#steve jobs

Jonathan Mann:

So. Fast forward to 2010. I had just learned that I lost a big video contest, and I was feeling pretty down. It also happened to be the eve of Apple’s “Antenna-Gate” press conference. The anti-Apple hype was at a fever pitch, and I thought the whole non-story was ridiculous. I decided to write a song defending Apple. I hoped that MG would post it, and maybe I’d get some decent traffic. I wrote the song in about 2 hours and spent another hour on the video. I posted the song, sent it to MG and went to bed.

The next morning I woke to a flurry of activity in my inbox, including an email that appeared to be from Apple. I read the email and decided it was fake — someone was trolling me. I was in the shower when my phone rang. It was Apple PR. For real. Could they use my video to open the press conference, they wondered? Um, yes. Sure, uh, how should I send it to you? Jesus Christ.

Later that morning, I watched online as the song and video I had made in 3 hours the night before played before an audience of journalists at Apple HQ. Then Steve Jobs came out on stage and said, “Thanks for coming. We found that on YouTube this morning and couldn’t help but want to share it.” It was one of the most surreal moments of my life. I heard later from the PR rep that Steve had been dancing off stage as the song played. If you watch the video of the event, there’s a few seconds, right as my song ends, that you can see him bopping his way on to the stage.

I can verify all of this, including Jobs bopping his way on to the stage that morning — because I was in the audience. When Mann’s video started playing I could not believe it. And I knew what it was immediately from the opening keys.

Every single Apple event is orchestrated to no end, including the “crisis” ones like they held for “Antennagate” — perhaps even more so in that case (a few of us were invited on a behind-the-scenes tour of the iPhone testing facilities after the press conference). Yet they clearly pulled a last-minute audible to play the video that morning. And Steve Jobs clearly had to sign off on such an idea. It was the definition of savvy.

Serena Saitto, Peter Burrows & Aaron Ricadela dive deep into just what it took to take Dell private. One anecdote from this past summer:

Durban sketched out the LBO idea as they wandered for two hours through the grounds of the beach resort — a practice Dell had picked up from walking meetings he’d had with Apple CEO Steve Jobs in years past.

We often hear about Steve "Fuck Michael Dell" Jobs. But the two clearly had a professional relationship throughout the years as well — such as taking long walks on the beach…

But seriously, what a pain in the ass it was to just give the money back to the shareholders.

Amongst all the nostalgia about Steve Jobs over the weekend, I re-read this piece by Jeff Goodell published shortly after Jobs’ passing, looking back at earlier interviews. The best bit, from a visit to NeXT in 1994:

As I listened to him, I once again thought of Orson Welles – a great genius who did his best work at 25 and ended up doing TV game shows and commercials for crappy wine. When I asked Jobs how he felt about the comparison, he had the wit to make light of it. “I’m very flattered by that, actually,” he said. “I wonder what game show I’m going to be on.”

Speaking of Steve Jobs, I too will share the Fred Vogelstein post on the build up at Apple to the unveiling of the iPhone in 2007. A few of my favorite parts:

Jobs wanted the demo phones he would use onstage to have their screens mirrored on the big screen behind him. To show a gadget on a big screen, most companies just point a video camera at it, but that was unacceptable to Jobs. The audience would see his finger on the iPhone screen, which would mar the look of his presentation. So he had Apple engineers spend weeks fitting extra circuit boards and video cables onto the backs of the iPhones he would have onstage. The video cables were then connected to the projector, so that when Jobs touched the iPhone’s calendar app icon, for example, his finger wouldn’t appear, but the image on the big screen would respond to his finger’s commands. The effect was magical. People in the audience felt as if they were holding an iPhone in their own hands. But making the setup work flawlessly, given the iPhone’s other major problems, seemed hard to justify at the time.


Shrinking OS X and building a multitouch screen, while innovative and difficult, were at least within the skills Apple had already mastered as a corporation. No one was better equipped to rethink OS X’s design. Apple knew LCD manufacturers because it put an LCD in every laptop and iPod. Mobile-phone physics was an entirely new field, however, and it took those working on the iPhone into 2006 to realize how little they knew. Apple built testing rooms and equipment to test the iPhone’s antenna. It created models of human heads, with viscous stuff inside to approximate the density of human brains, to help measure the radiation that users might be exposed to from using the phone. One senior executive believes that more than $150 million was spent creating the first iPhone.


The second iPhone prototype in early 2006 was much closer to what Jobs would ultimately introduce. It incorporated a touch-screen and OS X, but it was made entirely of brushed aluminum. Jobs and Jonathan Ive, Apple’s design chief, were exceedingly proud of it. But because neither of them was an expert in the physics of radio waves, they didn’t realize they created a beautiful brick. Radio waves don’t travel through metal well. “I and Rubén Caballero” — Apple’s antenna expert — “had to go up to the boardroom and explain to Steve and Ive that you cannot put radio waves through metal,” says Phil Kearney, an engineer who left Apple in 2008. “And it was not an easy explanation. Most of the designers are artists. The last science class they took was in eighth grade. But they have a lot of power at Apple. So they ask, ‘Why can’t we just make a little seam for the radio waves to escape through?’ And you have to explain to them why you just can’t.”

And, of course, launch day:

By the end, Grignon wasn’t just relieved; he was drunk. He’d brought a flask of Scotch to calm his nerves. “And so there we were in the fifth row or something — engineers, managers, all of us — doing shots of Scotch after every segment of the demo. There were about five or six of us, and after each piece of the demo, the person who was responsible for that portion did a shot. When the finale came — and it worked along with everything before it, we all just drained the flask. It was the best demo any of us had ever seen. And the rest of the day turned out to be just a [expletive] for the entire iPhone team. We just spent the entire rest of the day drinking in the city. It was just a mess, but it was great.”

The iPhone seems so obvious and inevitable now. But it’s really the ultimate testament to the incredibly hard and complex work that so many at Apple did while being pushed by Jobs. This entire post is a great reminder of that.

John Gruber:

Leave aside for now the fact that Tim Cook has been CEO for only two years and that Vogelstein himself acknowledges that under Jobs, the revolutionary products came “every three to five years”. The stuff about the stock price is just nonsense — Apple’s stock price routinely fell after products announcements by Steve Jobs. For all the lip service paid to “innovation”, Wall Street tends to be conservative, rewarding the conventional and punishing the unconventional.

You can actually check these things. Stock prices and the dates of Steve Jobs’s product announcements are matters of fact…

It’s a deep burn.

Harry McCracken:

Me, I’ve always thought that it will be impossible to fully judge the Cook era until Apple does enter a wholly new product category. It’s going to do so at some point, and it’s possible that it’ll either go spectacularly well or be a fiasco. Or it might fall somewhere in between, as some of Jobs’ products did. (Exhibit A: The “hobby” known as Apple TV.) But Cook has plenty of wiggle room left before he falls substantially behind Jobs’ pace. I figure he has at least until the end of 2014 or so before there’s reason to join the worry-wart chorus.

Fully agree. As I wrote in October 2011, shortly after Jobs’ passing:

But the truth is that Apple will not likely face their first true post-Jobs test until they release their first truly new product. That execution will shed light on Apple’s future.

That it still hasn’t happened yet is surprising to many, but as McCracken argues, it shouldn’t be. These things take time — even if you’re Steve Jobs.

A little old (2011), but a great story by Jessica Lussenhop. Here’s one fun anecdote about the Minnesota Education Computing Consortium (MECC), under which Oregon Trail was developed:

IN 1978, MECC opened up the bidding process for a new kind of computer to distribute in its schools. Huge multimillion-dollar mainframes the size of rooms and teletypes were being replaced by compact units with screens. MECC was looking for the right microcomputer to put in its schools. Bids from the biggest computer companies came in.

On the final day, just minutes before the bidding was set to close, a husky courier screeched up to the office in St. Paul and ran to the front desk with a hand-scrawled bid. He slapped it down with just seconds to spare.

The handwriting extolled the virtues of something called the Apple II. The letter was sent by two no-names in their twenties—Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak.

Peter Cohan on how Steve Jobs got AT&T to share revenue for the iPhone:

Aggarwal was impressed by the way Jobs was willing to take a risk to realize his vision. “In one meeting in the conference room with Jobs, he was annoyed that AT&T was spending too much time worrying about the risks of the deal. So he said, ‘You know what we should do to stop them from complaining? We should write AT&T a check for $1 billion and if the deal doesn’t work out, they can keep the money. Let’s give them the $1 billion [Apple had $5 billion in cash at the time] and shut them the hell up,’” Aggarwal recounted.

That’s one way to do it.

[via Daring Fireball]

That’s why I think death is the most wonderful invention of life. It purges the system of these old models that are obsolete. I think that’s one of Apple’s challenges, really. When two young people walk in with the next thing, are we going to embrace it and say this is fantastic? Are you going to be willing to drop our models, or are we going to explain it away? I think we’ll do better, because we’re completely aware of it and we make it a priority.

Steve Jobs, in an interview with Playboy in February of 1985 (as recalled by The Next Web). 

I love this quote in the context of the recent changes atop Microsoft. Steve Ballmer spent too much energy guarding old models, and too little embracing news ones while explaining them away.

Steve Jobs, by the way, was just 30 years old when he said this. He was still one of the “young people”.