Just think of Warren Buffett’s philosophy, quoted by Mary Buffett and David Clark in The Tao of Warren Buffett, “You only have to do a few things right in your life, so long as you don’t do too many things wrong.” The authors continue, “Warren decided early in his career it would be impossible for him to make hundreds of right investment decisions, so he decided that he would invest only in the business that he was absolutely sure of, and then bet heavily on them. He owes 90% of his wealth to just ten investments. Sometimes what you don’t do is just as important as what you do.”
First, Do This.
To get started, I recommend a simple action list.
- Before you leave the office today, write down your top six priorities for tomorrow on a Post-it note.
- Cross off the bottom five.
- Write down your top priority on a Post-it note and put it on your computer.
- Schedule a 90-minute window to work on your top priority — preferably the first thing of the day.
- Every time you are about to check email, Facebook, Twitter etc., write down what you are about to do.
The cumulative impact of this small change can be profound. Indeed, I just received an email from an executive about a member of his team who has a particular tendency to want to do everything. Interestingly, this team member is the most productive member on his team. When he was young, he learned to push past his tendency. (Here’s a funny video with a handy tip for others who are easily distracted.) Most of us just haven’t fully learned how to do that.
But we can.
source: Greg McKeown, CEO of THIS Inc., a leadership and strategy design agency headquartered in Silicon Valley
Like many others, I rushed out to buy the first iPhone when it was launched in 2007. It was unlike anything I’d ever seen: A phone that could seemingly do anything.
I was living in Kiev, Ukraine at the time and the iPhone craze was especially palpable there. None of the GSM operators were authorized to sell iPhones so every unit in the country was, by necessity, jailbroken. There was a shop on the main street that would hack your phone for $20. Even the President had it done!
That’s how groundbreaking a product the iPhone was. If you didn’t have one, you wanted one. There could be no substitute. (Disclosure: I hold Apple stock through a fund so have an indirect financial interest in the company).
Last week, however, something happened that made it clear to me that the iPhone’s dominance is a thing of the past. It came in the form of a push notification from my Google GOOG -0.28% search app that invited me to use Google Now, their revolutionary new personal assistant driven by artificial intelligence.
The app doesn’t know me well yet, but it has already started recommending restaurants, estimating travel times for appointments and even letting me know if I’m likely to hit traffic on the way. It’s a bit spooky that Google knows so much about me, but so useful that I’m unlikely to ever want to give it up.
What’s more, Google Now operates completely independently of my phone. If I buy a new one from Samsung or LG, it will not only work just as well, it will retain what it has learned about me. That’s a big problem for Apple AAPL +0.39%.
In fact, I think that it’s becoming clear that Apple is losing its leadership in mobile for three reasons:
1. The Declining Importance of Hardware: It sounds strange now, but a decade ago it seemed like hardware was dead and software was king. During the 90’s, Microsoft MSFT +1.05% was the world’s most valuable company and PC makers were becoming commodities. It was Apple who revived the hardware space through revolutionary products like the iPhone.
These things tend to go in cycles and it looks like we’re entering a new phase in which software becomes dominant again. Much of the value we derive our devices over the next decade will be from services delivered from the cloud, rather than built-in functionality.
Moreover, today you can buy a smartphone just as good as the iPhone (some would say better) from a variety of manufacturers. The stiff competition and lack of differentiation will mean shrinking margins and declining market share for handset manufacturers, Apple included.
2. Apple No Longer Owns iPhone Functionality: When Apple launched its seriously flawed maps application I waited months to upgrade my iOS because I didn’t want to give up Google Maps for an inferior product. It wasn’t till I was able to download Google Maps from the App Store that I finally accepted new software from Apple.
I still prefer iPhones, but to be honest I couldn’t tell you why. Virtually everything I use my phone for (except regular calls, of course), is provided by someone else. I use Google for the browser, search and maps, Zite and Hootsuite for content, Brewster for contacts, Skype for calls to friends overseas and, I suspect, eventually Square for payments.
In fact, even though I haven’t switched to Android, there seems to be more Google in my iPhone than there is Apple.
3. The Rise Of Artificial Intelligence: As I pointed out in an earlier post on Forbes, although Apple was the company that first got everyone excited about artificial intelligence (AI) on mobile phones when they launched Siri, they have fallen way behind in this area and show no signs of progress.
In the future, switching software platforms won’t be a simple matter of learning a new interface. It will more akin to moving to a new town, where everyone will have to get to know you before they can provide you with the service you’ve grown accustomed to.
Right now, Google Now is the clear leader in AI mobile applications, but others could emerge as strong competitors. Microsoft certainly has the technology, but not the mobile footprint (although with a couple of good OEM agreements, that could change fast). IBM IBM -0.98% could certainly compete if they chose to and Amazon could probably take a run at it as well.
Other firms, such as Facebook FB +0.52% and Nuance (which provides key technology to Apple’s Siri) have strong AI capabilities and there’s a host of others who either have or are building impressive technologies. Apple’s management is smart and capable, so it is strange that they seem to be sitting this one out.
It is possible, as many Apple advocates insist, that they have a secret plan and will once again set the world on fire. However, that’s doubtful. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to hire strong expertise quietly and even Apple’s well-deserved reputation for secrecy wouldn’t apply to acquisitions. It’s tough to buy if no one knows you’re in the market.
That doesn’t mean that Apple couldn’t build or buy AI expertise, (a business as strong as Apple’s can do just about anything it sets its mind to), but they haven’t shown any signs of doing so and continue to fall behind in machine learning.
And so, every day my iPhone becomes more of a Google phone.