Debug is a casual, conversational interview show featuring the best developers in the business about the amazing apps they make and why and how they make them. On this episode Don Melton, former Director of Internet Technologies at Apple, and Nitin Ganatra, former Director of iOS Apps at Apple, talk about presenting to Steve Jobs, web vs. native, implementing gestures, the importance of affordances, and more.
- Debug 11: Don Melton and Safari
- Debug 39: Nitin Ganatra episode I: System 7 to Carbon
- Debug 40: Nitin Ganatra episode II: OS X to iOS
- Debug 41: Nitin Ganatra episode III: iPhone to iPad
- Debug 16.1: David Gelphman on Apple, Core Graphics, and AirPrint
Guy English: "Debug" is brought to you today by Automatic, your smart driving assistant on your smartphone. Now, Automatic usually costs around 100 bucks, but with this special offer Debug listeners can get it for 20 percent off. Just $80. Go to automatic.com/debug, and once you get you'll save hundreds on gas, you'll never forget where you parked, you'll diagnose things like engine light warnings, you'll get help in a serious crash.
It works on both iPhone and Android, ships in two business days. Try it out. If you don't like it, you have a 45 day return policy with free shipping. Just go to automatic.com/debug. You'll find out if you brake too hard, if you speed, if you're accelerating too rapidly, and it'll keep timelines of your trips. It'll just make your car as smart as your phone. Once again, automatic.com/debug.
Don Melton: I've opened a bottle of 2011 Old Vine Zin Gnarly Head and I'm going to town on it right now.
Guy: Is it from a boxed on?
Don: No, it is not from a box. I'm not an animal.
Guy: Speaking of box, I opened up a brand new box of Black Box Merlot. That's what all the drinking from. I am an animal, I guess.
Nitin Ganatra: I guess you're supposed to be drinking Serena. I mean this is so off topic.
Don: I don't blame the box because I can't fit the fucking boxes in my wine coolers. I have a couple of wine refrigerators. I'm a serious alcoholic.
Guy: I have one of those too. I'm an ignorant and watch this, I'm about to prove it. Are you supposed to put red wine in a wine refrigerator?
Don: You're not supposed to put it in the normal temperature at wine refrigerator's command, but I have one that's turned up to the normal temperature for white wines. The other one which I turn much farther down because I like a little bit of coolness on the red wines especially during the summer here because there's nothing worse than having a wine turn on you. My wife and I keep some of our reds very, very slightly chilled.
Nitin: I love that this is drinking with Don and...
Guy: That's what we were talking about today, right? I thought...
Don: I thought it was all about wine.
Nitin: Nasty, sure.
Guy: Now, tell us about your yacht problems.
Don: No, no. You know what? My first boss at Sun Microsystems had his own racing yacht, more of a sloop really. We used to take it out for team meetings on the Bay in San Francisco. I actually leaned how to boat that way. I said, "Well, this is pretty cool. You know, what's it like having a boat?" He said, "Imagine wearing the finest Armani suit, standing in a cold shower, and shredding $100 bills."
Don: "That's what it's like." So no boats, another house.
[crosstalk and laughter]
Rene Ritchie: Firm no boat rule.
Don: Another house is better enough. No fucking boat.
Nitin: [laughs] "No fucking boat" should be a T-shirt. I know.
Don: I know. Have you seen that Internet man with the cat that's wearing the suit, sitting at the table?
Don: I should buy a boat.
Rene: It reminds me of "The Usual Suspects."
Don: That's so not me.
Rene: No fucking coke on that boat.
Don: Yes. You know, for some various reason, I watched "The Usual Suspects" again, because I've seen it like 50 times, a couple of weeks ago. I noticed somebody in there who's in the cast that I never noticed before. Did you know Clark Gregg is in that movie?
Rene: I did not.
Don: Yeah. He plays the doctor. I've seen that damn movie like 25-30 times and never noticed that.
Guy: Who is Clark Gregg? I'm sorry.
Nitin: He's Agent Coulson in all of the Marvel movies.
Nitin: He's been a director. He's actually in way more places than you would think he would be.
Rene: He's multi-talented.
Nitin: Yeah. He's one of those guys. He's so unassuming looking that you just don't notice, and turns out he's in it.
Rene: He never really used an iPhone, but he's done pretty well for himself.
Guy: I suppose. Yeah.
Don: Did we, unfortunately, start to show already our [indecipherable 0:04:49] ?
Nitin: I don't know.
[laughter and crosstalk]
Don: I certainly hope not, because I don't want anything...
Rene: I'm going to edit it in the whine stuff at the top, and then I'll go to the show.
Guy: Whining about your house?
Don: Yeah. Whining about my house. You know that horseshit.
Guy: I hear you.
Don: Which is, again, why I'm drinking wine this time of the day. But, of course, as a lesson I learned from a friend of mine at Adobe years go, when I went into his office early the morning, we were at a big bug run, and I was trying to describe...I was on the Illustrator team, but he was the lead engineer on Photoshop.
I was on loan to try to help them make a deadline. I went in to talk about a bug. He looked a little bleary-eyed.
I was talking about the bug, and he was nodding and stuff. He opened up the drawer to his desk, and he pulled out a bottle of whiskey. He gestured [indecipherable 0:05:43] with it, and then he said, "Shot?" I said, "You know, Mark, it's like 9:30 AM in the morning." He goes, "I don't drink by the clock."
Don: I've always tried to live my life by that piece of advice. Don't drink by the clock.
Nitin: It's very healthy.
Guy: That's right. It is.
Rene: I thought we would get halfway into native versus Web apps before you guy started drinking.
Nitin: I'm feeling like I need to catch up over here. I've been accelerating right now, because it sounds like Don is ahead of me.
Don: I'm already half in the bag, Nitin.
Nitin: Maybe I should slow down.
Don: Nitin is on Merlot, and I'm drinking Zinfandel like an animal.
Rene: Then again, you guys are supposed to be on Cirò by now. It's 10.10. It's a thing of the past.
Don: Yeah, yeah.
Rene: That's a wine [indecipherable 0:06:34] .
Don: Nitin, do you remember all the actual wine code names with the actual cat code names with the actual release numbers? Because I, thankfully, have forgotten all of that now.
Nitin: Oh God, no!
Nitin: I'm sure I don't. Let's see. I'm even trying to figure out now which one was Merlot. Was Merlot tiger?
Nitin: I think Merlot might have been tiger?
Don: It might have been a tiger.
Nitin: Yeah. Gosh, I don't...
Nitin: There we go.
Don: Rene just popped into Skype...
Rene: Tiger power PC was Merlot.
Don: Mountain lion was Zinfandel. Mountain lion was the last one I worked on, but I left before it shipped.
Nitin: OK. You know what I'm doing right now?
Nitin: I saw the notification show up on the side, you know, the link that Rene just sent, and now I'm clicking around like a moron trough the Skype UI, trying to figure out how to get to the...
Rene: No, they hid it. It's the latest version hides comments.
Nitin: It's ridiculous.
Don: The worst thing, Nitin, is that every time you initiate a voice call, you have to go in and figure out how to show the goddamn chat section again. You cannot make that sticky. It's like they keep redesigning the UI to piss you off.
Don: Like I told you before the show started, my sister screams at me sometimes, "Goddamn this free software."
Don: She says I have to keep it in perspective.
Nitin: It's funny. We've been working in the computer industry for so long. I kind of feel like we've been through so many years of working with GUIs and things like that that, at this point, you should be able to figure out any GUI, and you should be able to figure out any app, and things like that. You just run across these apps that are just baffling. On the one hand, I feel like, "Oh my God."
Don: Like Microsoft Word or something? [laughs]
Nitin: [laughs] Yeah, baffling like Word. It's these esoteric apps like Word. But, on the one hand, I feel embarrassed like, "God. Well, if I can't figure this out, what..." Somehow my mom can figure out Skype, and I can't figure out the UI.
But, on the other hand, I'm almost a little bit proud of the fact that I sort of feel like I've kept a little bit of the normal personness that helps kind of guide whether a UI is usable or not.
Don: Yeah. I know exactly what you mean, because a couple of weeks ago, and then it happened to me today, as you all know from the email I sent this morning dealing with freaking Ikea and people who can't do math, I had to scan something in on the Mac. This is the Mac. This is the operating system that we worked on together. I had to use the scanning UI.
Rene: You poor bastard.
Don: You poor bastard is exactly right. It is the worst goddamn user interface ever.
[laughter and crosstalk]
Nitin: You talked about "In preview"? The menu...
Don: No. Well, yeah. How the hell do you...? You either go into "System preferences," and you go to the printer icon, and you click "Scan," and you say "Open scanner," or you to go Image Capture and do it that way. Either one of them are just the same path to death. I mean, it's just the worst god damn UI to try to figure out what it's doing...
Nitin: You know what though?
Don: It's been like that for years. What's worse is if you ever try to do something like this on this on Windows or worse you had Linux -- oh, shit -- then OS 10 is like a breeze.
Nitin: I was going to say was the only thing that's worse to me, I'm now used to the UI within Preview, if you go on the file menu, kind of close to the bottom, there's the bring up the scanning UI menu item there. At this point, it's sort of like living to a dump. I'm kind of used to it.
Nitin: The problem I have is, that UI is just fantastic compared to any and all printing and scanning UI that's been developed by printer and scanner manufacturers. If you want to see just trash, that's almost the definition of it. If we're recording, please no disrespect to anybody who's developing printing and scanning software...
Don: But seriously get your head examined. That's what you're saying. [laughs]
Nitin: Yeah, it's awful. I mean, it's so bad. It looks like it still uses Quick Draw to this day. I never see non anti-alias text until I'm going, ironically, into printing and scanning software.
Don: [laughs] It's like a flashback to your carbon days, right? [laughs]
Don: You were swallowing Merlot right then, weren't you? [laughs]
Nitin: I literary actually was going. [laughs] How did you know that?
Don: It's the power of technology. Were you in the exec review when I think it was -- I can't remember whether it was Forstall or Josh -- somebody lost in some exec review, and we were talking about, I think it was AirPrint when we were first trying to do it on iOS and dealing with the printer manufacturers and stuff. The execs were just incredulous about things that were basically impossible because these people were so entrenched in doing it the stupid way.
Nitin: I remember that.
Rene: The printer people?
Don: Oh, yeah. It's just awful.
Rene: [laughs] Someone just flipped out of the industry-wide stupidity.
Don: One of the reasons that printing at iOS, which is still not great, but one of the reasons I think it's actually better -- well, certainly simpler -- than it was 10, you can't scan with any device. There's no solving for that. One of the reasons it's a little bit better is they spent so much effort to work around those things. God, people were not happy when they found out there is limitations and things like that.
Guy: We had David Gelphman on the show a while ago. He...
Don: Oh, God. [laughs] What did he say about this?
Guy: The same but he's not as colorful as you.
Guy: At least, publicly. [laughs]
Don: Nitin knows this in meetings. I was actually not the most colorful person in the room depending on the meeting. Although, I was usually second or third -- it's usually second or third -- but not always the most colorful in terms of obscene and things like that.
Nitin: I think that's probably smart, right?
Nitin: You don't want to be the most colorful. You kind of want to sneak in behind your Forstalls and your...
Rene: Anyone with an S or C in their title.
Nitin: You're kind of going out on a limb if you're the most colorful unless you really know where everybody stands in the room. It's probably better to be a little more subdued and let people who can take the luxury of being that colorful to take that luxury.
Rene: That's true. Yeah.
Don: Rightfully so. I've been in plenty of meetings...
Nitin: I was just going to say that that's the thing is, a lot of times, the most colorful person in the room is right. They're absolutely right. They're talking to somebody else who is, maybe not necessarily defending even something they've developed, but they're just sort of describing how the world works. It could be the printing and scanning ecosystem.
The poor schlub who has to sit there and describe all the limitations around printing and scanning, and why HP wants things this way and Brother wants things that way. The Scott or somebody in their position, they don't care. They're just going off on the person, on the messenger, right? They're kind of shooting the messenger in a way, but they're absolutely right. It's just not something that the messenger can do much about that.
Don: It's not certainly productive, but it's certainly fun to watch if it's not you. [laughs]
Nitin: Yes. That's the other part. Part of it is you're thinking, "Thank God, I'm not defending or describing the printing ecosystem to Forstall or anything like that."
Don: By the way, this is something that I was actually going to reminisce with you about today, which is the whole concept of meetings at Apple. I don't think a lot of people on the outside realize what these are like. We used to complain all the time about boring meetings. Seriously, most of the time what you really wanted was a boring meeting because that means you didn't get shit on because it was boring.
The interesting meetings, what you never wanted to be was the focus of an interesting meeting for exactly this reason. That was just not a lot of fun. How many times did you demo for Steve and things just didn't quite work out exactly as planned?
Nitin: Oh, OK. Let me see.
Nitin: I imagine you did the same, exact thing, right? Was when you know you're demoing for Steve, you run through it. You rehearse that technology to the hilt to the point where you know all of the limitations. You want to be so prepped and so ready.
Often times when you're demoing something, I mean, it's shitty, pre-release software so it's going to be buggy. You're really just trying to get the point across of either progress is being made or...
Don: It's something you would never give to end customers.
Nitin: Exactly. Let's see. I think I can count on one hand certainly and probably on three fingers the number of times that I had demoed just run into a problem that I didn't anticipate or that I didn't know about. What I always found anyway -- and I'd love to hear what you thought about this too -- was if I was demoing something and if I knew that there were just to fall off a cliff here, please don't tap that button because it's all fucked up. It's just never going to work.
Most of the time, the other thing that would happen is Steve would allow you to demo something to him for about three seconds before he snatched the mouse or snatched the phone out of your hand and started dicking around with it himself. So, after the first one or two times that that happens, first and foremost, Greg Christie taught me this one, is do not fight him. Don't try to fight him and get the mouse back.
Don: No, no. It's like I wrote in my retrospective on Steve, and remembering Steve, if he wanted to drive the demo machine, then by God, you let him fucking drive.
Don: Jesus, that was the kiss of death. Scott explained that to me years ago.
Nitin: OK, yeah. I always knew that that could potentially happen, so you build that into your preparation as well. OK, there are all the things that I really want to get across in this demo, and there are all the things that I think he really cares about, and then there are the cliffs. That, if you hit this button or if you rotate on this view, or if you do something else, it's just going to be all fucked up. If we can't, during the scramble to get things working well enough to be demo-able, if we can't get these things fixed, them at the very least I want to know about them. I want to know about them so they're not a surprise to me when I walk into that group.
Don: Oh, yeah.
Nitin: At the very least, if I know about it, and if it's not a surprise to me, then I can speak to it and I can at least let Scott, and Steve, and Phil, or anybody else who is in the room, let them know that we're on it and we know what we're demoing here. We know the limitations of what we are showing you, we are not just waltzing in with a half-baked piece of crap and saying "Oh well, maybe it works." Oh, look at that, we ran into this problem, right?
I want to know all of the things that are going to go wrong. So really, when I am thinking about it, it must have been three. I can't imagine, I don't think it was more than three times where I ran into a problem, and I didn't know that it was a problem before walking in.
Maybe that's just because we were demoing things on iPhone, we were demoing things from so early on that I think not even Steve had an expectation that things were going to be working well. So I was able to, at least, I could talk around the fact that, yeah, if you're looking at this address book review, please don't hit edit to bring up the edit the photo you like, because that's just all broken right now.
Don: Well, you know what we did? We cheated sometimes, we would disconnect things, UI elements so they didn't work. It was like a busy box for toddlers, just poke at it and it doesn't do anything, because not doing anything was better than a crashing, because that leaves a sour taste.
The big thing, I've experienced several times where software crashed, you have to prep for it and you have to warn them that that's going to happen. Whatever you did, you never made excuses for it or blame anybody else.
Don: You just got your ass handed to you if you were going to do that. I watched somebody make that mistake one time, and you know how when you're in a room, and it's really super awkward, somebody has said something stupid? This was much worse than that, much worse. I do not recommend it.
No, I had, I think it was only like you say, one or two times where something happened and my people didn't warn me about it, or I didn't know that that could happen. I've certainly had other things where we've had misbehaviors, or we had the rare crash, but I knew those things were possibilities going in.
My people learned that one thing that I disliked most of all as a manager, and that was to be surprised. I just fucking hated surprises. Not only that kind, but all kinds. I always told people, if you're going to commit to doing something, I'm going to hold you accountable to that. But if you're not going to make it, do not tell me at the last minute. You better warn me ahead of time, because I do not like surprises, because first what's happened is Scott's going to hand me my head on a platter, and then I'm going to go looking for yours.
That's another reason why that was so rare. But the other thing you said was preparation. I look at others, and this was up and down the line, by the way. Preparation for things at Apple, Scott was probably the most prepared person I ever met in my life. Remember his briefing books before the Monday morning meetings, and how much? It's like I wrote that blog post a couple years ago, about after retiring, how Sunday night is a work night for everybody at Apple.
Don: Because it's the exec meeting the next day. So, you had your phone out there and you are sitting in front of your computer. It didn't matter if your favorite show was on.
This was especially worse after the Sopranos ended, because for a while there, you could count on the hour that the Sopranos was on, that Scott wouldn't but you, because he was watching the Sopranos, and that was your reprieve. You could go to the bathroom, you could have a conversation with your family, whatever.
Scott was a late night kind of guy. He was not a morning guy at all, he was a late-night guy. You were basically on until two o'clock in the morning. How many times were you fielding emails from him at 1:30 or 2:00?
Nitin: Actually, that's the interesting thing. The emails that I got, and maybe we can piece together the way Scott actually worked on Sunday from this. I remember, my emails from Scott started about 11 AM on Sunday. If they didn't start at 11 on Sunday, then I always felt, he must be doing something fun today. Or there must be some family get-together or something like that.
Don: Oh, really? Because I used to get the stuff from Bertrand early Sunday morning, and I didn't start getting the stuff from Scott. It was random through the day. But he would always panic at the last minute.
I think part of the reason why I got the last minute things, probably that happened to Henri, Kim and I, because we reported to him directly. He just took an extra special joy in squeezing us. I don't know, and so he would usually, once he was going through Kim's status that she prepared, he would usually hit.
My line managers would hear it from him in the morning and I would get CCed on it, but I didn't get the direct stuff from Scott until usually late at night.
Guy: Isn't that a bit screwed up, talking to the people that report to you?
Don: No, no, I did the same thing. He would always CC me.
Nitin: It's funny, though.
Don: Somebody had written something in the status report or whatever.
Guy: Yeah, it lands on his desk. I guess that makes sense.
Don: Yeah, that's perfect. I never took offense of that at all, and certainly my managers, I certainly hope they never took offense when I would send something, because I wanted the answer right away, because I had somebody beating me with a hammer. I wanted the answer right away, so I would do the same thing.
Nitin: I think that that's another thing that's the difference. That was something that I definitely noticed when Steve Jobs came back to Apple and brought the new, next management along with him.
Before, Apple as a corporation was very hierarchal. VPs would talk to directors, directors would talk to managers and managers would talk to other managers that are may be employees. It wasn't until, this is what I noticed, it wasn't until Avie and Bertrand and Scott Forstall, and Steve, the new management team came in, that you would just get email directly from Avie. If Avie had a question, he was asking your directly. Or if Bertrand had some suggestions on how to implement something, he was just stopping right into your office.
Before the next buyout, it was a rare thing. At the very least, for me, maybe this is where I was in my career. Actually, I did hear this from other people too, that the old VPs, they didn't just turn up in people's offices. In fact, I remember...
Don: No, they were pretty absent. Darren Adler has told me about this many times, and so has John Norochi.
Nitin: Exactly, yeah.
Don: For me, he was insanely useful about learning about the old and the new Apple, because I was familiar with the old Apple as a customer and a developer at other companies, but I didn't start working for the company until 2001, four years after NeXT acquired Apple. John was tremendously useful to me in learning about that. He said the same thing, that it was like night and day.
I was talking to Bertrand about this. I don't know, we were sitting around, prepping for some, whether it was MacWorld or a dev conference. You know how you sit backstage and you're prepping for the show and we're just bullshitting?
I was asking him about the...which is a stupid thing to do with Bertrand, because you lean into something accidentally if you're not careful doing that. But he was a pretty nice guy. I was asking him about that, and he said "It's basically that way because everybody that's at NeXT still thinks of the company as being 50 people."
Don: They still, the entire mindset of everybody in the management chain was, this was a startup. So, it was very flat that way, in terms of communication was very flat that way. That was quite a bit unlike the old Apple, it was much more compartmentalized, I would say.
Nitin: I definitely remember, in field Apple, being terrified when...One late night, I was working with another engineer. We were trying to bring up the System 7 software on a brand-new piece of hardware that was being brought up. This VP kept showing up in my office every 45 minutes. "Is it working, does it boot yet? Does it boot? Can you get to the Finder? Where is it now?"
Nitin: And it was just, oh my God, what do I say? Then I look back at that years later when I go from answering some emails from Avie to talking with Bertrand about specifics around how something should be implemented, and just noticed that huge, huge difference.
You're right, I had heard the same thing from other people as well. The whole management chain, they still felt and thought of it as this very small company, where these communication barriers just don't exist. I think that was actually a very good thing. I mean, it's a little terrifying at times, when you get an email from somebody way up the food chain.
The first couple of times you get those emails, you're like, "Oh, my God! I must not be doing my job right."
Nitin: Or I must be a huge screw up or something is going wrong, but after a while you get used to it. Actually, I appreciated that. It opens communication...
Don: It's a real time saver. It creates a lot of clarity, and it actually makes you feel more connected to your management, which is a very, very good thing.
The problem they're having with it now, because I've talked about it...Somebody has been writing about this, in "New York Times," about Apple University. I saw some article fly by on "Hacker News" the other day. I usually don't click on those things because they just irritate me.
One thing we learned about after the fact is that, other than the United States Army, Apple is the world's largest functional organization. Apple doesn't have divisions. Beats may be the first one it ever has. I don't know how that's going to work.
Rene: There's this orphaned FileMaker somewhere.
Don: Yes, the orphaned FileMaker. That was a half-division, half something else, but...
Nitin: There was Claire's back in the day, too, right? I think you're talking about modern Apple, post-Steve Jobs Apple.
Don: Yes, modern Apple, post-Steve Jobs Apple. The entire company was run as if it was still NeXT, because that's the way Steve liked it. It's so ingrained in the culture now, they teach everybody that.
Part of Apple University is oddly spreading the Steve vision for how to make the company that he felt most comfortable with. You could argue that that's not necessarily the most efficient way to do it. It certainly goes against every business principles you've ever heard of, but it sure as hell has worked well for him!
Nitin: I have to say I wonder about that though. On the one hand, there's the organization, and there is the structure, and the lines of communication that Steve created, just the environment that he created and worked in. Obviously, there are great successes from that.
The other half of that is Steve himself. I wonder, can you really build an organization like that and have this collapsed hierarchy in some ways, not have these divisions, and have this very functional organization without having somebody a lot like Steve in the middle of it?
Unfortunately, I don't know enough about Tim Cook to know whether he thrives in an organization like that, but I'm curious and I wonder, can you actually build an organization like that without a leader who complements that structure?
Don: It requires a leader like that, who believes in that thing. You have to remember that for the last...how long has Tim worked there? It's 15 years now. He learned at the altar of Steve how to do those things and how to manage for Steve in Steve's absence.
A lot of people forget that. There were two fairly lengthy occasions where Steve was just not there and Tim was running the company. The other senior and executive VPs were doing their thing and everything happened really well. iPad basically happened when Steve was away, right?
Don: Steve said, "We're doing the iPad," and then he was off to...where was it, to get the liver transplant?
Nitin: Was that Tennessee?
Don: I think it was Tennessee. He was gone for months and months. It was Steve's vision to do the iPad, but the actual execution of it was all of us going about and doing a lot of the details ourselves. After that happened, Apple would never talk about that that's the way it had happened, on the outside.
After that happened, I wasn't worried about the company if Steve disappeared. I didn't expect and was very saddened by what happened a few years after that, but I knew that he company could function without him being their 24/7.
By the way, when you hear the so called apocryphal stories about Tim Cook coming to work at the wee hours and staying late, it's not just some PR person, telling you stories to make you think that Apple executives work really hard like that. They really do that. These people are nuts. They are there all the time.
I know that for Bertrand, certainly when he was there, you would never know what time of the day or night you would get an email from that man.
Nitin: He didn't really make it a secret, either. I don't think he slept more than three or four hours a night. He was pretty open about that. [laughs]
Don: Neither did Steve.
Nitin: It's funny. Now, when I look at executives at other companies, and I have no idea, really...because of where I come from and where I've done a lot of my learning, just looking at these executives, and looking at how hard they work, and how they're always on and always answering emails and always working, I only assume the same thing about other companies. I really don't know that.
Don, I completely agree. It's amazing, the number of emails...you've gotten these, too, right? You've got an email forwarded to you that's not to you, it's from Scott, but it's a forward from Steve and it's just coming at this crazy hour. You just know that there's this fire hose of emails that are just going out at 2:45 in the morning, and there are VPs or executive VPs who are scrambling to get answers.
That was just week after week, month after month over the years.
Guy: What would the people that reported to you guys tell us about reporting to you guys? Like the stories you were telling about your friends...
Don: That was wonderful, Guy!
Nitin: That we were the best managers they ever had.
Guy: OK. Problem solved.
Don: I have no idea what I told my folks. You found yourself doing this. If you forwarded something to one of your people at one o'clock in the morning and they didn't reply promptly, you got a little annoyed at them, a very tiny bit.
I told people, I explained to them. I've said this, Rene, I think it was last year we did when we were talking about hiring and stuff.
Rene: Yes, team building on Vector.
Don: At team building, I told new managers, when someone came into my office and said they wanted to be a manager, we're going to set them up to do that, I said, "How did you sleep last night?" They said, "Oh, fairly well." I said, "Good! Because that's the last one you're going to get, the last good night's sleep you're gonna get."
You know Ritchie, it's like that. It's a stressful job, there's a lot of responsibility, and you always have to be on. It's not that it's not fun, it's not that it's not fulfilling. It's not that you don't get to work around all these brilliant people, the bad side effect is they're all workaholic, psychotic brilliant people.
I've also tried to explain to people by using the analogy because they asked, "What's it like being around Steve, and Avie, Bertrand, Scott, Phil, and Tim?" I said, "You know, it's a lot like working in a nuclear power plant, but you don't get a suit, one of those protective suits. It's a lot of radiation and you either learn to survive it or you just die."
They are not mean people, they are not spiteful people, they're not trying to trip you up. They're just very intense and things emanate from them.
Nitin: They're intense, they're looking for the answers. You have the answer and you cannot get the answer to them soon enough. [laughs]
Don: [laughs] That is the best description to that I think I've ever heard. That is just so true. That's exactly it, what he said.
Nitin: The other thing was that when I would send these emails out to my managers...One of the things that I loved the most about managers that I think very highly of was there was this balance between shielding me from the bullshit as much as they could, or shielding me from whatever interference is happening, as much as they can, while at the same time informing me and letting me know what's going on and helping me, giving me all the information I needed to do as good a job as I can.
When these emails would come down...and Scott's looking for the answer. He needs the answer and it's 11 o'clock at night or whatever, and he needs the answer right now. If I can get that answer myself without going crazy, without making myself nuts, and if it means that I cannot bug one of my mangers in the process, I'll do that.
It's only in those cases. For me, I felt like it was not last resort, really, it was second resort, whatever that means. If I can get the answer myself, I'm going to do it and just shield my team and let them have a good night's sleep. If don't get that answer, or for whatever reason I just don't have that information, then I have to pass it down and find out that way.
Don: Yes. Sometimes it's like a roll of the dice. You get the email from your boss, from Scott, you would say something, "I'm not quite sure about this, and then you would reply or forward, include Scott so he would get a reply, and you would send it to one of your people. The death was if that person didn't reply until the morning. Then that person has a black eye and you've just made them look bad in front of your boss, right?
Don: That's what I try to explain to people. It's very subtle. It's not required of you, but let's be honest, it's expected.
Don: That's what you have to do. Still to this day, people ask me why I retired.
Nitin: [laughs] Really?
Don: There comes a time when I could actually enjoy Sunday evening in a whole new other way. You've done this. By the way, I'm sure, Nitin, you've been on vacation and taken your laptop, or taken your phone or taken your Pad. I don't know how many managers I've talked to or had really long conversations in email or on the phone, only to find out later on that they were in another fucking country.
Nitin: Yes. Oh, my God! Yeah, absolutely. To me, anyway, that's when it started to feel a little dysfunctional. It was when...
Don: A little?
Nitin: I'm on vacation, I've got my laptop, I'm going to have Internet access all the time, and I'm probably going to check my email four times a day. That's on vacation.
Don: Slacker! Four times?
Nitin: I know, exactly. If I went to Hawaii, I wasn't going to bring it to the beach, but you're right.
Don: But that's what you do!
Nitin: There were times when it felt like...It really did feel like...You say slacker and I know you're joking, but I think you're probably also a little serious.
Nitin: You do feel like a slacker if you only checked it four times. If you let an email go from your boss and you let that email languish for three and a half hours before you got around to answering it, "Oh, my God! Why am I here?"
Don: Yes, exactly. I couldn't do that. I had to do something right away. I said in the article I wrote for "The Loop Magazine," when Steve asked you a question and you didn't ramble or whatever you did, you didn't make up an answer...if you didn't know you said that you didn't know, and more importantly, you told him when you would have an answer.
Sometimes, when you would get these emails, what you would do is, you had to be blunt and say, "I don't know. Here's what I'm doing to get you that answer and when I expect it," you said as your kids were begging you to go out and see this nice sight in France, or wherever the hell you were at. I mean, that's just what you did.
I sometimes have young people come up to me today and ask me about being successful in this business. Part of it is just dumb luck, being in the right place at the right time. I thank God I listened to my wife when I took the job at Apple.
The other thing is you have to realize to really be successful to a sin. It's kind of a Faustian bargain you make, being aware you work. If you're not willing to pay that price, it's not going to come to you. I hate to say that. You have to ask yourself, "Is that really the way you want to live your life?" It's not like I recommend it, either. You have to think long and hard about that.
I know I've read a lot of studies on how this is a stupid way for the tech industry to function, and that's certainly true. This happens all over, and it's not just the tech industry. I think in the tech industry, it's like on steroids, just because of the nature of communication and what we tend to do.
Damn, there is no way you can cruise through a job at Apple Incorporated. That just does not happen for anybody I've ever seen.
Guy: We'll take a quick break so I can tell you about lynda.com.
Lynda.com is an easy and affordable way to help individuals and organizations learn. You can instantly stream thousands of courses created by experts on software, web development, graphic design, and more. I like to think of it as a repository for information readily absorbed by your brain. They have fresh content, new courses added daily.
It's easy to use, there's a high quality video tutorials. It's a great tool, there are searchable transcripts, playlists, certificates or course completion, and it covers the gamut from beginners to advanced. If you just want to learn a new piece of software, maybe you're an expert in other pieces of software, but you want to get better at a certain one, whether it's a hobby, or to improve your career, or to get a job you're looking for, they make all of it accessible and easy.
Twenty five dollars a month gives you unlimited access to 100,000 video tutorials. You can watch them on the web, on your iPhone, on your iPad, on your Android phone, but even Premium Plans, where you can download courses to your iPhone, iPad, or Android to watch them offline, and also download project files and practice along with your instructor.
Some of the newest courses they've added are managing your mobile photos, GoogleDocs and Sheets on iOS First Look, iPad for business, Up and Running with OpenGL, Creating Mobile Games with Unity.
One of the things about Lynda is that they have some of the best people in the industry teaching these courses, but they also get them online so incredibly fast. Apple introduces something new, chances are as soon as it is shipped, Lynda will have a course for you if not that day, then incredibly soon thereafter.
I like Lynda because everybody learns differently, and this is not often accounted for in traditional courses. With Lynda, you set your own pace. You can watch a little bit or you can watch a lot. You can watch it at home, you can watch it on the go. It really molds itself to the way that you like to learn best.
We've worked at a deal with lynda.com to provide you with a special offer to access all courses for free, for seven days. All you have to do is go to lynda.com/debug to try it out. That's lynda.com/debug. Believe me, your brain will thank you.
Nitin: When you were saying, "I don't know and when I will have an answer for you," for me, that was a turning point in when it became a lot more comfortable for me to interact with Steve and with other executives as well.
Don: Did you learn to do that? [laughs]
Nitin: I learned to do that? The first thing, the first step in that education of learning how to deal with someone like Steve Jobs is, "Oh, my God! I need to know everything. Holy shit! This demo needs to go flawless!" That's your first thought.
If you ask anybody who's rubbing two brain cells together, that's what they're going to strive for. They want this demo to be as perfect as every demo that Steve's ever given. If it's not, then he's going to rip your head off. Then the world comes crashing down around you.
When I got to the point where I understood that I could say, "I don't know, but I will have an answer for you by x," or "I don't know, but let me get that information for you and I'll have it back to you by this," and just knowing that that was a satisfactory answer in a limited set of circumstances, that became a kind of relief.
It was just that I don't have to know everything, I don't have to have all the answers right now. That doesn't mean that I can let up on the rehearsals that I do. That doesn't mean that I can't know every fucking bug that's in this busted piece of software that I'm going to show my CEO. That doesn't mean that I can't slack off on preparation or on understanding or things like that. It's just acknowledging that there is...
Don: What it means you can actually swallow your food now.
Nitin: Right. That I can get a couple hours of sleep at night.
Don: What it does is it puts off the inevitable stroke.
Nitin: It doesn't eliminate it. It just puts it off like you said.
Don: Yeah. Exactly.
Nitin: For me, anyway, that was a big turning point was when I realized...In some ways, it was calibrating with the executives and understanding where was the bar.
How much should I have to know and how much did I have to have off the top of my head, as opposed to, "I can go and get the answers, and that's OK." Part of it, probably, was just meeting with Steve enough, or meeting with Avie or any of these other execs enough that, hopefully, there is a little bit of trust built up on their side too, if you're not a bozo enough times.
Don: You got over that initial set of flinching that you did, right?
Nitin: Or you can hide the flinching pretty well. [laughs]
Don: You can hide the flinching. It was really good for you because you got to see the older Apple and you got to see the new Apple. You worked for Scott before he became a director, right?
Don: I started working for him, it must have been one month after he got promoted. So it wasn't that far off that.
Guy: Did you guys ever work together, because you did Mail?
Don: We crossed paths an enormous number of times, sure.
Guy: I figured.
Nitin: One of the first times that I really remember working with you and with your team, Don, was when we were adding HTML composition to mail.app, right?
Nitin: Just working through that. It's one of those things that, it sounds so easy. If you have [laughs] something...
Don: Were you working for Bruce then?
Nitin: No, actually I never worked for Bruce. I was managing the mail team.
Don: Yeah, you were [indecipherable 0:54:12] .
Nitin: Yeah, I was managing the mail team. At that point, I was working for Henri, who was, I believe, a peer of Bruce's.
Don: OK, right.
Nitin: I think that's how it worked out. Yeah, we put in HTML support. It's my understanding that was the first time, of course, that we added just the ability to edit a Web page, which is effectively what you're doing in email when you're composing using HTML. That was the first time that I got to work with a lot of the really great people on your team.
Don: That was a very good collaboration. I thought that worked out really well. Weren't you guys using the old HTML display?
Nitin: Oh, God.
Don: Yeah. [laughs] Oh, God, is a great way to describe that. Not to disparage that, but that's all that they had back then, right?
Don: Was HTML display left over from NeXT or was that done from the acquisition? Even Bruce didn't know that.
Nitin: [laughs] That's a really good question. If Bruce didn't know that, then I feel a little more comfortable, because I managed mail after Bruce did.
Nitin: Before Bruce did again I guess. Anyway, I thought that it was...I don't remember if it originated at NeXT or if it was something newly developed at Apple after the acquisition. I don't think it was after the acquisition.
Don: I don't think so. But it was, very kindly, a big ball of snot.
Rene: Is that the one where it's the text view and you could feed it HTML? Is that what you're talking about?
Don: Yeah, that's essentially what it is. Basically, what somebody did...It is really a marvelous hack in a way. The text view in NeXT step is basically an RTFU, right?
Don: It's a Rich Text view. Basically, somebody said, "Well, it's RTF. We have styling and whatever. We'll just overload it and make that HTML." That's not really the way it works at all.
Don: But they actually made this sort of work. You could do HTML3 sort of with this stuff. That's basically what they were doing early on before we went in there and started Safari and WebKit. That's what they were using. That was still better than the old...there was another HTML framework that was used for the original help system.
Nitin: Oh, shit.
Don: That was carbon-based. That was actually even worse.
Nitin: I don't remember what that was, but I remember when we talked about getting our act together as far as HTML rendering goes, that was just a non-starter from the beginning. That was so '90s...
Don: [laughs] Oh, yeah.
Nitin: ...the carbon-based one. I mean it was clear. Even the people who didn't...
Don: For all the fan boys out there wondering if I'm talking about Cyberdog, it was not Cyberdog-based. I get so many questions about, "Did you use any of Cyberdog?" No, Cyberdog was long dead by that time before any of these two frameworks were available.
Nitin: Wait a minute, Don. I'm sorry. I'm just putting this together. Are you the piece of shit who killed Cyberdog?
Don: Well, technically. No, no. Somebody else popped a cap in its ass before I ever got there. It took me several years to do it, believe it or not, but I killed HTML display. Bruce had wanted to kill it for so long because it was still used. I forget in what damn product. We couldn't seem to get off of that crack pipe, but I think it finally...
Nitin: Was it Sherlock?
Don: It was still in the system. No, it wasn't Sherlock. It was something. I'm the guy who also popped a cap in the ass of Sherlock, too, so we can talk about that later on.
Don: HML was still technically in the system because...I forget for what app but it was still in Tiger. Believe it or not, it was still a framework in Tiger. I think it died after Tiger. I'm not sure. You know Bruce before I showed up. He's the one who hired Ben Holler.
Ben Holler had tried to create a Web browser based on HTML display? Do you remember that? Charlotte was the code name for that project. Charlotte's Web.
Nitin: Yeah, I know Ben, and I remember [laughs] HTML display. I did not know that that was a project that was going. [laughs]
Don: Scott decided that that was not worth pursuing, so that's why he hired me. When did you get disclosed, by the way, on Safari and WebKit? Because in the beginning it was only Scott's direct staff and Bertrand and Avie that knew about it. I actually don't know that Steve knew about it when I was hired. See, he didn't know who the hell I was until probably six months later.
Nitin: You know what's funny? I don't think I was disclosed until relatively late. I don't remember exactly when unfortunately.
Don: Were you working for Henri back then on IB or...
Nitin: I was working for Henri. Actually, well, when I started managing the mail team I reported directly to Scott. That lasted about seven or eight months. Just a few months later, I was managing the mail team and the address book team. Henri took over and was my manager as well, so I think he was doing AppKit, IB, and then mail and address book and syncing as well. Sync services.
Guy: He's phoning it in. [laughs]
Nitin: Oh, my God. Yeah.
Don: Slugging them.
Nitin: [laughs] Exactly.
Don: Let me tell you. Henri Lamiraux never phoned anything in.
Nitin: No. No, not at all. [laughs]
Don: Talk about your workaholic.
Nitin: To this day, I don't know how he did it, but somehow he managed the sync services team, which at the time just managing the sync services team seemed to me like beyond full-time job.
Don: Oh, yeah. [laughs] totally.
Nitin: I'm sure you remember this, Don. At the time every VP and their uncle had a syncing algorithm that they thought was just the bee's knees.
Don: Oh, Christ.
Nitin: And here they come with, "Here's how you need to think about synching and here's how you need to think about reconciling changes from two different sources." Remember the triangle problem?
Don: Henri, bless him, he had the patience of Job to stand there and listen and nod and be polite.
Nitin: He's a better man than I am, for sure.
Don: I had everybody and their brother telling me how a web engine should work, so I get a lot of practice of the same kind of horse-shit too.
Don: In fact, I talked to Henri about that one time in a meeting. [laughs] We were kicking back, relaxing, so, "You know, this is a nice meeting because nobody is telling us how to do our jobs in this meeting." It was basically just me and him.
Nitin: That's funny. I can't tell you how many people told me how phone apps should work and how an embedded system should work for modern smartphones as well. Literally, I was told in meetings, "You have no idea how embedded systems work."
The sad thing is, they were right.
Don: But it's not like they knew, either.
Nitin: Right. They knew how embedded systems worked 10 years prior, but they have no idea how they should work.
Don: We hired a big VP who supposedly knew how embedded systems work, Zackman. He was a nice guy, but he didn't work it out.
Nitin: I imagine it's an awful lot like politics or maybe like the NFL, where everybody knows how you should do your job better than you know. But they're not the ones who are...
Don: [laughs] I just realized, we're making Apple sound like a totally horrible place to work.
Don: It really wasn't quite like that, because people would run away screaming. But I never were one to [indecipherable 1:03:25] .
Guy: The funny thing is, I think we had a topic and no...
Don: We did?
Guy: I don't know, I thought so...
Guy: This is way better, just randomly... [laughs]
Rene: Nitin wanted to talk about gestures versus buttons for navigation.
Nitin: Did I? No, this is way more fun. This is great.
Rene: And Don mentioned WebKit versus UIkit.
Don: The thing is, that whole conversation is a non-conversation because people are always going to be surprised by...You guys were there at NSNorth, when I went off on that rant in my keynote?
When people ask me, "Should it be WebKit or [indecipherable 1:04:09] ," I would say, "What the fuck is the matter with you? You're asking the wrong question." It's such a stupid thing, use what's appropriate for the time in the right area.
I hate it when people decide, "I really like chocolate, so I want to smear chocolate on everything!"
Guy: I've done that.
Rene: He's doing it right now.
Don: So it's a really stupid thing. At Apple, we try -- we didn't always succeed -- to be a little more thoughtful about these kind of things. Use the appropriate technology for the time and what's expected.
Why would you want to cut yourself off for something? People always ask me whether I'm excited about Firefox OS and Chrome OS -- that's a bunch of people who like chocolate right there.
Don: They're trying to make everything one flavor, and that's so goddamn stupid. Then I hear about last year, the Facebook app, they decided they had a really slow app and they decided the problem was that it was all HTML-based.
Then they rewrote their app. Hopefully, what they've learned after that is they just had a lot of really shitty code. It doesn't matter what it was written in.
If you re-factor and rewrite it, you're going to improve it. It has nothing to do with HTML. Also, people don't understand always what things are good at. If you're going for speed, if you're going for touching the hardware in very subtle, little gestures and effects, and you want to be in the cutting-edge, why the fuck aren't you writing in native?
But if you're going to render a whole bunch of content that you didn't have when you shipped your app or doesn't exist locally or can change dynamically like crazy, or you want to deal with all these complicated secure transactions, why the hell aren't you using the web engine for that part?
The fuck is the matter with you?
Nitin: [laughs] For me, internally, one of the apps that I never understood why it was developed as this native app and it was just staying on the native app route was Radar.
Don: You and me both.
Nitin: It was especially around the time when [indecipherable 1:06:58] , they had a new Radar update every other week, it seemed. Or maybe even every week. There was a new Radar that you had to download and install, and you get this big honking app, it's this 10 megabyte whatever-the-fuck-app.
Don: Guess what? It's a dynamic interface to a big database. Why the fuck weren't they doing that in the web? Then we would have other apps that I could never understand why they were web-based. I was flattered by this, but does everybody realize that the Dictionary app is WebKit?
Don: Yeah. The fuck is that WebKit?
Don: There's no real compelling reason to me.
Don: It's not a native app, that's all the WebView.
Nitin: That's part of what our jobs were, Don, was...In a place like Apple -- and I'm sure that it's true with a lot of high-tech companies -- there are these groups of domain experts and there are these people, let's take the security team.
If you go and talk to them, they will let you know all of the dangerous things that are happening and all of the risks that we're taking with the UI as we have it designed today. If you go to the domain expert for something like security, and if they have their druthers, they would put up fucking alerts everywhere.
Nitin: There were all kinds of authorizations and all kinds of bells and whistles that show you that what you're looking at is a native-hosted or a secured user interface, so that if you're typing in your password, by golly, that's the place you should type in your password, and everything is going to be OK for you.
The same is true with internationals, right?
Don: Oh yeah. I was there one time with Scott Forstall, he tore somebody on the security team, I forget what poor bastard it was, he tore him a new asshole for proposals of that kind. I don't think they ever let the security team talk directly to Scott after that.
Nitin: I think that's the problem, to be truthful. No disrespect at all to anybody on the security team.
Don: They knew what the hell they were doing.
Nitin: But I refer to them, to my own managers as the security Vulcans, because you knew that going into a meeting with the security team, you're going to get back this completely skewed view of technology and how users should interact with a given product. What you need to do, what our job, you, me, Scott, people who are actually tasked with building a product that people might want to pay money for was teasing out the most important aspects of what they were prescribing, and ignoring everything else. Or deferring or pushing back on other things, and looking for a better way to create an experience that was still appealing to users and, at the same time, was still very secure and very stable.
Don: Right. Go ahead.
Rene: The most secure thing is just never turn on your phone, right?
Rene: Moving forward from that.
Don: You want people to use their devices. This was a great lesson in user interface approach that I found from all of these Apple executives, even Bertrand who wouldn't tout his own UI cred. He would always say that wasn't his forte, but he was a big believer...And certainly Scott was, Scott was a genius at this kind of stuff. We need to do the right thing for the users so they don't have to think about it. What's the path that we can go down, where they never even have to know about this.
Don: That was always a very, very hard thing in terms of security. To the security team's credit, we're making fun of them a little bit there, but ever time they started to really get this. I mean, they started to really understand this kind of thing and they were trying to do the right thing. It's like a lot of others, it took a while to move people in the right direction that way. I will say, believe it or not, the thing that helped the most was actually doing the iPhone. The reason it helped the most, and Steve mandated this, is I found had to be so damn simple. Mac OS X just owes a huge debt of gratitude for usability to iOS, because we would pioneer things on iOS, trying to make them as simple as possible.
In OS X we go "Oh thank God, let's do it that way here on the desktop and see if that works, let's see if people will buy that, too." Now that Federighi is in charge, I think they're trying to take an even more hold in charge of both, not just because he's in charge, but because he's in charge of both. They're trying to take an even more holistic approach to this. That's why I think the unveilings in June at WWDC were just so stunning to people, in terms of "Oh God, of course that's the way it should work." That's the path of least resistance, and I'm safe, and I get my pony.
But what people on the outside don't realize is how goddamn hard that is to do. I mean, there are just legions of people in offices with very hard walls, bashing their heads into them constantly trying to figure this out. It is really damn hard to do.
This is also why you can understand Apple's irritation and chagrin when companies like Samsung come around and just Xerox what they're doing. If you really want to piss somebody off, that's a good way to do it.
Rene, you wrote a piece, was it this morning? "Samsung Unveils the iPhone 5."
Rene: Yeah, the Galaxy Alpha.
Don: Yeah, you really want to irritate somebody at Apple, bring things like that up. Anyway, sorry I went on a rant.
Nitin: No, no, that was great. I completely agree, and that's the problem is that...Let's see, there are a couple things I wanted to say. One of them was, that was one of the things that I loved about working with Scott, or working for Scott, by default, if you go into a UI review with Scott, he is going to be pushing the UI team and pushing on engineering to come up with the most sensible, what we call "default defaults." Before you ever did anything to interact with an app, what are the default behaviors that it is going to use that you could change?
If you find your way into settings and you dick around a little bit, you could find your way into settings and change it to your liking, but really, what are most normal people going to do? Scott had an amazing ability to zero in on those things. To clear away, if he detected that there was too much configuration, or too much assistance or wizards or whatever the fuck that were thrown up into user's faces.
Don: Never propose a wizard to Scott, that was a bad idea.
Nitin: Those were just bad words. If you say those words within Apple, especially in those UI reviews. You were effectively giving up, you were just giving up on configuration, an app, or configuring some behavior or whatever. So Scott, it was great because, I forget where it was. There was some website, it may have even been Grouper or something like that, where they were talking about Picasso and the 10 illustrations of a bull. You start with the most detailed one, at the very beginning, and you end, the 10th illustration is like four strokes.
But if you look at it, you know it's a bull. Scott had this ability, maybe he wouldn't get you to the 10th illustration. He was always going to take the HI team and engineering to the eighth illustration, or seventh illustration. So you could always get to the 10th, but you were going to skip ahead a significant amount.
Don: Scott was never going to let you be sloppy.
Don: Or do something stupid like that. I mean, that's one of the reasons that, it's another reason that made him a great boss, like you say, is that focus. Because this is the first step in making an experience delightful. Because, if you can make it so that you don't notice that you're having an experience, in a way, you don't notice the other things, then the little things that you can do, the little curly Qs, the little effects, those just magnify how pleasant it is to use your device, right?
Don: Because you never had to worry about the other horse shit.
Don: And this was not something that's easy. I mean, it was very, very hard to do, folks.
Nitin: It's a real talent, it takes real talent.
Don: And iteration, it takes a lot of tries.
Nitin: Yes, exactly, that's true. Talent and perspiration, a lot of hard work certainly. But you know, it also takes working with a group of people who value the same thing. If you appreciate the fact that we're all trying to get to that 10th illustration, we're all trying to get there and that's something that we all value. Here's a guy that can take you from the first one or the zeroth one, to seven, oh my God that's a beautiful thing. Now you can iterate, and test, and iterate, and develop from the seventh illustration to get to that 10th. At the same time, that's one of the things that for me, anyway. But I think I can speak for a lot of people who really value what makes Apple a special place. That's what so infuriating about a Samsung is they're going to take that 10th thing, and of course, you can express a bull in four swipes.
Don: It's obvious, that's why it can't be patented.
Nitin: It's only obvious when you see somebody else fucking do it, but it's certainly not obvious.
Don: We drug their ass across broken glass for the last year.
Nitin: Yeah, exactly. Then it's obvious how auto registration in FaceTime and iMessage should work. I mean, these are the things that people kill themselves on, to get these things to work well, or the fallback between iMessage and SMS, things like that.
Rene: Exactly. Great examples.
Nitin: If you describe these things to people, these are just mundane. Why would anybody bother? Make every user on the planet go through these four screens and enter this horse shit, and now you've got a roughly equivalent experience. No, that's not good enough. That's not good enough, and that's the beautiful thing about what we've done in the past, that understanding that that's not good enough. All right, I'll shut up.
Guy: Yeah. So, how do you guys really feel?
Don: I almost wanted to mute myself so you didn't hear my "amen, preach it" kind of stuff there. That also made it a lot of fun working there. I remember when Nick and I were talking about what torment it was some days. When you could actually see something in the end that was like that, you would go, "Damn, we're good. We're doing the right thing." It's also sometimes when people, like I was ranting, I don't know if it is part of the show or whatever. I was ranting about using the scanning software in OS X. When something is bad, we're our own worst critics. We just hate it when we don't quite make it, or we miss something obvious. It's really hard.
On the other thing, I was giving the security team a hard time. These are folks that really matured as a group, in understanding this concept, along with having this tremendous domain knowledge, and continuing to grow that on what's safe. I think by the time I left, they were some of the people recommending "Let's not go over the top here, and do something stupid." That's what made me really proud of being a part of that, being a part of the group of people. Just marvelous people, too. There were days when you wanted to take a few of them and slam them against the wall.
Nitin: That means they're doing their job.
Don: Yeah, they're doing their job. But look at how marvelous it tastes, at the end, on your plate after it's cooked. Try not to think about all those intestines that have to be wrapped around the raw meat to make the sausage, and you had to have your hands in all of that for a while there. It makes it much more pleasant.
That's why you keep doing it. It's really like a drug, really is like a drug.
Nitin: Yeah. Well, and also, so we described some of the bad things, or some of the low points around not really having time to yourself on a vacation, or just knowing that your Sundays, especially your Sunday evenings are just going to be burned answering emails, fetching information, and things like that.
For me, some of the best, some of the high points, some of the stuff that kept me going was the fact that day to day, or week to week, everybody gets new builds. Right? I mean, there's new work that's going on, and there's new features, new functionality creeping into the build as the development process continues.
Because we did have such a flat hierarchy, and it was understood that you could go to anybody and talk to anyone, that was just part of the culture, if something was really, really cool, I could go into someone's office and say, "Wow, this animation that you put in here" for whatever the hell it was, "that's just really awesome."
It felt like every single day, you get a new toy, and the new toy is getting better and better over time. To be sure, there are places where it's just busted, and maybe it deletes really important data, although honestly that didn't...
Don: Like your home directory?
Nitin: Maybe your home directory. That only happened a few times on iTunes.
Don: No, no, iTunes was deleting entire hard drives. It was Safari that was deleting home directories.
Rene: It was your second home directory.
Don: Thank you, Rene. That's very subtle.
But yeah, no, no, Nitin, you're totally right. There were several technologies that were brought up, and I wanted to go up -- you remember migration assistant?
Don: When they created that thing? When somebody brought that up and demoed it in a meeting, I was seriously torn between just running up and giving that person a hug. All the shit that you had to do as an employee there...because you have to remember, we constantly updated our systems.
I mean, it was just...I used to joke you would go into the office, get there at like 9:00 in the morning. This was in the day when you could do a net install. Before net install, you had to run down to building one, find Dave or somebody else, and get your set of disks.
Rene: Find Dave.
Don: Yeah, find Dave.
Rene: Just one guy called Dave.
Don: Dave with the disks.
Nitin: I know who Don is talking about.
Don: Dave Carvalho, right?
Don: Second floor, Dave Carvalho. Get your set of disks and install yourself, and go have a cup of coffee while your machine thrashes putting on the new OS. You did this every fucking day.
Rene: Oh, you must've loved iCloud Restore when it came around.
Don: I left right around when that came up. But Nitin, remember Purple Restore?
Nitin: Oh yeah. Oh absolutely, that was...
Don: You might have used that program once or twice.
Nitin: Once or twice, or maybe every day.
Nitin: Constantly, even when you're on vacation. The first thing you need to figure out -- for me anyway -- first thing I need to figure out is, can I run Purple Restore over VPN. Because I know I'm going to be away from the office. I want to be able to download and install new builds.
To be clear, this is while I'm on vacation.
Don: To be able to run net install and Purple Restore over VPN. Everything was just peaches and cream, the world was perfect if you could do that.
Nitin: It was so much fun. Honestly, other than the people...for me, the people is far and away what I miss the most. But what I also miss quite a bit, and we've been able to thankfully replicate a little bit of that...
Don: I have a dead iMac next to me. Who I really miss is on-site. Nitin knows who I mean. Your Mac dies, you're in the middle of working. You walk down to building three, first floor. You walk in from the interior, you walk in, you made the hard...
Rene: You find Dave?
Don: No, different person. You walk into building three, make a hard right. There's the poor bastard sitting on-site, in that shitty room. As long as I was there, that was always a shitty looking room. The Dutch door there? You remember the Dutch door there?
Nitin: Oh yeah.
Don: "Oh, my machine has died." They just made it all better.
Nitin: I remember that there was a woman who worked in that room for years and years and years. God, I wish I remember her name, because she...
Rene: It was Dave.
Nitin: Her name was probably Dave. Let's just go with Dave. But I would joke with Scott Hertz about the fact that for whatever reason, he would go down to on-site -- he would have some problem with his laptop, and he would go to on-site.
Don: Scott was always breaking shit.
Nitin: He would just get these scowls from Dave, this woman. She was just never happy to see him. I was like, "Really? Are we talking about the same person?" Whenever I go down there, she's like Johnny on the spot, happy to work, get this thing working. Just going above and beyond every single time I went down there.
So, one time, I actually followed him down. He was like, "OK, my hard drive blew up. Let's go down and talk to Dave and see what she says." Sure enough, we go in, and Scott starts talking to her. This is the first time I've ever seen her give someone the stink eye. She's just giving Scott stink eye like I've never seen before.
Don: What the hell is she doing to Scott? Scott, he's a teddy bear. He's a hyper teddy bear...what?
Nitin: There's got to be a smell that he gives off. I don't know.
Rene: Maybe that was the third time he had been down there that day.
Nitin: But then I swear, I swear, I poked my head around the corner and I just waved to Dave and was like, "Hi, how is it going? Can we get this fixed?" Like night and day, her attitude and everything changed. She hated Hertz is what I'm trying to say, is Dave hated Hertz. It was just a funny thing.
Don: The on-site people, they were saints. It's like, remember, it must've been three years into the iPhone before we actually finally got a real Home Depot, remember, up on the third floor?
Nitin: Yeah. With [indecipherable 1:29:31] .
Don: That's what the room was called. It was called "Home Depot," and god, I loved that. Because you could just go in, and you got all your new stuff, your prototypes. If something was dead there in iOS land, a lot of times that's where you went.
Nitin: Yeah, but the software, updating it every day...
Don: That was building two, not building three. That was third floor, building two.
Nitin: Yes, for any of you historians out there.
Don: Anybody sitting with a map of the campus, on-site, first floor, building three. Home Depot, third floor, building two.
Guy: Don't be creepy.
Don: For all I know, they're still there.
Guy: Everybody is called Dave, but here's exactly where to find them.
Don: I said Dave because I didn't want to name drop her, but Carvalho actually is crazy enough to listen to this. He knew I was talking about him. Not at on-site, at...
Guy: It's my new thing.
Don: Anybody is called Dave.
Guy: At Apple is just Dave.
Nitin: It's better than Bob, right?
Don: Remember we had the joke for a while that we were going to give Scott a moratorium on hiring people named Chris? We had so goddamn many people named, was it Chris, or was it Scott? I can't remember. We had so many people named Chris.
Nitin: Yeah. God, I remember that. I don't remember if it was Scott, or was it Chris though? The only Chris that comes to mind is one of your early hires, Chris.
Don: Oh, C-Blue? Chris Blumenberg?
Nitin: Yeah, exactly.
Don: No, he just left for Uber. Rene, was it Uber?
Rene: It might've been yeah.
Nitin: We need Rene to send [indecipherable 1:31:09] .
Don: Rene was so thoughtful on Twitter. He tweeted this after I told him, direct message, and he didn't give the attribution or the context of what it was about...
Rene: Or the name.
Don: Or the name, or whatever it was about. But he tells me that on a DM one morning, because Rene and I talk on Twitter a lot on DMs, what people don't realize. He said, "Hey, did you know Chris Blumenberg went over to Uber?" There was a beat, and I immediately typed, "Oh my god, I hope it's not driving a cab."
Don: That was just the first thing that came to mind. I don't know why.
You know, I hired C-Blue right out of build, where he had started I guess as an intern.
Nitin: That's right.
Don: So, my group was his first job as a real boy, being a real engineer, you get to do real software engineering. A lot of people don't realize the magnificent work he did in the beginning. I mean, we wouldn't have Java in Safari in the beginning, or plugins actually working, if it hadn't been for Chris Blumenberg. He did a lot of that on his own, figuring it out.
Nitin: Wait a minute, wait a minute. I'm sorry, so you're saying if Blumenberg, if it wasn't for Blumenberg's work, we wouldn't have Java in Safari?
Rene: I wasn't going to say anything.
Nitin: I want to make sure...
Don: It mattered back in 2001.
Nitin: When the Terminators from the future come back, they know who to kill.
Don: Well, they'll probably kill him for some other reasons. But no, it mattered a lot in the beginning, because if you couldn't run that...Do you know how much shit I got from banks about fucking Java and various whack-ass plugins, and how much I tormented Chris about getting all these little things working? It mattered back then.
I was talking about, I was the guy who popped a cap in the ass of Sherlock. There was nothing that would make me happier than to kill Java and plugins, certainly. Or Flash, for Christ's sake. But you have to be real.
That's why, you know, I don't know if you saw the tweet a couple weeks ago. I tweeted a link from a Microsoft blog about them, Microsoft having to basically proof Safari's user agent string on mobile.
Nitin: I did see that.
Don: I said something like, "Wow, just wow," and I put the link. I said, "I guess my evil plan to take over the world worked. I don't know how to feel about that." And I forgot...
Nitin: So when you tweeted that, I thought maybe they would use WebKit, but instead...
Don: Yeah. I forgot when I tweeted that, all my tweets get copied into Facebook. And one of my Facebook friends is Dean Hachamovitch. He read that and he commented on it, and I forget what he said. Dean is just, he took it the right way, that meant I wasn't gloating or anything else, and that I was conflicted about it.
He's just a guy with a lot of class.
Rene: But you're totally paying for drinks next time.
Don: Yeah, I'm totally paying for drinks. But Dean is a great guy. Microsoft is having to do what we had to do back then is you have to be practical about what's possible. Dean didn't write that blog post. I thought they were just a tad whiny at the end, but. That's what you have to do. If that's the new Microsoft, maybe they're getting it.
Nitin: It's pragmatic, right?
Don: Yeah, it's pragmatic. It's a much more pragmatic approach.
Rene: That was definitely...oh, go ahead.
Don: In the early days, I was so afraid any day I was going to get fired anyway. I really didn't care if the technical solution to the problem came from Beelzebub. I was going to use it. Because we had nothing back then. The Mac was like...I remember when Brian Croll started at Apple, he's also ex-Easel. He knew he had such a daunting job ahead of him.
Our market share, the numbers, he would do slides every year. Phil would force him to do slides of the top 100 and stuff. Our market share numbers were not good. They were basically headed into the toilet. So you did what you had to do.
I know in the first iteration of the iPhone, nobody believed we could do a mobile phone, or that we could play in that world. We did some things where we had to make some decisions about compromise and compatibility and stuff. You do what you have to do.
Of course, Apple doesn't have to do any of that shit now. Thank god.
Nitin: Yeah, now Apple is the 800 pound gorilla, right? Other people have to do things to accommodate for Apple's behavior. But you're right, back then 10 years ago, or even longer, it was very different. Apple had to try to fit into a world, fit into the Microsoft-defined world, rather than defining it.
Rene: You had to license Active Sync, right?
Don: Yeah, we had to do that. Actually you know, dealing with Microsoft is dealing with the many-headed hydra. It depends on who you get. Maybe the teeth aren't so sharp on that one. The Active Sync folks were actually quite pleasant.
Nitin: Oh yeah, no. I mean, that was one of the easiest things to integrate for us too on iOS. That was very, relatively smooth. I've got to say, even the Exchange Active Sync, the mobile side of the protocol, it made a lot of sense. It was one of those things where you look at it and you're like, "Well, why doesn't the rest of the world work like this?" Specifically iMap, the iMap protocol, why doesn't it work more like EAS?
Don: IMap is a piece of shit.
Guy: Or Gmail.
Nitin: IMap is insane.
Don: No, Active Sync was a good...and they were good for supporting and stuff like that. We found that to be true -- it's like when the Office 360 folks came around, doing the web stuff, and we're trying to make sure that they could run on mobile and stuff like that, they were real reasonable people.
You know, not everybody at Microsoft was like that. The Office people were a little trying.
Rene: They came around. Only took an ECU.
Quick break so I can tell you about Drobo, smart storage to protect what matters. If you've ever had to set up and configure RAID arrays, it is not for the faint of heart, and it is not for people who are busy and don't have a lot of time, but just need something that works, that's what Drobo is for. It is a storage appliance. It is the Apple-fication of a RAID array.
They offer four, five, or eight drive capacity models with USB 3.0, Thunderbolt plus USB 3.0, NAS, iSCI, basically any kind of interface you need, they have a model for. I want to tell you specifically though about the Drobo Gen 3. That's their most popular model, but it's gotten even better.
I used to have the original Drobo, the old school Drobo, and this is a four bay Drobo, but now it's got USB 3.0, so it's faster than ever. It's three to five times faster than ever, in fact. It also gives you the ability to choose one or two drives for redundancy, so you can have more capacity if that's what you want. But you can also have more safety, if that's what you need.
It's optimized for Time Machine, so you can have all your backups going there. It'll even protect you from power failures. It has an internal battery, a small SSD cache to store data being written to the device in the event of power failure. That's really what you want this for. You want an appliance that'll keep your most important data, whether it's your project files, whether it's your personal photographs, anything that would be incredibly difficult if not impossible to replace.
You do want a copy on the cloud, absolutely, but you also want a copy that's readily accessible. If you have terabytes of information, getting them from a back-up drive on your desk is so much faster than getting them off any type of server.
So here's the deal. It's $349, that's one third less than its predecessor. If you have an original four bay Drobo, you get the new one, you pull those drives out, you push them back in, and you're up and running. It's really that simple.
What I want you to do is go to drobostore.com, www.drobostore.com. Enter in code "debug50." That'll save you $50 off the purchase of any Drobo. If you want the new Gen 3, it'll save you $50 on that. If you want one of the much bigger, much more company-based alternatives, $50 off that too. Drobostore.com, offer code "debug50." Thanks, Drobo.
All right, so I want to make sure we get to this if Nitin wanted to talk about it. Nitin, that was, you mentioned something about gestures versus buttons in discussions around implementation and how to provide good experiences.
Don: Oh yeah, please, Nitin, talk about that. I'd like to hear that.
Nitin: Oh sure. Yeah, yeah. I'm not sure how much I have to talk about, but yeah, let's get started. I've got my glass of wine in front of me.
Don: That would be your third glass of wine, right?
Nitin: To be clear, for the record, for my kids who'll be listening to this in the future, I'm on my third glass of wine right now.
Don: Good man.
Nitin: At the time, we...now this is 2005 at this point, right? We understood that we had this great touch technology that was developed initially by FingerWorks, this company that Apple had purchased at the time. We knew that we had this great technology, and we had the ability to not only detect swipes and presses, but really, it was two dimensional presses as well, and two dimensional swipes.
Well, actually, am I getting my dimensions right? It's actually three dimensional swipes, and three dimensional presses. In other words, actually being able to actually figure out how hard a press was, or how hard a swipe was. Or what was the stroke that was being performed? Was it consistently pressed for the duration of the stroke, or was it pressed hard early on and then tailed off into...
Don: By the way, this wasn't actual pressure sensitive technology. Part of this was how much surface, or how many points were activated. That's how you could tell how strong something was.
Rene: It wasn't a digitizer.
Don: It was very clever to know...it was almost like coverage area, right, Nitin?
Nitin: Yes, exactly. It was coverage area.
Rene: It sees your fingers that aren't on the screen and it's tuned so that only when you're actually touching the screen it detects it right?
Nitin: Right, exactly.
Rene: It's basically a magnetic field that it figures out.
Don: Right, but it can figure out your touch, how much surface area is on there. It can't really detect pressure per se.
Nitin: Right, it's a pressure thing.
Don: You can interpolate pressure. If you press your finger down, your finger gets effectively bigger on the device, right?
Nitin: Exactly, based on the understood fleshiness of fingers, [laughs] you could infer from that how much pressure was actually applied.
Rene: Actually UIEvent has it in there. I think it's public now but at one point, it was private because I know [indecipherable 1:43:42] using it internally at Pixar to do exactly pressure-sensitive drawings and stuff.
Don: Didn't they do that a few years ago, made that public API, the information public?
Rene: At one point, it was private.
Don: Maybe for the stylist people.
Rene: You needed to do KVO to get it. Anyway, sorry, I keep [indecipherable 1:44:00] .
Nitin: This is all lovely. I love hearing this.
Don: The long and the short of it is that we have this new toy. We have this fucking, awesome toy that we could play with. We have this technology that we had never gotten, that we never had a chance to play with.
We understood that we had the screen that it was not only a very large screen compared to phones at the time but the entire screen, you could receive touch input from the entire screen.
From very early on, there were some gestures where they sort of deemed intuitively obvious. Things like pinch to zoom, zooming in and zooming out on a photo.
To me, this is the most interesting part, is where is that border between intuitive and now you're going to put up a goddamn user manual as the first experience.
Guy: I was going to say don't necessarily say "obvious" when you're talking to Samsung.
Nitin: Yes. Well, exactly, exactly.
Guy: It's only obvious once you've done it, right?
Nitin: [laughs] By the way, you'll notice that...
Nitin: In the UIs where you can pinch to zoom, there is still even to this day a double-tap to zoom on that point. What I'm trying to say [laughs] is in 2005 we had so many of the discussions that came many years later that I got to see on the outside world where there was this discussion around how natural really are these gestures.
Just because you can perform them with a finger or you can perform them with your thumb doesn't mean that you would necessarily think to be able to perform with your thumb or with a finger. That was really the distinction that we drew.
What are the things that you might think are actually things that you can do? What are the things that a user has the best chances of being able to glean just from their own past experience and interacting with things just in the natural world that we could take advantage of and make it so that they can get some delightful experience on the iPhone?
Rene: It's that debate between direct manipulation of which there are a few and abstract gestures of which there are many but aren't anywhere nearly discoverable.
Don: I really remember this discussion a couple years later when [indecipherable 1:46:48] was proposing the app switching gesture and how we were going back and forth on how the hell that would work and whether people would discover it. That was like the whole original argument on steroids because that was such a really hard problem to struggle with.
Guy: I'm so happy about that app because I was going to try to find a way to do it. I [laughs] wrote a piece ages ago when that just came out complaining that that was a poor move.
Nitin: Are you talking about four-finger gestures on iPad?
Guy: Yeah, if you do the five-finger pinch to switch and the four-finger swipe to switch between apps. I'm thinking about the iPad specifically. It limits what iPad apps can do with the number of touches that they've got, right?
Nitin: Well, you would swipe your way from Fruit Ninja into Mailbox.
Guy: Yeah. I can imagine games really easily where four fingers swiping across the screen is not a weird thing or a five-finger pinch.
Don: You've hit the second stage of this set of problems, not just the stuff that Nitin was talking about. The big problem on touch interfaces is actually the limited palette you have.
Don: It's almost literally a palette, and it's figuratively a palette. That's a real problem. You were in the trenches much more so than I in the beginning. Were a lot of these same discussions going on back then in 2005? Because I only heard some of these.
Nitin: Absolutely. I mean, there were so many...Right away, just like if you sat down with a touch device today and were tasked with coming up with all of the different things that you could do to manipulate the workings of the phone, or manipulate the content that you're viewing on a phone, we were doing that back then and coming up with the laundry list of here are all the different things that we can do and here are they ways that you can manipulate things or interact with the device to better view your comment, or manipulate it or what have you.
Forgive me for using these terms like manipulate and content. I fucking hate these words.
Nitin: I feel like it's...
Don: It's cool. I've heard them so often discussions at work that yeah, I just didn't even notice that.
Guy: [laughs] You need to use something, right? Sounds douchey, but whatever.
Nitin: Exactly, exactly. Please, bear with me here. Really, with every single one of these discussions, it always came back to discoverability. Because a lot of the gestures, if not almost every single gesture, needs to have some aspect of discoverability. Really, because of that, it really mean that these gestures had to be...What's the term?
Nitin: Accelerators, right? They had to be accelerators for other well-known, well-understood ways to manipulate the UI. In other words, they had to be the mini-button, like hitting CommandQ to quit an app as opposed to going to the file menu or the app menu and selecting command key...
Don: Yeah, but it's a very slippery slope with that when you pass that bit. Sometimes you can't even do some of those things on a touch device without using a gesture -- which is why for example slide to unlock, one of the reasons I think Steve went down the path of skeuomorphism. If you make it looks like something that's physically touchable, it makes it much easier for you to intuit maybe I should grab that thing that looks like it's indented...
Don: ....slide it with my finger, plus we're putting out in huge, fucking letters, "slide to unlock" there. Because if you look at the original iPhone from 2007 when it debuted to now, I mean, what do you have now? You have a greater than sign and slide to unlock, and this animation that highlights the letters going left to right.
Nitin: It waits a second if you have [indecipherable 1:51:43] . It doesn't even give you that for a few seconds.
Don: Yeah, exactly. Back then, what we were doing was we were trying to put road signs up and everything, and give you visual cues on where to actually place your fingers. Which is why, also, people complained in the early versions of the iPhone, for [indecipherable 1:52:09] or other things, that we didn't have ways to do things like easily delete messages, or do this or that. There wasn't a gesture. We just didn't know whether people would get that whole swipe to delete thing.
Nitin: Exactly, exactly. Well, and bless you, Don, for bringing this up, because...
Don: People thought we were fucking idiots.
Nitin: Right. To me, I understand that there's this big push away from skeuomorphism. I agree that in some cases, skeuomorphism just got out of hand. If you look at Game Center UI, you're like, "I don't even know what the fuck that is. It's just this blend of real-world items with virtual computing center guidance and I can't make heads or tails of it."
One other thing is Steve Jobs has had for photorealistic rendering since he bought Pixar...
Don: That's basically the reason. Right there, in a nutshell, it was buying Pixar. Thank you very much.
Nitin: He's had a thing for photorealism for a long time. Some of that is because computer graphics and interacting with GUIs has been so far away from photorealism for so long. He saw that as the Mecca that we needed to pursue.
Anyway, to your point, Don. This is a very important thing. We are now the benefactors of understanding how touch displays work and how they should. Like you said, Don, what does "Slide to unlock actually mean"?
If you didn't see a big gray thing that looked like a fucking button in rails, literally...
Don: Yes, exactly.
Nitin: ...that allowed to unlock your screen, would you today understand that a "greater than" arrow next to the word "slide to unlock" with glimmering animation that demonstrates you should move from left to right actually means slide to unlock? I really doubt it.
Don: In my mind, there is no way that if we had debuted the iOS 7 UI in 2005...that's a big fail. If we had debuted the iOS 7 functionality for apps, like the version of Mail back then, nobody would have fucking figured out how to use it, or the version of Safari with its very subtle "is my finger at the bottom of the page?" Everybody figures that out now. It would have just been maddening back then.
Rene: There is some element of evolution. For example, originally you solve one-handed ease of use just by having a small screen. As screens get bigger as you introduce tablets, you can't reach across the screens. Software has to do it.
You start getting things like consistent back and forward gestures and things like on iOS 8 with messages, where you tap and hold to send a message or to take a selfie. It just evolves along with the...as you wanted to do more and more things, you have to evolve the way that those things get done.
Don: That's an issue you pointed out. My particular team got actually really involved in the iPad timeframe because, a typical Apple, we were trying to do too many things at once. We temporarily took over doing some of the apps, actually some of Nitin's apps for the team. We tried to do it cooperatively, but everybody was just too many irons in the fire and not sleeping enough.
I remember when my team started tackling the iPad UIs, this was a terrible problem. It was like this embarrassment of Ritchie's, almost all this space. We didn't want to do what Steve Jobs would retroactively complain about.
With other people, about taking a iPhone, a phone app, and scaling it up to a big screen...we knew from the beginning that that was a stupid thing to do. Which things do you get elaborate on and which new gestures do you introduce? How far do you go? You can make things larger now, but is that a good thing?
Then, you also have to think of this as in a whole ecosystem, "If we do this for this particular app on the iPad device, what does that mean for the other device?"
Rene: You throw "whether" out of the window, first. Then you move on.
Don: Some things were easier, but the hard things were...and we threw the phone app out, we don't have the phone app either. Mail and Calendar, especially right away, were real challenges to not screw them up. The temptation is to do something completely different because you can.
Guy: I would imagine that you could put the OS X mail look to list detail. What's it called? Master-Detail view? Like the three pane approach. You could probably see that working on the iPad.
Rene: We prototyped it!
Nitin: Yes, exactly. We definitely looked at those types of things. I think I mentioned this in the last podcast that I did that very early on, actually Steve was a big proponent of just blowing up the existing iPad or iPhone UI and just not scaling it out.
Don: Even though, later on, he retroactively said that that was a stupid idea.
Don: He did that about shit all the time. It was like about iPads themselves, about big screen devices. You remember before we brought the iPad out, he pooh-poohed the idea!
Don: Steve was constantly doing it.
Guy: It's just funny. I just love the idea of Nitin sitting in his office with the prototype iPad and hearing Steve, "Just shit I love the idea of iPad" He's, "Mm...I stayed up all night!"
Nitin: Thankfully, we actually never demoed blown iPhone UIs to him.
Nitin: Long before we ever got to that point, we were already arguing that, "No. We can't do that. This is not going to be a working UI." You don't even have to look at it, on a tablet or Vector. Just imagine the current iPhone address book UI blown up to iPad size.
Don: It would be awful!
Nitin: It's terrible. Nobody wants that.
Don: Scott Forstall would never allow us...Greg Christie would never allow us to get that far. He had more sense than that. The one device that was actually easy to do...Greg surprised me about this. I remember the first happening where we talked about this embracing it, it was the iPad mini.
The reason why it made it easy to go to mini is because we had already done Retina. Essentially, the iPad mini was the original iPad just scaled out. It was the easiest goddamn product to do in one way.
What people don't realize in the outside is how fast we did it. You remember that, Nitin?
Don: That was less than nine months from inception to execution, I swear to God.
Nitin: On the mini?
Don: On the mini. That was the fastest we ever did a product.
Nitin: I think I was out by the time the mini was even released.
Don: What year did you leave?
Nitin: January 2012.
Don: That was a month before I left, because I left in February 2012. We had already started the mini by then, before the time I left. I know you were disclosed on it, for Christ's sake!
Don: Right down the hall, I was talking to you about it.
Nitin: We didn't ship it, we weren't anywhere near...
Don: We shipped it in fall of 2012.
Rene: It was announced in October.
Don: But the conversation, I remember being in Scott's lab. I swear to God, it was end of November when we're first talking about it. I was, "Really?" That was a whole different problem, right? What you had to do then was validate whether your old UI on non-Retina machines would work scaled down 20 percent.
Rene: Was that on 63 PPI?
Nitin: That was what I remember about the iPad mini, was actually trying to figure out all of the points where we knew in the UI that your touch area was not that big. We were already on the hairy edge of having a big enough touch UI.
Those were the first things that we need to look at for something like a mini, because now they're going to be, like you said, 20 percent smaller. Can you still hit those things? As an example, things like scrubbing within the music app or video?
It's understood within Apple, those are areas where there's very little tolerance for having a much smaller touch target. Can we actually handle those appropriately on a physically smaller display?
Don: They did a stunningly good job.
Nitin: Yeah, I own a mini. [laughs]
Guy: I actually didn't think it was going to work, when it got announced or when [indecipherable 2:02:29] start it. That seems like it's weird.
Don: If there's one thing Apple demonstrated over the years, they know how to do transitions -- hardware transitions, software transitions, any stuff like that. There is no company that is more agile in the tech business than Apple that way.
Rene: And agile at scale, which is amazing.
Don: The only thing that Apple still sucks at -- and they're getting better much faster than I thought they would -- there was a real nabob of negativity about this, was services. They're doing much better on services, scaling up faster than I thought they would.
Nitin: Are they?
Don: I think so. You can't believe how bad it was, I had a front-row seat for the MobileMe...
Rene: MobileMe flamethrower.
Don: The failure. It wasn't my fault, I was actually trying to make those assholes successful.
Don: They were shitting all over my apps, I was taking the eye on that. The poor bastards, and Steve really took it to them in a hard way. Those days are behind Apple, they're doing much better.
You were talking about Apple being the 800-pound-gorilla, they are not even a gorilla in this space. They're more like a monkey, but they're a very strong monkey now.
Don: They're actually moving into the ape phase right now, they're evolving. They're doing much better this way.
Guy: Monkey with a whole lot of heart.
Don: It's much better. Think about everything in the whole ecosystem that Apple does better than, say, Amazon or Google.
Don: Focus is one of them. That's why people will be disappointed in some ways with the announcements this fall, because they won't get 50 things. They'll get two.
Guy: People always get overly excited about what's coming down the pipeline.
Rene: There's nothing like expectational debt to make you suffer from anticipointment.
Don: What the fuck does that mean?
Rene: An American word. I heard it on a talk show, it's got to be real.
Nitin: American? How dare you!
Nitin: I should get [indecipherable 2:05:09] some time.
Don: I could talk about Apple all day. I was hoping we would break Nitin's previous record.
Rene: Next time, we'll do a follow-up.
Don: By the way, I was so glad you did that six-hour shake. It really is six hours that you talked.
Don: I thought I talked a lot.
Guy: You guys are both giant windbags.
Don: I know we're going to wrap-up because of other time restrictions, but I will gladly get half in the bag with Mr. Ganatra again and go another round.
Guy: Maybe we got a new show, half the day, [indecipherable 2:05:52] Nitin Ganatra.
[laughter and crosstalk]
Don: [indecipherable 2:05:55] with Nitin Ganatra.
Don: I know Nitin hasn't exhausted stories. He's got a lot more stories than that.
Rene: [laughs] Because you gave him some, probably.
Nitin: We both have lots of stories, maybe too many stories. [laughs]
Don: Maybe too many stories! I know we're both willing to comment ad nauseam about the state of Apple today and the industries. Maybe some crazy people would be entertained by that, I don't know.
Rene: "To be continued," is what you're saying?
Nitin: Don, before we wrap up, I want to thank you publicly. This may be wine-induced, but not really.
Nitin: I want to thank you for giving the company that I love a credible web strategy and a web story.
Don: Thank you much.
Nitin: Initially, very early on, when I first found out about Alexander, it scared the shit out of me.
Don: You know the original name? [laughs]
Nitin: It was one of these things that worried me and I was, "Oh, my God!" I was stuck in the 90s mindset at the time, that, "Oh, my God! If we develop our own web browser, what the fuck? We're not going to have IE, we're not going to have anything. Now we're stuck with goddamn OmniWeb."
Don: [laughs] Since [indecipherable 2:07:18] Ken Case who, by the way, is a really nice man if you ever meet him.
Guy: He's a good guy.
Nitin: OmniWeb, it was a solid browser, but it was not IE.
Guy: Everybody takes your point.
Don: It was essentially built on something that was very similar to HTML display.
Nitin: Yeah. [laughs]
Don: Which, by the way, we came out. Ken is not a stupid guy, he just chucked that shit right away. He was one of the first people to attempt to embed WebKit.
Nitin: I remember that.
Don: Ken is a saint.
Thank you very much. I just wanted to tell you that until I listened to your podcast -- and I was thinking about getting them in the novelization format -- I didn't realize how goddamn long you had been at Apple, and that you had come up through one of my favorite routes.
I love people who come up this way. I didn't realize you came up from DTS like Darin. Darin Adler worked for me, I was one of his biggest fanboys back in the days when...
The fact that you have all that rich history and you've contributed so many different projects at Apple, that's just marvelous.
Rene: This is getting way too friendly, we've got to get to the part of [indecipherable 2:08:49] .
Guy: I love you two.
Don: It's only partially wine-induced, because I'm in a lot more wine than this cheap Zinfandel to do that.
Rene: Don, while you are wine-induced, where can people find you, if they want to hear more of these great stories?
Don: Not that I've written anything lately, but donmelton.com where you read some of my past exploits. Or talk to me on @donmelton on twitter. Just about anybody who says anything to me, I'll reply because I'm a whore.
Rene: Nitin, you're at Jawbone now?
Nitin: I am at Jawbone, and the best way to reach me, still, is @nitinganatra on twitter.
Don: As I would do. [laughs]
Nitin: That's right. Don, if you want to go get a beer sometime and talk about MobileMe stories, I'd love to.
Nitin: Because I'm doing something that I'm not comfortable sharing in a podcast, I would love to chat with you about them. [laughs]
Rene: I'm booking a ticket now.
Guy: You can always just stop recording.
Don: It's not like there's a huge distance between us, either.
Nitin: Exactly. I don't know about your [indecipherable 2:09:54] , your other house or anything.
Don: There you go. [laughs]
Nitin: Sorry, you may have to edit that.
Rene: It's the third house I'm editing out.
Rene: Thank you so much, guys.
Guy: Thanks, guys. That was a blast.
Rene: I want to once again thank Drobo for sponsoring Debug. If you go to www.drobostore.com and use offer code Debug50, you can save 50 bucks off the purchase of any Drobo, including the new Drobo Generation 3.
Up to four drives, one or two drives redundancy, power failure protection, everything you need to keep the stuff that you want and need safe. Thanks, Drobo.
Question, comment, recommendation, or something you want us to follow up on for the next show?
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment below.
We may earn a commission for purchases using our links. Learn more.