can be productively applied to make working socially easier and faster.

What is needed, though, is not a retreat to arguing about the term social business, but a movement forward, a movement embodied as a community of people committed to advancing new principles of learning, organization, leadership, and management, pushing forward into a new future of work.

And the I concluded by announcing l the launch of a new initiative, Chautauqua, an open community organized to understand and channel new ways of working together, to redefine our connection to work and each other, and ultimately, through that, to change the world. That was buried in the bottom of a long post. And it was not my plan to announce the initiative until the new year, so much of the community aspect of the community is not in place. As I wrote at the Chautauqua site,

The world of work is changing at an accelerating pace, paired with the enormous upheavals in society, the economy, and the world at large. Uncertainty and ambiguity is systemic, and it is harder than ever to assess risk, predict economic trends, or even to know who to listen to. We are being forced to adapt to a new era, the postnormal, and our personal lives, organizations, and work will never be the same.

Chautauqua is an open community organized to understand and channel new ways of working together, to redefine our connection to work and each other, and ultimately, through that, to change the world.

Despite the lack of an operating website, the response has been amazing. The post and the Chautauqua community have been twittered and written about extensively and widely. I am in discussions with over five people who want to open chapters in various cities. I haven’t had time to write up a detailed prospectus about the planned Future of Work 2014 tour, but I have already been approached by companies wanting to support the tour, sketched this way:

A monthly evening event, involving a changing cast of thinkers, authors, practitioners, and tool vendors, hitting major cities in North America. Talks, interviews, and live streaming. Networking at the cocktail party, deeper exploration at an afternoon workshop. Codeveloped with local Chautauqua chapter and the show’s host, Stowe Boyd.

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