Launchpad chicken: Jean Louis Gassée on Mobile Me

Insight from Jean Louis Gassée. 

“Simple is hard. Easy is harder. Invisible is hardest. So goes one of the many proverbs of our computer lore. As Apple found out last month with the MobileMe launch misfires, the lofty promise of “Exchange for the rest of us” translated into a user experience that was neither simple nor easy — in a highly visible way.”

Explains: synch is difficult. Scale matters. Exchange and Blackberry have years of experience with push email and synch.

There has been quite a bit of coverage on how Apple over-reached on the simultaneous launch of Mobile Me, new iPhone and App store. Scale and complexity are only part of the explanation. To understand what went wrong  we need insight into how a company can find itself unable to back down from launching a service which is not ready: launchpad chicken.

What is launchpad chicken?

“Picture the NASA control room before the launch of an expedition to the Moon. Hundreds of (mostly) men in white short-sleeves shirts, pocket protectors and eyeglasses, hunched before screens, keyboards and telephones. Each one monitors a subsystem: left liquid hydrogen tank, backup gyroscopes, main engine telemetry… In the huge air-conditioned control room, five of these men are sweating, something’s not quite right with their baby. The temperature keeps rising, the pressure is falling, the telemetry link is weakening. Almost but not quite in the red zone. If the parameters keep drifting like this, they’ll have to pick up the red phone. But who wants to be the one who aborts the launch? So, they sweat some more and hope someone else blinks first. There you have it: Launchpad Chicken.”


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