In just a short bit, this week’s newsletter will be heading out to subscribers so if you haven’t already, go ahead and sign up for it. PlayStation Vue fans or those interested in where PlayStation is headed with their services will find some interesting commentary here but really, the bulk of this piece is about politics. Not politics in the direct sense of what I believe is the way to move forward, but politics and technology. How often do we as citizens of any country make a decision without knowing the full impact of it? Or even worse, especially for millennials, how often do we not vote because we don’t think the election cycles impact them? So let me get right into it.
PlayStation Vue, in a lot of ways, showcases everything that’s right and perhaps new about Sony. A lot of regular readers are concerned that Sony is over-relying on PlayStation to drive growth and earnings but if I were Sony, I’d double down on the division. In an ironic twist, the Sony of the past was also over-reliant but not on PlayStation and instead on Sony itself. After all, Sony, which was part technology company and part media company (Sony Pictures, Sony Music, and PlayStation), lost round after round to Apple in the digital landscape. How many failed music services has Sony launched in the past two decades and on top of that, how many failed video services? Apple, for its part, owns no studio or record label and has to negotiate every deal.
So what do I mean when I say Sony was over-reliant on itself? One of the things that made iTunes so bold is that it was designed to bring music to users. Apple did part of this via software and part via hardware thanks to iPod and then eventually iPhone. It’s hard to think that the software/hardware side of Sony didn’t have some brilliant ideas that were hampered by the legal teams and accountants from the music side who are more focused on the bottom line than innovation and consumers. It’s also hard for the music/movie side to want to give the hardware side anything meaningful when they know they had deals in place with Apple that would be bringing them a thousand fold in sales.
This brings us to the PlayStation of today. PS Vue launched two years ago and while 2015 was a slow year for the service, 2016 has been absolutely phenomenal. Vue went from being in 10 major cities to being available in every market. It went from having a good amount of channels to everything under the sun. Yes, they’ve recently lost out on Viacom channels, but that’s business. There was a time when NBC stopped playing ball with Apple as well but they eventually came back because that’s where the users were. It’s now up to Sony to prove that as well and I think they’re well on their way to doing it.
Again in 2015, PS Vue was accessed via PS3, PS4, and various Sony hardware. If this was a decade ago, rest assured that Sony would still be under the delusion that they’re as affluent as Apple and would attempt to keep Vue as a Sony-exclusive service and use it as a key differentiator for hardware sales. As they’ve come to learn, they are not Apple and every service they’ve launched has suffered because of that notion.
But the PlayStation of today doesn’t care about Sony, they care about the core service. PS Vue should be good for everyone and accessible on as many devices as possible and that’s exactly what we’re seeing. In addition to PlayStation and Sony hardware, you can access PS Vue on iOS (iPhone/iPad/iPod), Android, Android TV, Amazon Fire, and now the web browser.
Sony is taking what made Netflix so great, a service that was found on nearly every connected device possible, and running hard with it and that’s worth recognizing because it’s so different from the Sony of the past. So not only do I not find Sony overly reliant on PlayStation, but I think that they need to mimic their playbook even more. Look no further than 4K Ultra, their exclusive 4K streaming service that’s only available on Sony 4K TVs to find the old Sony still hanging on, and to no one’s surprise, unlike Vue, the app is terrible with little mindshare.
Elections – Role of tech leaders
I haven’t written nearly as much as I’d like this week due to the election. Tuesday itself was nerve-wracking enough (though the entire cycle has been awfully brutal) but the aftermath has even been worse. All other ramifications aside which alone is hard to ignore, if you’re going to walk away with one thing, it’s that the tech industry is quite worried about the Trump presidency. That’s because you have a leader who has called for ban of Muslims from entering the country, insulted nearly every racial group, made fun of those with special needs, demonized the LGBT community, and marginalized women.
Again, if we set aside all the reasons why those are wrong on their own merits and purely focus on it from a business perspective, this spells disaster for tech which historically hasn’t cared about any of these things. Don’t get me wrong, the tech industry isn’t perfect and has a long way to go on its own, but compared to any other industry, in tech you can find a great mix of people from all walks of life who have one passion: to drive things forward.
One problem that millennials often face is finding a reason to vote. They either feel like their vote doesn’t matter or that the issues discussed don’t really affect them which couldn’t be further from the truth and that makes me wonder this – no matter where you sit on the outcome of the vote, should companies, and in this case tech companies, do a better job at informing their audience on why the election matters?
Should Naughty Dog speak out and say why it’s so important for there to be strong support for women in the workplace and explain how any policies, including access to birth control, can greatly affect them? Women’s health care can be the difference between finding the next Amy Hennig (who gave us Uncharted 1-3) or seeing life take that person in a different direction.
Taking away privileges from the LGBT community could be the difference between empowering the next Tim Cook, current Apple CEO and an openly gay man, or having him looked down upon his whole life which could lead him down a very different path. In short, tech has never cared about a person’s skin color, gender, or religious background and instead focused on what that person brings to the table. Only time will tell, but if Donald Trump is to be held to his remarks of the past year, you can see why the tech industry is worried about his presidency, which brings me back to my original question.
I’ve always wondered how we could get the younger generation, who are the future and literal lifeblood of this country, to be more involved. Perhaps one way of doing that is by having companies speak out more on how the elections and measures/laws that go into place can affect them.
Elections – Tim Cook
I’ve heard from many of you today about the presidential election. In a political contest where the candidates were so different and each received a similar number of popular votes, it’s inevitable that the aftermath leaves many of you with strong feelings.
We have a very diverse team of employees, including supporters of each of the candidates. Regardless of which candidate each of us supported as individuals, the only way to move forward is to move forward together. I recall something Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said 50 years ago: “If you can’t fly, then run. If you can’t run, then walk. If you can’t walk, then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” This advice is timeless, and a reminder that we only do great work and improve the world by moving forward.
While there is discussion today about uncertainties ahead, you can be confident that Apple’s North Star hasn’t changed. Our products connect people everywhere, and they provide the tools for our customers to do great things to improve their lives and the world at large. Our company is open to all, and we celebrate the diversity of our team here in the United States and around the world — regardless of what they look like, where they come from, how they worship or who they love.
I’ve always looked at Apple as one big family and I encourage you to reach out to your co-workers if they are feeling anxious.
Let’s move forward — together!