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SAN FRANCISCO -- When Steve Jobs adopted "think different" as Apple's ( AAPL ) mantra in the late 1990s, the company's ads featured Albert Einstein, Bob Dylan, Amelia Earhart and a constellation of other starry-eyed oddballs who reshaped society. Nolan Bushnell never appeared in those tributes, even though Apple was riffing on an iconoclastic philosophy he embraced while running video game pioneer Atari in the early 1970s. Atari's refusal to be corralled by the status quo was one of the reasons Jobs went to work there in 1974 as an unkempt, contemptuous 19-year-old.
Apple has launched an initiative called "Blue Sky," which encourages employees to devote some of their time to personal pet projects. Not much is known about the program except that it allows a "small group of staffers" to spend "a few weeks" on their pet engineering projects, the Wall Street Journal reports. Apple's Blue Sky is similar to Google 's "20% Time" policy, which lets employees spend a fifth of their time working on personal projects. Google, however, is a very different company from Apple; the latter is known for being focused and tightly organized, with upper management controlling all important projects. The WSJ says the program is just one of a few new initiatives started by Apple CEO Tim Cook. Others include new employee discounts on Apple products and a charitable matching program.
On the way to the Apple Store today to buy AppleCare+ for my wife’s new iPhone 5, we passed the new Microsoft Store , coincidentally in the middle of their Surface with Windows RT launch. (That is actually the product’s name. “Surface with Windows RT”.) They had set up a table and an Xbox demo in the hallway and were giving away “Microsoft Surface”-branded disposable rain ponchos (this entire mall is indoors, including the parking, and it didn’t rain today) and muffin fragments (much like when you order a soda on a plane, they pour a third of it into a little plastic cup full of hollow ice cylinders, and they don’t let you keep the rest of the can). An employee with a microphone in front of the Xbox kiosk was talking to the audience of nobody as if it were a dance party.
You may have noticed that Apple had an event yesterday and there has been more than a little excitement around the new iPhone. It seems that the release of a new model from Apple is so influential that people are willing to suspend their disbelief entirely. Not only do they think their last iPhone will immediately become irrelevant, but they seem to take the 4S as the new phone and project the upgrades. It’s an odd reaction, but as American late-night talk host Jimmy Kimmel found out, people are willing to use their imagination when they are told they are holding the iPhone 5, even when it’s a 4S and they have one of their own. This type of trickery in tech news is not uncommon.
The new iPhone 5 has a new screen with new dimensions , and this time, making existing apps fill that space and look good isn’t just a matter of doubling dimensions of all assets like it was with the introduction of the Retina display. This time around, the change will require more varied responses, depending on what kind of app or app element you’re working with. I spoke to a couple of developers of varying technical expertise and experience, and picked their brains on what kinds of challenges people are facing in getting their apps ready for the iPhone 5. Existing unmodified apps will run fine in letterbox mode, with two black bars on each side, but users will be hungry for updated apps that show off the new screen, so developers are understandably trying hard to be ready on day one.
In his recent appearance at the All Things Digital conference , Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, had this to say about the company’s music-centric social networking service, Ping: We tried Ping and the customer voted and said, this isn’t something I want to put a lot of energy into. Some customers love it, but there’s not a huge number that do, so will we kill it? I don’t know.
Roger McNamee, the managing director and co-founder of venture capital firm Elevation Partners, has a theory about how Apple became the biggest U.S. technology growth story of all time: "The thing that made Apple successful was betting against the web," he said on stage at Mashable Connect Friday. While Google adopted the cultural norms of the wired (HTML4) web by making its mobile operating system free and commoditizing content, Apple changed the game by keeping a closed system, focusing on brands and enabling paid apps. Apple differentiated web content for a price. By doing so, McNamee believes, it created a fundamentally different model than what succeeded on the wired web.