kottke.org posts about Next

Focus means saying 'no'Oct 20 2015

In 1997, shortly after Apple's purchase of NeXT, Steve Jobs took the stage at Apple's annual developer conference to answer questions from the audience for at least 50 minutes. It was a different time for sure. Apple was reeling, Jobs had just returned as an advisor and then interim CEO, his last company, NeXT, had not succeeded on its own, and the iPod & Apple Stores were years off.

When he arrived at Apple after the NeXT acquisition, Jobs moved swiftly to pare down the number of projects that the company was working on. In this first video, Jobs responds to a question about Apple killing a promising technology called OpenDoc.

Jobs talks about how "focus means saying 'no'" and how Apple's loss of focus has made the company less than the sum of its parts and not more. Even at this early stage in Apple's comeback, you can see the seeds of how it was going to happen.

In the second video, a later questioner tells Jobs "it's sad and clear that on several accounts you've discussed, you don't know what you're talking about", asks him to comment on OpenDoc again, and also tell the audience what "he's personally been doing for the last seven years", a reference to his answer to the earlier question in the video above and the failure of NeXT.

Instead of laying into the guy, as a caricature of Steve Jobs might, he responds thoughtfully and almost humbly about how Apple needs to focus on its "larger, cohesive vision" of selling products to people, starting with customer experience rather than technology, and most importantly, making decisions.

Of course, in hindsight, it is obvious how overwhelmingly right Jobs was in his assertions. Since then, Apple has focused relentlessly on what worked and has succeeded brilliantly, beyond anything anyone, save perhaps Jobs, would have ever imagined. I wonder what that cheeky engineer is up to now? (via alphr)

(Also, can we talk about the patches on Jobs' jeans? That's not a fashion thing, right? Like, those aren't $450 jeans made to look worn out. To me, those are obviously Steve's favorite pair of jeans -- probably Levi's, I can't tell for sure -- patched up because he wants to keep wearing them. No one in technology has been picked apart like Steve Jobs by people looking for clues to who he was as a person and how that informed his business activities.1 Was he an asshole? Was he an artist? Was he just all smoke and mirrors? If we can stoop to the level of assessing a man's character by the clothes he wears, it seems to me that whatever else he did, Jobs was at once pragmatic and dreamy when it came to products, to objects. What a potent combination that turned out to be.)

Update: The man who takes a swipe at Jobs in the later video was possibly identified on Quora last year by an anonymous person who said they worked on the WWDC event and spoke to the man in question.

The audience member is named Robert Hamisch. Mr. Hamisch was a consultant at a security firm in the 1990's that did consultant services for Sun Microsystems (their billing and payroll department) for a short period of time. As far as I know, he left the company (the consulting firm, he never worked for Sun directly) and has since retired. He attended the 1997 WWDC sponsored by his security consulting firm, although never had any stake in Sun Microsystems as a whole besides general system security for their billing and payroll department. I don't know why he specifically asked about Java, but he may have just been frustrated with Jobs and his performance as a whole.

A short web search turned up no information on Hamisch. (thx, charles)

  1. See this whole post as a prime example of this. Lol.

Restaurant ticketing systems are a hot ticketJun 09 2014

Alinea stats

For three years, Nick Kokonas's trio of eating/drinking establishments in Chicago (Next, Alinea, and Aviary) has been using a ticketed reservation system. In this epic piece, Kokonas details why they started using tickets and what the effect has been (emphasis mine):

Our ticket implementation strategy at Alinea was to create a "higher-touch" system than we had previously used at Next. Every customer buying a ticket at Alinea must include a cell phone number where we can reach them. About a week before they dine with us we call every customer to thank them for buying a ticket to Alinea, ask if they have any dietary restrictions or special needs, and generally get a feel for their expectations and whether it is a special occasion. We can, in fact, spend more time (not less) with every single one of our customers because we are only speaking with the customers we know are coming to dine with us. Previously, we answered thousands of calls from people we had to say 'no' to. Now we can take far more time to say 'yes'.

The results on Alinea's business are staggering. Bottom line EBITDA profits are up 38% from previous average years. No shows of full tables are almost non-existent and while partial no-shows still occur they are only a handful of people per week at most. That allows us to run at a far greater capacity with less food waste and more revenue.

Will be interesting to see if more restaurants adopt this model...I bet a bunch of restaurateurs' eyes lit up at the 38% increase in profit. But not every restaurant is Alinea and not every restaurateur is a clever former derivatives trader.

The first Next cookbookNov 15 2011

Now that the folks at Next Restaurant are done with their initial menu (Paris, 1906), they're giving it all away in a cookbook available exclusively for iBooks. And they're going to do the same thing for each of their menus.

Next is a restaurant like no other. Every season the menu and service explore an entirely different cuisine. Buying a ticket is the only way to get in... and the entire season sold out in a few hours. The inaugural menu took diners back to Paris: 1906, Escoffier at the Ritz for a multi-course pre fixe dinner that was described by the New York Times as "Belle Epoque dishes largely unseen on American tables for generations."

Ok, someone needs to do this: 1. Open a restaurant (in New York, say) that features old menus from Next every three months using the Next cookbooks to plan menus. 2. Call it Previous. 3. Profit!

In Next, the seeds of AppleJul 06 2011

From 1990, a NY Times article on a new factory built by Next, the company Steve Jobs started after he left Apple. The more you learn about Next, the more you realize just how much Next DNA there is in the current incarnation of Apple. The story of Apple's second coming could easily be written as the triumph of Next. This section from the middle of the article articulates perfectly Apple's current approach to manufacturing:

Indeed, critics of Mr. Jobs, who is 35 years old, say he is wasting his money by building a factory at this point. With the small number of machines he is building today, it would have been cheaper simply to contract with other companies to assemble the computers, they say.

But Dr. Piszczalski said the initial high investment in an automated factory may permit Next more control of its expenses while volumes are low.

And backers of Mr. Jobs note that he has a long-term strategy in which manufacturing makes sense. "Steve will be in business for the long pull," said H. Ross Perot, one of Next's investors. "He's not in business for six months."

Next's products have yet to gain a significant share of the marketplace, but Mr. Jobs, who has a reputation for painstaking attention to detail and a passion for the importance of manufacturing, argues that by linking this flexible factory more closely than ever to Next's research and development process, his company can gain a strategic advantage in the industry that will eventually pay off in larger sales.

In Mr. Jobs's view, the factory testifies to the fact that the United States can still compete as both a low-cost and a world-class manufacturer when it sets its mind to the task.

Mr. Jobs said he modeled the factory after those of Japanese corporations like the Sony Corporation that have perfected a design-for-manufacturing strategy that transforms the factory floor into an extension of the company research and development center.

Update: Next made a documentary on how computers are made at the new factory.

That's got to be a Hans Zimmer soundtrack, yes? (via @mgrdcm)

1993 Steve Jobs inverview about Paul RandApr 16 2010

Rand designed the NeXT logo for Jobs.

A brief history of NeXTJul 06 2005

A brief history of NeXT.

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