温故知新:《连线》96年专访乔布斯——The Next Insanely Great Thing 节选

标签:服务器技术

访客:19814  发表于:2013-09-09 14:27:33

1996年,从苹果离开的乔布斯对《连线》杂志描述了自己心中的下一个“极好”的东西——谈到了网络,技术,以及设计的反思。今天,我们先来一起温故一番。当然,分享这篇访谈,真正想说的并不仅仅是个中的启示而已,还有更多。

Part 1:关于网络

英文原文:The Wired Interview
整理、编辑:Vivian P@DamnDigital
封面配图:Wired(转载请注明来自DamnDigital

《连线》:10年来,麦金塔为计算机行业确定了基调。你认为网络会为今天的世界定下基调吗?

乔布斯:在台式计算机领域,创新停滞不前,行业失去生机;微软创新不多,却称雄计算机行业。全都到头了,苹果也成了输家。台式机市场已经进入了黑暗时代,下一个十年将仍然是黑暗的十年,至少这个十年的后续年份将依然如此。

这就如同IBM在制造了微处理器后就鲜有大批创新一样,微软将会因为骄傲自满而土崩瓦解。到那个时候,也许会有一些新的事物得到发展。但只有等到那个时候,等到出现根本性技术革新的时候,局面才会有所变化。

眼下最激动人心的事情就是网络。之所以说网络激动人心,是因为两方面的原因。第一,网络无处不在,我们在哪里都能听到网络拨号音。任何无处不在的事物都会引发人们的兴趣。其次,我认为微软不会想出掌控网络的办法。网络需要更多的创新,这些创新所形成空间将不会有乌云蔽日般的行业称霸现象。

 

《连线》:你为什么认为网络在迅速壮大?

乔布斯:到目前为止,网络扩展的重要原因之一就在于它的简单性。很多人想让网络变得复杂化,希望把种种处理过程放在客户端上。而我则希望这样的事情少一些,进展的速度慢一些。

这很像旧式的大型机计算环境,其中网络浏览器是很笨的终端,网络服务器则类似进行所有处理工作的主机。这个简单的模型逐渐变得无处不在,因而将产生深远的影响。

 

《连线》:互联网还有些什么其他机遇吗?

乔布斯:你认为谁会是互联网的主要受益者?谁又会是最大的赢家?

 

《连线》:有东西去……

乔布斯:有东西去卖的人!

 

《连线》:去分享的人。

乔布斯:去卖的人!

 

《连线》:你意思是说出版业?

乔布斯:不仅仅只有出版业,整个商业都可以,人们以后不会再去商店买东西,他们将从网上购物!

 

《连线》:网络是最大的大众化引擎,这方面的情况又如何?

乔布斯:如果你看看我这生所做的事,你就会发现一个大众化的元素。网站就是一个令人难以置信的大众化引擎。在网上,小公司可以表现出大公司一般的规模,也像大公司一样便于访问。大公司动辄花费数亿美元建设分销渠道,而网络则会完全冲散这样建立的优势。

 

《连线》:在大众化进程经过一个发展周期后,经济前景将会有何变化?

乔布斯:网络是不会改变世界,在未来的10年肯定不会。它会让世界变大。只要置身网络的延伸空间,就会看到大众化的身影。

网络不会俘获每个人。网络所联系的货物和服务达到全国的10%时,就已达到十分惊人的水平了。我认为它还会远高于此。网络最终会成为经济的一个巨大部分。

 

《连线》:为什么网络的突然崛起让人们如此震惊?

乔布斯:这有点像电话。你有两个电话,并不是很有趣的事情,有三个、四个等等也不见得有趣。也许有一百个的话,会稍微有趣一些。有一千个,就更加有趣一些。可能直到你有了大约一万个电话的时候,才会真的有趣起来。

很多人都无法预见、无法想象有几十万或一百万个网站会是什么样。如果只有一百、两百个,或者全都是大学的网站,那就不会有什么意思。当数量最终超越了这个临界值,就会变得非常有趣、非常快。这一点,你可以看得到。人们也会说,“哇!这简直不可思议。”

网络让我想起了PC行业初期的情形。当时人们真是什么都不知道,也没有专家。所有的专家都错了,所有的事情都存在巨大的可能性。同时,人们对PC行业也没有做多少限制,下多少定义。那样的状况真是非常好。

佛教中有个说法叫“初心”;拥有初心是件很好的事情。

 

《连线》:网络是否为个人带来更多自由?

乔布斯:它抹平了层级之间的差异。个人如果投入足够的精力,也可以把网站建设得像世界上最大型公司的网站一样具有冲击力。

我喜欢能够抹平层级差别的事物,它把个人提升到与组织齐平的高度,或把小型的组织提升到与拥有许多资源的大型组织齐平的高度。网络、互联网就能做到这一点。这是一个非常深刻、非常好的事情。

Part 2:对技术革命的再思考

《连线》:网络技术带来的最大惊喜是什么?

乔布斯:现在我的年纪大了,40岁了,我知道这些东西不能改变世界。确实不能。

 

《连线》:这么说会让大家伤心的。

乔布斯:很抱歉,但这是真的。有了孩子会让你改变对这些事情的看法。我们出生、短暂地生活,然后死去。长久以来,一贯如此。就算技术能改变它,也不会改变多少。

这些技术可以让生活更变得更轻松一些,让我们接触到我们本来可能不会接触到的人。如果你的孩子有先天缺陷,那么通过网络技术,你就能与其他家长和支持小组进行联系,获取医疗信息,了解最新的试验药物。这些都会深刻地影响我们的生活。我并没有贬低技术的意思,但是如果不断地说它们会改变一切,那就是在帮倒忙。重要的事情本来就重要,不需要通过改变世界来变得重要。

网站将非常重要。它是否会改变千百万人的生活?我想不会,但也不确信。它可能会对人们产生潜移默化的影响。

它肯定不会像人们第一次看到电视那样,也不会产生内布拉斯加州人们第一次听到电台广播时那么深刻的影响,它的影响不会那么深刻。

 

《连线》:网站将如何影响我们的社会呢?

乔布斯:我认为人们生活在信息化经济中,而不是信息社会中。人们思考得比以往少了,这主要是因为电视。人们读得也少,思考得也少了。所以,我没有看到大多数人使用网络来获取更多的信息。我们已经处于信息超载之中。不论网络可以提供多少信息,大多数人得到的信息都远多于他们所能吸收的数量。

 

《连线》:问题是电视吗?

乔布斯:小的时候,你看着电视会觉得电视中一定有阴谋。电视网络企图将我们变得不会思考。等长大一些,你又会意识到事实并非如此。电视网络的行业目标就是要给予人们真正想要的东西。在电视上,阴谋可以变成好事,你也能教训恶棍,能够发起革命!这样的年头着实令人感到益发沮丧。电视网络的行业性质就是提供人们想要的东西。这是事实。

 

《连线》:看来,史蒂夫·乔布斯认为现状会继续越变越糟。

乔布斯:确实是越来越糟了!这谁都知道。难道你不觉得吗?

 

《连线》:我确实这么看,但我希望能发现让情况好转的方法。你真的认为这个世界是越变越差吗?你是否认为自己所参与的工作能使世界变得更美好?

乔布斯:世界确实越变越差,过去15年左右的时间都是如此。绝对是这样。其中有两个原因。在全球范围内,人口急剧增加和我们从生态到经济、政治的所有结构体系,无法解决这个问题。在美国,政府当中明智的人好像变少了,人们对必须做出的重要决定也不是十分重视。

 

《连线》:不过,你好像对变革的潜力持乐观态度。

乔布斯:在某种意义上,我是一个乐观主义者。我相信人类是高贵的,值得尊敬的,有人确实富有智慧。我对个体持十分乐观的态度,个体的人们在本质上是好的,但我对于群体却有些悲观的。看看我们国家所发生的大事小事,我感到非常担心。至于能否让我们的国家变成一个更适合孩子生活的地方,人们对这个问题似乎并不乐观。

建造了硅谷的人都是工程师。他们学习了商业,也学了很多其他不同的事物,但他们都有一个相同的、真实的信念—普通人与其他富有智慧和创造力的人共同努力,就能够解决人类的大多数问题。对此,我深信不疑。

我认为从工程这个基础的角度看,很多具有工程背景的人参与进来确实会很有助于问题的解决。但在社会上,这就行不通了。那些人并没有被吸纳到政治事务中,可为什么有的人却能参与其中?

Part 3: 关于设计

《连线》:你擅长设计精品,这一点有口皆碑。为什么没有给更多的产品赋予大手笔设计的美学元素?

乔布斯:“设计”是一个有趣的词。有人觉得,设计就是对外观的设计。但进一步想,其实设计是产品的用法。Mac的设计就不在于它的外观,尽管外观也是一部分。最主要的设计还是在于对工作方式的设计。要设计出好的产品,就必须熟悉它,切实弄清楚它到底是什么。设计者要不断地投入极大热情才能真正彻底地明白它,还需要反复地咀嚼回味,而不能只是囫囵吞枣。不过,大多数人并不愿意花时间这样做。

创新就是把各种事物整合在一起。当你问有创意的人是如何创新的,他们可能会感到些许愧疚,因为他们根本就没有创造什么。他们只是看到了一些东西。他们总能看出各种事物之间的联系,因为他们习惯于将他们的各种经验联系起来,然后整合形成新的东西。之所以能做到这一点,是因为他们具有比别人更丰富的经验,或者他们对自己的经验思考得更多。

不幸的是,这是一种非常稀缺的品质。我们行业中的很多人都缺乏多方面的经验。因此,他们就没有很多可供联系的节点,对待问题就只能提出线性的解决方案,而没有宽广的视野。我们对于人类的体验了解得更深更广,我们的设计就会越出色。

 

《连线》:当今的优秀设计中,是否有作品激发了你的灵感?

乔布斯:设计并不局限于别致的新玩意儿。我们家刚刚买了一个新的洗衣机。我们以前的洗衣机不太好,所以我们用了点时间了解它们。结果是,美国人造的洗衣机和烘干机根本不对路,欧洲人的产品就好多了,但欧洲的洗衣机要花费两倍的洗衣时间!不过它们的用水量大概只有美国同类产品1/4,而衣服上残留的清洁剂也少得多。最重要的是,它们不会毁坏衣服。洗衣使用的肥皂和水都少得多,而洗出来的衣服却干净得多、柔软得多,也能多穿些日子。

我们希望如何取舍?我们家于是花时间对此做了一番讨论。我们谈了很多有关设计的事情,很多还涉及我们家的价值观。我们真的在意是在一个小时内洗完衣服,还是一个半小时?我们是否真的在意衣服穿起来极为柔软并耐久?我们是否在意用更少的水?我们用了大概两周的时间,每天晚上在餐桌上讨论这些事。我们围绕这个话题反复讨论,而谈的就是关于设计。

      最后,我们买的是德国米勒牌(Miele)洗衣机。这种洗衣机非常贵,但这也是因为美国没有人买它。它们造工精良,算得上是过去几年里我们买过的让人开心的少数产品之一。它的创造者对洗衣过程的确彻底研究过。他们把洗衣机和烘干机设计得很好,比我在过去几年里看到的任何高科技产品都更出色。

<节选完>

结语,也是开场语:

正如在第一段中编者所提到的,分享这篇访谈,真正想说的并不仅仅是个中的启示而已,还有更多。敬请期待DamnDigital明天的专题栏目。

英文原文完整版:

Steve Jobs: The Next Insanely Great Thing

By Gary Wolf
The Wired Interview
Wired : The Macintosh computer set the tone for 10 years. Do you think the Web may be setting the tone today?
Jobs: The desktop computer industry is dead. Innovation has virtually ceased. Microsoft dominates with very little innovation. That’s over. Apple lost. The desktop market has entered the dark ages, and it’s going to be in the dark ages for the next 10 years, or certainly for the rest of this decade.
It’s like when IBM drove a lot of innovation out of the computer industry before the microprocessor came along. Eventually, Microsoft will crumble because of complacency, and maybe some new things will grow. But until that happens, until there’s some fundamental technology shift, it’s just over.
The most exciting things happening today are objects and the Web. The Web is exciting for two reasons. One, it’s ubiquitous. There will be Web dial tone everywhere. And anything that’s ubiquitous gets interesting. Two, I don’t think Microsoft will figure out a way to own it. There’s going to be a lot more innovation, and that will create a place where there isn’t this dark cloud of dominance.
Why do you think the Web has sprouted so fast?
One of the major reasons for the Web’s proliferation so far is its simplicity. A lot of people want to make the Web more complicated. They want to put processing on the clients, they want to do this and that. I hope not too much of that happens too quickly.
It’s much like the old mainframe computing environment, where a Web browser is like a dumb terminal and the Web server is like the mainframe where all the processing’s done. This simple model has had a profound impact by starting to become ubiquitous.
And objects?
When I went to Xerox PARC in 1979, I saw a very rudimentary graphical user interface. It wasn’t complete. It wasn’t quite right. But within 10 minutes, it was obvious that every computer in the world would work this way someday. And you could argue about the number of years it would take, and you could argue about who would be the winners and the losers, but I don’t think you could argue that every computer in the world wouldn’t eventually work this way.
Objects are the same way. Once you understand objects, it’s clear that all software will eventually be written using objects. Again, you can argue about how many years it will take, and who the winners and losers will be during this transition, but you can’t argue about the inevitability of this transition.
Objects are just going to be the way all software is going to be written in five years or – pick a time. It’s so compelling. It’s so obvious. It’s so much better that it’s just going to happen.
How will objects affect the Web?
Think of all the people now bringing goods and services directly to customers through the Web. Every company that wants to vend its goods and services on the Web is going to have a great deal of custom-application software to write. You’re not just going to be able to buy something off the shelf. You’re going to have to hook the Web into your order-management systems, your collection systems. It’s going to be an incredible amount of work.
The number of applications that need to be written is growing exponentially. Unless we can find a way to write them in a tenth of the time, we’re toast.
The end result of objects – this repackaging of software – is that we can develop applications with only about 10 to 20 percent of the software development required any other way.
We see how people won the battle of the desktop by owning the operating system. How does one win on the Web?
There are three parts to the Web. One is the client, the second is the pipes, and the third is the servers.
On the client side, there’s the browser software. In the sense of making money, it doesn’t look like anybody is going to win on the browser software side, because it’s going to be free. And then there’s the typical hardware. It’s possible that some people could come out with some very interesting Web terminals and sell some hardware.
On the pipe side, the RBOCs are going to win. In the coming months, you’re going to see a lot of them offering a service for under $25 a month. You get ISDN strung into your den, you get a little box to hook it into your PC, and you get an Internet account, which is going to be very popular. The RBOCs are going to be the companies that get you on the Web. They have a vested interest in doing that. They’d like to screw the cable companies; they’d like to preserve the customers. This is all happening right now. You don’t see it. It’s under the ground like the roots of a tree, but it’s going to spring up and you’re going to see this big tree within a few years.
As for the server market, companies like Sun are doing a nice business selling servers. But with Web server software, no one company has more than a single-digit market share yet. Netscape sells hardly any, because you can get free public-domain software and it’s very good. Some people say that it’s even better than what you can buy.
Our company decided that people are going to layer stuff above this very simple Web server to help others build Web applications, which is where the bottleneck is right now. There’s some real opportunity there for making major contributions and a lot of money. That’s what WebObjects is all about.
What other opportunities are out there?
Who do you think will be the main beneficiary of the Web? Who wins the most?
People who have something -
To sell!
To share.
To sell!
You mean publishing?
It’s more than publishing. It’s commerce. People are going to stop going to a lot of stores. And they’re going to buy stuff over the Web!
What about the Web as the great democratizer?
If you look at things I’ve done in my life, they have an element of democratizing. The Web is an incredible democratizer. A small company can look as large as a big company and be as accessible as a big company on the Web. Big companies spend hundreds of millions of dollars building their distribution channels. And the Web is going to completely neutralize that advantage.
What will the economic landscape look like after that democratic process has gone through another cycle?
The Web is not going to change the world, certainly not in the next 10 years. It’s going to augment the world. And once you’re in this Web-augmented space, you’re going to see that democratization takes place.
The Web’s not going to capture everybody. If the Web got up to 10 percent of the goods and services in this country, it would be phenomenal. I think it’ll go much higher than that. Eventually, it will become a huge part of the economy.

Rethinking Revolution

What’s the biggest surprise this technology will deliver?
The problem is I’m older now, I’m 40 years old, and this stuff doesn’t change the world. It really doesn’t.
That’s going to break people’s hearts.
I’m sorry, it’s true. Having children really changes your view on these things. We’re born, we live for a brief instant, and we die. It’s been happening for a long time. Technology is not changing it much – if at all.
These technologies can make life easier, can let us touch people we might not otherwise. You may have a child with a birth defect and be able to get in touch with other parents and support groups, get medical information, the latest experimental drugs. These things can profoundly influence life. I’m not downplaying that. But it’s a disservice to constantly put things in this radical new light – that it’s going to change everything. Things don’t have to change the world to be important.
The Web is going to be very important. Is it going to be a life-changing event for millions of people? No. I mean, maybe. But it’s not an assured Yes at this point. And it’ll probably creep up on people.
It’s certainly not going to be like the first time somebody saw a television. It’s certainly not going to be as profound as when someone in Nebraska first heard a radio broadcast. It’s not going to be that profound.
Then how will the Web impact our society?
We live in an information economy, but I don’t believe we live in an information society. People are thinking less than they used to. It’s primarily because of television. People are reading less and they’re certainly thinking less. So, I don’t see most people using the Web to get more information. We’re already in information overload. No matter how much information the Web can dish out, most people get far more information than they can assimilate anyway.
The problem is television?
When you’re young, you look at television and think, There’s a conspiracy. The networks have conspired to dumb us down. But when you get a little older, you realize that’s not true. The networks are in business to give people exactly what they want. That’s a far more depressing thought. Conspiracy is optimistic! You can shoot the bastards! We can have a revolution! But the networks are really in business to give people what they want. It’s the truth.
So Steve Jobs is telling us things are going to continue to get worse.
They are getting worse! Everybody knows that they’re getting worse! Don’t you think they’re getting worse?
I do, but I was hoping I could come here and find out how they were going to get better. Do you really believe that the world is getting worse? Or do you have a feeling that the things you’re involved with are making the world better?
No. The world’s getting worse. It has gotten worse for the last 15 years or so. Definitely. For two reasons. On a global scale, the population is increasing dramatically and all our structures, from ecological to economic to political, just cannot deal with it. And in this country, we seem to have fewer smart people in government, and people don’t seem to be paying as much attention to the important decisions we have to make.
But you seem very optimistic about the potential for change.
I’m an optimist in the sense that I believe humans are noble and honorable, and some of them are really smart. I have a very optimistic view of individuals. As individuals, people are inherently good. I have a somewhat more pessimistic view of people in groups. And I remain extremely concerned when I see what’s happening in our country, which is in many ways the luckiest place in the world. We don’t seem to be excited about making our country a better place for our kids.
The people who built Silicon Valley were engineers. They learned business, they learned a lot of different things, but they had a real belief that humans, if they worked hard with other creative, smart people, could solve most of humankind’s problems. I believe that very much.
I believe that people with an engineering point of view as a basic foundation are in a pretty good position to jump in and solve some of these problems. But in society, it’s not working. Those people are not attracted to the political process. And why would somebody be?
Could technology help by improving education?
I used to think that technology could help education. I’ve probably spearheaded giving away more computer equipment to schools than anybody else on the planet. But I’ve had to come to the inevitable conclusion that the problem is not one that technology can hope to solve. What’s wrong with education cannot be fixed with technology. No amount of technology will make a dent.
It’s a political problem. The problems are sociopolitical. The problems are unions. You plot the growth of the NEA [National Education Association] and the dropping of SAT scores, and they’re inversely proportional. The problems are unions in the schools. The problem is bureaucracy. I’m one of these people who believes the best thing we could ever do is go to the full voucher system.
I have a 17-year-old daughter who went to a private school for a few years before high school. This private school is the best school I’ve seen in my life. It was judged one of the 100 best schools in America. It was phenomenal. The tuition was $5,500 a year, which is a lot of money for most parents. But the teachers were paid less than public school teachers – so it’s not about money at the teacher level. I asked the state treasurer that year what California pays on average to send kids to school, and I believe it was $4,400. While there are not many parents who could come up with $5,500 a year, there are many who could come up with $1,000 a year.
If we gave vouchers to parents for $4,400 a year, schools would be starting right and left. People would get out of college and say, “Let’s start a school.” You could have a track at Stanford within the MBA program on how to be the businessperson of a school. And that MBA would get together with somebody else, and they’d start schools. And you’d have these young, idealistic people starting schools, working for pennies.
They’d do it because they’d be able to set the curriculum. When you have kids you think, What exactly do I want them to learn? Most of the stuff they study in school is completely useless. But some incredibly valuable things you don’t learn until you’re older – yet you could learn them when you’re younger. And you start to think, What would I do if I set a curriculum for a school?
God, how exciting that could be! But you can’t do it today. You’d be crazy to work in a school today. You don’t get to do what you want. You don’t get to pick your books, your curriculum. You get to teach one narrow specialization. Who would ever want to do that?
These are the solutions to our problems in education. Unfortunately, technology isn’t it. You’re not going to solve the problems by putting all knowledge onto CD-ROMs. We can put a Web site in every school – none of this is bad. It’s bad only if it lulls us into thinking we’re doing something to solve the problem with education.
Lincoln did not have a Web site at the log cabin where his parents home-schooled him, and he turned out pretty interesting. Historical precedent shows that we can turn out amazing human beings without technology. Precedent also shows that we can turn out very uninteresting human beings with technology.
It’s not as simple as you think when you’re in your 20s – that technology’s going to change the world. In some ways it will, in some ways it won’t.

What’s good for business is good for the Web

If you go back five years, the Web was hardly on anybody’s horizon. Maybe even three years ago, it wasn’t really being taken seriously by many people. Why is the sudden rise of the Web so surprising?
Isn’t it great? That’s exactly what’s not happening in the desktop market.
Why was everyone, including NeXT, surprised, though?
It’s a little like the telephone. When you have two telephones, it’s not very interesting. And three is not very interesting. And four. And, well, a hundred telephones perhaps becomes slightly interesting. A thousand, a little more. It’s probably not until you get to around ten thousand telephones that it really gets interesting.
Many people didn’t foresee, couldn’t imagine, what it would be like to have a million, or a few tens of thousands of Web sites. And when there were only a hundred, or two hundred, or when they were all university ones, it just wasn’t very interesting. Eventually, it went beyond this critical mass and got very interesting very fast. You could see it. And people said, “Wow! This is incredible.”
The Web reminds me of the early days of the PC industry. No one really knows anything. There are no experts. All the experts have been wrong. There’s a tremendous open possibility to the whole thing. And it hasn’t been confined, or defined, in too many ways. That’s wonderful.
There’s a phrase in Buddhism,”Beginner’s mind.” It’s wonderful to have a beginner’s mind.
Earlier, you seemed to say there’s a natural affinity between the Web and objects. That these two things are going to come together and make something very new, right?
Let’s try this another way. What might you want to do on a Web server? We can think of four things:
One is simple publishing. That’s what 99 percent of the people do today. If that’s all you want to do, you can get one of a hundred free Web-server software packages off the Net and just use it. No problem. It works fine. Security’s not a giant issue because you’re not doing credit card transactions over the Web.
The next thing you can do is complex publishing. People are starting to do complex publishing on the Web – very simple forms of it. This will absolutely explode in the next 12 to 18 months. It’s the next big phase of the Web. Have you seen the Federal Express Web site where you can track a package? It took Federal Express about four months to write that program – and it’s extremely simple. Four months. It would be nice to do that in four days, or two days, or one day.
The third thing is commerce, which is even harder than complex publishing because you have to tie the Web into your order-management system, your collection system, things like that. I think we’re still two years away. But that’s also going to be huge.
Last is internal Web sites. Rather than the Internet, it’s intranet. Rather than write several different versions of an application for internal consumption – one for Mac, one for PC, one for Unix – people can write a single version and have a cross-platform product. Everybody uses the Web. We’re going to see companies have dozens – if not hundreds – of Web servers internally as a means to communicate with themselves.
Three of those four functions of the Web require custom applications. And that’s what we do really well with objects. Our new product, WebObjects, allows you to write Web applications 10 times faster.
How does the Web affect the economy?
We live in an information economy. The problem is that information’s usually impossible to get, at least in the right place, at the right time.
The reason Federal Express won over its competitors was its package-tracking system. For the company to bring that package-tracking system onto the Web is phenomenal. I use it all the time to track my packages. It’s incredibly great. Incredibly reassuring. And getting that information out of most companies is usually impossible.
But it’s also incredibly difficult to give information. Take auto dealerships. So much money is spent on inventory – billions and billions of dollars. Inventory is not a good thing. Inventory ties up a ton of cash, it’s open to vandalism, it becomes obsolete. It takes a tremendous amount of time to manage. And, usually, the car you want, in the color you want, isn’t there anyway, so they’ve got to horse-trade around. Wouldn’t it be nice to get rid of all that inventory? Just have one white car to drive and maybe a laserdisc so you can look at the other colors. Then you order your car and you get it in a week.
Today a dealer says, “We can’t get your car in a week. It takes three months.” And you say, “Now wait a minute, I want to order a pink Cadillac with purple leather seats. Why can’t I get that in a week?” And he says, “We gotta make it.” And you say, “Are you making Cadillacs today? Why can’t you paint a pink one today?” And he says, “We didn’t know you wanted a pink one.” And you say, “OK. I’m going to tell you I want a pink one now.” And he says, “We don’t have any pink paint. Our paint supplier needs some lead time on that paint.” And you say, “Is your paint supplier making paint today?” And he says, “Yeah, but by the time we tell him, it takes two weeks.” And you say, “What about leather seats?” And he says, “God, purple leather. It’ll take three months to get that.”
You follow this back, and you find that it’s not how long it takes to make stuff; it’s how long it takes the information to flow through the system. And yet electronics move at the speed of light – or very close to it.
So pushing information into the system is sometimes immensely frustrating, and the Web is going to be just as much of a breakthrough in terms of pushing information in as getting information out.
Your view about the Web is an alternative to the commonly held one that it’s going to be the renaissance of personal publishing. The person who can’t get published through the broadcast media will get a chance to say something.
There’s nothing wrong with that. The Web is great because that person can’t foist anything on you – you have to go get it. They can make themselves available, but if nobody wants to look at their site, that’s fine. To be honest, most people who have something to say get published now.
But when we ask how a person’s life is changed by these technologies, pushing information to customize products makes marginal differences. You go to the store and there’s a lot of different kinds of toilet paper – some have tulips embossed on them and some don’t. You’re standing there making a choice, and you want the one with the embossed tulips.
I like the ones without the tulips.
I do, too – and unscented. But that customization is relevant to you for that second but in no other way. For the average person, the possibility to participate as a publisher or a producer has a higher value for them.
I don’t necessarily agree. The best way to think of the Web is as a direct-to-customer distribution channel, whether it’s for information or commerce. It bypasses all middlemen. And, it turns out, there are a lot of middlepersons in this society. And they generally tend to slow things down, muck things up, and make things more expensive. The elimination of them is going to be profound.
Do you think large institutions are going to be the center of the economy, basically driving it as they are now? Some people say the big company is going to fragment.
I don’t see that. There’s nothing wrong with big companies. A lot of people think big business in America is a bad thing. I think it’s a really good thing. Most people in business are ethical, hard-working, good people. And it’s a meritocracy. There are very visible examples in business of where it breaks down but it’s probably a lot less than in most other areas of society.
You don’t think that structural economic changes will tend to shrink the size of these large companies?
Large companies not paying attention to change will get hurt. The Web will be one more area of significant change and those who don’t pay attention will get hurt, while those who see it early enough will get rewarded.
The Web is just going to be one more of those major change factors that businesses face every decade. This decade, in the next 10 years, it’s going to be the Web. It’s going to be one of them.
But doesn’t the Web foster more freedom for individuals?
It is a leveling of hierarchy. An individual can put up a Web site that, if they put enough work into it, looks just as impressive as the largest company in the world.
I love things that level hierarchy, that bring the individual up to the same level as an organization, or a small group up to the same level as a large group with much greater resources. And the Web and the Internet do that. It’s a very profound thing, and a very good thing.
Yet the majority of your customers for WebObjects seem to be corporations.
That’s correct. And big ones.
Does that cause you any kind of conflict?
Sure. And that’s why we’re going to be giving our WebObjects software away to individuals and educational institutions for noncommercial use. We’ve made the decision to give it away.

Shooting the Web in the foot

What do you think about HotJava and the like?
It’s going to take a long time for that stuff to become a standard on the Web. And that may shoot the Web in the foot. If the Web becomes too complicated, too fraught with security concerns, then its proliferation may stop – or slow down. The most important thing for the Web is to stay ahead of Microsoft. Not to become more complicated.
That’s very interesting. Java pushes the technology toward the client side. Do you find that wrong?
In my opinion? In the next two years? It’s dead wrong. Because it may slow down getting to ubiquity. And anything that slows down the Web reaching ubiquity allows Microsoft to catch up. If Microsoft catches up, it’s far worse than the fact the Web can’t do word processing. Those things can be fixed later.
There’s a window now that will close. If you don’t cross the finish line in the next two years, Microsoft will own the Web. And that will be the end of it.
Let’s assume for a second that many people share an interest in a standard Web that provides a strong alternative to Microsoft. However, when it comes to every individual Web company or Web publisher, they have an interest in making sure that their Web site stays on the edge. I know we do at HotWired. And so we have to get people into HotJava – we have to stay out there – which doesn’t bode well for retaining simplicity. We’re going to be part of that force pushing people toward a more complicated Web, because we have no choice.
The way you make it more complex is not by throwing stuff on the client side but by providing value, like Federal Express does, by becoming more complex on the server side.
I’m just very concerned that if the clients become smart, the first thing this will do is fracture the Web. There won’t be just one standard. There’ll be several; they’re all going to fight; each one has its problems. So it’s going to be very easy to say why just one shouldn’t be the standard. And a fractured Web community will play right into Microsoft’s hands.
The client-server relationship should be frozen for the next two years, and we shouldn’t take it much further. We should just let it be.
By collective agreement?
Yeah. By collective agreement. Sure. Go for ubiquity. If Windows can become ubiquitous, so can the existing Web.
How did Windows become ubiquitous?
A force of self-interest throughout the industry made Windows ubiquitous. Compaq and all these different vendors made Windows ubiquitous. They didn’t know how to spell software, but they wanted to put something on their machines. That made Windows ubiquitous.
So it just kind of happened.
No, it was sort of an algorithm that got set in motion when everyone’s self-interest aligned toward making this happen. And I claim that the same sort of self-interest algorithm is present on the Web. Everyone has a self-interest in making this Web ubiquitous and not having anyone own it – especially not Microsoft.
Is the desktop metaphor going to continue to dominate how we relate to computers, or is there some other metaphor you like better?
To have a new metaphor, you really need new issues. The desktop metaphor was invented because one, you were a stand-alone device, and two, you had to manage your own storage. That’s a very big thing in a desktop world. And that may go away. You may not have to manage your own storage. You may not store much before too long.
I don’t store anything anymore, really. I use a lot of e-mail and the Web, and with both of those I don’t have to ever manage storage. As a matter of fact, my favorite way of reminding myself to do something is to send myself e-mail. That’s my storage.
The minute that I don’t have to manage my own storage, and the minute I live primarily in a connected versus a stand-alone world, there are new options for metaphors.

GrokKing design

You have a reputation for making well-designed products. Why aren’t more products made with the aesthetics of great design?
Design is a funny word. Some people think design means how it looks. But of course, if you dig deeper, it’s really how it works. The design of the Mac wasn’t what it looked like, although that was part of it. Primarily, it was how it worked. To design something really well, you have to get it. You have to really grok what it’s all about. It takes a passionate commitment to really thoroughly understand something, chew it up, not just quickly swallow it. Most people don’t take the time to do that.
Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people.
Unfortunately, that’s too rare a commodity. A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences. So they don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have.
Is there anything well designed today that inspires you?
Design is not limited to fancy new gadgets. Our family just bought a new washing machine and dryer. We didn’t have a very good one so we spent a little time looking at them. It turns out that the Americans make washers and dryers all wrong. The Europeans make them much better – but they take twice as long to do clothes! It turns out that they wash them with about a quarter as much water and your clothes end up with a lot less detergent on them. Most important, they don’t trash your clothes. They use a lot less soap, a lot less water, but they come out much cleaner, much softer, and they last a lot longer.
We spent some time in our family talking about what’s the trade-off we want to make. We ended up talking a lot about design, but also about the values of our family. Did we care most about getting our wash done in an hour versus an hour and a half? Or did we care most about our clothes feeling really soft and lasting longer? Did we care about using a quarter of the water? We spent about two weeks talking about this every night at the dinner table. We’d get around to that old washer-dryer discussion. And the talk was about design.
We ended up opting for these Miele appliances, made in Germany. They’re too expensive, but that’s just because nobody buys them in this country. They are really wonderfully made and one of the few products we’ve bought over the last few years that we’re all really happy about. These guys really thought the process through. They did such a great job designing these washers and dryers. I got more thrill out of them than I have out of any piece of high tech in years.
Copyright © 1993-2004 The Condé Nast Publications Inc. All rights reserved.
Copyright © 1994-2003 Wired Digital, Inc. All rights reserved.

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