I’ve been using Twitter account names a lot recently in retweeting — They’re good, attention-grabbing handles. It’s easy to find out if a company has an account, by simply adding the obvious name to the twitter.com/xxxx URL. That usually works, as shown below. But not for Apple.

Almost all of the tech giants do have an active Twitter account, under their obvious names. Here are a few (from my tweet) – ericrumsey: Thanks for being on Twitter: @Twitter @Facebook @Microsoft @IE @FireFox @Google @Amazon @Dell @eBay

And here are the names that Apple has chosen not to claim and use, again, from my tweet – ericrumsey: Why doesn’t Apple do Twitter? – @Apple @iTunes @iPad @Mac @Appleinc @Apple_inc

There have been speculations about Apple’s not using Twitter — Last year Dave Greenbaum in GigaOm speculated (wrongly so far) that Apple would be Twittering  soon, and there’s even a Quora article Why doesn’t Apple have a Twitter account? In March, Dutch blogger Kees Henniphof wrote that Apple doesn’t do social, pointing out that Apple’s non-social media choice extends beyond Twitter to other media like Facebook and LinkedIn, and says that by their non-participation, Apple is making “a statement.” I’d say they’re missing an opportunity.

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

In January I wrote articles about the wonderful way Amazon’s Kindle app works on non-Kindle devices to allow cross-platform reading of Kindle eBooks. Using the Kindle apps on other devices (iPad and iPhone have been especially popular) has advantages over using the Kindle device, such as easy highlighting and note-taking. It was ironic. then, that it was just a week after I wrote that news came out that Apple would be putting restrictions on the use of the Kindle app on the the iPad and iPhone. While it’s not clear how much this will restrict use of the app on Apple devices, it seems likely to diminish their use.

With a relatively small number of titles available on the iBookStore, Apple is not in the business of providing content, unlike Amazon, with its KindleStore, and Google, with the Google eBookStore. So, with so few books of  its own, it’s surprising that Apple is putting restrictions on Kindle app users, instead of encouraging them — Hey, Apple, it seems like Amazon is helping you out!

Kindle apps on the iPad have been immensely popular, as described in my previous article, and the reaction to the new Apple policy has been strongly negative. A tweet by @fienen on Feb 15 highlights this (boldface added):

The content wars continue. Apple may have played the wrong card here. Big time. Official: Apple locks down the Kindle app http://ow.ly/3WVcP

On the same day as this tweet, an article in CNNMoney reported recent remarks by AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, in which he called Amazon’s Kindle e-reader app the best business decision of the past decade, which made Amazon “‘the poster child’ of the cloud computing movement” — I don’t know about that, but I’d say the Kindle app certainly showed Amazon’s astuteness about the eBook cloud environment.

I think the future of eBooks is going to belong to the one who can bring together the devices & computers with the best collection of books. Right now, Apple has the devices and Amazon has the most books. So get with it, Apple — Amazon has opened up it’s books to play with your devices, so how about reciprocating?

What will Google do?

Looming over the spat between Apple and Amazon, of course, is … Google. As I said in concluding my previous article about the Kindle app ecosystem, “imagine the possibilities if Google puts their attention to doing something like this for their collection of public domain eBooks” — Bringing together the devices (Android tablets) and the books (Google eBookstore) in Google’s one big house.

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

Steve Jobs & the Future of Mac OS X

Will the Mac have an OS XI? In this article I discuss two topics that relate to this — In the first part of the article, I’ll discuss the name of the current Mac OS — Is it Mac OS X (letter X) or is it Mac OS 10 (number 10)? This is a well-known subject for long-time Mac users, but I haven’t seen other talk about my suggestion that Steve Jobs carefully crafted the “OS X” name as a brand that he and Apple won’t give up easily. In the second part of the article, I discuss how the iPad changes the game for the Mac OS and my prediction of what this means for Apple.

Is “Mac OS X” a Steve Jobs Pun?

The story of Steve Jobs’ firing and “second coming” at Apple has been told many times. For the purposes of this article, the highlight of the story is his founding of the Unix-based NeXT computer (when he was away from Apple), and then, when he returned as CEO, his fostering the adoption of its OS, which became Mac OS X. The Unix base of OS X was a large break from the previous non-Unix “Classic” Mac operating systems 1-9. … This is all common knowledge, but one aspect of the advent of OS X gets less attention (at least in writing) and that’s the name “OS X” –Why is it X instead of 10? A little digging reveals that the letter “X” has particular significance in the Unix world — When Unix people see a word with “x” in, they take notice because Unix-related words often have an “x” in. So it seems likely that the X was chosen with Unix in mind — A cute Unix insider pun. Surprisingly, though, I can’t find anything that describes the naming of OS X as a pun — Googling for “mac os x” pun or “mac os x” name pun or “mac os x” “double meaning” should certainly pick up something, but it doesn’t. I suspect that there was discussion of this when Mac OS X launched in 2000, and that I’m missing it. Talk on the Web was not nearly as well-developed then as it is now, though, so maybe it’s not there.

So why is this little pun important? Because it brings up the much more interesting idea – Where did the pun come from? Who thought of it? Was it Steve Jobs? If he didn’t think of it himself, he certainly would have been involved in its adoption. It seems likely that there was deep thought given to the name, that it didn’t “just happen” casually. How interesting and serendipitous that when Jobs brought Unix to the Mac, the versions of the OS just happened to be at OS 9, set to advance to … OS 10 >> OS X. But — Suggesting that the weighted meaning of “OS X” had been a long time in the planning, one commentator says that Apple pushed along pre-OS X versions from 8 to 9 so that the version number would be at “10″ when the new Mac-Unix OS was ready to launch. With this sort of long-range planning, it’s unimaginable that CEO Jobs would not have been heavily involved. It’s also an indication, I think, that Apple has a heavy investment in the name “OS X” and that they won’t be quick to move on to another name/version.

After the iPad – Mac OS XI or iOS?

Part of the phenomenal success of the iPad is that it’s created a new category. Before the iPad, “mobile” meant a device you could hold in one hand. The operating systems of such devices were different from those on laptops and desktops. But the iPad is nudging into the laptop category and it uses the same iOS operating system as the iPhone. So there’s been much recent speculation that the future operating system for Apple computers and devices will in some sense merge into one. The downsizing of Mac OS X is already starting to happen, with the smaller footprint of its newest version (Snow Leopard), and the trend will likely accelerate as iPad/Tablet computing increase.

With Mac OS X about to reach its 10th birthday (Xth birthday ;-) ) in March 2011, its interesting serendipitous life continues — Who would have ever guessed that it would persist for 10 years, right up to the next stage of computing, which is being ushered into existence by … Apple Computing with iPhone and iPad? Did Steve know all along and that’s why he held on to the “X” brand for so long?

My Prediction – I’m not taking sides in the debate about whether OS X is a version of the Mac OS or whether it’s a separate OS, and what the next Apple operating system will be called. What I am predicting is that the Mac OS and iOS will grow more alike, which is not original with me, as noted above. I’ll go a step further, though, and predict that around the 10-year birthday of Mac OS X in March, 2011, Steve Jobs will make some sort of announcement about the future direction of the Apple operating system — It’s just too good an opportunity for Steve miss it — The stage is set for the next episode in … the serendipitous life of Mac OS X.

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

A big part of Steve Jobs magical mobile revolution has been the advent of the App, which greatly simplifies using a small mobile-device screen. As popular as iPhone Apps have been, though, iPhone’s Safari browser has also been a great success, showing the practicality of using a Web browser on a small screen.

Safari has shined even more on the larger-screened iPad. With its interface being so similar to the iPhone, it seemed when it first came out that Apps would play the same role on the iPad as on the iPhone. But with its larger screen, people quickly realized that the Safari browser does a fine job in presenting information, and that separate Apps are not nearly as important as on the iPhone. And of course the Safari browser has the great advantage that it lives on The Web.

So the trend, going from iPhone to iPad, is the growing importance of Safari on Apple devices. But this goes well beyond Apple, because Safari is just one of the large class of “WebKit” browsers. I became aware of the importance of this with news in the last month that the Kindle and the Blackberry are both getting WebKit browsers (Thanks to Mike Cane for giving a shout about the significance of this).

So, what’s a WebKit browser? WebKit is the “layout engine” for Safari, Google Chrome, and almost all mobile browsers (Android, Blackberry, Kindle et al). It’s especially good for mobile browsers because of its nimble code and advanced HTML capabilities. And WebKit is open-source, which is why it’s being used on such a wide range of platforms, beyond Apple.

Learning about WebKit has given me a whole new way of seeing the mobile Web world — The varied and interesting implications are many …

  • The iPad’s big splash – Desktop computing is fading fast, and mobile is booming. Until the iPad came out in April, “mobile” meant cellphones and other hand-held devices. Now with the iPad, the definition becomes fuzzy, and will get fuzzier, with smaller versions of the iPad rumored to be in the offing, and Android tablets with a variety of screen sizes certain to come out soon. The whole mobile tribe, from cellphones on up, are certain to have WebKit browsers.
  • Apple’s influence spreads – The first implementation of WebKit on a widely-used browser was when Apple developed Safari and made WebKit as a “fork,” or variation, of the existing Unix rendering engine KHTML. Although Apple made WebKit open-source, and usable by anyone, it’s come to be strongly identified with Apple. So isn’t it interesting that now WebKit, which is widely thought of as an Apple standard, is being used in the browsers of Google and Amazon — Is there any precedent for that? For anything that’s Apple-flavored being adopted by Google and Amazon, which may be Apple’s two biggest competitors in the near future?
  • Apple’s Unix roots are deep, going back to Unix based Mac OS X. WebKit deepens these roots, having been developed by Apple from the Unix KHTML layout engine.
  • WebKit & eBooksWebKit is used for many eReaders, because they have so much in common with web browser technologies, so it will become increasingly important for libraries as the use of eBooks grows.
  • Firefox is fading – Instead of WebKit, Firefox is built on the Gecko layout engine, which was designed for the bulky Windows environment, and it shows its age on mobile systems with more compact code.
  • The growing irrelevance of Microsoft – With very little mobile or tablet presence, their claims to be embracing cloud computing (which is closely connected to mobile computing) seem doubtful — Especially since none of their current or planned browsers are WebKit-based.

I’m often surprised in reading commentaries about the iPad and its competitors that WebKit isn’t mentioned — John Martellaro touched upon the sense I have of “seeing the leaves but missing the branches” in a recent such commentary — He talks about “the advanced technologies that Apple has been nursing along for a decade (unnoticed)” [boldface added] — YES! Exactly! — People see the effects of Apple magic but don’t notice the things that create the magic (Martellaro himself doesn’t mention WebKit!).

So for me, seeing things through the lens of WebKit has been like “pulling back the curtain” on current developments and power struggles in the Web world — In reading anything about competition among Google, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, and various eBook competitors, it’s invaluable to think about how WebKit affects things. I think it’s likely that as things progress (and especially when Android tablets start coming out in the next few months), WebKit awareness will certainly grow fast.

I use a Windows desktop at work and a Mac desktop at home. I’ve been a confirmed FireFox user on both of them for several years. But in doing research for this article, I’ve switched to WebKit browsers — Safari on the Mac and Google Chrome on Windows. I like both of them a lot, especially Chrome — I’ll certainly be staying with it.

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

In another article, I’ve discussed the idea of the WIDE WORLD Web — the idea that people with significant connections outside the US have made disproportionately large contributions to innovation and quality on the Web. I suggest in that article that one reason for this is that Wide World people seem to have a particular appreciation for Simplicity & Elegance. In this article, I’ll discuss examples of this.

First, people and services that I’ve discussed before, with links to my articles about them:

Tor Ahlenius was a librarian at the Karolinska Institute library in Sweden. I first observed the surprising quality of Wide World web work when looking for quality link-lists in pre-Google days, and found that Ahlenius had the most elegant lists on the Web in health and medicine. Beyond Ahlenius, I found in working on Hardin MD that many others of the best link-lists were also from outside the US. Some may question the idea of characterizing link-list-keeping as “elegant” — But in pre-Google days it was an essential service, and comprehensive and well-maintained lists were difficult to find — A simple but critical skill, perfected to elegance by Ahlenius.

Moving forward and on a much larger stage, a couple of examples that are fairly well-known, but not usually thought of as having connections outside the US. But I’d suggest that they do indeed.

Steve Jobs, Jonathan Ive, and Apple – Jobs was raised in California by adoptive American parents, but his biological father was from Syria. The secretive Jobs rarely talks about this, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to see a connection with his career as a tech-genius. Jonathan Ive, who made the elegant designs of  the iPhone and iPad, has solid Wide World connections, being a native of England.

Sergey Brin and Google -  How would the world be different if he hadn’t moved from the USSR to the US when he was six years old and grown up to help invent Google’s elegant search and design revolutions?

Twitter was not developed by anyone with Wide World connections, but I’m including it because it’s elegant simplicity has been so firmly embraced by the Wide World community. I especially learned to appreciate this from following the prolific tweeting of Portuguese librarian Jose Afonso Furtado. He tweets mostly on library/publishing subjects, but during the serious outbreak of Swine Flu in Mexico in 2009, he tweeted on that and I made good international contacts on Twitter through him.

Below are some Wide World examples I haven’t (yet) written about:

Tim-Berners Lee and the WWW – Lest we forget! — The Inventor of the Web was from England. As John Naughton says in his excellent profile of Berners-Lee, TBL’s great contribution was that he created a simple, elegant way to make hypertext, which had been around for several decades, usable by non-geeks — The World Wide Web.

Luis von Ahn, who grew up in Guatemala and is now on the faculty at Carnegie-Mellon – CAPTCHA inventor and MacArthur Genius Grant winner at age 27. He also was the developer of Google Image Labeler, an elegant application of crowdsourcing/gaming to tag pictures.

Yuri Selukoff – A very recent Wide World rising star – Russian developer of GoodReader, widely hailed as the best PDF reader for iPhone and iPad (and one of the two top-sellers of all iPad Apps). The simple, elegant trick of GoodReader is that it extracts pure text from PDF files and “reflows it” into wrapped text format. Selukoff’s GoodReader work reminds me of Tor Ahlenius, discussed at the top of this article, which was my first discovery of simple, elegant Web work originating from the Wide World community. As with Selukoff and GoodReader, it makes me wonder — Why does it take someone from outside the US to give the world such a simple, useful tool?

Related articles:

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

In its original meaning Elegance had to do with tasteful and graceful. In Sci-Tech-CompSci, it’s come to be associated with simplicity – surprisingly simple yet effective (Wikipedia) … cleverly simple (FreeDictionary) — I’ve written quite a lot on this blog about the concept of simple design, especially in the context of  library user-interface (UI) issues and design for mobile devices. Recently, I’ve also been thinking about simplicity in the context of my experience with Hardin MD, remembering the value of list-keeping in pre-Google days — A simple task, but a surprisingly difficult one to execute.

Quality list-keeping, UI design and mobile design — those fit well within the concept of “simple” — But moving beyond those, I’m seeing that there are broader topics that I’ve been writing about that extend the concept of “simple” to something more like “elegant.” I think of there being a continuum from the simple list-keeping of the early Web to simple design to the full-fledged Elegance of the giants discussed below, and I see all of these as being motivated by the same instinct, and blending together so much that they’re hard to separate. So I’m making a new category — Elegance — and putting all of the blend into it — Simple to Elegant.

Here are some highlights of my recent articles – The boldface name links (Apple, Google, etc) go to all of the articles in the category. The links within each paragraph go to articles that are more specifically on elegance:

AppleSteve Jobs and Jonathan Ive have set the standard for elegant design, as stated in a recent iPad review – “Led by British-born Jonathan Ive, Apple’s design team has created another iconically elegant piece of hardware: the iPad.” (boldface by me)

Google – Like Apple, Google has contributed much set the standard for elegant design. I suspect when Google first became popular, the Wikipedia definition of “elegance” given above — “surprisingly simple yet effective” — is just what a lot of people thought — How could this young upstart, with a homepage that was made up of mostly white space compete against the link-laden gateway pages of the era?

Twitter – Tim O’Reilly captures the essence of Twitter’s secret, I think — In writing about why he loves Twitter the first reason he gives is – “Twitter is simple – It does one small thing, and does it well” — Again, echoing the Wikipedia definition of Elegance – “surprisingly simple yet effective.”

And, of course … Wikipedia fits its own definition of Elegance – “surprisingly simple yet effective” — Who would have predicted the simple idea of users making the best dictionary in the world?

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

As detailed in the Apple launch announcements for the iPhone in 2007 and the iPad in 2010, Steve Jobs described both as being “magical and revolutionary.” He makes this claim for the iPhone, he says, primarily for two reasons — multitouch and mobile Internet use. Notably, he doesn’t state any specific revolutionary features of the iPad.

I would suggest that history will judge the iPhone as a more revolutionary device than the iPad, for the reasons given by Jobs — multitouch and mobile web browsing — and also for other reasons not mentioned by him. The most interesting of these is that the iPhone has shown the practical appeal of reading on a handheld mobile web device. For anyone who’s had the experience of reading on an iPhone, this seems commonplace by now, but for the non-iPhone using world, as for everyone before the iPhone, it comes as a surprise that sustained reading on such a small screen could be appealing. But there it is, a runaway success.

The success of the iPhone for eReading stands out especially because it seems to have been completely unforeseen by Steve Jobs at the time the iPhone was launched, and still apparently little-noticed for some time even after it was launched — Jobs, of course, made his famous observation that “people don’t read anymore” a year after the iPhone launch, as the iPhone was in fact becoming a popular eReading device. Something apparently changed Steve’s mind, between early 2008, when he made that statement, and the iPad’s birth two years later — The iPad launch announcement, in contrast to the one for the iPhone, mentions eBook reading prominently, and the iPad has been seen widely by commentators as an excellent eReading device.

I suspect that one of the most significant parts of the iPhone story, as seen by future historians, is that its unexpected success as an eReader turned the fertile mind of Steve Jobs to reading. Where Jobs and Apple will go with this idea is an open, and fascinating, question. With the iPad, Apple seems set to continue on the road to becoming a media company, with iBooks being an important part of the App Store. And it all might have started on the iPhone.

This discussion sheds new light on the frequently stated reaction to the iPad that it’s “nothing but a large iPod Touch” — Indeed, Yes — If you accept the idea that it’s the iPhone/iTouch that’s truly the revolutionary device, then, of course, it’s natural that the next deviceful step for Apple is to apply the same innovative ideas to a larger device — The iPad.

Acknowledgements – Discussions of the ideas in this article with my son Brian Rumsey have been invaluable. Thanks, Brian, for helping me to clarify my thoughts :-)

Other articles on eReading and mobile devices:

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

Starting even before it was launched, the iPad has been widely viewed as a savior for traditional publishing, and especially for magazines, with its rich multitouch interface and its potential for the seamless mixing of text and pictures. So it’s not surprisinig that magazines have been in the lead in touting the iPad, as in Newsweek’s “What’s so great about the iPad?” cover story at left.

One simple, easy-to-overlook, reason for the iPad-magazine connection is the iPad display screen’s 4:3 aspect ratio (the ratio of the width of the image to its height). Many popular magazines (like Newsweek) have this same 4:3 aspect ratio, making them an excellent fit for the iPad.

The 4:3 aspect ratio is not a new one for computer displays — it was common before 2003, when it was mostly replaced by a 16:9 ratio — but what is new on the iPad is that it’s seen as being used primarily in portrait mode — like magazines & books — instead of the usual landscape orientation of computer displays.

Do the Math: The actual size of the iPad display screen is 7.75″ x 5.83″. The actual size of Newsweek is 10.5″ x 7.9.”

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

JobsSimpson

I find the Steve Jobs-Mona Simpson story fascinating — biological brother & sister (with a Syrian father) raised in separate families, who never knew about each other until Jobs was 27 –  In a nutshell: Jobs, raised in a modest middle-class family in California, becomes the highly successful genius head of Apple, then discovers that he has a sister who was raised by their (American) biological mother in Wisconsin, who is also a genius, novelist Mona Simpson. After meeting, they form a close relationship.

The 1997 New York Times Magazine article by Steve Lohr that’s excerpted below (which was written soon after Simpson’s 1996 novel  A Regular Guy and also soon after Jobs’ return as Apple CEO) is the best source I’ve found on the relationship — Especially because it includes rare remarks by Jobs about it. Below the excerpt, I discuss the difficulty of finding information on the Jobs-Simpson relationship, and other sources of information. Here’s the NYT excerpt, taken from the middle of a long article on Jobs:

When Jobs found Mona Simpson, a sister who had grown up in entirely different circumstances, it was as if they had been part of some nature-versus-nurture experiment. He was struck by the similarity in their intensity, traits and appearance.

Since he was a teen-ager [Jobs] had made occasional efforts to locate his biological family. He had nearly given up when he discovered, at the age of 27, that his biological parents had another child later whom they had kept, his younger sister. For reasons of privacy, Jobs explains, he won’t discuss his biological parents or how he ultimately tracked down his sister.

As it turns out, his sister is the novelist Mona Simpson, whose new book, “A Regular Guy,” is about a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who bears a striking resemblance to Steve Jobs. After they met, Jobs forged a relationship with her, often visiting her in Manhattan, where she lived and still maintains an apartment. Theirs is a connection that, to this day, neither Jobs nor Simpson have discussed in the press, and now do so sparingly. “My brother and I are very close,” Simpson says. “I admire him enormously.”

Jobs says only: “We’re family. She’s one of my best friends in the world. I call her and talk to her every couple of days.”

A few words about how I found this article, and the difficulty of finding information on the Jobs-Simpson relationship — I started, of course, with a Google search for Steve Jobs Mona Simpson – The first two hits are the Wikipedia articles on Jobs and Simpson, which is an indication that there’s nothing very definitive about the relationship between the two — If there were, it would be more highly ranked than the Wikipedia articles. The Lohr/NYT article above is #3. It deserves this high ranking, because it has the best commentary on the Jobs-Simpson relationship, looked at from both siblings, instead of being  from the viewpoint of one or the other of them, as in the other top 10 hits. Oddly, however, Google links to a reprinted version of the article instead of the original NYT version, maybe because it’s all on one page.

The Wikipedia article on Simpson has nothing on Jobs. The article on Jobs has rather oddly documented, brief mention of Simpson, with Notes 10 and 21-25 about her relationship with Jobs, but the NYT/Lohr article, above, is only listed in the general Articles on Jobs, with no acknowledgment of its discussing Simpson. Another puzzling ovesight in Wikipedia documentation — There’s an article listed in the Notes section that, while it doesn’t have much on the Jobs-Simpson relationship, does have good information on Simpson’s family background in Green Bay, where she was raised by her mother. It’s especially useful because it discusses Jobs’ biological Syria-native father. In the Wikipedia article Notes, there’s not a link to the actual article, only to the newspaper site:

22. Andy Behrendt, “Apple Computer mogul’s roots tied to Green Bay,” Green Bay Press-Gazette, December 4, 2005.

Presumably the article is unlinked because it’s no longer available from the Green Bay Press-Gazette. It is available here (scroll ca halfway down page for it).

Finally, one last little piece in this truth-is-stranger-than-fiction narrative — From the Wikipedia article on Simpson — Her husband is Richard Appel, and he is a writer for The Simpsons. Hmmm …

Picture Sources: Steve Jobs | Mona Simpson

Related articles:

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

Steve-Jobs-and-Jonathan-I-001two70“Deviceful” – Wonderful word. I discovered it serendipitously in a thesaurus search for “creative” – An interesting story of the way words evolve, a Middle English word that’s out of common use now. I came across the word about the same time the iPad was launched and it seemed fitting for the occasion.

I’m interested in the human element of the iPad story, especially talk about Apple Head Steve Jobs and Designer Jonathan Ive. Jobs, of course, was the center of media attention, with dozens of articles focusing on him. But the younger Ive also got mentioned a fair amount. Since about 2006, he’s been suggested as a possible successor to Jobs as Apple CEO, and with the iPad being the first big Apple Media Hype since Jobs health-related leave-of-absence in 2009, this talk is becoming more voluble.

Invariably described as a quite, behind-the-scenes sort of personality, Ive’s award-winning designs are widely recognized as being central to Apple’s success. One little-reported episode stands out as a tantalizing “what if” story — How different our world might be if Ive hadn’t been a failure as a designer of toilets! …

One day in 1992 a then-struggling Apple hired Tangerine [the small London-based consultancy where Ive worked] to toss around a few ideas for the emerging portable computer market. Ive took on the project while he was designing a new range of bathroom appliances for Hull-based Ideal Standard. On a grey afternoon he drove to Hull to present a new toilet to Ideal Standard. … Ive’s designs were rejected. Shortly afterwards Ive went to the US to present the new laptop to Apple. The firm liked his ideas so much they offered him a job … It wasn’t until Steve Jobs returned to take charge in 1997 that Ive’s career took off. Former Tangerine colleague, Peter Phillips, recalls: ‘Jobs realised he had a jewel in Jonathan.

Another interesting tidbit on Jobs and Ive, that I haven’t seen discussed — They both have important “outside America” connections in their background — Ive, of course, is native to Britain. What’s not so well known is that Steve Jobs biological father was a native of Syria. Our debt to the World is striking.

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey