What’s been going on…

Thanks for your patience while I was having my little fun here on the blog. hopefully you were at least somewhat amused. Perhaps your curiosity piqued a bit.

If you haven’t figured it out (perhaps by reading this article or even noticed that I made Techcruch for some reason I can’t fathom) today was my last day at HP/Palm/webOS GBU. Because we didn’t announce that I was leaving until the day before it happened, I couldn’t exactly talk about it here on the blog. I felt talking about unrelated stuff was — it just seemed wrong to carry on about apertures or unrelated topics with an unseen elephant standing in the room, but I didn’t want the blog to go completely silent for too long, because that in itself raises questions and gets noticed. (as an aside, I got my name mis-spelled two different ways in those three articles. I’m amused, and even better, it allows you to easily track where all of the “me too” sites go to do their “original journalism”).

I felt strongly that the developers should hear about this  from me, on the forums and hear it that way first. In this day and age of the internet, that’s surprisingly difficult, but we pulled it off. As it turned out, the timing of my change ended up tracking right up against Meg’s decision on the future of webOS and the webOS teams, and that made this even more complicated.  But Meg was willing to step up to fund webOS and give it a life in Open Source, and now everyone back at the office is trying to understand how to make that work.

I fully support that decision, and I look forward to cheerleading the effort from my new place on the sidelines. Now that I no longer have to speak the company line and try to avoid pissing off my bosses by improvising, I can say I think this is the best opportunity for webOS, and Meg has convinced me she understands what is going to be needed and how commitment it’s going to take. That she has worked closely with Mark Andressen (an HP board member) on this decision gives me a nice comfort level that they get it. That doesn’t mean that success is a given, only that an honest opportunity has been created. It’ll be up to the people in the webOS teams to grab the opportunity, engage the community, and everyone run with it. I think they can.

None of that changed my view that it was time to make a change (and to answer a question I’ve been asked a dozen times this week — “if this decision on Open Sourcing had come sooner, would you have stayed?” — the answer is, frankly, probably not, but part of me would have found the idea tempting); I’d been in that role for basically three years without any real change in responsibility. I was ready for more, or different, or something. That was something Richard and I had been talking about going back into late spring, on and off. When Leo decided to split off PSG and blew up HP in bizarre ways, taking out the webOS hardware teams as (as far as I can tell) collateral damage, that kind of put any talk about career paths on hold, and that holding pattern ended up being infinitely long. Once Richard decided that he couldn’t stay and ended up moving over to Nokia, it was clear to me that my situation wouldn’t be resolved for a number of months.

I know Richard and I would have worked out some growth path that would have kept me there; Leo’s decisions made that impossible. For the first month after Leo blew things up, I was telling recruiters to leave me alone. After that, being in limbo got rather stressful and my belief that we’d end up in a good and stable place (and with jobs) kept shrinking. Recruiters kept calling, and I started listening, and this one company caught my eye, we talked, and the rest is, well — it’s what’s next. I’m not going to go into details yet (sorry, Arthur); I’m going to enjoy my time off and relax a bit. there’s plenty of time for talking about that.

I will say that it is (a) not Nokia [but the day Richard joined Nokia, I rang him up and said “let’s talk”. we did, at some length. But I was fairly far along the process, and I felt it was a better direction for me to go. But of all of the places I chatted with, Nokia was my second choice and I likely would have gone there if I didn’t take the job I did — I think there’s some really interesting challenges and potential there). The new gig is also not in the mobile space (I’m headed back into an enterprise-oriented situation, and yes, it’s community oriented). I’m ready for a break from the politics of phones and carriers and similar joys, too.

In the short term, I’m going to spend a little time with my birding and my camera, with christmas (and christmas shopping), and doing some prep work. I’ll be starting the new gig next week, to sit down and get a start on mapping plans and strategies, and then off for christmas with the family. then back in January in with both feet and onward into whatever this is going to turn into.

(and in case anyone really cares, I’m thinking of headed down to Struve Slough and Jetty Road on thursday, and spending all day Friday out in Panoche Valley chasing mountain plovers and chukars for my life list. Plans which may well change, but you never know; and I’m seriously considering a saturday run out to Merced and San Luis NWR for a shot at some sunset work and the fly-in. Or maybe not….)

There’s plenty of blog fodder here to keep us busy, too.

To everyone on my old team at HP, and all of the folks I worked with there — thanks for everything, for making it a fight worth fighting and helping me enjoy being there even on the bad days. I’ll miss you all. To all my devs — thanks for your time, your energy and commitment, and your willingness to let me get away with saying “I don’t know” or “I can’t tell you” way more often than I wish I had. You made everything worth it, and you did great stuff. Please continue that in the future, because I’m rooting for you all, even if I’m not part of the fight any more.

And now, onward.





Posted in About Chuq

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

I’ve finally finished Walter Isaacson’s book on Steve Jobs. Having worked at Apple through much of the time covered in the book, I was curious how my view of the time and events matched up with this — the official — version, and to try to get some perspective on the man behind all of this.

I’m happy (and a bit surprised) to say that I found nothing in the book that was demonstrably wrong compared to reality as I remembered it; this is no sanitized, “remember me fondly” hollywood bio; Steve seems to have played fair with Isaacson, and Isaacson played fair with Steve.

You get Steve unfiltered. The book brings clear a complex man; not easy to work with, but not evil. Just — insensitive. I can speak to many people who cursed having to deal with him at times; and after, loved him for having brought out the best in them along the way. The Steve in the book matches up well with the Steve I came to know through living in Silicon Valley and working at Apple. He was an exceptionally intelligent person, but more so, an exceptionally intuitive man who could make that jump directly from point A to the end point, and wasn’t afraid to take those leaps without endless masses of data to justify them. He was also right often enough that he was allowed to do this, even though this can be a scary way of operating to people who aren’t strongly intuitive.

And yet I found myself fighting to get through the book. Unlike some of Isaacson’s other works, this book feels flawed and somewhat lifeless.

I don’t think this is Isaacson’s fault. Unlike some of his other biographies (I especially loved his book on Franklin), the material here is new, it hasn’t been given the benefit of time to smooth off the raw edges or any chance at perspective and consideration that helps us understand what really matters in the essence of the man. I also get the feeling that since so many of the other people involved in this book are alive, Isaacson stepped carefully through various minefields; it feels like there are punches being pulled, that people are being careful — but may not even realize it’s happening. The frustration that Bill Gates showed at some of the comments Steve made is one place where this breaks through, but even there, I think both sides watch their words, knowing posterity was watching, and I think that “carefulness” invades many of the relationships in the book.

That’s inevitable in a book like this, and I’m not criticizing Isaacson for it. I do feel like he was still grappling with the material, still really trying to get his head around the material and Steve and how to write the book, and the end result is that parts of the book, especially later parts, are missing the perspective and analysis I expect from this author. This is a book that would have been better suited to a year of incubation, giving him more of a chance to ponder and polish.

It is, however, a massive and fascinating source of material about Steve, Apple, and Silicon Valley at a seminal time where the people and companies here changed society in so many ways.

My criticisms here are minor — give the book a B-, maybe (where I’d give the Franklin book an easy A-). If you’re at all interested in what has gone on behind the keynotes and product introductions, then this is a definite read for you. But there’s a bigger, better book on Silicon Valley and Steve to be writen, but one that is going to need five or ten years for us to understand Steve in the larger context and let time help us see him after time salves some of the raw emotions so many of us have felt in the last few months.

This is a good book, but not a great book. It is, I think, the best book Isaacson could have written right now, and it’s definitely worth your time (but also go grab the Franklin book, to see Isaacson at his best).

(addendum, added later, but before publication:

One thing that struck me in reading the book was Jobs saying he wanted the book to exist so his kids could read about him and learn who he was. In similar situations, very few of us would think to call up Walter Isaacson and tell him to write our biography. Steve did (and Walter did, because he’s Steve, and this is an important book about an important person). But it seems to me there’s a deeper meaning to this; while most of us would solve this problem by sitting down with our kids and talking, at some level, Steve realized he couldn’t, that he just wasn’t wired that way. I also get the impression that because he insisted on this book being honest, and his flaws weren’t hidden or glossed over, that at some level this book was in Steve’s way also a way of acknowledging he wasn’t the greatest father in the world, and in the kind of act only someone like Steve would do, apologizing to his kids for being what he was, in public. And I think that sums up the Steve we’re seeing in the book: a very complex person who both had flaws and recognized them — but couldn’t overcome them. He was who he was. And he couldn’t just sit down with his kids and explain himself or say I’m sorry. But he could stand up in a very public display and do that — which if you think about it, is a very powerful way to show that you really mean it when you say “i’m sorry” for being what he was to them.)



Posted in For Your Consideration Tagged , , , |

Losing a Friend…

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As if life hasn’t been — interesting — enough the last few months (gee thanks, Leo), a couple weeks ago we saw that Archie, one of the cats, was starting to lose weight and seemed to be sleeping more. We kept an eye on him, and a bit over a week ago got him into the vet to get checked out. The last week has been more or less an endless stream of talks with the vets, visits to the vets, tests, waiting for test results, and generally stressing out and all of the things involved with waiting and not knowing.

Friday, we finally got the results back from a test that gave us a definitive answer, although not the one we wanted; Archie had advanced intestinal cancer that had clearly started spreading. We made the tough call and said goodbye.

Archie’s been our companion for over 14 years; if we forged his kennel papers he’d pass for a Maine Coon, but he was a feral rescue and we know mom looked nothing like he did. He had that feral “run first” timidness, and wasn’t particularly friendly to strangers, but once he got to know someone, he was a helpless lap cat.

We’re now a one cat family, and honestly, that cat prefers that, so we won’t be bringing in a kitten now.

We are going to miss him greatly, but from what we can tell he was never in pain and never suffered.

So it hasn’t been a fun couple of weeks here in Chateau Plaidworks. if I’ve missed an email or been slow to reply, I apologize. Hopefully, with the holiday arriving, we’ll get our batteries recharged a bit and get back on it.



Posted in About Chuq

My thoughts on Steve in the Guardian

Since I’ve written about Apple for the Guardian in the past, they reached out and asked if I would again.

It’s now live on their site, and I wanted to point you at it and include a copy of what I wrote here:

Try to imagine today’s society if Steve didn’t exist. Can you? The Apple II. the Macintosh. The mouse. Making computers accessible to non-technical people in general. Reinventing the music industry with iPod and iTunes, over the express wishes of the industry. Beginning a similar reinvention of film and video. Revitalising animation with Pixar. Reinventing the personal communication industry with the iPhone. And most recently the iPad. He was a fundamental part of so many societal changes, any one of which would make most people’s careers.

I am who I am today because of Steve, through the companies and the products and the technologies he fostered; more importantly, because of the people he brought in and mentored who turned into people that mentored me. Because of the thinking and attitudes he promoted and inoculated that became key parts of what I’ve become. I’m the person I am because of Steve and what he did, the opportunities he created, and the attitudes and expectations he baked into those around him.

I almost ran over Steve once outside of Infinite Loop 1 as I was coming in for a meeting and he popped into the street without really looking, [iPod division chief] Jon Rubinstein and [iTunes chief] Eddy Cue in tow. He almost returned the favour once as he drove in to work as I was in the same crosswalk.

Steve could be a tough and very intimidating person, but as much as he demanded of others, he demanded more of himself. He was involved in one of my projects at Apple, and I used to watch the team scramble as Steve reviewed ad copy hours before a launch and mark up changes. He was that involved in the details, and he was always right.

Now Steve has left us, but his memory and his legacy live on, and they will continue to drive and shape the world we live in for years to come. Nobody can replace Steve Jobs – he was unique. Each of us can choose to do something to fill a small part of the void he’s left. If we do, we will help fulfil the legacy he started in trying to make the world better for all of us. I am a better person for having lived under his influence, and I can never pay that back, but I can try to carry that forward in his




Posted in About Chuq

The Passing of an era and a hero



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Words don’t fail me often. they do now. Here’s what I wrote back in August. Rest in Peace.



Posted in About Chuq