The Tick-Tock Arrangement
It’s half past midnight, and in less than 6.5 hours I’m supposed to be at work (note: originally there was a description here of all of the things I had to do in these 6.5 hours, but it was cut), so I’ll be straight to the point here.
More often than not, we forget that all the products we see, all the devices and websites we use every day, are the by-product of a lot of people sitting in a room and making choices. Some people make choices to get all that stuff out and in our hands, and some other people make choices to decide what stuff should be in our hands. A lot is said about the first: the developers, the tinkerers, the designers, the guys who either ‘get it right’, or don’t. However, sometimes little attention is paid to what happens at the big table.
Let me explain. Have you heard about Intel’s “tick-tock” strategy? No? Quick refresh: Intel’s goal is to release a new processor microarchitecture every year. Yes, let me say that again: every year. And if you didn’t know, that wasn’t always the case. In fact, throughout the years, Intel has taken its own sweet time to get things done; between the Pentium III and the Core 2 7 years elapsed, but now, this year we will see the release of Ivy Bridge when Nehalem was just released four years ago. Between the Core 2 and Nehalem Intel’s board decided they wanted to make the risky move of shifitng to a two-year product cycle, keeping two separate teams, one for a new architecture, one to refresh it, to ensure they could pump a new series of microprocessors every year. Keep in mind this decision was made at the dawn of the smartphone era, when people were supposed to start buying “Post PC-Devices” rather than new desktops and notebooks, and yet, Intel’s business seems to be in a roll.
It must’ve not been an easy decision to make, and yet it was taken, with all the risks it involved. Now, let’s get a different perspective here: Apple. Have you noticed the iPhone line? Since the iPhone 3G, every release seems to meet the “tick-tock” arrangement, too. The iPhone 3G set the “tock”, the 3GS improved it as the “tick”. The iPhone 4 was the next “tock”, the iPhone 4S is the latest “tick”. Now, from our perspective, seeing how these products have come out, we can’t think of any reason Apple’s execs would’ve doubted this strategy would work, but how would you have feel if you were one of them, back in the day?
Think of it this way. One year, you have “the good product”, the revolutionary product, the one everyone is going to buy. The next one, you have the evolutionary product, the one that merely improves upon its predecessor and is designed to make money until the next revolution arrives. How do you think this strategy sounded back when it wasn’t proved a success? Not good. Because fear must’ve come by and shaken the hearts of the shareholders who feared people would see right through the company’s intentions and not buy any product that wasn’t from the revolutionary year. And yet, here we are, enjoying the decisions those execs made at the time, just as they are.
My point being? Choices are made by people, and whether we like it or not, those logos and stamps we see everywhere aren’t just logos and stamps, they’re people. People who have to live, go to work and make decisions at work just like you and I do. That their choices affect others lives? Yes, but nevertheless, like you and I, they also have a life outside of their work, and they have feelings, and desires, and problems. The products and sites we use and see everyday aren’t just boxes full of wrapping material or pixels that light up powered by hundreds of thousands of lines of code, they’re the effort and commitment of people. And sometimes, we forget that.
Photo by George Armstrong@flickr.