Tag Archives: MBA

My Apple Redemption and new Mac Sensei


I am persuaded that ThinkPad has taken its eye off the ball in the laptop category.  My beloved X301 is not being refreshed or replaced.  Time to move on.
Then Apple come out with the new MacBook Air and the decision was clear. To the right, my new MBA. Cats optional.
I spend some time looking for the right software.  The outcome is noted in Letter 1. But then it was clear that I needed to turn to my Apple Sensei, Craig Swanson, who kindly gave me his advice (Letter 2).
Craig has given me permission to reproduce his letter here.  I pass it along for others undergoing or contemplating a move to Mac.
(Let me say parenthetically that some of the Mac software is breathtaking.  The To-Do list called Things is really dazzling and an illustration of the extent to which the Mac universe escapes the "Let’s jam in another feature" logic that rules the PC world.) 
Letter 1:
I am now the proud owner of one of the new MBAs.  It is a wonderful machine.
Here’s my kit.  Any thoughts would be very much appreciated.
I am using
Zotero out of FireFox for bibliographic matters.  (They are working on a free standing version.)
Chrome for my browser
Things as my to-do list
Tweetdeck for twitter
Snagit for image capture
Apimac Timer for reminders
Microsoft Office (not the newest one)
Personal Brain to keep track of blog topics
MarsEdit for off line blog posting
Globe Trotter Connect for ATT wireless access (when out of the house)
I have a Time Capsule but can’t get it working.
Looking forward to investigating NJ!
Letter 2:
Hey Grant,

Congratulations on a new MBA… I love my MBP with SSD, makes a huge difference in performance and is the wave of the future… so your Air is really going to make you happy.
I’ll give you some comments and alts for your kit… forgive my prolixity, it’s just the only way I know.
Other than MarsEdit (which I use also, on occasion, for blog posts, though not as much now that most of my life is in Posterous and Tumblr), what do you use for writing? I would recommend, at least to check out, the marvelous Scrivener, which just went to version 2.0. It really is a thing of wonder for writing long-form of any kind, and an easy way to take a look at it is through the introductory videos, which you’ll find on this page… fully functional trial for 30 days and not expensive at all… http://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php
I use both Chrome and Safari… I’m starting to prefer Chrome for the wonderful extension tools it has, but Safari is getting a lot of interesting extensions written these days too, and I love reading in it, as well as saving out from there to Evernote (which is MUCH better than trying to do it from Chrome).
Speaking of Evernote, do you not use it? I really put literally 95% of everything I do into it. I have redundancy in Dropbox (another killer wonder) but of course they’re not the same tools at all. I’m sure you know of Evernote, but if not do check them out.
Things I also use for my todo list, personal. I have OmniFocus, much more powerful, but then how much power does one need? I really prefer Things.
Tweetdeck is a client I’m using too, having finally given up on the wonderful and venerable Tweetie, which is pretty much abandon-ware at this point. I’m trying to find something I really like. Tweetdeck aint it, but it does have some commendable points. I’m also using 2 other clients, each of which has much more clarity, but neither of which is the pot of gold at rainbow’s end: Hibari (http://hibariapp.com/) and Kiwi (http://kiwi-app.net/). They’re not Tweetdeck, functionally, but at least they don’t x-ray my eyeballs.
I don’t know Snagit at all, haven’t even heard of it I’m sorry to say. If it does the job for you, I would keep it. I myself prefer Skitch, which is just a kind of creature unto itself (http://skitch.com/) and Little Snapper (http://www.realmacsoftware.com/littlesnapper/), which is really beautiful software. They both do much of the same in very different ways.
Apimac is a great timer app… I used to run something called On the Job (http://stuntsoftware.com/onthejob/), which I really loved but was too full-featured for me. I recently came across something COMPLETELY different for reminders, though, and I am completely addicted to it. It’s a menubar applet calledAlarms and you really have to see it work to appreciate just how completely awesome it is… watch the video… so easy, so intuitive, so perfect. http://www.alarmsapp.com/Alarms/
I don’t use Office so can’t but commiserate there… I am so happy with Apple MailiCal, and Keynote. Can’t imagine subjecting myself to anything back in that world. And I hear very alternating things about the new Office 2011 suite… some people love it, others (like David Pogue) think it’s a massive step backward.
I too am a Personal Brain addict, as you know… still one of my favorite pieces of software.  Though PB isn’t mind-mapping, I believe you used to run such software on your PC… a great mind-mapping tool, IMO, is MindNode Pro, which I use all the time: http://www.mindnode.com/
Well, that should get you started… I’m sorry to hear about the Time Capsule. Mine died about 6 months ago and I keep meaning to take it in for servicing. I’d be happy to help you get yours set up, if that’s all the problem is… if it’s busted, which they’ve been prone to, it will have to go to Apple for servicing.
Oh wait, just a couple of other things in case I haven’t mentioned to you before that I’m sure you would find useful no matter what kind of work you’re doing:
– 1Password (for keeping track of multiple passwords, and any other kind of personal private info: also ties in to ChromeSafari, etc)http://agilewebsolutions.com/onepassword
– Caffeine: a little, free menu bar applet that keeps your screen on… perfect if you’re doing a presentation and you don’t want your screen saver interrupting!http://lightheadsw.com/caffeine/
– Goalscape: my latest infatuation… it actually is an Adobe Air app, and give how much I detest Air, you can imagine how much I must love this app to include it! (and to have paid for it!)… also works as a web app… it’s for visually mapping goals, projects, etc… you have to see it to believe it:  http://www.goalscape.com/
– LaunchBar: to call it an app/file launcher is only to hint at its power… as easy or full featured as you want to make it, I really can’t use a Macintosh that doesn’t have this installed: http://www.obdev.at/products/launchbar/index.html
– Are you a GMail user? If so, MailPlane is indispensable: http://mailplaneapp.com/
– Notational VelocityScrivener is great for writing, but sometimes you might want something really really notebook-like… this amazing app, once you’ve grokked its concept, is zen-like in its purity… and crazy powerful, but it also has the remarkable facility of auto-syncing with SimpleNote, so you always have your writing on your iPhone and iPad automatically!!! And it’s free!!!! What is wrong with these guys? 😉
– Also for writing: TextExpander is the gold standard on Macintosh for auto-expanding snippets: http://smilesoftware.com/TextExpander/
Well I’ve gone on much too long… I have many more I could talk about, but that’s enough of a soporific for one day I think… hope to see you soon!

“It” extraction (killing a brand softly)

Last week, quietly and without fanfare, ThinkPad decided not to renew its flagship model, the X301. 

The X301 is a beautiful machine.  It has that wonderful ThinkPad keyboard, a huge screen, and it weighs only a little bit more than a ballet slipper.  It is a miraculous demonstration of what design and engineer can do.

And now it’s done for.  Lenovo is proposing the ThinkPad T410s as the x301s replacement.   When called upon to explain himself, Lenovo Marketing Director, Wang Lipin said that T400 series was more powerful than the x301, and cheaper by a thousand dollars.

The trouble: the T400 doesn’t have “it” quality.  It is a business machine in the most pedestrian sense of the term.  No trace of elegance.  No claim to being the pick of the technological litter.  No “wow” factor.  The T410 is just another business machine. 

This takes us into one of the thorniest issue in the branding world.  What is “it?”  And what’s “it” worth? 

It’s a difficult discussion because “it” is inscrutable.  We can point to “it.”  We know “it” when we see it.  But when it comes to anatomizing, measuring, and pricing “it,” well, this proves difficult and all the marketing and pricing models break down. 

This would be a mere irritation if “it” weren’t such a gusher in the tech world.  But it is.  All of us can buy a phone that is smarter, faster and cheaper than the iPhone.  But none of these has “it” status.  We may not be able to measure “it,” but we don’t hesitate to pay the premium it demands of us.  

Apple turns out to be pretty good at “it.”  In fact, Apple now pretty much owns “it” in the computer world at the moment. 

Except when it come to the lightest, full function lap top.  The Apple entry in this category, the MacBook Air, is a pretty good machine.  But that’s all it is.  A pretty good machine.  It doesn’t have “it.”  Until last week, that belonged to ThinkPad.

So why did Lenovo perform an “it” extraction?  That’s clear enough.  It was making a rational business decision.  It was applying a pricing model.  It may well have been working from Robert Dolan’s exemplary text book on the topic.  This was a perfectly sensible marketing decision.

But it was of course an absolutely disastrous business decision, one that may cost Lenovo dearly.  When Lenovo took the “it” out of ThinkPad, it gave up the only branding advantage it had over Apple.   Sadder still, it destroyed much of the brand value that prompted Lenovo to buy ThinkPad from IBM in the first place.  Having taken on a brand that would help it fight its way out of the commodity basement, it has now descended into that commodity basement, slamming the door behind it as it goes. 

Lenovo’s “it extraction” was a good, rational, pricing decision.  But if we are not protecting “it” when our designers and engineers gift us with it, if we are not building the brand that protects us from the commodity basement, our decision, rational by some narrow standard, is wildly irrational by any broader one. 

Commerce isn’t good at imponderables.  And “it” is nothing if not imponderable.  The fault lies largely on the side of the design house and the ad agency.  When asked to measure and account for “it,” and every cultural moments has it’s its (it girls, it brands, it activities, it restaurants, it industries), designers and agency people demurred.  “Oh, listen, don’t bother your pretty little heads about it,” they said to the client.  “This is what you pay us for.  We’ll keep track of it.  You just get product on the shelf.”  (If only they had a Chief Culture Officer.)

So it’s not entirely surprising that pricing models don’t have anything to say about “it."  And it’s not surprising that senior managers boot this sort of decision with some frequency.  But when you think about how much value “it” creates for us, how essential it is to the life of the corporation, and how much there is at stake in terms of careers and brands, isn’t it time we did better?   

Put these on the business conference agenda.  What is it?  What’s it worth?  How do we price it?  How do we manage it?  In the meantime, hire a CCO.  


Dolan, Robert J., and Hermann Simon. 1997. Power Pricing. Free Press.  

Lai, Richard. 2010. “Lenovo ThinkPad X300 series to be phased out, replaced by T400 this year.” Engadget. here. (Accessed July 21, 2010).

McCracken, Grant. 2009. Chief Culture Officer: How to Create a Living, Breathing Corporation. Basic Books.  

Hobbes, John. 2010. “BREAKING: Lenovo ThinkPad X301 to be discontinued, supplanted by T410s.” Logic ThinkPad. July 13. here. (Accessed July 21, 2010).