July 2011 Steve Jobs news roundup

Busy month for me, hopefully Steve Jobs news have been somewhat slow too (apart from last week’s).

Here’s what I put aside for you:

    • July 9: A weird video surfaces from Taiwan. A tea brand shamelessly used an actor to play Steve Jobs and sell bottled tea in a TV commercial. See for yourself:


      (via Cult of Mac)
    • July 8: French magazine Le Point reveals that Steve almost purchased a castle in the South-East of France. Pictured below, the property is valued at around €25m ($36m). Apparently Steve’s wife, Laurene, toured the property herself.
      The article also relates that back in 1985, Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber, a French journalist close to President Francois Mitterrand, apparently asked of the head of state a special present to Steve Jobs for his 30th birthday. I’ve read many stories about that famed birthday, where tons of celebrities attended, including Ella Fitzgerald who was the party singer. Anyway, JJSS (as he is often called) reportedly suggested that the French nationality was offered to the Apple co-founder as a special gift. The French President nonchalantly refused. I think Steve would have appreciated the gift, as he has often testified of his love of France (I have made a compilation of the many times he uses France in Apple demos).
      • July 11: a new Tshirt made it to the Apple Gift shop in Cupertino… making fun of the company’s cult of secrecy. I’m buying it next time I go there! (via Macrumors).
      • July 21: John Gruber of Daring Fireball spotted a nice anecdote about Steve and his legendary curtesy. I am quoting the same thing he did:

        The story goes that ESPN president George Bodenheimer attended the first Disney board meeting in Orlando, Florida, just after the company had bought Pixar, the innovative animation factory, and spotted Apple CEO Steve Jobs in a hallway. It seemed like a good time to introduce himself. “I am George Bodenheimer,” he said to Jobs. “I run ESPN.” Jobs just looked at him and said nothing other than “Your phone is the dumbest fucking idea I have ever heard,” then turned and walked away.

      • July 21: Philip Elmer-Dewitt dug out a nice chart that compiles all the public data about Apple’s reiumbursements of the expenses of Steve’s famed private jet airplane. I think it is worth mentioning that Steve can use the jet for his personal use, but then of course the company doesn’t reiumburse him of the cost of operating it. The chart is below:
    • July 23: after all the nonsense we’ve come to read about Steve’s succession lately (which did grant us a new Steve Jobs quote: “it’s hogwash”, courtesy of the Wall Street Journal) — John Gruber wrote a very good article, the kind that only he knows how to write, on the topic: On Succeeding Steve Jobs. His conclusion: “the obvious structure for a post-Jobs Apple is simply Apple as we know it, without Steve Jobs.” I believe he is 100% right and that’s what we will see, perhaps as early as next year. BUT, and it’s a big BUT, I am not sure Tim Cook can keep the fire alive as Steve did for the next decade. And as I’ve stated before, I think he will have trouble running the company unchallenged the way only the genius-founder Steve Jobs can. His authority to run the super-disciplined fruit company will probably be challenged a couple of years after Steve is gone… Time will tell.

Steve Jobs’ new official profile page updated

As Apple is slowly updating all parts of its website to complete its late 2010 design refresh, the turn of the Executive Profiles finally came. Including Steve Jobs’ page.

And it’s cool. See for yourself:

Old design

New design

(expert eyes will recognize Albert Watson’s portrait of Steve from 2006).

This is the kind of decision in which, although it has zero importance in the grander scheme of things, I’m 100% confident Steve Jobs has a say. It explains why it’s the first time we’re seeing this picture in color… And why, just like last time, Steve’s portrait is quite dated (the one before was a picture from 1998 on which Steve posed with a 1st-generation iMac).

One thing that hasn’t changed though is the mention of one Steve’s pet peeves, the “apricot orchards” of Silicon Valley that he misses so much:

Steve grew up in the apricot orchards which later became known as Silicon Valley, and still lives there with his family.

There are countless examples of his using these exact words, e.g. this 1995 interview where he said:

My parents moved from San Francisco to Mountain View when I was five. My dad got transferred and that was right in the heart of Silicon Valley so there were engineers all around. Silicon Valley for the most part at that time was still orchards —apricot orchards and prune orchards— and it was really paradise. I remember the air being crystal clear, where you could see from one end of the valley to the other.

or even the recent presentation he gave to the Cupertino city council when he announced Apple’s plans for its next campus — during which he actually insisted that the campus would host actual apricot orchards in its park!

As a side note, it’s also actually quite telling that the bio is much shorter than some of the other executives’ ones, although of course they have achieved much less than their boss….

Excerpts from an interview with Apple’s first CEO

As you well know if you’ve read my Steve Jobs biography thoroughly, Steve Jobs was not CEO of Apple until January 2000. Apple’s first CEO was in fact Michael Scott, more famously known as Scotty. Scotty notoriously didn’t get along well with Steve in the early days (as most employees, to be honest), and his eventual departure of the company in 1981 gave Steve Jobs the necessary power to take over the Macintosh project.

In a fashion that was probably launched by John Sculley, BusinessInsider published an interview of Scotty last month, which is worth a read if you are interested in Apple history and have 15 minutes to spare. The piece is honest, though pretty light on the real reasons of Mike Scott’s departure, namely the lay-offs of Black Wednesday.

For those with severe time-constraints, here are the parts that were the most interesting to me:

BI: What were your impressions on meeting [Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak]?
MS: I never got to see the garage, I just saw it at Markkula’s place up on a hill. Jobs did the talking, and Woz was the quiet one, although more lately Woz has found his voice more. In the early days, we were all so busy, that it was well partitioned over who did what. Woz was doing circuit board itself, Jobs was handling rest of Apple II, Markkula was working on marketing, and I was working on getting us into the manufacturing and all the rest of the business parts.

BI: Was [Steve Jobs] as particular then as he is said to be now, or in the early days was he learning and acting differently?
MS: No, he was maybe more particular. The Apple II case came, it had a beige and a green, so for all the standard colors of beige available in the world, of which there are thousands, none was exactly proper for him. So we actually had to create “Apple beige” and get that registered. I stayed out of it but for weeks, maybe almost six weeks, the original Apple II case, Jobs wanted a rounded edge on it so it didn’t have a hard feel. They spent weeks and weeks arguing exactly how rounded it would be. So that attention to detail is what Steve is known for, but it also is his weakness because he pays attention to the detail of the product, but not to the people.
BI: Can you explain that? So was that your job to make sure you brought in all the right people and he wasn’t very attuned to that?
MS: I don’t know how much he’s changed being a manager, but he would not, for instance! he was never allowed to have much of a staff while he was there because he would not supervise them. He wouldn’t make sure they got their reviews on time or that they got their raises, or that they got the health they need.You have to take care of the people as well as the product. As they say he yells at people, at times you have to yell, but at times you have to be supportive too, and I would say that that’s still what makes Steve, Steve.

That was a dispute you get into — who gets number 1? One of the first things was that of course, each Steve wanted number 1. I know I didn’t give it to Jobs because I thought that would be too much. I don’t remember if it was Woz or Marrkula that got number 1, but it didn’t go to Jobs because I had enough problems anyway.

(Romain’s note: Steve Jobs actually managed to become Apple Employee Number 0)

The other argument at the meetings was would Steve take his dirty feet and sandals off the table, because he sat at one end of the conference table, and Markkula sat at the other end chain smoking. So we had to have special filters in the attic in the ceiling to keep the room filter. I had the smokers on one side and the people with dirty feet on the other.

That’s still the way it works, it’s still in the culture, you want to do things right, not just “good enough.” The alternative business model is like Microsoft, where something’s “good enough” to ship, instead of wanting it “just right.” It’s always been Apple’s goal to ship something we were proud of and something people would be proud to own, and I think that’s still true from thirty years ago.

A little side story that he and I would fight over. If we were negotiating price for parts, we could negotiate a price with a vendor and at the last minute, Steve would come in and bang on the table and demand to get one more penny off. And of course they would give him one more penny off. Then he’d crow “well I see you didn’t do as good a job as you could’ve getting the price down.” And I’m saying, “Yeah but that one more penny might’ve cost us a bit more ill will for times when parts are in short supply.”

BI: Was there tension with you being brought in as, what we call now, “adult supervision.” Did you get the sense that he wanted to be in charge of the company and resented you or anything?
MS: Steve just wants to be Steve. Steve’s never shy about telling you what he wants and where he stands. He’s very straightforward to deal with. Unlike other people that don’t tell you what they mean.