Published on: January 15, 2010
For those of us who pay attention to such things, there has been much speculation about whether Apple is about to introduce a new tablet computer later this month, a piece of technology that could do things like give newspapers, magazines and books a new platform on which to be read, could provide a new way for people to engage with movies and television shows, could...well, the thing is, nobody knows what the new tablet computer could do, or if it will have the same kind of impact as Apple’s iPhone. If indeed it even exists. Because while there has been a lot of speculation about Apple’s tablet computer, Apple hasn’t said anything. Yet.
Daniel Lyons has an excellent column in Newsweek
about this subject, in which he makes the following observations:
“The cool thing about technology is that nobody ever knows how new ideas will evolve. Today's hype around the tablet is a lot like the hype around the iPhone before its 2007 introduction. Back then, just like today, everyone was trying to guess what it would look like and what it would do—and as it turns out, nobody was even close.
“The lesson we've learned since then is that even the people who created the iPhone could not have imagined what people would do with the device. Much of the fun of iPhone involves software apps that didn't exist when the iPhone was introduced. Those apps don't come from Apple—they were written by thousands of developers who found inspiration in a new computing platform.”
That’s one of the real advantages that technological innovation has - it has the ability to breathe and evolve.
It may be harder to do in other venues, like retail, but it seems to me that this is an advantage worth pursuing - understanding that a business innovation is only a starting point, and embracing the notion that even greater innovation can emerge from how people - suppliers, customers, employees - respond to the starting point and transcend it.
I’m not sure how you do that, if you have a store or a new product. But if you can figure out a way, perhaps the result would be a laboratory for continuing innovation in which all parties feel like they have skin in the game.
To some very small degree, I always think that this is what has happened here on MNB. WE’re a very different community than we were when we started eight years ago...and to a great degree, that’s because I’ve learned so much from the people who read the site and write in...hundreds of emails every week...offering opinion and context and observation. I think people do that because they feel like this is, as a reader once admonished me, their site, not mine. And how could I not learn and grow with that kind of input?
Another thought on the whole Leno-Conan imbroglio...
Is it possible, when all is said and done, that the ultimate problem here is that few people really understood the power of a great brand?
Maybe NBC executives didn’t really understand the level of the national commitment to the idea of the “Tonight Show” brand, even among people who hadn’t watched it since Johnny Carson was on, which is why the story has become so enormous.
Maybe Conan O’Brien didn’t understand that his brand identity didn’t really fit into the 11:30 pm time slot.
And maybe Jay Leno didn’t understand the hit that his brand would take by being part of the whole controversy.
It’s a mess. It’s a car wreck. And it is an enormous kick to watch.
Speaking of a kick to watch...
On Sunday, after the Jets game, “24” returns.
Had a wonderful wine the other night - the 2007 Boxcar Syrah, from Sonoma, which is very, very smooth and goes for about $18 a bottle. Just yummy.
“It’s Complicated,” written and directed by Nancy Meyers, is never going to be confused with anything created by Billy Wilder (Some Like It Hot
) or Ernst Lubitsch (The Shop Around The Corner
). But that doesn’t mean that it is without merit or humor ... in fact, it has moments that are very, very funny and also offers a particularly important business lesson.
The plot is simple. A Santa Barbara woman (Meryl Streep) who has been divorced for 10 years finds herself in an affair with her ex-husband (Alec Baldwin), even as she is attracted to a local architect (Steve Martin) and trying to cope with empty nest syndrome.
Now, there is a theory out there that what Nancy Meyers makes are movies (previous efforts include hist such as What Women Want
and Something’s Gotta Give
) that can be characterized as “Pottery Barn porn” - they are so heavily and specifically designed that it seems like she pays as much attention to the wardrobe and the color of the walls as she does to the performances of the actors. I’m not entirely sure that this is a fair criticism. After all, since when did specificity of design become a negative in the movie business? What some people may resent is that her vision is so relentlessly upscale, but movies have for years offered a peek at how the upper class lives.
Meyer’s real achievement, it seems to me, is that she makes movies for a demographic rarely targeted by the movie business: Boomer Women. Her movies generally feature strong Boomer Women dealing with aging Boomer issues, and Boomer women tend to flock to them. She’s also smart enough to populate her films with strong male characters - played by actors such as Jack Nicholson or Mel Gibson - so that guys don’t mind tagging along.
So these are the business lessons. One, don’t be afraid of specificity of design. A business, like a movie, should have a strong sense of place. And two, sometimes it makes sense to target demographics that the competition sees as undesirable or irrelevant...because there can be gold discovered there.
As has been noted elsewhere, the best thing in It’s Complicated
is Alec Baldwin, playing Meryl Streep’s hound dog ex-husband who finds himself yearning for his ex-wife while he tries to survive an unsatisfying second marriage to a young bombshell. He’s big and unapologetic and seductive and extraordinarily charming...and Baldwin reinforces the notion created by his work on “30 Rock” that he may be the funniest comic actor working today.
Streep is every bit his equal, and Steve Martin also is good, though it seems fairly obvious that he’s had a little too much work done on his eyes, which is distracting.
If you’re in the food business, check out the scene where Streep teaches Martin how to make a chocolate croissant. It’s magic.
Other movies to see...Invictus
is sort of standard Hollywood fare when it comes to onscreen biographies, but it is made special by two excellent performances, by Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela in the early days of his leadership in South Africa, and Matt Damon as the rugby player he enlists to help bring the country together. The movie is directed by Clint Eastwood, who continues to try new things as he approaches his 80th birthday. And I found myself moved by a story that is very much personality-driven.
The most resonant criticism of The Blind Side
is that it takes the usual Hollywood approach - a poor young black kid is rescued through the charity and altruism of rich white people. And that’s a very fair observation. The thing is, The Blind Side
is also enormously enjoyable. In part, that’s because it is based on a true story about Michael Oher, an impoverished young man who is befriended and eventually adopted by a wealthy family. Sandra Bullock plays the matriarch of the family, Leigh Anne Tuohy, and she is a force of nature - it is a big, showy and fun portrayal. And Quinton Aaron is touching as Oher.
The real Michael Oher, by the way, plays for the Baltimore Ravens...and he’ll be on the field this weekend playing against the Indianapolis Colts.
That’s it for this week.
Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you Monday.