Tesla Lost the Minute Musk Tweeted

I have been watching with curiosity the battle of words between Tesla CEO Elon Musk and the NYTimes. On balance I think Musk miscalculated and has come out on the losing side of the bigger issue he is confronting… complexity.

As I drive around I see a surprising number of the Tesla Model S sedans and with each sighting I find myself saying “I should get one of those”. I am at heart a gear head, I love cars and motorcycles, and for me factors like fuel mileage and cost of ownership are outweighed by g-forces and smiles per mile. I would rather go zero-to-sixty in 3.9 seconds than get 36 miles per gallon and when I walk out my door in the morning I want to look forward getting into my car. The Tesla offers performance and a really compelling aesthetic… the fact that it is an EV is secondary.

When I looked at the Tesla site I was inspired by the experience and the fact that the model that offers maximum range and performance is considerably more than $50k wasn’t a deal breaker. Installing the charging infrastructure in my house is non-trivial, but the cost is manageable as a result of recent renovations that upgraded our electrical system. I could make this work.

In the end what dissuaded me what the NYTimes article and Musk’s response. On one hand Musk demonstrated the scrappy action-oriented demeanor that I find inspiring about him, but more significantly he confirmed a key weakness in the EV paradigm, complexity.

The core problem that EVs face is that they will always be measured against the utility and convenience of internal combustion technologies. I really don’t want to have to condition the battery, plan my route and destinations to accommodate charging requirements, sit around for a hour while my EV fills up, and think about what accessories I use (e.g. heater, wipers, lights) in the context of how far I can drive.

Tesla and other EV manufacturers could end up with very lucrative niche products, and a much larger opportunity around industrial markets, but I simply don’t see how EVs can ever be mainstream.

Microsoft Office 2013, Google Users Not Apply

Like a lot of people I depend on Office to do my job. I have tried a range of personal productivity applications and nothing comes close to Office in terms of depth of features and overall completeness of the product. It is nothing short of a stunning achievement that changed the way we work.

When I switched to a Mac a decade ago I continued to use Office with one exception, Outlook on the Mac is okay but not great. I used Outlook for Exchange at work and Gmail web for everything else, later when I started working with companies that used Google apps (Gmail and calendar) dropped Outlook altogether. Powerpoint, Word, and Excel maintained mainstays in my toolbox.

With Office 2013 coming out I was actually pretty excited because with the new year I decided to become a Windows user again and with it picked up Outlook again. Having suffered for 9 years with the Gmail web interface I was pretty much done, it simply isn’t productive. in fact it is so deficient in high volume work environments that it becomes a drag on productivity.

Fortunately Google does offer a product called Google Apps Sync takes advantage of a protocol that Microsoft developed called Exchange ActiveSync. The entire purpose of this product is to plug into Outlook and sync Google Gmail, calendar and contacts with the respective counterparts in Outlook.

It works great and over the course of January I not only became a fan of Windows again but I also managed to work through 4k unread emails in my work inbox, organize my folders, and blow out about another 10k emails that were bits-and-pieces not worth saving. I was, in a word, stoked. for the first time in years I really feel on top of my email and not a single message goes unread and/or unattended at the end of my day. The reminders and flags are incredibly useful and plugins like GotoMeeting greatly simplify ordinary tasks like scheduling a conference call.

When I found the Office 2013 Preview release I jumped on it. The interface was slick in man ways but incremental in nature, the integration with cloud services was impressive, and that is pretty much where I was left with the question: It took how long to do this?

At the risk of criminally oversimplifying a complex development process, it really seems like what they delivered could have been done a lot sooner. I am sure that there are hundreds of improvements but isn’t that the problem in many ways? Maybe we are beyond the notion of suite-based applications, instead plugging together what we need when we need it.

This where Microsoft could have raised the bar for cloud services because for the first time in modern tech history the ability to connect cloud applications together reliably and without great pain and cost is upon us. Okay, whatever. I guess I can live with the big bang theory Office subscribes to, even though the subscription pricing model they are putting front and center is more than a little punitive.

Yes you can get boxed and subscription pricing options but it’s pretty clear that Microsoft is putting a preference on subscription pricing and over time this can add up to a pretty penny.

The deal killer for me, however, was the completely screwed up way that Microsoft and Google have behaved toward each other to the detriment of users. Google dropped EAS support unless you are on a premium GApps account, which we are, but the Google Sync product does not work in Office 2013. Google preferred solution is CalDAV and CardDAV protocols for calendars and contacts respectively, and IMAP for email.

Microsoft, for it’s part, has committed to CalDAV and CardDAV for Windows Phone but no schedule has been announced for Windows desktop. To add insult to injury, the IMAP interface in the Office 2013 Preview Release was completely wonky and didn’t work against Gmail.

Seriously. it’s not like Google and Microsoft operate in a vacuum completely unaware that they have customer constituencies that depend on the other guy’s products as much as their own.

As much as I would like to upgrade to the new version I simply cannot without effective integration with Google gmail, calendar and contact syncing.

What am I missing here?

More on this topic (What's this?) Read more on Google, China Steel Struct at Wikinvest

Generation Cupcake

I was talking with team members on our sales team yesterday, considerably younger than I am but at that point in life where they are increasingly self-aware and conscious of the world around them. We were talking about Instagram and the tendency for people to share even the most mundane moments in their life, to which I replied with unbridled amazement asking why anyone think that someone else would care about such things as you brushing your teeth.

Then, rather coincidentally I read this article today about the rise of narcissism in social media and, apparently, I am not alone in my critique.

We are in an interesting generational transformation in the workplace where people under people under age 34, which incidentally is at the top end of the average Instagram user base, is more prominent and empowered in their place of work. The Cupcake Generation, also known as Millenials, is often credited with initiating shifts in how we communicate, online and otherwise, but like most things in technology the successes of the present are built on the shoulders of those that came before us. It is a mistake to call this generation “more social” because such a description really lacks any objective peer group benchmark to measure against. perhaps it is more accurate to call this generation more un-filtered and less private.

The bigger challenge that Generation Cupcake presents is that of entitlement and self-interest, as evidenced by the generous stoking of narcissism on social sites like Instagram. Adversity and challenge breeds character and attributes like fortitude but when you get a medal for showing up and generous compliment and encouragement, it is not unimaginable to see how that leads to self-entitlement. We have gone from generations that broadly lacked self-esteem to ones that operate with an over-supply of self-esteem.

This generational dynamic factors significantly in the “future of work” meme that many companies are contributing to. We are in a dangerous place when the compliment becomes more important than the construction, and tools like Rypple are heavy on the superficial and fun, light on the meaningful and enduring. The question that remains is how companies make professionals in a manner that brings out their individual best while also contributing to the success of the whole?

Over time these things will sort out, however not always to a happy medium. Witness the Baby Boomers, which are arguably the most selfish generation of modern times and the consequences for this are dire as they grow older and hold expectations about what they will be provided, they may be better described as “Generation Have My Cake and Eat It Too”.