Fell From the Tree

Partnerships, Leverage, and Apple Pay

I’ve been paying close attention to what’s been going on with Apple Pay trying to collect my thoughts on where this is headed, but Ben Thompson summed it up far better than I ever could:

In effect, Apple builds incredible user experiences, which gains them loyal customers who collectively have massive market power, which Apple can then effectively wield to get its way – a way that involves maximizing the user experience. It’s a virtuous circle.

And that, ladies and gentleman, perfectly sums up Apple’s willingness to partnership in recent years.

Remembering Robin Williams

After dedicating space in iTunes in tribute to Robin Williams, Apple added a memorial to its homepage late Tuesday simply titled Remembering Robin Williams.

Robin Williams on Apple.com

Apple has periodically dedicated space on its homepage to pay tribute to members of the Apple family, great artists, and world leaders with the most recent being a tribute to Nelson Mandela last December.

Apple executives took to Twitter late Monday to express their sadness over Robin’s passing, with Tim Cook tweeting:

Heartbroken by the news of Robin Williams’ passing. He was an incomparable talent and a great human being. Rest in peace.

Phil Schiller also tweeted:

RIP Robin Williams. He made the world a happier place.

Robin had worked with Apple earlier this year to record a voiceover of his monologue from Dead Poets Society to kick off Apple’s “Your Verse” iPad Air ad campaign. According to Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs, Jobs had also considered Williams to narrate Apple’s Think Different ads, but ultimately was unable to reach him to offer him the part.

My previous post in Robin’s honor, can be found here.

Robin Williams Dies at 63


Robin Williams, as John Keating in Dead Poets Society:

We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, “O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?” Answer. That you are here – that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?

Your verse was fantastic, Mr. Williams. You shaped my childhood as the Genie, Peter Pan, Alan Parrish. You gave me countless hours of laughter through your standup. You shaped my view of the world as John Keating. You will be sorely missed.

One Fewer Holiday

There I stood. At the altar of a church I hadn’t been inside of in over a decade, folded paper in hand, about to give the most meaningful speech of my life. I hated it. I hated being in church. It was never really my thing. But I especially hated this. Still, it was something I had to do. It was a day you hope never comes, but inevitably does for everyone. I couldn’t help myself but to cry.

“Happy birthday, old man!” I said when he picked up the phone. It was Valentine’s Day, dad’s fifty-ninth birthday. I was in Union Square on my lunch break. My parents were in Florida, spending the week together to celebrate his birthday and their thirty-third anniversary in the new house they bought a year earlier as a retirement home. They finally found it: their dream home. Dad had been retired for years, disabled with a bad back from years of abusing his body. Mom had a few years to go. They were excited, planning the next phase of their lives together – dad even made mom a calendar to count down the days.

“Thank you! Funny thing about that though…”

I braced myself. Dad was about to tell a story. He always loved telling stories – one longer than the next. He was always working on something, fixing something, building something, or meeting someone interesting. He talked to everyone, whether it was a random stranger walking down the street, the cashier at the grocery store, or the mailman. Dad knew everyone, and everyone loved him.

“We were at the airport coming down here, standing in the security line, and the guy stopped me. Wait, you’re fifty-nine? Are you sure? No way.” It was true. Dad was in great shape. Aside from his graying hair, it was only in the last year or so he began looking mildly close to his age. He was even young at heart. Fifty-nine years old and he never lost his childlike sense of wonder. He was always curious, always joking, always playful. It was never a secret when dad got home. He would pull up to the front of the house, windows down, arm hanging out the driver’s side, cigarrette hanging from his hand, with the radio on full blast, playing some mixtape from the seventies. As mature as he was, deep down, he’d never grown up. I always loved that about him.

They were coming home in two days, so I didn’t keep him long. I was going to visit next weekend, we could catch up then.

“Thanks for calling! Love you.”

“Love you too, dad.”

It was the last time I would ever hear his voice.

February 18th, 2014

Somehow, I always knew how it would happen. One day, I would call, and he just wouldn’t pick up. I wouldn’t know it immediately, but that’s exactly how it happened.

It was a day just like any other. Four days after my dad’s birthday. I got up and went to work. Finally, after a grueling morning, lunchtime rolled around. I usually called dad at lunch. Today was no different. But he didn’t answer. He had a habbit of doing that. Dad never liked technology. “The internet is just a fad, he would say. He prided himself on having the cheapest phone he could find, and he could never get it out of his pocket in time to answer calls. No big deal, I thought to myself. He’ll call back, he always does.

I got home that night and got a text from mom. “taking dad to hospital. will call when I can.” She told me he was unconscious, but it was okay, I didn’t need to come. She said everything was going to be okay. That’s what mothers are supposed to say. Didn’t matter. It took me two hours, but I was there as quickly as I could.

Beep. Beep. Beep.

I could hear it as I approached the bed. Countless sensors attached to my dad’s motionless body. Annoying as they may be, you never want them to stop beeping.

There he was, lying there in a hospital bed with a respirator helping him breathe. My dad. The man with superhuman strength, looking so weak. I stood by his bedside, looking at the man who taught me what it meant to be one. What it meant to be strong. And I was helpless. There was nothing I could do.

We stayed by his side late into the night — just my mom, my brother, and me. At 4am got up to go home and get whatever sleep we could. There would be very little of it in the coming days, we thought to ourselves.

Beep. Beep. Beep.

As we stood to go, I turned to look at him and say goodnight. “Don’t worry, everything is going to be okay. We’ll be back in the morning. Good night dad. I love you.”

Beep. Beep. Beep.

The sound grew fainter as we walked towards the elevator. He’s going to make it, I thought to myself.

It’s hard to describe how difficult it is to accept that something terrible is about to happen. Deep down, it nags at you. Anything is possible. Yet it’s so much easier to believe that things will all work themselves out in the end. But sometimes bad things happen, and nothing you can possibly do could ever prepare you for them.

Beep. Beep. Beep.

The beeping was there when we returned in the morning. He remained laying there in bed, unmoved. His condition hadn’t improved in the few hours we were gone. The doctors weren’t optimistic. He was bleeding internally, but they couldn’t figure out where it was coming from and they couldn’t move him for testing because he was so weak. All we could do was wait.

It was my parent’s aniversary. So much for a happy day.

After a few hours of sitting by his side, mom and my brother went out for some air. For the first time, I was alone with my father. I inched the chair closer and took his hand. It was warm and rough. He always had rough hands from a lifetime of building and fixing everything he could. I got up and sat on the bed next to him and looked down at my father. My best friend. The man who taught me everything. For the first time since I got to the hospital, I didn’t have to be strong for my mother. I started crying uncontrollably.

I began talking to him.


Beep. Beep. Beep.

“C’mon dad, you can do this. You’re the strongest person I know, dad. You can’t let this stop you.”

I leaned in and kissed his forehead. I gripped his hand tighter. I never wanted to let go.

“I can’t lose you, daddy. I’m not ready. You have so much left to teach me. I need you. You’re my hero, daddy. My best friend. C’mon daddy, snap out of it. We have to get you out of here so we can all go home. You’re the best dad anyone could ask for. You have no idea how lucky I am. Dad? I love you. So much”


The doctors ran in. His heart rate was dropping, fast. I could barely see anything through my tears.

One of them turned to me apologetically, “You might want to wait outside for this.”

I walked out into the hall just as my mom and brother got back. I wiped away my tears before they could see.

“C’mon, mom, the doctor’s with him. We have to sit in the waiting room for a while.”


An alarm sounded and a herd of doctors hurried passed us. All headed to help my dad. The waiting room was quiet. Eerily quiet. There were two other families sitting there waiting to hear about their loved ones. We had never met them before, but there, in that moment, we were all family; all in this together. They tried to comfort us. But it was no use. It was torture.

Three minutes went by. It felt like an eternity. Five minutes; ten. Time had never moved so slowly. The doors swung open and the doctor slowly walked out, his head slumped toward the floor as if the gravity of the situation was weighing it down. He stopped in front of us and, struggling to lift his head, embraced us choked, “I’m so sorry,”

He was gone. My life, my world will never agian be the same.

Below is the eulogy I gave for my father. Fighting through tears that day at the altar. It was the best I could do on short notice while hardly being able to think. I can only hope he’s proud of it.

Good morning. Thanks to all of you for coming.


My dad was born on Valentine’s Day, 1955 and died on February 19th, 2014. But those are just dates. What matters most of all is the dash in between them. A poet, Linda Ellis, once wrote:


For that dash represents all the time

That he spent alive on earth.

And now only those who loved him

Know what that little line is worth.

For it matters not how much we own;

The cars, the house, the cash,

What matters is how we live and love

And how we spend our dash.


Full of life and love. That’s how I’ll always remember my father.


He lived. Every. Day. Never once did he slow down. And he loved. Everyone. But especially me and my brother. And my mother, boy did he love my mother. They gave each other the best 33 years of their lives. For better for worse for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, these two have been through it all. I called him at least three times a week, and each and every time he talked about my mother. Sometimes, I couldn’t get a word in if I tried. She was always on his mind. Not even death can change that.


As for me, I couldn’t possibly sum up a twenty-six year relationship with my best friend in one or two anecdotes. But I can say that my earliest memory is of my father. He would go to work early, but sometimes, he would drive all the way back home in his garbage truck to pick me up and drive me to school. No one else got to get dropped off in a garbage truck. But then again, dad ALWAYS put on a show. Every time I visited, dad had something he just HAD to show me, whether he was building the kitchen, laying the floor, fixing the car, making a waterfall, cutting trees, or any one of the thousands of projects he took on over the years.


He always had a solution, no matter how far outside the box he had to think. He was my hero. He taught me everything. How to cook. How to clean. How to fix. How to build. How to live. How to laugh. And most important of all, how to love.


His family and friends. That’s all that ever mattered. Money, cars, houses, clothes; none of that ever mattered to him. He could walk around with just enough to buy himself a Manhattan Special and think he was the richest man in the world. Unless, of course, his kids needed money. He’d give up his last dime in a heartbeat. We always came first.


His sense of humor was reMARKable. No matter what, he could always make you laugh. I could never do his humor justice. The day he got elected president in Woodbrooke, he walked out onto the back deck, raised his arms and said “My Kingdom!”. He loved being president. He loved helping people.


In his fifty-nine years on Earth, no matter how smart he was, or how much knowledge he gained, there’s one thing he never learned. He never learned how to say “no”. He didn’t have it in him. No task was too big, nothing was impossible. He always went out of his way for everyone he ever met. Every single person in this room has a memory of my dad going out of his way for them. I’d like to take a moment for everyone to think of one.


Got it? Now, imagine what it was like to be his son.


When it snowed in elementary school, dad would go out and shovel the sidewalk by the bus stop — the entire block — so my brother and I didn’t have to walk in the snow. He was there. When he got a big screen TV for his birthday, he spent the first day making the box into a playhouse complete with windows and a doorknob. He was there. When I got a flat tire at 3am, Dad jumped out of bed. He was there. When I got into an accident in Virginia, dad hopped in the car and drove seven hours. It was just a fender bender, but that didn’t matter, he was there. When I called from work to tell him I forgot my phone, he showed up with it a half hour later. He was there. When I was in the hospital and could barely eat, dad made home-cooked meals. And every day, he was there. When I said I think I’m going to start riding my bike again, dad went out and bought fresh tires. I didn’t even ask, but he was there. When I had the crazy idea to build a beer pong table, dad made sure it was the best table anyone had ever seen. Then gave it so much time to dry, I had to go back to Virginia before it was done. Didn’t matter. “Don’t worry, Daddy,” he said (he always called me daddy) “We can meet next week in Baltimore.” Dad was there. When I had great news, dad was there. When I had a bad day, dad was there. When I fell in love, dad was there. When my heart was broken, dad was there. Dad was ALWAYS there. He still is. He always will be. He’d never leave us.


The last time I came to visit my parents, my dad was cooking Sunday dinner (surprise, surprise). He needed bread, so he went to take a walk to the store. I went with him; I always do when I come to visit. Vinny happened to be there and decided to come too. We got to the front door and dad called up to mom “Honey! I’m walking the boys to the store!” Let’s never stop walking, Dad.

Dad never liked to celebrate Father’s Day. The family would always get together, we’d barbeque, have a few laughs, and go on like a normal day. It’s how he always wanted it. I asked him once, “Dad, why don’t you like celebrating Father’s Day?” “Frank,” he looked at me and smiled, “Mother’s Day lasts 364 days a year. Why should today be any different?” He always had a joke.

But now there’s no reason for me to celebrate Father’s Day. Not this year, not ever again. I lost a holiday, and I’ll never get it back. In a way, it’s what dad always wanted. But not like this. There are better ways to not celebrate a holiday. I was lucky enough to have him for nearly twenty-six years, but I would gladly give a lifetime of holidays for one more day with my dad.

For those of you lucky enough to still have your fathers, call them; visit them; hug them; tell them you love them. Not just on Father’s Day, but every day. No one on this Earth can promise you tomorrow. Take advantage of today, the only day you know you have.

Satya Nadella Named Next Microsoft CEO

At long last, the search is over. Microsoft has named Satya Nadella, formerly the Executive Vice President of Microsoft’s Cloud and Enterprise group. In a press release, Microsoft says of Nadella:

Since joining the company in 1992, Nadella has spearheaded major strategy and technical shifts across the company’s portfolio of products and services, most notably the company’s move to the cloud and the development of one of the largest cloud infrastructures in the world supporting Bing, Xbox, Office and other services. During his tenure overseeing Microsoft’s Server and Tools Business, the division outperformed the market and took share from competitors.

I’m skeptical.

I don’t doubt Nadella’s technical ability — he’s done an incredible job with Microsoft’s cloud offerings. I don’t even doubt the implications of making the cloud services chief CEO — it’s certainly the company’s best initiative outside of its cash cows of Office and Windows. But lets be honest, he was a safe choice.

Before being pushed out last year1, back in 2008, Ballmer very publicly announced his intentions of being CEO until 2018. Over the next few years, he proceeded to push out every possible successor to solidify is position. One by one, Robbie Bach, Ray Ozzie, and Steven Sinofsky all jettisoned from the company. Satya Nadella is all that remains.

Though still profitable, Nadella is inheriting Ballmer’s Microsoft. The company maintains its strong position in enterprise, but is in no way as strong as it once was in the consumer space. With PC sales steadily declining, and no foothold in mobile at all, Microsoft is struggling to maintain its position in the public mindshare. Their one bright star here is Xbox, though it’s not exactly a money maker. Nadella is even inheriting major organization changes dictated by Ballmer just before announcing his retirement, meaning he won’t be free to restructure the company if he has a different vision for Microsoft.

Still, my biggest concern is whether someone who has been at the company for 22 years is capable of introducing meaningful change. He’s worked under Gates and Ballmer his entire career. Now that he’s CEO, will he really be the one steering the ship? Even with the news today that Bill Gates is stepping down as chairman of the board, his plans to spend more time at Microsoft worry me. Will Nadella ever be free to truly transform the behemoth that is Microsoft with Ballmer and Gates breathing down his neck?

I certainly hope so. But only time will tell.

  1. And make no mistake, he was pushed, however gentle it may have been 

Apple Store Prank

Tyler Fischer doesn’t work for Apple. But he walks into an Apple Store wearing an Apple shirt, and hilarity ensues.

Keynote’s Enhanced Presenter Display Options

Apple’s iWork suite received an update this week, adding back a few of the missing features. Particularly interesting was this gem in Keynote’s release notes:

Enhanced presenter display options

As Michael Lopp points out, all Apple did here was add a button to swap displays — something that was already available as a keyboard shortcut. It did however, do one other thing I’ve noticed so far: it now saves the user’s preference. Before this week’s update, whether intentionally or not, every time I began a presentation, I had to fiddle with the presenter display again.

The presenter display in Keynote 6 is atrocious, almost unusable in practice. The 6.1 update does nothing to fix this. It provides options to turn certain elements on or off, but not much else. I tend to use the presenter display in much the same way Michael does:

For me, I often place most of my context in my presentation notes. These are notes the audience never sees, but I use to keep track of the narrative – especially when a talk is new. This means I usually make the presentation notes ginormous because that’s what I need to see.

But Keynote 6 provides no way to resize or rearrange the elements on screen. In a response, Marco Arment notes that the defaults for the presenter display have always been designed for the average use case. But prior to Keynote 6, these options were fairly customizable. I typically kept the presentation notes at the bottom, but extremely large. While it’s helpful to see what slide I’m on, I’ve always kept these small. I need to glance at them, not read them. Previous versions allowed me to do this.

Most of what I’m saying never appears on screen — and isn’t that the point? Keynote has long been the presentation tool of choice for those of us who choose to abandon the conventional bullet points and create presentations that delight the audience.1 With the lack of customization for the presenter display, it’s not actively fighting against this use case.

Here’s to hoping a future update gets some real enhancements to the presenter display. Or at the very least, the return of the options we once had.

  1. Famously, Keynote was initially designed to allow Steve Jobs to deliver his Keynotes 

Apple History, a Light Reading

Aside from Apple’s new Mac retrospective, I thought it would be a good idea to share a few great resources for some perspective as to where the Mac has been and where it’s going. So here are two links to get you started down your path of discovery:

  • Folklore.org: Curated by the infamous Andy Hertzfeld, this site has anecdotes and short stories about the early days of the Macintosh, mostly involving the team that actually built it. There’s some great stuff in here
  • John Siracusa writing at Ars Technica: For a bit more modern look on the Mac during the OS X era, it’s definitely worth reading all1 of John’s OS X reviews. It does a great job of giving the OS, now over thirteen years old, a narrative.

There are definitely other resources, but these two should keep you busy for a while.


  1. Yes, all. It may cumulatively be longer than War & Peace, but it’s some of the best stuff you’ll ever read on the internet. 

Happy 30th Anniversary, Macintosh

Thirty years and two days ago, the world wondered why 1984 wouldn’t be like 1984. Two days later, Steve Jobs pulled the Apple Macintosh out of a black carrying bag on stage and made it say “Hello” to the world it was about to change.



A lot has changed since then. Despite Macs being better than ever, Apple has since dropped the “Computer” from its name as its become more and more focused on post-PC devices. Still, the Macintosh is where it all began. It was step one in Steve’s journey towards the iPad, towards bring computing to the masses.

Luckily, Apple remains committed to the Mac platform. In an interview with Macworld’s Jason Snell1 yesterday, Phil Schiller reiterated Apple’s commitment to the Mac platform:

There is a super-important role [for the Mac] that will always be. We don’t see an end to that role. There’s a role for the Mac as far as our eye can see. A role in conjunction with smartphones and tablets, that allows you to make the choice of what you want to use. Our view is, the Mac keeps going forever, because the differences it brings are really valuable.

This morning, the Mac’s 30th anniversary adorns Apple’s homepage along with a fantastic tribute site to the Mac over the years. Take the time to flip through. Especially interesting is how the tale of the Mac is told: through stories of how the Mac has touched the lives of everyday people.2  Far from the tech specs of other technology companies, Apple has always put people first. That’s what’s made the Mac so great over the years.

Here’s to the next 30.


  1. Jason was also lucky enough to interview Steve 10 years ago for the Mac’s 20th anniversary.  Definitely worth a read as well, if only for perspective. A decade is a very long time. 

  2. Thanks to John Siracusa for pointing out that every page begins with a person at the top, not a machine. 

Google Buys Nest for $3.2B

Liz Gannes over at Re/Code writes:

Fadell, a well-respected figure who co-founded Nest along with former Apple software exec Matt Rogers, said in a statement that Nest “will be even better placed to build simple, thoughtful devices that make life easier at home, and that have a positive impact on the world” with Google’s support.

What strikes me about this is Google isn’t just getting a great product, they’re getting one of the most talented engineering teams in existence. Most of Nest was formed by what was left of the original iPod team after Apple sided with Scott Forstall over Tony Fadell to build the iPhone on top of OS X instead of the iPod’s Pixo OS.

UPDATE: Google posted the press release most of these articles are quoting.