We are in that roller coaster moment where as technologists, we climb on the front row car but we do not see the top before starting to descend. We all know that something is going to happen, but not when – at what precise moment it will happen. We talk about the next big transition, something similar to the arrival of computing in our homes, the arrival of the iPhone and how a device or technology can change the world around us.
We are talking about a change so profound as to make traditional technology obsolete that we have in our hands right now. Well, in our hands, on our wrists, on our smart speakers, and pretty much everywhere. This waiting period for the next big innovation is something that is fiercely fought for. The company that achieves this will probably be the “next Apple” of the next ten or twenty years. And that is precisely the problem.
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A generational shift at Apple
A few days ago, Bloomberg ran a story with a rather attention-seeking headline: “Apple’s New Challenge: Wave of Key Executives Leaving Company.” Read in those terms it seems like a rout from Apple to other companies, but if we read the article itself in depth, we understand these changes. Of the eleven outings that have occurred, only two did not have a designated successor within the company’s change plan, as is the case of Evans Hankey – head of industrial design and its director of privacy. His responsibilities will now be carried out by his own teams within the company while a replacement is found.
Of Apple’s 11 executive departures, only two had no planned replacement. The change to new personal projects is part of the world and evolution in Silicon Valley
Of the rest of the exits, all were Apple Veteran Charges, many of them close to retirement – something that may continue to happen in the coming months with similar departures due to age issues. The company also needs to reinvent itself – like any other – and for this reason the initial group that saved it from bankruptcy in the 2000s is now ripe to make way for a new generation. Some, like Dan Riccio, are putting aside all their projects and focusing on future products as important as the Reality Pro. Something similar happened with the Macintosh.
It is precisely these long-term projects that may have upset those who leave the company voluntarily: Your teams have lost people to join these secret projects whose results are taking years to arrive. Being an individual and recognized figure within the company with the ability to make a difference is more difficult than ever, and many are looking for other projects outside of Apple where they can make their mark.
Humane, a startup that seeks radical change… although they still don’t know which one
In 2017, two important figures in the creation of the iPhone and iPad were looking for a change outside the company. At Apple, Imran Chaudhri was co-designer of the iPhone and Bethany Bongiorno I was a director of engineering. Together, they founded Humane 5 years ago, a startup that promised to develop the “next generation of personal technology”. After several years without any product on the market or prototype, now they turn their speech towards a device based on the cloud and artificial intelligence that “he wants to make the iPhone obsolete”.
Humane ran an ad a year ago that was very similar to the one for Apple’s SuperBowl in 1984. The difference is that just two days after that, Steve Jobs pulled the Macintosh out of a bag.
TechCrunch wrote a somewhat devastating article about them. Despite the fact that they are recruiting people from technology companies and financing rounds as important as Microsoft, OpenAI and Qualcomm of 100 million dollars – their product or what they are going to do remains a mystery. Despite the fact that in July of last year they began to show a teaser of abstract conceptssomewhat similar to Apple’s 1984 superbowl ad. The difference is that Steve Jobs took a computer called Macintosh out of a bag two days later.
It’s time for change, not more of the same. pic.twitter.com/I6K5FVYzx2
—Humane (@Humane) July 19, 2022
What Humane seems to be building now is some kind of goggles or device to convert”the user environment in the interface”, making something similar to a laser projector guide us on the surface we want – for example, our hand. Their mantra is to remove the screens that surround us, but the patents they have on file seem to project the same information.
The concept itself is promising, to be sure – and probably the future. Amazon already proves it with what they call “ambient intelligence”, a system based on voice interface to forget to look at technology and that it is itself the one that surrounds us. This ubiquitous computing is as hopeful as it is discouraging: There’s no device that really poses a serious transition and change like we’re expecting at this point in the roller coaster.
The fear is that Humane will turn into something we already saw with Magic Leap, which also promised a shift into extended reality that nearly bankrupted them. Gruber was devastating with them: “Apple wants nothing to do with Humane. Bongiorno and Chaudhri did not leave in very good form and Chaudhri, in particular, seems to have taken excessive personal credit for the work done by a much larger team. I don’t know if that’s true or not, just that this is how they see it, by some, in Cupertino.”.
It is therefore that internal changes to reinvent themselves in companies often agitate their staff, who can tackle new projects – as interesting a priori as Humane, Nest or Magic Leap – after working for years at the forefront of technology. These personnel changes are part of the daily life of a company with hundreds of thousands of employees. The search for next great product that the industry changes, it will cost something more.
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