Mishmash of stuff that I found interesting over the past months

I thought I’d kick-start this blog with a single post that kind of goes at high speed over happenings of the last several months (since fall 2012) in various industries.

Let’s start with Scott Forstall’s ouster from Apple.

Mr. Forstall worked with Steve Jobs starting at NeXT and then at Apple 2.0 (1997-). You couldn’t work for Mr. Jobs for such a long period without being a bit of a genius at what you do.

“I’m brutally honest, because the price of admission to being in the room with me is I get to tell you your full of shit if you’re full of shit, and you get to say to me I’m full of shit, and we have some rip-roaring fights. And that keeps the B players, the bozos, from larding the organization, only the A players survive. And the people who do survive, say, ‘Yeah, he was rough.’ They say things even worse than ‘He cut in line in front of me,’ but they say, ‘This was the greatest ride I’ve ever had, and I would not give it up for anything.'” – Steve Jobs (1)

So I think it’s safe to assume Mr. Forstall’s ouster wasn’t due to lack of skills. That said, shifting from Google Maps to their own maps app Maps wasn’t exactly seamless. And there’s the debate on skeuomorphic designs. But the closest to an official reason that we got, to my knowledge, is this:

“… and there can’t be politics. I despise politics. There is no room for it in a company. My life is going to be way too short to deal with that. No bureaucracy. We want this fast-moving, agile company where there are no politics, no agendas.” – Tim Cook (2)

Whatever the reason, there’s no question Mr. Forstall out of Apple is a huge thing for the future of iOS. We’ll just have to wait and see what he ends up doing next. Ex-Apple Bertrand Serlet is ‘working on a mystery startup‘. Tony Fadell is doing Nest and is already finding lots of success. There’s no guarantee, however, that ex-Apple people achieve significant success (relative to their own high standards). Case in point: Jon Rubinstein’s technically brilliant but commercially unsuccessful stint at Palm before it was bought by HP under Leo Apotheker’s reign and killed for good. There’s also the more recent example of Ron Johnson’s ouster from jcp over his failed quest to revamp the 100-odd year old retailer. Said Adam Lashinksy of Apple’s environment:

“Lack of extracurricular activities breeds focus, but it also fosters insularity.”

He cites in his book an un-named ex- Apple executive who said thus:

“I fundamentally believe that people who stay too long can’t work anywhere else… it doesn’t translate into real life.”

But all said about Mr. Forstall, I’m very much looking forward to Jony Ive’s take on the iOS UI. There are no shortage of rumors about how Mr. Ive’s iOS is going to be ‘flat’. We’ll see.

Next, it’s the rather spectacular Marc Marquez.

He wiped the floor with the rest of them at Austin in pre-season testing. He’s the youngest-ever race winner (beating the likes of Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo). He leads the rider’s championship ahead of his teammate (for a Repsol Honda 1-2. What a great start for the team.) And what about his bloody awesome ‘park’ in the midst of the Lorenzo corner in Jerez this weekend. This guy is super. MotoGP is interesting yet again.

Third is Honda’s first diesel engine for India.

On paper, it seems to be an amazing engine. It’s a 1.5 L engine with 100 bhp and 25 km/l (granted, under ‘test’ conditions) and that’s quite incredible. However, I think the name of the car (‘Amaze’) and the styling are a bit unfortunate. The front-end is too short and too tall. It seems to me Honda were rather anxious about meeting pedestrian safety norms that are non-existent in India.

“To protect the head, the bonnet top area needs to be able to deflect. It is important that sufficient clearance is provided above the stiff structures beneath, which would stop this deflection.” (3)

I’m sure Honda is going to sell this car by the bucket-load. There’s no question Honda are going to give the Swift Dzire a run for its money. But I don’t feel any passion for this car.

Fourth is the huge build-up to the Galaxy S4’s launch and then a bit of a downer after it.

It reminded me of Qualcomm’s infamous CES keynote. In a sense I wasn’t surprised by Samsung’s extravaganza. It’s the same thing with their software:

“And boy, is there a lot going on. There are now 18 (yes, 18) toggles in the notification pulldown, which you can see by pressing a new button at the top right — it opens up a command center of sorts, which lets you turn off everything from Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to some of the wilder eye-tracking features. I kind of wish there were a Medium mode that would take away all the Minority Report stuff, and just leave a more normal Android phone.” David Pierce, The Verge

I like HTC’s approach to Android better.

Lastly, it’s Formula 1 stuff.

Lots to talk about here. There’s the stick Pirelli is getting from Red Bull. There’s McLaren’s shocking start to this season. There’s Checo’s elbow in Bahrain.

But I just have one thing to say: I don’t like how DRS is making overtaking much easier without any penalty. It wasn’t the same thing in the 80s with turbo-boost. Sure, using the ‘boost’ button gave the drivers a boost in overtaking, but they had to be careful because (1) it gulped fuel (2) too much of ‘boost’ would blow the engine. DRS doesn’t come close to imposing those sorts of penalties. It’s a bit artificial at the moment. And I don’t like it that FIA has control over its usage. It’s racing and it should be kept simple: the control should be with the teams and the drivers. The FIA should find some other way to police it.

(1) http://allaboutstevejobs.com/sayings/stevejobsquotes.php

(2) http://www.businessinsider.com/tim-cook-why-i-fired-scott-forstall-2012-12

(3) http://www.euroncap.com/Content-Web-Page/ed4ad09d-1d63-4b20-a2e3-39192518cf50/pedestrian-protection.aspx

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