Screwdri-where?! — Quotidian — 408

(Transcript of video originally posted on 29 Jul 2022)

I came across this book very recently. One Good Turn. A Natural History of the Screwdriver and the Screw. Something really interesting popped out of it, while I was there. It says, the Screw, the concept of the Screw, and something that binds, perhaps wood to wood, such a thing, has been around from 200 B.C.. B.C! But, do you know when this guy came along?! 1500 A.D! For nearly 1700 years, mankind was just sitting around with Screws! Without a Screwdriver! Think about it!

Namaste! Screwdri-where?! Where is YOUR screwdriver! I want to tell you two stories today. The first one, is from Apple!

Apple.. Screws? Well, please don’t misunderstand. Or, wait. Go ahead. Misunderstand this. For, they perhaps deserve this! There were so many different types of screws. Small, large, star, hexagonal, flat-head, flanged, there were many different types. Machines have been around, devices have been around, metal to metal connections, plastic fastenings, have been around! But, do you know what Apple did when it launched the iPhone 4? There is this fastening point right at the bottom. Two screws. Near the speakers. Suddenly, one fine day, all new phones that are manufactured from now on will have the pentalobe screwhead, they declared! What was that again?! It resembles a flower. Pentalobe. There was no real reason for Apple to move to the Pentalobe. Because, if this were the best screw in the world, well, why didn’t they change the screws inside the body too to this type? No! Or, if this were the world standard in screws, well, they would have been easily available! The screw and the screwdriver would have been easily available! No! People started realising, or at least, people started blaming that Apple was choosing this screwhead for the Mac, for the iPad, for the iPhone, only because they didn’t want people to DIY repair it! The folks who say, well, let me open it up myself, let me check things out, oh, it is just this thing to be replaced, oh, only the screen is cracked, oh, it is just battery replacement… they didn’t want you to touch it. They wanted you to bring it back. In fact, when they brought it back, they realised one more thing! Old phones, when they pass through Apple Repair, and come back to the customer, screws magically became pentalobe! Old screws were removed, and they were moving to pentalobe!

These were the headlines that raged then! Apple “screwing” new iPhones out of simple DIY repair! The pentalobe screws saga: How Apple locked up your iPhone 4! Is Apple working on next-gen screw to keep users out of devices? Apple is famous for this. Long ago, when Apple revealed the original Macintosh, they had a sealed unit! Forget screws! This one was SEALED! You could not open it. No user-serviceable parts inside. Don’t meddle with it. It is pristine! You can see this, in the world of software too! In the world of software, the first iPhone, didn’t even have an App Store! Steve Jobs famously said:- “I don’t want any Apps built by third party people. If we need anything, we will build it ourselves”!

But, interestingly, there was this OTHER Steve, who cofounded Apple, Steve Wozniak is his name, he says:- “There is this inalienable right called Right To Repair! It is unfair to lock people out like this! You need to encourage them to do-it-themselves! If only we hadn’t got it all out in the open, Apple wouldn’t have happened! And, I remember, when I launched Apple I, along with the hardware, we published full schematics and diagrams! Anybody else could redo the Apple!” Compare that open world to the one today, where a screw, or even a screwdriver is made very hard to get, for no real reason!

You might have seen this beautiful picture. Inside the Mac. Inside the Macbook Pro. How beautifully laid out, how tightly packed, neatly setup. But, did you read the fine print? There’s a little sticker that says, “Warranty void, if seal broken”. Sorry, no refunds if you do stuff without asking me first!

This is one kinda story. The second story I want to tell you, is about a guy from Apple! This man is Tony Fadell. His first great contribution to humanity? He invented the iPod. The original classic iPod with the clickwheel? It was his baby. And then, remember the other device they brought out, that looked so much like the iPod? The iPhone! He was part of the team there. About 400 people were reporting to him. The crucial hardware design of the iPhone received big contributions from him. After the iPhone was launched, things settled down, and Tony Fadell moved out of Apple. And, do you know what he started doing? He started building Nest. Nest is the company he later sold to Google, and Nest is basically a thermostat. Remember the heaters, coolers, and airconditioning at home? To set them, to save energy, to add some smartness to the whole thing, to bring about a connected home environment in the long term, he founded Nest. (What a nice name!) He started it up thus! The story I am telling you now is about Nest and what he did with it!

Like everybody else, when he created the product, he created personas. Users of this product, would probably be a husband, a wife, a guy and a lady.. he started thinking. Benji, the guy! (Almost resembles Tony Fadell!) And, Beth, the lady. And, whenever there is a persona, there are characteristics that are ascribed to them. He gave these characteristics to them. The classic characteristics. He said, this guy is into tech. He understands tech well. While, that lady loves beauty. Knows how to appreciate aesthetics and recognise beauty. This guy — he loves his iPhone. If we can do something with an iPhone, if we can meddle with something, if we can monitor, manage, manipulate something, he is the guy who puts up his hand first! This lady? Anything new, she is skeptical! Anything she hasn’t seen elsewhere, anything her neighbours don’t have, she doesn’t want to risk it! He is looking for cool new stuff. What can I do that is new? What can I have that nobody else has? When can I adopt? He wants to be the early adopter. Unfortunately, in most households, including mine!, this is true. She is the decision-maker! Will we eventually buy it or not? Will it come home or not? Will we use it daily or not? She is the decision-maker. So, with a dichotomy like this, even if Benji goes to the shop and brings a Nest home, and says, “We are going to install Nest thermostats in our house”, if Beth is going to comment, “What on earth did you buy for the home? Why on earth is it so complicated to set up” etc, the lady will have the final say, the device might not even come home, or, worse, having come home, it may be returned to the shop! So, Tony started sending samples to the households that had Beth and Benji in them! Please try and let us know. Tell us if you like it. Tell us if you DON’T like it! And he collected feedback. He thought, it should be very easy. Easy-peasy! There is nothing hard about it. The device is simple. You just need to identify where to place it. The schematic is given, very beautifully, simply. Some four / five wires. You have to connect red to red, green to green. That would be all! Screw the top. Tighten it. Set it up on the wall! That’s all!

They collected data. How was the experience.. He says, it is not about the product. It is about the product onboarding experience. From the moment the person watches an advertisement, to the moment he actually purchases the product at the shop, to the trip home, the grand unboxing moment, and the final moment when we say, “Everything is set up now, we can now switch it on!” — this whole gamut is the comprehensive onboarding experience. He says it is so important! This is the final thing you do, you connect it with your iPhone, and you are all set, and even before you come home, you can start your A/C.

He collected information and realised that people said it took one hour to complete the installation. “What? One hour? For something as simple as this?” — He was shocked, and he dug deeper. And, they found out that 30 of those 60 minutes, they were spent rummaging in that messy drawer… every house has one. I am sure yours is like this too! And, in that drawer, they wasted those thirty minutes.. Looking for that particular screwdriver to screw on this particular screwhead. It is good-looking. It is small. And, they are not able to use any other random screwdriver on it. They spend half an hour, searching! “Oh, fine, thank God, it is not our mistake. It is his problem… Let us tell our customers, actually, in thirty minutes you can set it all up easily”, was NOT what Tony Fadell thought. He didn’t sweep the problem off the table, summarily. He said, how can we innovate? How can we make it a customer-delight point?

And, this is what he did! He invented a screwdriver! Handy, almost sexy-looking! With the required head. In fact, not just the required head. He threw in four more heads. Here, take this! Even if you want to hang something else around the house, use our screwdriver. Handy. Branded. With a magnetic grip. Perfectly snug-fitting. Something that seems to be irresistible, drawing you to hold it in your hand! Here is a screwdriver! This cost him money! At a time when they were all trying to reduce the cost price of the product, this was five to six dollars of additional cost. People complained, they didn’t want him to do it.. But, he said, this is a great opportunity for brand recognition and customer delight, and surely, every Nest going out will have this Nest Screwdriver! Which will be used for other things too! How beautiful!!

So, my closing thought is, “Which screwdriver are you going to use? Apple’s Pentalobe or the Nest Screwdriver?!” Until we meet again, thank you!

We have encountered some interesting stories about Apple already. Here are some more interesting stories that you might like!



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Rajendran Dandapani

Rajendran Dandapani

Business Solutions Evangelist at Zoho Corp. President at The Zoho Schools Of Learning.