Jobs' Legacy Lives On in the O&G Industry

Since Steve Jobs' death on October 5, commentators, politicians, business leaders and many others have eulogized the co-founder of Apple Inc. as a veritable Thomas Edison of the Information Age. Without a doubt, Jobs played an important role in shaping how we see and interact with the real and virtual worlds.

It is a safe bet that Jobs' legacy of transforming novel ideas into pioneering products such as the Macintosh and the iPhone will remain with Apple for the foreseeable future, given reports that he's left approximately four years' worth of concepts for the company to develop into new products.

So great has Apple's success under Jobs' tutelage been that the company's market capitalization recently temporarily eclipsed that of oil and gas supermajor ExxonMobil. Thanks to the wild popularity within the past decade of the iPod, iPhone and iPad, the term "app"—short for "application"—has become a fixture in the vernacular of millions.

Need to Analyze 3D or Drilling Data? There Are Apps for That

With an app one can check the status of a flight, learn a new language, manage bank accounts, watch TV, shop for a car and perform a seemingly endless array of other tasks. The oil and gas industry, itself an incubator for novel ideas, has developed its own approaches to leverage the app concept. One example of the app's reach into the oil and gas realm exists in the presentation of seismic data.

"Steve Jobs' product innovations embodied the successful amalgamation of both art and science," said Sarah Bassett, Director of Marketing and Commercialization with Halliburton Landmark Software and Services.

"The products from Apple have changed the way consumers use technology as well as reset their expectations about ease of use," Bassett continued. "With a key focus on user experience, Landmark is able to blend an immersive 3D visualization environment with high science to deliver the solutions preferred by geoscientists and engineers."

Maggie Seeliger, Senior Manager with Halliburton Sperry Drilling, pointed out that technologies such as smart phones and associated apps has had major implications for the oil and gas industry in terms of information delivery.

"As consumers we expect to be able to access any information we want, instantly," Seeliger said.

Inspired by this motivation to perform tasks anywhere and at any time, Halliburton Sperry Drilling developed apps that allow its customers to review and manipulate data no matter how far they are from the rig floor—or from the office, for that matter.

"In the same way we expect to be able to conduct bank transactions via a phone app, many of our customers also expect to be able to, in the case of Halliburton Sperry Drilling, access drilling data via our InSite Anywhere Mobile app and perform what-if calculations for our logging tools using our eChartbook app," concluded Seeliger. "And we will continue developing apps for accessing information, as it has become an expectation for many of our customers."

'Porting Over' to PCs

Although Apple has earned a reputation as a developer of pioneering products ranging from computers to mobile phones, bridging the divide created by the different Macintosh and Windows-based PC operating systems has often been fraught with difficulty for businesses. Economics and accessibility have typically given PCs the edge, as the case of PetroED shows.

"When PetroED began operations in 1991, we were a 100 percent Macintosh development shop," recalled Greg Bihn, Founder and President of PetroED, a provider of interactive multimedia training for the oil and gas industry. "Apple's Mac was the leading multimedia platform around and we not only created computer-based training for the oilfield on the Mac, but delivered them on a Mac, too. Slickline Operations, authored by Robert J. Taylor of New Zealand, was our first commercial product."

Bihn noted that PetroED's Mac-only delivery was problematic for the company's largely PC-based clientele from the E&P sector.

"PetroED solved the problem by 'bundling' the hardware with our eLearning software," he said. "At the time the Mac IIci ran about $8,000 per unit (international price), so clients were eager to receive the 'free' Mac."

Until 1994, 100 percent of PetroED sales were on the Mac, Bihn added. After Microsoft unveiled Windows 3.1—the first multimedia operating system for the PC—in the early 1990s, the Apple dominance with the training provider began to erode.

"Because of the PC's widespread use within the oil and natural gas industry, clients forced PetroED to 'port over' our eLearning library so that these would run on Windows 3.1," said Bihn. "We spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to effect the conversion, so the change was quite costly. In 1996, we recorded our last sale of a Mac eLearning title."

For PetroED, the case for shifting from Mac- to PC-based training was simply too strong to overcome.

"Apple clearly had a superior multimedia platform in the early 90s, but the business drivers for leveraging Microsoft's installed base were too compelling for Mac products to take hold in our industry," Bihn concluded.

Matthew V. Veazey has written about the oil and gas industry since 2000. Email Matthew at


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Vance | Nov. 4, 2011
My hope is that companies like Apple and Microsoft, would some how blend their best ideas. Think of the possibilities! Endless! Jobs will be missed, but many greart minds are out there. I for one, look forward to all the coming technologies yet to be developed. Let us all work together for a better future. No matter what you do for a living.


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