iPad Academy NW
Thinking the possible……….
“It’s the way we sell’em”
Bicycle for the mind
ICT that sells itself
“Changing One Person at a Time” was once a proud mantra that Apple supporters voiced, and yes, that was how a great deal of the spread of understanding of what Apple brought to the world became embedded. It appropriate that the mid ‘90s Apple tagline still fits – except, today, that “One Person at a Time” has become a torrent as self-discovery, and the underlying message that “it works” renders others like rabbits in headlights. Apple is upon us, and you either dodge or hop on board.
Think about Apple for a moment. As a company it focused on two key stakeholder communities in the recent past – The professional end of the Creative and Design sector, and on Education. These communities were almost seemingly diagonally opposite each other (which confused the heck out of industry pundits later), but stop and think for a moment. What was common here? Apple? Certainly, because Apple does what Apple sees is the place to be seen. This was about an expansive range and type of computer (ICT) uses, but underlying it was a set of principles that you, as a computer user either “got” or “didn’t get”. A computer is a computer isn’t it? This was not an either - or proposition. This was about making the very best product, whatever the cost to do so, and if necessary it’ll mean some potential computer users will find the reasons for decisions on how they are made somewhat difficult top comprehend. The “Computer for the Rest of Us” was the earlier strap line still. Remember that?
"Design is a word that's come to mean so much that it's also a word that has come to mean nothing. We don't really talk about design, we talk about developing ideas and making products"
Jonathan Ive, the London-born Head of Design (developing ideas and making products) for Apple.
Apple, and Jobs in particular knew he had to take a totally new approach – and preconceptions of what a computer was had to be broken. Apple had to innovate by bringing together a whole series of small changes that ultimately changed the face of computing forever, but none of which could have had the same impact on its own. That was the brilliance of Jobs (and his team). It was the ability to step back, with the knowledge of what was possible, and to see potential routes to new ways of doing things, to satisfying needs in an industry yet to really find its feet, and create maps that others emulated (copied) and explored. Apple did listen to customers, but it also realised that those customers were locked into a vision of the work that operated traditionally, was constrained by “machine” restrictions, but that needed to be free to be creative and able to develop ideas, study, share – and it developed iteratively. The secret was to be several steps ahead in terms of what would be possible, to listen to the customer, and to understand what could provide solutions to their problems (and desires). It was to place a lot of safe bets, to be willing to change perceptions and to boldly go where....., Well you get my point. Apple never just sat back and watched, but was and is always in that place just over the horizon - willing to look back and see the market developing.
Mega Hertz Mega Hurts or Mega Hearse?
Mhz is not just about speed of a computer doing things (Millions of operations per second) , it’s better using the power of a machine to do things BETTER, more intelligently. Apple used to use the image of a cyclist as part of a wonderful marketing campaign, where the Mac was thought of as a “Bicycle for the Mind”. The idea was never fully explained to me, but I saw it as accessible, easy to come to terms with, fun and more than anything else, fun.
I love the example given by Nitin Pradhan, CIO at the US Department of Transportation, when he referred to the car industry of the 60s - and innovation. He said “Like an internal combustion engine, you need spark then compression to generate horsepower. ..... ideas spark change – experienced experts manage change.” Well, Apple has always been a “young company”. It has always been a systems/design thinking company.
So, no hearse needed here then.
Preventing “evaporation” while growing the pool
Apple, in its early days, focused a great deal of attention on education. It gave away computers, but much more importantly, it brought in expertise from teaching and learning to help it develop the right sorts of products to help open up learning opportunities. It used its professional starting point in the creative print arena to bring educators an environment in which they could engage learners and encourage creativity in ways other platforms had to follow. In the USA there was the development of the ACOT programme (Apple Classroom of Tomorrow) which explored what could be achieved by learners given access to rich ICT environments. It trained teachers, and eventually it trained teachers to train teachers with the Apple Distinguished Programme. Along the way, with the development of the internet and the web, Apple developed products that delivered information and collaborative spaces for educators to exchange ideas and work in cooperation. In all cases these were free. In the UK, the Scots grabbed the Apple Classroom of Tomorrow programme and made terrific leaps with Apple, yet in England and Wales, with the Government focus on the BBC Microcomputer, the opportunity was all but missed. That was such a shame. In or around 2000 Apple embarked on a huge teacher training initiative in Scotland training over 10,000 teachers as part of the New Opportunities Fund Programme. I know (and it still gives me a kick) I ran that for Apple UK.
Universities and College were the recipients of a great deal of funding in the nineties and into the early naughties, much of that funding arising from European Regeneration Funding and cross European Development. Apple (in the UK) was able to work with several major projects by assisting with ingenious and generous funding.
Apple UK was the founding sponsor of NAITFE (now NILTA) in FE.
Apple UK supported the first IMS programme in Europe (University of Wales, Bangor led)
Apple UK was the only external supporting sponsor of FEDA’s QUILT, FE teacher training programme.
Apple UK supported NAACE
Apple supported UCISA
Apple supported ALT
Apple supported DIME
Each of these (and it is not at all exhaustive) relationships was an investment in customers at a time when the story for Apple was mixed, but when dedicated followers needed to know Apple was there for them. Today, life is much easier. Apple is now established, and far from a niche that needs to explain its existence.
New users - they are lining up as Apple has reached that point on the acceptance curve that means momentum, to a certain extent, powers it. Alas, the newer users will not have the sort of extensive experiences of the hard fought days when I, for one was asked at an interview, “How did you feel, working for a failed IT company”.
I think people today, and new Apple converts may be less inclined to see the reasoning, but they understand that products that just work are products worth using. It is not rocket science really, and somehow I cannot feel anything but sadness for those, supposedly intelligent and switched on ‘experts’” who still do not “Get It”.
“Apple might be the world’s most valuable company, with a market capitalisation of $556bn (£354bn), but its design chief insists it is not in business for the money.”
The Telegraph 30th July 2012
Shigeo Shingo (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shigeo_Shingo) said that when you’re trying to improve things it should be easier, better, faster, cheaper in that order.
I once had a badge from Apple that just had a red logo, and the words “I Get IT”. Surely that is what everyone wants to do?
John Rudkin BEd(Hons) Design Education