Jun 10

Steve @ D8: even better than email

You know, it was really good to see Steve Jobs take questions at D8 on Tuesday. Not because he elaborated on interesting topics (which he did) — more because he did a pretty good job of being human.

It’s one thing to see glimpses of the real Steve in his responses to customers’ emails (and the simple fact that he answers emails at all). But this was far more revealing: an informal conversation with a guy most people know only from what others write about him.

Watching these videos won’t make you Steve’s best buddy. However, his off-the-cuff remarks will definitely give you a greater appreciation for what makes him tick.

A few of my own reactions to his remarks:

The thrill factor. I felt all warm and fuzzy when Steve mentioned how thrilled he was to receive an email from some guy in the UK who’d just bought an iPad and thinks it’s the coolest thing he ever brought home. This is the real Steve. He loves knowing that people love his products. Ask Michael Dell what gives him the biggest thrill.

Apple values. Steve took care to point out that Apple’s values haven’t changed over the years. I know this is true, and I know this is what makes Apple’s success different. They are not easily sidetracked, and they don’t know how to compromise. They will actually spend more to get something right. You probably know how rare this is.

The lost prototype. When the iPhone prototype went missing, Steve said he had received advice from people he trusts to the effect of “let it slide.” After careful thought, he decided he couldn’t let it slide. He’d rather quit. This is compatible with the preceding point about Apple’s values. When you let one thing slide, there will always be another and another — and pretty soon you’re making “okay” products instead of great ones. Thank you, Steve, for having conviction.

The publishing revolution. Talking about iPad’s potential impact on publishing, Steve says he doesn’t want to see us “descend into a nation of bloggers,” that the world needs great editorial. Hear, hear. Not to trash my blogging brothers, but honestly — man cannot live on blogs alone. (Whoops, two male references in a single sentence.) Editorial is hugely important.

Retiring the PC. I agree 100% with Steve’s assessment of the future for iPads and PCs (meaning non-Macs and Macs). As iPads and other devices mature, the need for PCs will fade. Those with vested interests in PCs will indeed become “uneasy” with this, and that’s putting it nicely. No doubt Apple and Steve will be attacked mercilessly for pushing things ahead — and no doubt they will be proven right in the end.

The We factor. Okay, I do have one bone to pick. Talking about how the tablet idea actually came before the iPhone, Steve broke the cardinal rule of teamwork: “Always say we, never say I.” He took an awful lot of credit there with comments like “I saw this,” “I thought that” and “then I decided” leading up to these decisions. I’m sure he’s technically correct — but in the past he has gone out of his way to be we-oriented. Watch it, Steve.

Products as “packages.” Everyone needs to appreciate what Steve said about product design. With every new product, Apple has to pick and choose which technology to include. Going with the cheapest or most popular is a very Dell-like thing to do. Apple instead seeks out the technologies that have the most life ahead of them — and Flash didn’t make the cut. Abandoning Flash surely wasn’t an easy decision. But then losing the floppy drive wasn’t either.

Let the customers decide. As Steve points out, it’s up to the customers to decide if Apple has put together the right package of technologies. If they don’t like it, they won’t buy it, and then Apple would have to rethink its decisions. If it sells like hotcakes, then they must have gotten it right. I think this is the only real answer to the critics who feel varying degrees of outrage over Flash, App Store approvals or whatever. If Apple has made some gruesome mistake, they’re going to pay for it. Chances of that happening: slim.

Good seeing you, Steve. Let’s do it again soon.

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  • It was nice to see Steve more human and less bullshitter then in the keynotes.

    He almost convinced me he his not so much competitor mercyless killer after all.

    Wasn’t though a great argument when he said they don’t have enough resources to implement properly Flash for the benefits of today’s customer ;) they can’t make the underdogs anymore!

  • Synthmeister

    The last point is the one the aflashcionados don’t seem to get. If Flash 10.1 is all Adobe claims it is, then in six months RIM, Nokia and the entire Android universe will be basking in the radiant glow of its glorious splendor and Apple will look dumb.

    But if Steve Jobs is right, then Flash 10.1 will be a pox upon the head of all Apple competitors while they desperately wait for Adobe to create an antidote.

    Customers will see right through any Adobe or Apple posturing. No one is forcing the vast majority of the population to buy mobile devices like IT departments did with PCs back in the 80s and 90s.

  • willy

    “No one is forcing the vast majority of the population to buy mobile devices like IT departments did with PCs back in the 80s and 90s.”

    At D8 Steve said he liked the consumer market, because each person gets a vote–either you buy the product or you don’t. In enterprise, the IT guy makes the decision for the whole company, and you know where that bias lies.

  • D W

    Is there nothing that Apple/Steve Jobs that you don’t like?

  • ken segall

    I thought that was an interesting distinction too. It can be frustrating as hell to get through to IT departments.

    In my opinion, Apple is the most motivated, talented and principled of all the technology companies. Much of this feeling comes from having worked with Apple and several of its competitors. But do read my posts. In the above, I called Steve out for one little faux pas at D8. In past posts, I have been more critical. In particular, I was disappointed with the iPad launch, and I am not a fan of iPhone advertising, which is getting way too long in the tooth. Call me a 90% fanboy.