Messages From The Future: What Happened to Apple Watch

As some of you know by now, I am from the future.  And slightly annoyed to be here.  But anyway, this is what became of Apple Watch.

AplWatch-Hero-Tumble-PRINT

Truth is, being back in 2015 is such a trip. All this talk about “wearables”. I have to laugh, I remember that! Ugh, It’s so quaint to hear that again. “Wearables”. For the record, in the future no one talks about “wearables” like it’s some classification of device. That’s just you guys coming to grips with the fact that technology is everywhere. It’s in everything, it’s networked, and no, you have no privacy. But that’s a different post.

Today I wanted to let you in on Apple Watch since I guess you’re only now about to see it launch. Weird.

A lot of you are asking “Why would I use it?”, “What’s the killer app?”, “Why would I pay so much for it?”.  Yeah, yeah. You do that every time Apple launches a new device, did you realize that? Android users are staring at it dismissively thinking they would never want one since it probably doesn’t do that much.

“Why would I use it?”, “What’s the killer app?”, “Why would I pay so much for it?”.

Admittedly what the first Apple Watch did was only a glimpse at it’s value. A few years after Apple Watch was released it became pretty obvious what it was all about, and yet it still took a decade before absolutely everybody stopped doubting.

Indeed Apple Watch not only survived a decade, but it survived quite a lot longer than that. It outlasted PCs. It outlasted iMac, iPhone and iPad. The Apple Watch strand functionally outlasted almost every other product strand of Apple device and consumer hardware model you are aware of today. It was still going strong when I popped back here, but by then auto-implanted alternatives were becoming pretty common – even though they gave me the willies.

So, what did Apple Watch do that was so useful?

Much to the chagrin of a fair number of iOS App developers in this time, Apple Watch was not a platform that was ideal for, well, running apps. At least not like they do on iPhone and iPad. Sure people tried. But in short order it became clear that Apple Watch was about being used in conjunction with other devices. If your app did not involve another device or platform, your app-life was probably short lived. As a result many of the best app makers were also developers of apps on other platforms or device makers.  You almost never made an app for Apple Watch alone.

And that was a clue into Apple Watch’s true conquering strategy.

Apple Watch became your key. First and foremost. It was your unique identifying digital self. Your ID for all manner of technical configuration in every other device and context.

Apple Watch became your key. First and foremost. It was your unique identifying digital self. Your ID for all manner of technical configuration in every other device and context.

When I look back, the clues are all around you today:

Apple Pay, Continuity, Apple ID, iCloud, Apple TV.

These are some of the “existing” components that dovetailed to make Apple Watch what it was.

Ultimately, Apple Watch was not a device for consuming media, or even much in the way of experiences (with the exception of communication). Primarily, Apple Watch identified you, it was the key that unlocked your information and preferences and configured all your other devices and environments.

Secondarily Apple watch served as an interface for simple tasks (related to these devices and environments) and as a communicator.

This is not to say that the devices around you became dumb devices (dumb screens, dumb terminals etc). They were never that. They still carried the lion’s share of computing power required to perform their specialized tasks. But they were merely normally “un-configured”.

My Apple Watch connected to any friendly Apple TV and suddenly all my movies and shows appeared. All my content was in “the cloud” after all. (Btw, we don’t call it “the cloud” in the future, in fact we don’t call that anything, it’s just “storage”.)

Within a few years an iPad or iPhone in your household could switch between users depending on who was using it. Your unique desktop and apps would appear on any workstation you sat down to.  Because it knew it was you.

Apple Pay was just another variation on the theme. Apple Watch validated your identity and gave you the choice of credit card to use.

And I should mention, since there is a flurry of speculation, that yes, Apple Watch worked amazingly well with what you guys are calling the Apple Car (and other cars by the way). The Apple Car was particularly excellent. Your digital environment on wheels. Once identified, all your media was available, your seat, mirrors, mood-lighting, common destinations, and temperature adjusted to you, and of course you locked, unlocked and started your car with your Apple Watch.

There was some other stuff of course – once Apple and others started making things for the home. Thermostats, lighting, door locks and home security. It all responded to and was partly controlled by, your Apple Watch.

This system was ultimately more secure as well. None of your other devices had to hold content or information. It was encrypted in storage (sorry, in “the cloud”), and your Apple Watch merely unlocked it.  But in this way, none of your other devices became points of vulnerability.

Do you see what I mean – Apple Watch – plus our finger print (and later more convenient biometric ID – another post) – was our digital key. So it was with us literally all the time.

And this is why so many of us were so willing to spend so much on our Apple Watches. It was the most central piece of hardware we owned; a functional part of every other device we used and every modern environment we entered. It was perpetually on display, occupying the familiar, ornamental status of horological watches of the past. But even more important than that, it was the sole material manifestation of our digital selves.  And in the future, let’s just say, our digital world doesn’t get less important. For these reasons it was plainly worthy of inordinate expense and pageantry.

It was the sole material manifestation of our digital selves.  And in the future, let’s just say, our digital world doesn’t get less important. For these reasons it was plainly worthy of inordinate expense and pageantry.

It was so much more than critics today seem able to wrap their heads around.  More than a hobbled phone, more than the convenience of ready alerts and messaging.  It was your key, your hub, it was you.

There was admittedly an awkward phase where Apple Watch was lovely, if a little bulky. You’re in that phase now, well, or are about to be. But Apple quickly slimmed the device, and generated many more models. Once the dimensions were improved, and battery life extended, Apple Watch found it’s sweet spot. One that lasted for many years.  I could have spelled that “maaaaaannnny”, which is an actual word in the future, but I believe that’s still bad grammar in this time.

Anyway, having seen it all play out, I think Apple understood this larger system before most. Being the Apple with vision, they got all this at a time when other companies were scrambling around calling goofy, little, one-off technical experiments “wearable” when in reality few of them really were. No one wanted to wear visible gewgaws. It was just a fact. Existence of these technologies never sold anyone on wearing some device prominently on our bodies. Not on our clothes (except underwear for mostly medical reasons), and definitely not on our glasses. Not anywhere on display BUT OUR WRISTS. Oh, and our finger of course… ah, but that’s another post.

Apple Watch is NOT Replacing the Mechanical Watch

Time goes byMy little voice is nothing in the breathless rush of chatter about the Apple Watch. But I keep hearing the same set of sentiments from my friends and I think they have it all wrong.

In various ways, friends are lamenting the loss of the mechanical watch. Others are asking “Why do I need this accessory? What’s the killer app”?

Back in the day people had pocket watches. You’d dig in your pocket, and pull out your pocket watch to tell the time.

Then the wristwatch came along. It was smaller – but so much more convenient. The time was right there at a glance.

The thing people have wrong is that Apple Watch is not replacing the watch. It’s replacing your phone. Or it will rather. Apple is just hoping it can provide sufficient value through the form-factor in the meantime.

“But they call it a watch.”
Yes, it’s called “watch”, but calling the Apple Watch a “watch” is akin to calling the iPhone a phone, and not, say, a pocket computer. The Apple Watch is a wrist computer and will eventually replace your pocket computer. All based on pure convenience.

The Apple Watch is a wrist computer and will eventually replace your pocket computer.

“But I need a bigger screen!”, friends have then said. Of course you do for some things, and bigger screens will become accessories. And that’s another paradigm shift here – the watch is not the accessory, the screen is.

There is no way this first Apple Watch is the fully expressed big idea. This is just the first step.  Surely the plans for Apple Watch are long.

It’s long been acknowledged that anyone under 30 who wears a mechanical watch today is essentially wearing jewelry. And that they use their phones to tell the time now.  For these users wrist watches are merely quaint objects on par with vinyl LPs and 50s geek glasses.  So for a generation of users who have abandoned mechanical watches for “pocket computers”, a wrist computer is so much more convenient, and it does not replace anything already there. For them, sheer convenience is the killer app.

For hipsters and us old farts who still think mechanical watches are beautiful and functional jewelry, yes, we need to “replace”. And if one is contemplating that switch there is no killer app. But there are 3 dozen small, functional features – in addition to telling time – that make the switch quite worthwhile.

Over time, I believe that switch will happen – even for them – as the Apple Watch replaces the iPhone.

 

 

Die Hard and the Meaning of Life: The Undeniable Attraction of Loyalty

I was watching a movie with my wife when I had an epiphany. I don’t want to tell you which movie because it doesn’t matter, and I would really rather not reveal the ham-fisted taste I have in movies anyway. But I was watching this movie and there came a point in the story that you will recognize because it’s part of every movie ever made – where the hero, who was obviously so committed… alright, I’m not going to be able to explain this without telling you which movie, it was Die Hard.

Die Hard

Die Hard, 1988

…Ok see? Now you’re going “oh, one of those guys”. Fine. Yes, I am. I am totally one of those guys. And so is my wife. Anyway there came a point where I found myself delighting in the fact that John McClane was not going to stop trying to save the hostages, one of whom is his estranged wife, no matter what happens to him. No matter what challenges and risks are placed in his way – he is going to try to save them despite impossible odds. And I realized that it’s really his unshakable, defiant loyalty to the innocent people he cares about that makes you cheer for this guy; his belligerent loyalty – in the face of possible death – to protect and honor the people he loves, that is so positive and attractive. I realized that in one way or another some display of loyalty is at the root of every moment I’ve ever cheered during a film – or conversely a lack thereof when I’ve been angry at a character.  And as the thought rolled over me, quickly becoming more complex and patterned, I had this epiphany: that loyalty, in all its positive flavors, is maybe the most impressive, attractive, beautiful and powerful behavior humans can display to one another.

When someone says “No! There is one more guarantee you have. You can depend on me. I will be here.” is there anything more powerful and uplifting?

Like I said – it doesn’t matter that the movie was Die Hard, because it became clear that this was true of every movie I’d ever seen, of every character relationship I’d ever read. And, I realized, it must be true of nearly every kind of interpersonal relationship we have as humans.

The world can seem unfair. The only practical guarantee you have is the end. We live life under a looming cloud of uncertain timing; in so many ways the universe is not aligned to favor us. But when another person rises and defies the dearth of life’s promises and through action says “No! There is one more guarantee you have. You can depend on me. I will be here” – is there anything more powerful and uplifting? One person’s will against universal entropy.

Samcarrier

Lord of the Rings: the Return of the King, 2003

StepBrothers

Step Brothers, 2008

Ripley

Aliens, 1986

Good characters become bad guys when they are disloyal to the hero. And bad guys redeem themselves when they demonstrate a turn of loyalty to the hero. Back in my screenwriting days one of the mantras we carried with us was “Characters are what they do, not what they say.”

All sorts of interesting character dynamics emerge when we mix up what is said and done by a character. And when, despite claiming loyalty, a character sheds that and instead acts in his own self-interest, he transforms into a villain. That’s how important we naturally feel loyalty is. It seems there is nothing tragically, unjustly worse than losing the loyalty of another. The emotion is innate.  And gaining loyalty is similarly immediately endearing.

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Raiders of the Lost Ark, 1981        Indy: “Give me the whip!”      Satipo: “Adiós, señor.”

Betrayed

The Lion King, 1994

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Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, 2004

So I came to realize, maybe too late in life, that loyalty is perhaps the most profound, meaningful, beautiful and useful behavior humans can give to one another. Indeed, loyalty is perhaps the only meaningful measure of humanity. Loyalty to your fellow man.

Some would say that love, sits on that throne. And I suppose it does sit above in principle. “Love conquers all” as they say. But loyalty is the action; the visible, tangible expression of that love. The “what characters do”. One must act, sacrifice and possibly face critical risks to remain loyal. And let’s face it, it’s loyalty that makes love so wonderful in the first place.

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The Notebook, 2004

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Titanic, 1997

I don’t mean to knock love, but I guess it’s just that love is so abstract and effortless – love just happens. Why do you think we say “fall in love”? Love’s happenstance is captured in the iconic moment where two characters bump into one another at a corner. Or when they unexpectedly glimpse each other across a room – boom – “love at first sight”. It’s easy. No effort. No will. Indeed love has no real meaning until action is required. Love cannot be measured – except through displays of loyalty.

Marriage vows, although of course well-intentioned, are mere promises of eventual loyalty (remember, characters are what they do, not what they say). So long as life is easy, so long as there is no temptation or risk, love is easy to profess. And lets face it, it’s never easier than when the future seems bright, a roomful of loved ones are smiling, and champagne and cake are in hand. Rather, it’s when life becomes hard, perhaps many years and tragic events later, when the darkest of life’s unfortunate challenges are faced, that’s when love – through displays of loyalty – has meaning.

Billy Elliot

Billy Elliot, 2000

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Avatar, 2009

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Drive, 2011

Even in unexpected places, loyalty plays an important role. I look around myself at work and I realize how grateful I am for those people who have stuck by me and the company’s mission, despite work’s up and downs. You know, those people who stick with you and seem almost immune to the business world’s constant seduction of self-interest. These are the people you want to reward. Because they have displayed such loyalty.

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Skyfall, 2012

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Schindler’s List, 1993

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Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, 1982

Forgive me, I’m on a journey; this may seem simplistic and naive to you. And observations like this don’t always have a practical application, but I suppose this one made me mindful of the importance of choosing my loyalties. Remembering that the measure of my loyalty is my action.  And it redefined what I look for and value in others.

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Office Space, 1999

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Léon: The Professional, 1994

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Cinema Paradiso, 1988

The ebb and flow of loyalties can make us feel joyful and loved, or drop us into profound sorrow. But a life filled with mutual, positive loyalties is filled with meaning, and I’m not sure there is anything more important in the world.

 

The Art of Conquering Problems at Work

All workplaces are rife with challenge and friction. Competitiveness and politics abound. Simply existing in a company that does what companies tend to do to their employees can weigh one down and demoralize. Although there are aspects of our jobs that we enjoy it’s more likely that what we take home and talk about is the worry and obsession about the things that we wish were different.

There are all sorts of conditions in a company that at various times and in many ways make most of us feel demoralized, under appreciated, and generally poorly managed. And these can bring us so much stress, disappointment and pressure.

But I can say with certainty that there is something you can do that will meaningfully solve those problems. I don’t mean mask them or bypass them, I mean actually, genuinely solve them to your great benefit.

It’s a two-part process, neither part works without the other. But executed together you cannot fail.

  1. do good work, and
  2. be patient

I hope you’re not annoyed by this answer. People often prefer some quick trick to gaming a system. Like reading secret body language, or using special influential words. But meaningful change is never the result of easy gimmicks.

Rather, this plan is based on raw truths and results in fundamental, healthy change. The kind that will advance your career and eliminate all those pesky corporate politics and demoralizing conditions. This degree of change requires that you have your hands on the real levers of control.

Of course there are other steps to succeeding at work, being able to recognize opportunities mainly. Opportunities to:

a) offer solutions and improvements
b) share critical opinions
c) take challenges outside your job description

But these opportunities only meaningfully come after you have mastered the big 2 – doing good work, and being patient. If you try to force these lower opportunities too early, it will be mistimed – the machine won’t be ready for you. You won’t be taken seriously, and/or your suggestions and comments will fall into the din of daily business. The machine has to be ready, primed. When it is, when the time is right, you will find your opportunities. Indeed, they will come to you. And your comments will then carry weight and meaning. Suddenly you will have control and impact.

Do Good Work

This should be your mantra. It should blow above every negative feeling work is delivering to you.

  • Are machinations in the company making you feel victimized?
  • Are you getting lame projects?
  • Do you feel your supervisor is an undeserving idiot?
  • Are the company processes (or lack thereof) causing chaos and confusion?
  • Is there some person you feel is bypassing you only by hiding weaknesses and playing politics?
  • Is the whole company such a mess that you don’t even know where to start?

Whatever has you wound up, you must allow yourself to ignore the feelings these conditions engender for now. Because you can’t do good work if you think that way. No, really, you can’t. You may think you have your mind under control, but trust me here, if you approach your day with these thoughts in mind, you won’t be doing the best work you can do.  You will be distracted and some percentage of your attention and energy will be misdirected.

Doing good work requires joyful immersion, passion, and focus. Most importantly a belief that you will succeed. Your mind must be on your project and the unique greatness that only you can bring to what you do.

Doing good work requires joyful immersion, passion, and focus. Most importantly a belief that you will succeed.

You aren’t capable of greatness if you feel beaten down by these conditions. If you see annoying work obstacles as barriers, as opposed to mere hurdles that you are capable of leaping over with creativity and persistence.

So you need to accept them for what they are and let go. Embrace the ambiguity. The good news is it’s all going to change anyway. You are eventually going to help usher in that change. So why worry about it? Just take note and let it go, in time it will work itself out and blow away in the best possible way.

But only if you do good work. Your best. And not just once. That’s never enough. You need to do good work many times. And that’s why you need to:

Be Patient

See, your emotion and thought processes have a given metabolism. It’s actually a pretty fast metabolism, relatively speaking. But companies, and the systemic problems they experience, have a much slower metabolism. Much slower. So where you see a problem, and perhaps its solution, and where that maybe took you a few hours, a day or a week – for a company that week was a split second to which it is incapable of responding in kind. Companies are big, slow, dumb animals. They lumber. Information has to travel from person to person. Meaning and urgency has to build. Even the smallest, nimblest, most aggressive of companies lumber compared to your individual gnat-like emotions and decisions.

Companies are not individuals that can reason. They are systems- composed of budget plans, contracts, and relationships that must run their course and expire before any given change can occur. So of course real change is a slow process.

So don’t fight that, be patient. It just takes time for good work to have an impact. But rest assured – it does.

Young workers often regard one year in a company to be a reasonably long time. A duration within which his or her working conditions should improve, promotions granted, the ability to affect corporate change, etc. But here, our young worker is being grossly impatient. In truth, as most of your seasoned mentors will tell you, one year spent in a company is merely the cost of learning enough about a company not to say dumb things. Offering truly good ideas requires a deep, intimate understanding of the company, its business, and its inner workings. And this typically takes at least a year. Any employer who expects more from an employee must be himself, inexperienced.

In the meantime, listen, watch, and do good work.

When you do good work a number of things happen around you:

  • good work sits in contrast to mediocre work (which itself usually abounds),
  • good work helps the company, your department, your boss, and the world,
  • good work gets noticed
  • most importantly, good work causes people (your supervisor and management) to ask questions, “can I have some of that?”, “why didn’t the last project turn out that well?”, “what was different on this project?” “What can we do to make sure we always get this result?”, “why has that department been doing such good work all year, and the others not so much?” Etc.

And this is how companies change. This methodical awakening is how they improve.

Sometimes they don’t know why the work was better. Maybe that self-promoting worker convinced them the reason the project worked out was because he was involved. Even though it was your good work that made it so. Don’t worry about this. It all gets resolved in time. This is the power of patience and consistently delivering good work. Good work and patience is a relentless force within the context of corporate nature. And over time there are simply too many opportunities for your good work to slip through the cracks into plain view. And conversely for any subverter’s weaknesses or negativity to become exposed.

Good work and patience is a relentless force within the context of corporate nature.

You’re long on to your next project or two before any of these conversations happen. Again because the corporate metabolism is so much slower than yours. But be patent.

Maybe it will take 3 or 8 really good projects before these questions are asked and your trail is sniffed out. But eventually it will. It’s inevitable.

In the meantime you must continue doing good work- that’s your trail. Don’t worry, you may think you have a boss who takes credit for everything you do, but keep doing good work and be patient, and the trail will stay warm. No such boss has ever been able to maintain such an illusion for long.

See, when those questions are asked, you can go back up to that list of corporate crazy-making conditions and every one of them will change under the force of good work and patience.

Doing good work and being patient is how you ensure poor performers get fired or reassigned, it’s how necessary systems and incentives get put in place or change, it’s how you earn better more important projects, it’s how great people get promoted and recruited, it’s how other staff members learn to respect your process and your work, and it’s how the company succeeds. It’s how you will eventually be consulted to see what can be done to make the company better – and not in some empty, feel-good, “team-building retreat” way either, but the real kind, in a quiet executive office, where decisions get made, and where they will really care, because you do such good work.

Do good work and be patient.

It all works out. You just need to embrace the ambiguity of the current condition for a while. Embrace the fact that the company is not right-configured at the moment. It will change. It will.

I’m sorry if this sounds horribly tedious and tiresome. But this is the real way, no tricks, sure and steady.

Patiently and consistently doing good work will present you with the opportunities to solve every problem you see today.

It’s a fact of corporate reality- your good work will make it so. You just can’t give up.

The Social Network 2: Social Guesswork

The Interactivist has obtained the following pages from the upcoming sequel to The Social Network.

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Title: The Social Network 2: Social Guesswork

Scene 27b

 

INT. FACEBOOK HQ CONFERENCE ROOM, DAY.

We see a pair of bloodshot eyes. We ZOOM OUT to reveal Mark Zuckerberg staring into space.  ZUCK sits at huge black conference table surrounded by middle-aged people who probably used to be cool.

On the table in front of him sits an Oculus Rift developer’s kit. …Right behind 37 lines of cocaine.

ZUCK chews his lip nervously.  Finally he speaks in short quick clip…

ZUCK: That’s cool.

The room nods.

MIDDLE-AGED PERSON WHO PROBABLY USED TO BE COOL #1: Very cool.

ZUCK does a quick line of coke – grimaces – and pounds the table. Everyone jumps.

ZUCK: Whooo! Yeah – THIS… (he points at Rift) THIS – is totally awesome.

His eyes dart across the room in spastic jerks.

ZUCK: It’s awesome, right?

People nod.

ZUCK: I mean, and I’m just doing my magic here, could you imagine… just imagine… if THIS… was Facebook’s “iPhone”.

Inhales heard around the room.

RANDOM PERSON: Wow.

ZUCK: Right?

CTO, MIKE SCHROEPFER, sitting across table, squints disconcertedly.

ZUCK: What!? Shit, seriously? What, Mike? Fuck you’re such a downer!

CTO MIKE: I didn’t even say anything…

ZUCK: I see your eyes! You don’t think I see your eyes getting all squinty and judgmental??

CFO DAVID EBERSMAN: That’s not fair.

ZUCK: Oh, you too?!? You’re an even bigger downer David!

CFO DAVID: Mark, we’re just looking out for the company.

ZUCK: Oh, I’m sorry, so you’re not a downer!? Oh ok, lets see, uh, Instagram wasn’t the future, and it was too expensive. Paper was a lame app, and it was too expensive. These are your words! QUOTE! WhatsApp is “JUST” another app – it will get replaced by some other app in a year or two and was galactically, monumentally too expensive… and… and – what am I missing?

SHERYL SANDBERG: (snorts line of coke) Facebook has no vision and is randomly grasping to find relevance?

ZUCK: Right Sheryl, thank you! – Facebook has no vision and is randomly grasping to find relevance. Your words, David.

CFO DAVID: Look I’m… I’m being honest. And Mike agrees with me.

MIKE SCHROEPFER looks down at his hands.

ZUCK: What are you even doing here David?

CFO DAVID: I just want to help Facebook Mark.

ZUCK: (stares) …well you’re a fucking downer, David. A complete fucking Debbie Downer.

The room is silent.

ZUCK does 8 lines of coke.

ZUCK: Fuck – even the coke doesn’t UN-DOWN you guys! OK WHAT!? What’s wrong with it?!

CTO MIKE: um… well – I mean it’s cool, yes. But It’s not a platform, Mark.

All eyes back on ZUCK.

ZUCK: What do you mean it’s not a platform!? Have you ever experienced that before??

CTO MIKE: No, but Oculus Rift owns no content, you use this device to interact with someone else’s content. The content exists on a computer and probably over the internet. Manufacturing devices like this has nothing to do with creating and owning the experiences people will have in the future any more than manufacturing headphones has to do with creating and owning the music people listen to. If you want to own the social experience as VR emerges, you needed to create the killer software experiences that people will use. Lots of companies will make headsets like these. It’s like a DVD player, it’s dumb hardware! This headset in no way buys you into the world of VR enhanced social networking. Oculus Rift is… well, it’s just a peripheral. Like headphones and monitors. The content is the experience.

Long silence. ZUCK’S eye dart around the room. He looks at some 17-YEAR-OLD-LAWYER-LOOKING-KID who shrugs.

ZUCK: FUCK!! …Why the fuck didn’t you tell me that before I bought it?!

Gasps around the room.

CFO DAVID: WHAT!? You already bought it? Oh God.

ZUCK: Well fuck David, you’re always such a downer – I didn’t want you in the room. … I did it this morning.

CFO DAVID: But you only saw the device for the first time yesterday…! Did you talk to anyone??? Oh Christ – how much did you spend this time??!

ZUCK: Less than last time.

CFO DAVID: Mark. Look at me. Last time you bought an iPhone app for the price of a small country. What – did – you- spend?

CFO DAVID looks around the room.

CFO DAVID: WHAT DID HE SPEND??!

17-YEAR-OLD-LAWYER-LOOKING-KID: …um 2 BMil (unintelligible)

CFO DAVID: What?! 2 what? Million?

17-YEAR-OLD-LAWYER-LOOKING-KID: eh, um no… 2 um… B… billion. 2 Billion.

Several people in the room visibly deflate.

CFO DAVID: (frozen) Good jesus christ.

CTO MIKE slumps in his chair and closes his eyes, visibly shaken.

We hear a loud snort and ZUCK sucks up another line of coke.

ZUCK: SHIT YEA! (laughs maniacally – coke all over his nose) AWESOME, RIGHT? FUCK YEA! WE CAN PUT OUR LOGO ON IT MAN! FACEBOOK! RIGHT THERE BRO!

CFO DAVID: …right where the user won’t see it because it’s covering his FUCKING EYES, MARK!

ZUCK: You don’t think I know that?! I KNOW THAT! And that’s why…. (sly smile) we also put advertising… in the fuckin’ content, baby!

CTO MIKE: …in the content. (sighs) Right, um, Mark, the content doesn’t… it’s not running in this device – it’s just showing up there! The content is running on a computer.

ZUCK: (stares, beat) Well why not? We can just make a smaller computer and cram it in there! CRAM – IT – RIGHT – IN! WHOO!

He snorts more coke.

CTO MIKE: (under breath) Jesus christ. (to ZUCK like talking to a child) Mark, the kind of experiences that people will want to see on a VR device – and there will be many other VR devices on the market to choose from – will, for the foreseeable future require a lot more processing power than you can cram into this thing. Like in gaming, where resolution and responsiveness of VR is a moving target. A bigger box will always yield a superior experience. Which is why people will prefer having a cable – connected to a bigger game box that gives them a way more kick ass experience, than having a self-contained device that runs 10-year-old looking graphics and laggy response times. Again – this device is not VR. This device is only a peripheral that serves it up. Advertising can exist in the software – and if you, Mark, really have a vision for how Facebook can be enhanced by VR, you should have started making that software – WITHOUT ever having to buy this device.

Long pause.

ZUCK: But it’s FUCKING COOL MIKE! NOW WE’LL BE COOL AGAIN, MAN! DON’T YOU GUYS GET IT?  See YOU’RE OLD, and I’M YOUNG!  I HAVE a vision man! I’m gonna hang them all over the place! Sheryl!!!

SHERYL: (finishes a huge line of coke) uhf! Yeah? (closes eyes) Oh Shit.

ZUCK: Everywhere I like to chill with my board homies – I want to see these badasses hung all over the walls – decorate the fuck out of HQ Sharon. Shit this is going to be the coolest batch-eh-lor pad in da world holmes! OCULUS RIFT WALLPAPER BABY!

CFO DAVID: Mark…

ZUCK: And YOU! You don’t even get one David. You either, Mike! ‘Cause you’re totally blowing my high, bitches. (Snorts another line of coke) FUCK! I LOVE BUYING SHIT FOR BILLIONS! DON’T YOU JUST FUCKING LOVE BUYING SHIT FOR BILLIONS?? FUCK!   C’mon Sheryl, I’m hungry, Let’s go buy In-N-Out Burger and Coke.

-Scene end.

WhatsApp: One More Turn of Facebook’s Very Expensive Treadmill

19 Billion is a big number. Dr.Evil big. And like Instagram before it, the WhatsApp acquisition belies Facebook’s utter desperation for relevance, and in contrast to pundits’ breathless projections, signals a likely end to Facebook’s mobile survival.

If you don’t work for Facebook, and you’re not invested in it, you are probably comfortable considering the obvious signs that the Facebook social network has been revealing a lack of relevance.

As Facebook’s users age, and become associatively uncool, the network has become less a place where young, influential, upwardly-mobile users go to “hang out”, and more a place where they “reconnect”, get updates on high school reunions, and share the occasional cute cat picture with grandparents.

Facebook made sense in a web-browser universe, back when digital social connections were still new, few, and cumbersome. But users don’t live in that world anymore, and have increasingly numerous and convenient options for connecting. This has forced Facebook scrambling to find relevance. Literally breaking itself into digestible mobile parts only to find themselves competing with a million other apps with similar attributes.

And it’s exactly this desperate scramble that has Facebook blowing 20 billion dollars on 2 mobile apps.

Mobile is… a perfect storm – one specifically designed to remove dominant players from power.

Yes, I’ve seen the amazing numbers and projections. Every investor has a slightly wide-eyed, positive spin on the Whatsapp deal, lining trajectories of popular mobile apps next to the web’s old guard. But I’m still shaking my head, certain the cards are not stacked in Facebook’s favor. Not because the current numbers aren’t impressive, but because those numbers exist in the eye of a hurricane. Those numbers only make sense so long as the landscape remains recognizable, the natural laws consistent. So long as we don’t acknowledge the inevitability of exponentially disruptive players.

The mobile world is fundamentally different than the one Facebook was born into. The metabolism of business is rapidly increasing before our eyes. There are dominant and unpredictable forces swirling around every business today – let alone those that exist solely on objects of convenience, like mobile apps.

The democratization of development and distribution makes the mobile app ecosystem a whole new world. Never before in history have there been so many competing software developers with so much power to utterly disrupt. The distance between market dominance and failure is now one person, and a day.

Add to this that the very existence of an app store as the portal of distribution, concentrates attention on the value of new discoveries. On trying new apps that might be better than, say, whatever you use today. Face it, app stores are like news outlets; old news isn’t good for business.

Face it, app stores are like news outlets; old news isn’t good for business.

And here you have a perfect storm – one specifically designed to remove dominant players from power. Once you’ve enjoyed a run, the entire ecosystem is optimized to make room for the next thing.

Take the case of Dong Nguyen, a developer in Vietnam who created FlappyBird. In a few days. Single-handedly. One guy. Unpredictably it quickly became the most downloaded game in the iOS app store, and the Android version, released later, was catching up. Was that predictable? Did Rovio or King see that upset coming? How many people stopped playing Angry Birds to addictively play Flappy Bird? Lucky for them Nguyen inconceivably pulled the app from both platforms. A virtual get out of jail free card for every other contender. But see, it was predictable. Because this is the very nature of the mobile app landscape.

Facebook’s 19 Billion dollar deal does not appear to take into account the high likelihood – the inevitability rather – that some deceivingly simple upstart app, like WhatsApp and Instagram before it, will come along and do something different, better, cooler. Just enough that it gets attention, gets downloaded, spreads, and eclipses or replaces the old ones.

Mobile apps are not platforms, they are disposable instances, they are trends. The sturdy limitations that held Microsoft Office in place for so long do not exist here. Nor are the ones that have continued to keep Facebook warm on the web. Every popular 3rd party mobile app is destined to face an unprecedented, massive and relentless onslaught of unpredictable new ideas from divergent competition.

I’m not sure how many multi-Billion dollar app acquisitions Facebook is prepared to close over the next 5-7 years, but I can tell you with absolute certainty that WhatsApp is far from the last app acquisition Facebook will have to make to retain a position of relevance in mobile users’ lives. Far from it. If indeed sheer acquisition of disruptive apps is to remain the sole successful basis of Facebook’s mobile strategy – they’re on a very expensive treadmill.