The Pocket Supercomputer

I don’t have many regrets in life but a professional one is that I opted not to cover the unveiling of the original iPhone [pictured from my archives] for my journalism clientele despite being in the area. My wife and I were new Apple devotees and wanted to visit San Francisco, so to celebrate my birthday that year we flew from Florida to California to attend the annual MacWorld convention, where then Apple chief Steve Jobs was doing the honors.

There were actually a couple of good reasons I didn't attend the festivities that historic morning. For starters, I wasn’t keen on waiting outside for hours in the pre-dawn chilly weather [a record cold snap hit the area] and I didn’t want to leave Linda back at the hotel to navigate the several blocks to the convention center by herself. But had I realized how historic an event it was I might have been more motivated. The iPhone is the biggest selling electronic device in history, with better than 700 MILLION sold to date, or more than twice the population of America, and it has revolutionized life as we know it.

Venture into public almost anywhere across America, or the world for that matter, and you are likely to find a multitude, if not a majority, of people using the almost ubiquitous smartphone. The iPhone has become so popular that people forget the sophisticated technological breakthroughs it introduced, including touchscreen navigation among others that we now take for granted. It is no exaggeration to consider it the original pocket supercomputer.

No less than renowned venture capitalist Marc Andreessen is quoted as saying so in the recently released book Becoming Steve Jobs: The Evolution of a Reckless Upstart Into a Visionary Leader by Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli. “That iPhone sitting in your pocket is the exact equivalent of a Cray XMP supercomputer from twenty years ago that used to cost ten million dollars. It’s got the same operating system software, the same processing speed, the same data storage, compressed down to a six-hundred-dollar device. That is the breakthrough Steve achieved. That’s what these phones really are!”

According to an article by Joshua Brustein in a recent issue of Bloomburg Business titled “Inside RadioShack’s Slow-Motion Collapse,” “The cell phone also helped kill the rest of the retailer’s business by destroying the market for so many of the gadgets RadioShack used to sell, such as voice recorders, GPS devices, answering machines, and camcorders. Early last year, Steve Cichon, a writer for the website Trending Buffalo, sifted through a RadioShack ad from 1991 and found that his iPhone had negated any need for 13 of the 15 products being sold. The listed price on those items: $3,054.82.” Supercomputer indeed.

Poke the Box

Best-selling author Seth Godin has earned a reputation as an out-of-the-box thinker and his latest book called Poke the Box is no exception. The book is the first title from The Domino Project, his paradigm-shifting attempt to revolutionize publishing by simplifying the process of connecting books and readers.

Powered by Amazon, Godin’s electronic book venture is designed to be a game-changer, and while it may be too early to comment on that, Poke the Box is indeed a provocative “manifesto about starting,” as he calls it.

Godin’s mantra is start it and ship it, suggesting that he who hesitates is lost. In his own words, “soon is not as good as now.” He points out that not all flux is necessarily risky and insists that not flowing with flux may be the riskiest move of all.

“It’s easy to fall so in love with the idea of starting that we never actually start,” writes Godin in a line that hits all too close to home. According to him, when the cost of poking the box is less than the cost of doing nothing, then you should poke. And I could not agree more!

The Plenitude

While on a business trip a couple months ago I picked up an intriguing book in the MIT Press “Simplicity” series called The Plenitude: Creativity, Innovation, and Making Stuff by Rich Gold. For the uninitiated, “plenitude” means “the abundance or plentiful supply of something.” In terms of the text, it refers to all of the “stuff” we each create and consume on a daily basis.

One particularly golden gem of insight that I gleaned from the book had to do with the concept of creative artistry: “The art flows from personal vision and from a unique sense of self. To many artists, art is more a calling than a profession, though one still needs to be trained in it, and there is certainly a business side.”

That statement liberated my thinking by giving me permission to create as an artist with a uniquely personal perspective and interpretation of life as I see it and not simply as a producer of commodity. As Gold suggests, “Without artistic vision stuff tends to…commodity…and…if you are merely producing commodity, you’re dead.”

Trend Watching

It’s been a while since I shared about trends so I thought I’d highlight the latest issue of Trendwatching located at As the brief itself states, “Find out about the ‘why’ of trend spotting, the mindset required, the resources needed, the process of embedding trends into your organization and how to actually apply them.” And note that there is a big difference between watching trends and mere fads, which are here today and gone tomorrow. Trend watching, on the other hand, should ultimately lead to profitable innovation.