Unless you have been living under a rock — or less fortunately in a coma for the last ten years — you would be cognizant of the fact that Apple is the biggest technology company in existence. One of the people who has been at the forefront in covering the iDevice-creating behemoth is Victor Agreda Jr., the editor-in-chief of The Unofficial Apple Weblog, better known as TUAW. We had the opportunity to ask Victor a few questions about his history with the Internet, Apple products, and what companies outside Apple excite him.
What is your first memory of the Internet?
My dad bought a Mac SE/30 when they were introduced, and work (Kodak Eastman at the time) gave him a modem. While he was able to connect to his work, we also got connected to the Internet at large. Friends of mine were already downloading and saving cracked copies of games on Apple IIes, however, so I knew of this but didn’t get into BBS and the like until the SE/30. I also gave our Mac its first virus this way by downloading a sound set with Monty Python noises.
When was your first interaction with an Apple product, and what were your initial thoughts?
I was 5 and my dad bought one for Christmas (and his dissertation). I thought it was amazing, but we had paddles, a cassette player and several cool games like Star Wars, Breakout and Lemonade for it. When I discovered you could create whatever you wanted by using BASIC, that was even more impressive.
Which startups are most exciting to you right now?
I think App.net is the most exciting thing in a while. Most companies are pushing hard to corner the consumer in protected, non-standardized data clouds. App.net is building an extensible, powerful platform for inter-service communications. All the promise of XML and JSON but none of the compromises (mostly). More importantly, the founders seem to be genuinely interested in making a platform everyone can use, but not being jerks about it. As we’ve seen from Twitter and Facebook, this is a very different approach to making a black box and only allowing some things in or out.
Square as well. Like App.net, a lot of people associate them with this one, front-facing thing they did first. But what I’ve seen is that they are dedicated to a ton of stuff under the surface. The Square app is merely the beginning — they want to help small businesses do better, and a lot of that means giving actionable data to them in ways traditional merchant services never would.
Would you rather read a book in print or digital, and why? What are you currently reading? All-time favorite book?
I’m currently reading 3 books: one is a paper book about being a dad, one is an electronic book (“Making Ideas Happen”) on iBooks, and the other is an audiobook version of “Sleights of Mind” but I’ve already read the ebook version. I use each form depending on the context. When I drive around, I like audiobooks. For “personal” reading, especially because I do a lot of it at night in bed, I prefer paper books. I also consider paper books that I can hand down (I have a fairly large library collection, begun as a child). Takeoff and landings require devices off, so paper is good for that. I’m still not as prone to read digital books, but I find that for project work and business books, they are a good deal.
My all-time favorite book is probably “A Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man” by James Joyce. Joyce had a lyrical quality to his writing, and his stories really hit home with me.
With Jony Ive taking on a bigger role, do you think Apple is headed in the right direction?
I think next to Jobs, Ive was the person most responsible for Apple’s resurgence as a leader in technology. Not business — that was Cook’s role, along with an army of insanely great engineers who took Steve and Jony’s artistic visions and made them real. That’s not to discount the other designers at Apple, but you can see the schism between Ive and Forstall. Let’s just say Apple didn’t need Forstall as much as it needs Ive. While I worry a little about Steve not being around any more, I really do worry about Apple once Ive is gone.