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Apple still strong at 40, but are best years behind it?

Apple turned 40 this spring, and it’s a very different company from the audacious startup that Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak launched in a Silicon Valley garage in 1976.

Today, the maker of iPhones and Mac computers is the world’s most valuable public corporation, with 100,000 employees and a new, multi-billion dollar headquarters in Cupertino, California, set to open next year. But despite its astounding financials — Apple reported $53 billion in profit on $233 billion in sales last year — some critics have suggested Apple’s best years are behind it, as it has struggled to come up with new products and match the phenomenal success it has had in recent years.

Not surprisingly, longtime employees like software vice president Guy “Bud” Tribble disagree.

“We still think we’re going to change the world,” said Tribble, one of a half-dozen Apple staffers selected by the company to briefly reminisce with reporters this week. Tribble started with Apple in 1980 and worked on the original Macintosh team. He added: “We had no idea back then that Apple would grow to the size that it is.”

The company now boasts that more than 1 billion Apple devices — iPods, iPhones, iPads, Macs and Apple Watches — are in regular use around the world. Those products are widely admired and imitated. But Apple depends on the iPhone for two-thirds of its revenue. And after selling a record number of iPhones last year, analysts say sales are leveling off and may even decline this year.

As it enters middle age, Apple may find it difficult to maintain its leadership in the industry. Some experts say it’s getting harder to come up with new advances to distinguish Apple’s products from those of its competitors.

“Apple is still as good as it used to be, but everyone else has gotten better than they used to be,” said James McQuivey, a tech analyst with Forrester Research.

He cited longtime rival Microsoft, once viewed as an industry laggard, but now credited with pioneering tablet computers with detachable keyboards _ a category even Apple is embracing with the business-oriented iPad Pro. By contrast, he noted, Apple’s latest iPhone is a downsized version of earlier models.

Longtime staffers said Apple still has the zeal to create revolutionary products.

“We’ve done this more times than anybody else,” said Greg Joswiak, a 30-year employee and vice president for product marketing. He listed the iPod, iPhone, iPad, iTunes and the company’s online App Store, the new Apple Watch and recent initiatives to create new health-tracking and medical-research apps for the iPhone and Watch.

Apple is widely believed to be exploring new businesses, from electric cars to virtual reality, but analysts say developing products in those categories could take years.

“We want to go into new industries … and really challenge the status quo,” said Divya Nag, a former medical researcher and entrepreneur hired in 2014 to work on Apple’s health projects. Always secretive about specific plans, Apple declined to provide Nag’s job title. Her resume shows a track record of helping win FDA approval for new medical inventions.

Apple’s growth hasn’t been smooth. Jobs was forced out in 1985, leading to a revolving door for chief executives until he returned in 1997, as the company he co-founded was on the brink of collapse. “There was a time when you were worried about keeping engineers here,” said Cheryl Thomas, a vice president for software engineering who joined Apple in 1989.

And in 2000, when the dot-com bubble burst, Joswiak said Jobs refused to cut spending when competitors were tightening their belts. Joswiak said Jobs pledged to “invest in ourselves more than ever before. We then suffered through 11 straight quarters” of dismal financial returns.

Jobs’ death from cancer in 2011 led to the elevation of current CEO Tim Cook, who’s intense but softer spoken. Tribble credits Cook with maintaining Apple’s focus on quality products, even as Cook has taken his own path in running the company.

Far more than Jobs, Cook uses his prominence to speak out on social issues, from global warming to civil rights and individual privacy. He recently challenged the U.S. government in a high-stakes legal dispute over an encrypted iPhone used by an extremist killer. While that drew criticism from top Justice Department officials and GOP presidential contender Donald Trump, Joswiak said he was proud of Apple for taking what he considers a principled stand.

Apple remains one of the most sought-after brands. BAV Consulting, a firm that tracks brand reputation, said that after reaching a low in 2001, just before the iPod came out, Apple is now in the top 1 percent of American brands. And it’s in the top 2 percent of brands “being worth paying more for” — which means it can get away with charging more for its products, according to BAV.

Even at 40, the company hasn’t lost its passion, Thomas said. She said she wanted to work there since seeing the famous 1984 Macintosh commercial, in which a young woman hurls a hammer at the giant image of a Big Brother figure.

The idea of joining what was then a tech upstart didn’t sit well with her father, a career IBM scientist, who advised Thomas: “You need to think with your head and not your heart.”

But Thomas said: “I thought with my heart.”

Review: ‘Steve Jobs’ plays man versus machine

When is someone going to open a window in Aaron Sorkin’s Steve Jobs? Alas, wrong operating system.

Sorkin has dispensed with the traditional format of the biopic, instead framing the life of the Apple co-founder and turtle-necked tech deity in three backstage dramas ahead of major product launches: the Macintosh in 1984, NeXT in 1988 and the iMac in 1998. In the behind-the-scenes swirl, Jobs (Michael Fassbender) is visited each time by ghosts of products past: Apple engineer Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen), Apple CEO John Sculley (Jeff Daniels), and Jobs’ daughter, Lisa (played by three actresses), whose paternity Jobs initially disputes.

It’s a scheme of three-act purity, as tightly compacted as the circuitry of an iPod, and one that few besides Sorkin would dare to attempt.

Though the script is adapted from Walter Isaacson’s book, it feels more like a play that director Danny Boyle has transferred to the screen. The stage must be the true home of Steve Jobs; no one steps outside until a pivotal moment late in the film.

Like the tightly controlled aesthetics of Jobs, himself, the movie is a closed system. Even in the first scenes, Jobs is trying to have the “Exit” signs covered for the show. Tell the fire marshals, he says, “We’re in here changing the world.”

Cloistered inside its claustrophobic casing, the movie hums with the high processing capacity of Sorkin’s dialogue. In dressing rooms and the bowels of theaters, Jobs, flanked by his right-hand woman Joanna Hoffman (an excellent Kate Winslet), is the egomaniacal mind amid the media storm of his making.

He’s in virtually perpetual argument: strong-arming his engineers to get the first Mac to say “Hello” in his presentation; lamenting a Time magazine cover that dared to make the computer, not him, man of the year; sneering at PC “hobbyists” who resist the “end-to-end” control he demands for the Mac.

What does Steve Jobs do? That’s the question Wozniak (the arguably more important inventor and computer programmer), puts to him, and the one the film, itself, is an answer to. Jobs is the big-picture visionary, the bullheaded narcissist and, above all, the knowing conductor of talent and ideas. It’s not a hard metaphor to grasp by the way Sorkin, the master of multitasking, juggles Jobs in an asteroid storm of turmoil, including, oh yes, one scene set in an orchestra pit.

Every interaction bears the tension of tolerance: How much do we accept from a man of some genius? It’s not much fun being around a guy who compares himself to Julius Caesar and sees assassins all around. How to reconcile someone who can refuse to pay for his daughter’s college tuition, but who can, like magic, put a thousand songs in her pocket?

He’s as puny as he is mighty, a flawed man who made perfect machines.

Steve Jobs hangs heavily, melodramatically, on his relationship with Lisa. But as fraught as life is backstage, the thundering, foot-stopping audiences lurk outside.

Why has Sorkin, an acknowledged technology neophyte who also penned The Social Network, become the go-to for some of the greatest tech minds of our time? Perhaps because his rat-tat-tat exchanges gives us some sense of the computing power of elite minds, just as his morality tales render them in the binary codes of good and bad rather than ones and zeroes.

Boyle, whose greatest talent is in his slick manipulation of time (127 Hours, 28 Days Later…), is in firm control of the screenplay’s high-velocity rhythm. And he does his best to bring a visual component to the stagy screenplay, most notably filming each act different: first grainy 16mm, then 35mm and finally in the hard reality of high-definition digital.

The adventurous Boyle feels a little hemmed in here, as does the naturally mischievous Fassbender. But Fassbender captures the thin-skinned sensitivity and detailed obsessiveness of Jobs. In his hands, Sorkin’s dialogue crackles.

The film often does too: the Full Sorkin Treatment has electrified a well-trod subject. But it also smothers it in artifice. In Steve Jobs, Sorkin does the conducting.

Steve Jobs, a Universal Pictures release, is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America for language. Running time: 122 minutes. Three stars out of four.

Review: Documentary presents Steve Jobs’ darker side

Was Steve Jobs a brilliant visionary whose singular mind, capable of blending art, technology and commerce as never before, inspired the world to “think different” and changed the way we live?

Or was he a ruthless businessman who treated co-workers callously, took credit for the work of others, and often acted out of jealousy and spite?

Documentarian Alex Gibney is known for pulling no punches when it comes to his subjects, most famously Scientology in his recent Going Clear. And so it should come as little surprise that in Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine, he comes down heavily on that second, darker image of the Apple CEO. Even if you haven’t read much of the copious material out there on Jobs, who died in 2011, you’ll know some of this, especially his early attempt to dispute his paternity of his first child Lisa, even as he was raking in millions. But though Gibney doesn’t seem to come up with anything truly groundbreaking, there’s surely more negative stuff here — and lots more detail —than you’ve encountered before.

With this, Gibney, a skilled filmmaker, has little trouble holding our attention for more than two hours. But he raises another tantalizing question without really answering it: What does our collective adulation of Jobs and his creations say about US? Perhaps it was all too much for one movie.

The film begins, wisely, with the stunning reaction to Jobs’ death of pancreatic cancer, similar to the grief that erupted with the passing of John Lennon — only expressed in 2011 technology. We see the makeshift shrines outside Apple stores, and the ubiquitous hashtag #iSad. A young boy explains, incredulously: “He made EVERYTHING!” On the news, Diane Sawyer speaks of “a global wake.”

How to explain this impact? Gibney gathers footage both of the brash young Jobs with long hair, proclaiming how the computer, once bulky and scary, will change people’s lives, and famously giving the finger to IBM; and the older Jobs, in his second stint with Apple, pacing the stage in his black turtleneck and delighting fans with those much-awaited product launches.

And there are much less flattering elements, in interviews with people who worked with (or loved) Jobs: for example, Bob Belleville, who came over from Xerox in the ‘80s. “How bad could this be?” Belleville recounts thinking beforehand. “I didn’t realize how bad it could be.” The memories cause him to weep.

We hear how Steve Wozniak, the eventual Apple co-founder who began his journey with Jobs in a garage, did much of the work on a video game the duo sold to Atari, but was iced out of most of the money by his friend. And there’s school buddy and Apple employee Daniel Kottke, wondering succinctly: “How much of an asshole do you have to be to be successful?”

Chrisann Brennan, mother of Lisa Brennan-Jobs (Jobs’ daughter did not cooperate with the film — nor did his widow, Laurene Powell, or Apple itself), describes telling Jobs she was pregnant and watching him clench his jaw and slam the door.

There’s also sobering detail on working conditions (and suicide rates) at the Chinese factories where Apple products are made; on a scandal involving Apple stock options; and on Jobs’ zealous pursuit of the tech bloggers who wrote about an iPhone 4 prototype accidentally left in a bar. We’re also told how, contrary to Bill Gates and his huge philanthropy, Jobs ended Apple’s charitable gifts.

Yet there’s admiration, too, for Jobs’ creative mind, specifically the crucial connection he was able to make between a piece of machinery and the human experience it could provide. As the film says of the iPod: “It wasn’t a machine FOR you. It was you.”

And it’s Gibney himself who best describes the lure of a shiny Apple phone.

“I had to have an iPhone,” he says. “My hand was drawn to it like Frodo’s hand to the ring.”

Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine, a Magnolia release, is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America for “some language.” Running time: 127 minutes. Three stars out of four.

Steve Jobs seen as brilliant, brutal in new documentary

Four years after his death, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs still fascinates the public, with two major new films this fall analyzing his life and career.

For award-winning documentary maker Alex Gibney, it is also time for re-assessing the hard-driving perfectionist who revolutionized the way people communicate but whose treatment of friends, family and co-workers was sometimes rife with contradiction.

“Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine” breaks no new ground factually. But it contrasts the man who once aspired to be a Buddhist monk with the businessman who initially denied paternity of his first child and presided over a company that paid Chinese iPhone makers a pittance and pared back its philanthropic programs while reaping billions in profits.

“He had the focus of a monk, but none of the empathy,” Gibney comments in the film, whose tagline is “Bold. Brilliant. Brutal.”

The documentary, arriving in U.S. movie theaters on Sept. 4, uses archival footage of Jobs as well as interviews with journalists, some former friends and ex-Apple employees. Both Apple and Jobs’ widow Laurene declined to co-operate.

Gibney says he didn’t set out to vilify Jobs, whose death of pancreatic cancer in 2011 was mourned worldwide with an intensity usually afforded a rock star.

“The imperative for me to make this film was why so many people who didn’t know Steve Jobs were weeping when he left,” he said.

Apple, he added, has a cult aspect that fascinates him.

“There is a passion for the person and the products that is so deep that any criticism can’t be tolerated. Why should that be? Is it not possible that we can discuss how pitifully paid are the workers in China… even as we may admire some of the technological aspects of the Apple product?

“There seems to be a need to deify that stuff in a way that brooks all criticism, and that does verge sometimes on the religious,” Gibney said.

Gibney says there is one question he would have liked to ask Jobs, given the chance.

“He kept talking about values, the values of Apple. I would have asked Steve Jobs, ‘what are your values?’ Please express your values. That is what I would have liked to hear from him in an honest and straightforward way.”

Another film about Jobs, the feature movie “Steve Jobs” starring Michael Fassbender as the late Apple CEO, is due for release in October.

(Reporting By Jill Serjeant; Editing by Lisa Lambert)

A golden macbook, HBO on the iPhone, and, yes, the Apple Watch

All eyes were focused on the watch, but Apple CEO Tim Cook also unveiled a new MacBook and announced other deals at a company event Monday in San Francisco.

Here are five things you need to know.

THE WATCH

– Apple calls it “the most personal Apple device ever.” And potentially the most expensive.

– Starts at $349 with Apple Watch Sport, aimed at fitness enthusiasts, in anodized aluminum in silver or space gray, with colorful band choices. Apple Watch stainless steel starts at $549, in traditional and space black. And for those who eat cake: Apple Watch Edition, an 18-karat yellow or rose gold version with a starting price of $10,000.

– Includes: swipe-able “glances” that show you the information you use most; customizable faces for the dial of your choice, and lots of features for both fitness buffs and others who need a reminder to get out of their chairs.

– “Taptic feedback” (a subtle tap) notifies wearers of new emails and other messages. By tapping a finger on the watchface, wearers can control music, send Instagram photos, sketch and send a dynamic drawing to a friend, and see who’s calling. Return calls with voice or a voice-to-text messaging functionality.

– Substitutes for: A hotel room key, boarding pass, even your wallet – Apple Pay promises to enable grocery-store checkouts with a single tap of your wrist.

– “All-day” battery promises about 18 hours of life. Charge it by snapping a magnetic charger to the back of the watch.

– Advance orders begin April 10. In-store sales start April 24 in the U.S., Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan and Britain.

SHINY HAPPY MACBOOK

– Weighing in at just 2 pounds and with no fan or other moving parts, it’s the lightest, thinnest and quietest Apple laptop yet, with “all-day” battery life, which Apple defines as 9 hours of web browsing and 10 hours of iTunes movie playback.

– Comes in three colors: silver, “space gray” and – wait for it – gold.

– Control it with a new pressure-sensitive track pad. Screen has the 12-inch higher-resolution Retina display now available only in higher-end, heavier MacBook Pros.

– Charge it with a new kind of connector cable and port, “USB-C,” that combines power with functions now requiring HDMI, VGA or USB connections. Adapters will be available until more accessories have USB-C built-in.

– Feel good about it: Apple touts its environmental friendliness (no PVCs, mercury, or beryllium) and says it will be the most energy-efficient laptop on the market.

– Shipping April 10, it starts at $1,299 with 256 gigabytes of storage. A faster processor and double the storage can be had for $1,599.

– Apple will still make its MacBook Air and Pro models. Upgrades were released Monday.

AN APPLE A DAY

– To help sell a computer designed to be pressed to the flesh all day long Apple hinted that the Apple Watch and iPhone could become vital research tools that help turn users into volunteers for medical studies.

– ResearchKit, available next month, is Apple’s open source set of tools that researchers can use to build apps aimed at diseases. Users can sign up for studies, take tests, describe symptoms – and begin sending their data to researchers.

– The first five apps – for Parkinson’s, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, asthma, and breast cancer – are available Monday in the App Store for iPhones. Apple says it won’t see any personal health information.

– For now, participants must have an Apple device, but outside developers will be able to adapt ResearchKit to work with Android and Windows.

HBO ON THE GO

– Apple will be the exclusive partner of HBO’s upcoming stand-alone subscription service, HBO Now. There will be a new HBO Now channel on Apple TV. It will be possible to get it on iPhones and iPads, too. No cable or satellite subscription necessary.

– Cost: $14.99 a month. Available in early April – just in time for the season premiere of “Game of Thrones.” No minimum period required.

– Apple’s exclusivity period will be three months, after which HBO Now will start appearing on other devices. Even during that time, you can watch on non-Apple devices over a Web browser – but you need an Apple TV, iPhone or iPad to sign up.

– And speaking of Apple TV, the price dropped by $30 to $69.

APPLE PAY

– Since its October launch, participating banks have grown from six to 2,500. You can now pay with your iPhone at nearly 700,000 locations nationwide, including more than 40,000 Coca-Cola vending machines.

– You’ll be able to make payments from the Apple Watch – even if you leave your phone home.

IPhone statue removed in Russia after Apple CEO writes about being gay

Shortly after Apple CEO Tim Cook wrote about being a proud gay man, a statue of an iPhone was dismantled at a university in St. Petersburg, Russia.

The statue, which was about 6 feet tall, stood on an IT university campus.

A statement from a company that removed the statue, ZEFS —Western European Financial Union, which deals on construction, advertising and finance — said Cook’s writing was “a public call to sodomy,” according to reports from The AP and Washington Post.

The statement also referred to Russia’s law banning minors from “homosexual propaganda” and said the statue, which was a tribute to Steve Jobs, violated the statute.

“Russian legislation prohibits propaganda of homosexuality and other sexual perversions among minors,” ZEFS wrote in a statement, according to the Washington Post. “After Apple CEO Tim Cook publicly called for sodomy, the monument was dismantled pursuant to Russian federal law on the protection of children from information that promotes the denial of traditional family values.”

Some Russian news sources have said that there were plans to remove the statue before Cook’s essay was published in Bloomberg Businessweek in October.

Cook’s sexual orientation was not a secret when he took the helm of Apple and the statue was installed after Jobs’ death. However, the Bloomberg interview was the first in which Cook wrote about his homosexuality.

Cook wrote, “I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me.”

Bartlett’s revised with very familiar quotations

So much has changed since we last heard from “Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations,” a decade ago.

Barack Obama was a state legislator. Sarah Palin was mayor of Wasilla. Steve Jobs had just introduced a portable music player called the iPod.

And digital books were a relic from the dot-com bubble.

The 18th edition of the venerable reference work has just been released, the first for the electronic age and a chance to take in some of the new faces, events and catchphrases of the past 10 years. General editor Geoffrey O’Brien says he has expanded upon the trend set by his predecessor, Justin Kaplan, of incorporating popular culture into an anthology once known for classical citations. Shakespeare and the Bible still reign, but room also has been made for Madonna and Michael Moore, Justin Timberlake and Jon Stewart.

“I also added a great many quotes that originated in other languages. So I would say the new edition has a more international scope,” says O’Brien, an author and critic and editor in chief of the Library of America, which publishes hardcover volumes of canonical American authors.

Little, Brown and Company hopes the new Bartlett’s will appeal both as an old-fashioned coffee table hardcover, some 1,400 pages, and as an ultra-portable digital reference guide. Instead of releasing an e-book edition, the publisher has developed an app that does not simply replicate the printed book, but makes it ideal for digital devices and easy to share on Facebook or Twitter.

Dozens of employees spent months working on the app, according to Brian Singh, mobile analyst for Little, Brown’s parent company, Hachette Book Group. Some 20,000 quotations were categorized so those looking for a quick quote – say a love poem for a wedding speech – could simply search the word “love.” The app costs $3.99 and does not include any extra material, but it does have a digital feature, Quoto, which allows users to take a favorite citation, set it against a backdrop of choice and post it online.

For the hardcover, O’Brien said he removed some old poetry and forgotten phrases to make room for about 2,500 new quotes, including several from the Iraq War. Among them are President George W. Bush’s call to “Bring ’em on” in response to possible uprisings from insurgents and his declaration that he was the “the decider.” The Dixie Chicks’ Natalie Maines is mentioned for her on-stage remark that she was “ashamed” Bush was from Texas, as is Moore’s Academy Award acceptance speech when he criticized the war and called Bush a “fictitious president.”

Seven Obama quotations are listed, from his campaign slogan “Yes, we can!” to his announcement that U.S. special forces had killed Osama bin Laden. Palin’s entry includes the quip from her speech at the 2008 Republican convention that the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull was “lipstick.” Job’s dying words, “Wow, oh wow,” are among four citations for the late Apple CEO, including a 1987 comment that “It’s more fun to be a pirate than to join the Navy.”

Others in Bartlett’s for the first time: Christopher Hitchens (“Seek out argument and disputation for their own sake”); David Foster Wallace (“Make no mistake: irony tyrannizes us”), Stewart (his nightly signoff, “Here it is … your moment of Zen”), Timberlake (his apology for Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” during the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show).

Barlett’s is home to polished aphorisms and unintentional history: Bill Clinton’s “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky”; Oscar winner’s Sally Field’s cry that “You like me!”; Obama’s comments at a private fundraiser that some rural residents “cling to guns or religion.” Some quotes originate from tragedy: Rodney King’s plea, “Can we all get along?”, as Los Angeles burned during the 1992 riots; Flight 93 passenger Todd Beamer calling out “Let’s roll” as he led an uprising against Sept. 11, 2001 hijackers.

The credentials for Bartlett’s are admittedly arbitrary: Space concerns, individual tastes and the uncertain definition of the word “familiar” make the book an invaluable excuse for an argument.

Larry David is in, but not Aaron Sorkin; P.J. O’Rourke, not Maureen Dowd; Jerry Seinfeld and Steve Martin, not George Carlin or Richard Pryor. The many expressions popularized on “Saturday Night Live,” from “Talk amongst yourselves” to “Well, excuuuuuse me!” were not mentioned. Among novelists, Richard Powers is in, but not Jonathan Franzen; Colson Whitehead, not Michael Chabon.

“I am sure that twelve different well-informed people would come up with twelve different lists of people (and more importantly of specific quotations) left out, and I am sure some of these will be strong candidates for inclusion in the next edition,” O’Brien said.

Among songwriting entries, excerpts appear from Lou Reed’s lyrics for “All Tomorrow’s Parties” and “Heroin,” but not from the more famous “Walk On the Wild Side.” The Beach Boys’ “Caroline, No” gets a mention, but not such anthems as “Surfin’ U.S.A.” and “Good Vibrations.” Kurt Cobain’s entry omits “Smells Like Teen Spirit” in favor of “Stay Away” and “Serve the Servants.”

For movies, two quotes are included from Robert Towne’s “Chinatown” screenplay, but not the immortal closing line, “Forget it Jake, it’s Chinatown.” One of just two entries for Nora Ephron is “I’ll have what she’s having,” the joke from “When Harry Met Sally …” that is widely credited to Billy Crystal. Among the favorites left out: “Well, nobody’s perfect,” the kicker from “Some Like it Hot”; Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “Terminator” catchphrase “I’ll be back”; the courtroom explosion “You can’t handle the truth!” from “A Few Good Men.”

“Certain lines strike me as ‘familiar for being familiar’ – ‘You can’t handle the truth’ being one of them, as I can see little originality or singularity in it,” O’Brien said. “The price of compactness is a certain amount of arbitrary exclusion.”