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An Open Letter to Steve Jobs October 29, 2010

Posted by fredillies in Communication, Design, Gadgets n Gizmos, Presentations.
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Dear Steve,

Glad things are going so well for you and Apple these days. I’ve been a big fan(boy) for many years, and have been an unpaid evangelist for Apple and your wonderful products. I had been waiting for so many years for an Apple sub notebook that I cried tears of joy when you launched the iPad. And yes, I drove from Toronto to Buffalo NY so I could line up and buy one on the first day.

I travel a fair bit for work, and the joy of ONLY carrying this svelte little beauty put me right over the top. For 6 months I’ve travelled light like a Ninja with my iPad… until I had to give a very important presentation recently. But, let me backtrack a minute. I’ve loved Keynote for a long time, and used it excusively over the last 5 years to create presentations. And I’m one of the few people (aside from you and your team at Apple) who really GET why creating a touch-based version of The iWork suite will prove to have been such a significant accomplishment in the software world.

OK, back to my big presentation. Like you, I walk around when I give a presentation, and rely on a small remote control (way smaller than iPhone) to advance my slides. Being untethered is so important to me as a presenter, I carry two remotes and extra batteries just in case… I will never give another presentation without a remote.

While its GREAT to show presentations directly on the iPad for one or two people, and it’s great that you can output directly to a projector, IT MAKES NO SENSE TO ME THAT YOU WOULD CRIPPLE IPAD KEYNOTE PRESENTERS BY NOT SUPPORTING REMOTE SLIDE ADVANCEMENT. You generally show a deep love for your customers and their experience with your products. How is it possible that you missed this important aspect to giving a presentation (even though you acknowledge this need by offering Keynote Remote app)? I can only assume that you did it on purpose.

For a company that says “its better to cannibalize yourself than have the competition do it” you better not have done it to force me to replace my aging MBAir with a shiny new 11″ MBAir (which I did). If you did, shame on you. What i really want is to walk into a presentation, hook up my sleek iPad, and proceed to wow the crowd with both my brilliant presentation and your brilliant technology – WHILE I WALK AROUND THE ROOM.

Please correct this injustice immediately. If you haven’t done so by the time of the next Annual General Meeting I may just show up to ask you in person.

Sincerely,
Fred Illies

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Learning from a Master June 12, 2010

Posted by fredillies in Communication, Design, eBusiness, Gadgets n Gizmos, Presentations.
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While you may be tempted to pass over this post because I’m an unabashed fan of Steve Jobs and Apple, doing so would mean that you might miss out on a great learning experience…. from the Zen Master and Black Belt in Kung Fu of Business… Steve Jobs. Invest the time to watch the full Keynote address at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (http://tiny.cc/tfzsj).

You’ll see why Jobs is the master of presentation zen (ie. one of the world’s great communicators). How he lays out his story and articulates the “why they did things this way” and what it will mean for the human beings who will use their products. Notice his grace as a presenter. You can do that too – IF you break your gagillion bullet points down into the essence of what you want to communicate. You see, if you do all THAT work during your preparation and have your message broken down into a few key ideas, you’ll find you are much more relaxed giving your presentation… because then it can be truly conversational.

T4G is a great place to work because we have passionate leadership and a culture of thinking different and doing the right thing. Sound familiar? Watch this video and see if you can list some of the Apple Values. Listen to the way Jobs describes they didn’t include some things in the OS right off the bat (like Copy & Paste or Multi-tasking) because they wanted to wait until they got them to work “just right”. And the way Apple doesn’t just release a feature, but also creates software to make a delightful experiential benefit of that feature for humans (cases in point: iMovie for iPhone & Face Time Video Calling).

Oh, and for those of you interested in seeing the future of mobile advertising, check out the incredibly engaging iAd from Nissan. (oh yeah, and the part about how Apple has sold $60 Million worth of iAds to some of the biggest brands … in 8 weeks. That’s 48% of the expected worldwide expenditure for mobile advertising for the second half of 2010… and they still have 6 months to sell more)

Jobs is famous for using the term “remarkable”. IMO that word aptly describes what he has done with Apple – by having an incredibly focused vision (To make insanely great products) and to have had such success in creating an organization that lives by that mantra, delivers on it in spades, and for having truly created what our friends at Harvard call the “Virtuous Cycle”.

iPhone App Creation + Marketing … A Great Learning Experience August 6, 2009

Posted by fredillies in Communication, Design, Gadgets n Gizmos, Life Balance, Simplifying your life.
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I’ve sure learned alot throughout the process of designing and building an iPhone app, and now about marketing it. Thought I would post about what the process has been like so far. Ours is a very simple app, but there are still many steps to go through.

I’ve been envisioning a simple role-based to-do list for the iPhone since the day that William Bakker & I sat in a meeting and followed the real-time blog coverage of Steve Jobs now famous iPhone launch presentation at MacWorld.  I had previously created a desktop version of this kind of tool (called “Overview”) using FileMaker, and was subsequently very disappointed that FileMaker (an Apple company) didn’t create a simple version of their software for the iPhone.

When the iPhone SDK was released, I toyed with the idea of trying to teach myself iPhone programming (the hype around the SDK made it sound easy… and hey, this was Apple after all). I soon realized that the SDK made things easier for people who KNEW C+ Programming!  That definitely counted me out 😉  Eventually Mark Fraser suggested I talk to Andrew Little (one of the programmers from our halifax offices).  I provided Andrew with specifications for the functionality and user experience (including pixel-accurate digital artwork of each screen). Andrew said he was eager to learn iPhone programming, and he said he would have a look at the spec and let me know what kind of effort it would involve.  2 days later he had a working prototype, and from then on we worked back and forth together to perfect the app.  Because we both have day jobs it has taken about 5-6 months to get a finished and fully tested version submitted to the App Store (at the time of this writing we’re awaiting approval from Apple).

MyRoles is another entry into a VERY crowded niche in the iPhone app world.  At last count there were over 50 competing products, most of which essentially do all the same things. (Some more elegantly than others!). So why would we enter such a crowded market?  Well, for starters, our motivation was not financial. For me, it was a chance to bring my task management vision to life in a tool that *I* could use on my iPhone.  In addition, I could learn about all aspects of iPhone development and marketing, which would come in handy when working with our clients on mobile strategy. For Andrew, it was a chance to learn iPhone programming so he could create a new service offering for T4G. If it didn’t really take off maybe Andrew and I could earn enough for a vacation or two.

And how would MyRoles compete in such a crowded market?  Well, we have 3 things going for us: A legitimately unique differentiator (MyRoles lets you easily manage your tasks by the various roles you play in your life); Extremely focused functionality (does ONE thing and does that extremely well); and we have a simple and very intuitive user interface.  (Others claim to be simple to use, but they do so many things that they require a lot of instruction about how you use it.  Many of the competitors have modeled their systems after David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) system/methodology. MyRoles takes a different (more zen-like path), by stripping away everything that wasn’t CORE to simply managing tasks by role. We intentionally did not design it for the diehard GTD fans, cause they love to spend time on details and tweaking their systems.  MyRoles was designed for busy people who don’t want to waste time maintaining a complicated system.

So how do we get the word out?  Well, first we built a website that clearly communicates our unique selling proposition (what makes MyRoles different than all competitors) and what’s in it for people who chose to use it (simpler task management and the promise of more balance in their lives). Next we send out an announcement about MyRoles to *everyone* we know, followed by individual personalized emails to the scores of iPhone app review sites around the world.  We created a Facebook page for MyRoles, a Twitter feed you can follow, and I’m writing this blog post to tell our story. All of this to start to build a buzz around the app, so that it gets some momentum… and then we’ll see where it goes.  Oh yeah.. we have a couple of videos in production which we’ll post on our website and YouTube. It’s anyone’s guess how this will do in the AppStore, and if anyone will buy into the idea that “less is more” when it comes to finding a task management system that you can adopt and keep using over the long haul.