Ken Kocienda on software

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Interesting talk with Ken Kocienda, covering his experience on product management and software design at Apple. Kocienda was a software engineer at Apple during Steve Jobs second time as CEO. Kocienda has since written a book – Creative Selection about his experiences.

Interesting bits include:

  • Apple’s approach to open source in 2001. Apple looked at licensing and building their own software, but felt that open source was the right thing to do. Especially when it was the responsibility of a team of two to build a browser. Netscape was built for 20 different platforms, in that respect the Apple team had an easier time. KDE Conqueror had to only be moved from Linux to the Mac.
  • The role of demos in Apple’s development process. Safari was built with a stop watch because the brief was to deliver the best experience to customers. Speed was the differentiator that Ken Kocienda and the team locked on to very quickly. Dial up usage at the start of the development made page load time critical. A page load test was used on builds to ensure that there was no speed regression, build on build. At launch Safari was three times faster than Microsoft Internet Explorer for the Mac. Demos were done on a regular basis to demonstrate strength and potential of a project as its built.
  • Importance of focus. Apple doesn’t ship a lot of products (compared to rivals). Essentially the Mac line-up is four products laptop and desktop, consumer and professional. Because of the focus, it allowed the management to keep tabs on how the software doing.
  • The concept of a “Directly Responsible Individual”. Team formation and building was important part of culture. Top down leadership and bottom up contributions. The vision was very clearly communicated.
  • The role of whimsy and playfulness in designing software

More on Apple here.