The last 10-days, bookended by Apple's "Hello Again" event and a truly successful Digital acquisition kickoff meeting, have flown by.
Immediately post Apple's event, the Internet caught fire. The iPhone launch, specifically the removal of the headphone jack, had already incensed the Apple faithful. The MacBook Pro's launch fanned these flames and whipped everyone into a frenzy. The most vocal of the critical bunch were the professionals and creatives. They feel most disenfranchised by Apple, and I don't really blame them. Their use case is extremely niche: 32-GB of RAM, very high-end graphics, UNIX-like OS. Their loyalty to Apple thus far has been unflinching. This might change with the launch of the Microsoft Surface Studio.
Yes, I referred to a Microsoft product. Many a story has been published that describes Microsoft as "cool", and that products like the surface have forced a volte face in people's perspectives on Microsoft. A role reversal has occurred, and Apple needs to stanch the bleeding before it's too late.
The announcements and my experience with the new products has shaken my belief in Apple. The haptic engine driven Home button the iPhone has lower usability than the old Home button. The UX changes in iOS have forced users to change their workflow. Force touch still doesn't work well. The MacBook Pro's TouchBar is going to take some getting used to. These annoyances, not issue enough on their own, are tantamount to "death by a thousand cuts". This is very un-Apple-esque; usability of their products is the stuff of legend, and enables Apple to command a price premium. With this edge dulled, not only will Apple have to reduce the ASP of their products, it opens the door for competitors to fill the void.
How did customers respond? They ordered the new MacBook Pro so much that the pre-orders broke all previous records. Weren't customers reading all the negative press and reviews? Don't customers care about all the things that the technology press cares about? No and No. I wrote about this widening chasm :here:
Like Apple, I had my own potential moment of reckoning this past week. Since starting at GE this January, I have completed a number of assignments, but this week was the first opportunity to cement my role in GE's vaunted M&A group. GE has grown through acquisitions for the last 100-odd years, and the Digital division has been busy with identifying companies to acquire to shore up its capabilities. I have been selected to own delivering outcomes and manage all integration related activities for one such Digital acquisition.
McKinsey and BCG posit that success of a complex undertaking such as an acquisition is predicated on a strong kickoff and planning session prior to implementation. This week marked the first planning session for the acquisition I am to manage, and the stakes were high. I spent three weeks coordinating, planning and building content for the 2-day kickoff. Despite the preparation and prior experience, I was nervous on Wednesday night. A lot was riding on how I ran this workshop...
To say I hit a home-run (the Cubs just won the World Series; baseball is fresh in my mind) would be an under-statement. I hit it out of the park! Every attendee complimented me on how I orchestrated the session, facilitated decision making, and kept discussions moving along when they were at risk of falling off the rails. One attendee said that this came naturally to me; I want to take a moment to thank my leadership team at Deloitte Consulting for honing this innate capability of mine. Peter Vanderslice and Rajeev Ronanki gave me the opportunities and coaching that have taken my skills to the next level. Thank you!
No trip to Seattle is complete without tennis with Tim. Over the years, our friendship has blossomed, with each interaction making the next easier and more relaxed. Tim is both zen and pessimistic, and his advice has made me a more strategic player at the "Game of Life". We played indoors today, and hitting tennis balls again was electrifying. I have worked hard on my mobility, breathing control and patience, and the results are starting to show on the court. Tater tots and burgers after a hard 75-minutes on the courts was the perfect denouement of a long 10-day story.
The Huskies and Seahawks play critical games this weekend. I am going to kick back, read and take a much needed break this weekend. To more phases like these in the future...