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Also, the use of the word "tweaker" is a stupid rhetorical trick...

Can anyone name a single product that Jobs released that had not already been proven in the marketplace by another company, in substantially the same form? I can only think of one: the Newton. And Jobs never made that mistake again.

'Tweaker' sounds perjorative, but in fact that was exactly Jobs' genius: recognizing the design details that others missed, the tweaks that would turn a good product into a great one.




The iPhone wasn't merely a "tweak" on existing cell phones, or even the Palm Pilot.

What's your standard? Name a few products. The Walkman? If the Walkman qualifies as an innovation, then surely the iPhone does.

Calling the Macintosh a tweak on the Xerox Alto I think is also hardly fair. If that is true, then all products ever released have been tweaks, which makes the distinction meaningless.


The iPhone wasn't merely a "tweak" on existing cell phones, or even the Palm Pilot.

Are you kidding? It was clearly a tweak of the Palm Pilot and the Treo phone. Same form factor, same 'one app open at a time' philosophy, same launch screen. The key tweak was eliminating the stylus.

Calling the Macintosh a tweak on the Xerox Alto I think is also hardly fair.

Why? It was certainly similar enough to litigate the issue. I'd agree though that the Mac was probably the riskiest product Jobs produced, in terms of predecessors in the market.

If that is true, then all products ever released have been tweaks...

Every once in awhile there is a real innovation. The aforementioned Newton, say, or the Wii-mote. The Walkman seems more like a tweak, there were already portable tape recorders in wide use.


I mean I suppose it depends on your definition of "substantially the same form" and "proven."

I'd argue that the Zen Jukebox did not prove that HDD MP3 players could be successful, and that Treos and other smartphones, though proven successful, were not substantially in the same form as an iPhone, and that previous tablets were proven failures and also not substantially in the same form as iPad's.

I think the iPad is really the best example of Jobs' talent being used in a capacity that wasn't just tweaking. Stylus input and finger input are just completely different ways to approach the user interface. An iPad isn't a tweak of previous failed Windows tablets, it's throwing out the basic premise of the machine ("a tablet is just like your computer but in the palm of your hand") and starting from scratch ("what is the purpose of a tablet?").


Stylus input and finger input are just completely different ways to approach the user interface.

I agree that getting finger input right was the critical factor, but I don't think it was at all obvious that it would produce a completely different user experience. Looking forward from five years ago, I don't think you could call it anything but a tweak---it's only with the benefit of hindsight (unless you share Jobs' unique talent) that you can see that a small design change (use your finger instead of a stylus!) could make such a big difference.


I disagree that it's a small design change. The decision to use finger input as opposed to stylus input has a cascading effect on the whole UI. Fingers are too fat to click on lots of little buttons, so you have to use direct manipulation everywhere you can.

Take something simple like zooming or scrolling a page. In Windows Mobile circa 2006, the basic paradigm was the same one you'd use on the Xerox Alto in 1973: click on scroll up/down buttons to scroll, click on a menu and then on zoom in/out to zoom. The stylus was just a less capable mouse on a smaller screen. On iOS circa 2007, you pinch to zoom the page and swipe to scroll it. There is no analogue to this in the previous Windows/Menus/Icons/Pointers paradigm.

I think the iOS UI is really the perfect example of something that wasn't just tweaking. Windows Mobile was just a tweak of the mouse-based Windows UI for stylus input. iOS threw away the Mac UI, predicated on the mouse, and started from scratch. "What does a UI look like when you start from the assumption that you're manipulating it with your fingers?"


This is a fair point, but that's the engineer's point of view. Looking at it from a product manager's perspective, why did so many decline to make the investment necessary to make touch work for the consumer? I would argue that they simply didn't perceive the enormous difference it would make (ie, that the risk was worth the reward). Faced with the engineering challenges you describe, they decided that there was just not enough difference between using a stylus and using touch to justify the cost. A small product change can still be very expensive to make.


I agree that's a proper description of why Microsoft, etc, didn't do touch first, but what exactly is that relevant to?

Your contention earlier was that stylus -> touch was a "tweak." My point is that it's not just a tweak, it's throwing out the existing model and starting from scratch. You implicitly acknowledge that by referencing the investment to make the change, an investment that is incurred by having to throw out the existing design and start over.

Touch was not a tweak. It was throwing out the steering wheel and asking "so now how do you drive the car?"


It was throwing out the steering wheel and asking "so now how do you drive the car?"

Exactly my point. Let's say it drives by telepathy. The car wouldn't change much: it would still have a driver and be driven on the road. It would still have an engine, passenger seating, storage space and cupholders. It would still at a glance look like any other car. But that apparently small change would result in a profound change in the user experience (and yes, profound engineering challenges for the maker). It's a better car. But it's not an entirely new class of transportation, just a tweak to an existing one, like the automatic transmission and hybrid engines.


Tablet--not at all proven in the marketplace, and largely considered a failed product category before the iPad.


A failed consumer product category, yes. But tablets have been in routine use in business for many years, and have been a profitable niche product. Jobs correctly surmised that the tweaks he'd made to the PDA to make the iPhone a big success could translate in a larger form factor to make a successful consumer tablet. But tablets were already a familiar product to millions of people when the iPad hit the market.


Not to be pedantic, but the iPad preceded the iPhone as a concept. Jobs requested a prototype multi-touch display that you could type on, saw inertial scrolling, and decided that the phone should come first. There's very little about the tablet product category that he "tweaked." He threw out the stylus and built a touch OS from scratch.


Good point. I'd agree that the real innovation in both the iPhone and iPad was touch. It seems obvious now that touch is a completely different experience from the stylus, but it wasn't obvious enough that anybody else made the big investment to make it work, before Jobs.


It is worth recognising though that touch did exist before iOS, something a lot of people don't realise. It wasn't in consumer products so much, but it had been out there for quite some time.


True. I was infatuated with the hyper expensive lemur for a while. Then came the iPhone/iPad. Jazzmutant must have had some terse meetings around that time.

http://www.jazzmutant.com/lemur_overview.php

Edit : just browsed to their front page.. "ceasing commercial activities".. Oh dear..


The Newton happened after Jobs left Apple.


I thought I remembered a story about Jobs not allowing the Newton to be shipped until it actually fit in his coat pocket? Was that someone else?


Jobs left Apple in 1985, the Newton started development in 1987. John Scully was the executive excited about the Newton. Even though it was profitable, Jobs killed it on his return.

I haven't heard a story like that but if I were to guess it would be Jeff Hawkins from Palm. Because while the Newton while cool, it never reached pocket size.




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