One of the things that is fun about an interview with Steve Jobs is how it seems to blow away a lot of the sinister mystique that surrounds the guy. We spend so much of our time reading, and (in our case) writing about what he thinks that we tend to get a distorted view of the man.
Every now and then he emerges into something resembling reality and gets to answer questions in an environment where we assume he doesn’t have complete control. Of course, he is by his very nature a tightly wound PR engine, and I am sure has prearranged subjects he may not wish to touch on with his interviewers. So our perception of him even in these interviews may be skewed to some degrees also.
Having said that his reaction to initial questions about Apple succeeding Microsoft as the World’s largest tech company were refreshingly genuine and modest. And his willingness to answer questions from the audience was admirable, even if the answers were a little curt or obtuse, when he wanted to curtail the line of questioning. All systems normal then!
In any case my overall impression of the “D8” interview today was that it was a fairly frank set of answers from Steve, albeit to a set of fairly predictable questions from Walt Mossberg.
The questions on Flash unsurprisingly, and rather tediously “All Things Digital” decided to post online.
Frankly, the more interesting stuff was elsewhere in the interview.
The origins of the iPhone:
On the inception of the iPhone Steve outlined how the first prototypes were actually for a tablet, and that once he saw the interface he put that on hold because he realised Apple could make a phone.
This explains an awful lot about how and why the iPhone and both the iPad are such “whole” devices in so many ways.
App Store Rejections:
On this Steve was both open, whilst expressing frustration at the same time. On the one hand he made the very valid point that Apple is still feeling its way with regards to rejection policies, and sometimes makes rules which look great in black and white, but don’t always translate well into real life application. He cited the rejection of Mark Fiore’s app as an example. Mark Fiore is a Pulitzer prize winning cartoonist, who does political satire.
Apple had a rule which was aimed at stopping political / public figures from being defamed. And, as Steve explained, it never occurred to them that something like Mark’s special brand of humour would fall foul of something like this. Because they simply had not thought of that edge case when constructing their own internal guidelines.
Jobs did go on to say that they had changed the rule, and expected Mark to resubmit, but he didn’t. Instead choosing to criticise Apple. It is obvious that Apple, or rather Jobs, was irritated by this and other people who get rejected on edge cases, and then choose to have “their 15 minutes of fame” over the whole thing.
Steve finished with the barb, ‘We don’t run to the press and say “this guy is a son of a bitch liar!” — we don’t do that.’
Roughly translated I think he is quite reasonably saying that we all make mistakes, and he specifically did say that Apple is still learning how to run this very new business.
On Gizmodo and the “stolen” iPhone 4G / HD:
I think the best way to cover this is just to quote Steve. Though it is worth noting that the whole incident caused much hilarity in the audience and on stage!
“You know, when this whole thing with Gizmodo happened, I got advice from people who said ‘you gotta just let it slide, you shouldn’t go after a journalist just because they bought stolen property and tried to extort you.’ And I thought deeply about this, and I concluded the worst thing that could happen is if we change our core values and let it slide. I can’t do that. I’d rather quit.”
I get the impression that Steve felt his age a little during that incident, and perhaps did genuinely consider letting the whole thing slide. Then he probably saw one of the inane e-mails or articles penned by one of Gizmodo’s staff members and came to his senses!
On Apple generally, there is no sign of Steve getting bored of running the company any time soon. Ahd he still clearly loves creating more than anything else, in my opinion.
“Nothing makes my day more than getting a random email from someone talking about how cool the iPad is. That’s what keeps me going. That’s what kept me going back then, and now, and will keep me going in the future.”
“One of the keys to Apple is that Apple is an incredibly collaborative company. You know how many committees we have at Apple? Zero. We’re organised like a startup. We’re the biggest start up on the planet. We meet for 3 hours every morning and talk about all the business, about what’s going on everywhere. We’re great at figuring out how to divide things up into great teams, and we talk to each other. So what I do all day is meet with teams of people.
I have one of the best jobs in the world. I get to come in and work with some of the most brilliant people in the world. We play in the best sandbox…”
On iAd and Admob, Steve simply sees their solution as being neater than anything Google, or anyone else, could come up with.
Quite plainly he states that : “Well we think their ad delivery system sucks!”
This was after a few back and froths about Android, and the whole Google phone being a bit of surprise to Apple. At that point he made it clear that prior to them they had not “got into advertising.”
Well, now Apple is into advertising, and Steve thinks they can do it better than Google. Touche!
Jobs also made a strong case for why integrating operating systems like iPhone OS or Android with TVs is still going to take some work. And offered some prophetic advice for Google.
“The problem with innovation in the TV industry is the go to market strategy. The TV industry has a subsidised model that gives everyone a set top box for free. So no one wants to buy a box. Ask TiVo, ask Roku, ask us… ask Google in a few months.”
It seems that with music, books and TV the old guard need to get into line with what consumers want, and some of the vision that companies like Google and Apple have. Until that happens we will still have all the issues we have today with Music, Movies, Telcos, Book Publishers and pretty much any of the old entrenched large corporations which have had control over our entertainment and communications.
That is certainly the message I took when reading between the lines in most of what Steve had to say today when asked about problems with content, pricing and availability on any Apple device. Poignantly, an audience question asked why Disney’s “UP” could not be played via a VGA cable, from an iPad, on a TV, when it was a legitimate digital download as part of a paid-for DVD package.
Steve explained that although they provide the cables, they often have to play by the content providers rules. He explained quite clearly, and obviously with some personal frustration that if they want to get the content at all they have to play by content providers rules – be they wrong or right. And he too shares our pain.
Finally Steve would neither confirm or deny the iPhone 4G / HD being on any other carrier than AT&T, but did acknowledge that it would be a good thing if it had more service providers. At the same time he promised service improvements from AT&T and again praised their efforts at dealing with an explosive new device category, and massive increases in user bandwidth requirements. So our insight is as clear as mud on that question then!
If there was an overall message that I took away from the interview it was this :
- Apple and Steve Jobs still love what they do, and have lots more to show us.
- The PC Era is coming to an end, but even Apple doesn’t know exactly in what way it will ultimately conclude, or how things will transition.
- Big content needs to wake up to consumer’s wants and needs.
- He still doesn’t suffer fools gladly.
Did you catch any of the live blogs, or videos of the Jobs D8 interview? Let us know your view of Steve’s interview in the comments
Steve Jobs on lost iPhone 4G
Steve Jobs On Flash