I’ve been tweeting instead of blogging for the past three months and it’s time for this to end. Let me start with a number of videos you may or may not have seen featuring Steve Jobs.
The first of these videos is the keynote of Macworld 1997. Now remember, Steve Jobs came back to Apple in December 1996 as an “informal advisor” to the then-CEO Gil Amelio. He only became CEO in July of that year, after the disappointing results of Q2’97 were revealed — a loss of over $50 million — and Amelio’s failure became evident. Macworld, which took place in January 1997, was Steve Jobs’s first public appearance in his new role, back at Apple after the purchase of NeXT. His speech is short, but it’s focused and makes it clear that he has a vision for the company.
However, the rest of the show is very enlightening as a picture of how bad a state Apple was in back in 1997. Amelio is the anti-Steve Jobs: absolutely no charisma, complete and utter lack of professionalism, and of course zero vision. The “big reveal” at the end where the 20th Anniversary Macintosh (designed by Jony Ive who was already a designer at Apple, it is a misconception that Steve Jobs hired him) is unveiled, is so pathetic it’s not funny. Such amateurism is not imaginable in the Apple 2.0 era under Steve Jobs.
At the end of the keynote, Amelio tried to do a PR trick by having Steve Wozniak show up. He wanted Woz and Jobs to pose with him to symbolize the regained trust in Apple. Unwilling to show support to Amelio, Jobs stayed away from him and Woz, so the photo opportunity was lost. Amelio complained about it in his autobiography On The Firing Line.
Here is an embedded version of the video. I also put it on the website, in the keynote section:
If your time is limited, I suggest you watch Steve Jobs’s speech @7:00 and the failed introduction of the 20th Anniversary Mac, which quickly follows Woz’s onstage appearance @38:50 (the moment when Amelio tries to get them together for a picture is around 43:30).
Steve Jobs in Sweden in 1985
A rarer video that you may have missed is one of Steve Jobs in 1985, flying to Sweden for a speech at Lund University:
The video starts by his arrival by helicopter, in then-traditional blue jeans and white shirt. After a strange performance by singers, Steve Jobs starts his (perhaps unprepared) speech by a joke about them, then goes on to talk about his vision of the computer as “a new medium” delivering not text nor movies but software. He goes on to say that in the future, computers should be able to completely absorb the mind of “the next Aristotle” so that you could ask him a question, using a computer — something books do not allow. Jobs ends his speech by talking about the tough economic period the PC industry was going through back then, and says it is only a delay of the inevitable revolution brought about by PCs. His good joke to illustrate his point is “I’m sure Henry Ford had a few bad quarters back in the 1920s”.
Jobs then says the next step in his trip is to go to the Soviet Union to try and sell them Macintoshes. This is an indication that the video was shot only weeks before his departure from Apple. If you watch the video entirely, you will see the university dean making a joke about Steve’s arrival by helicopter, then explaining why computers are great tools for the mind (a metaphor Steve Jobs was certainly familiar with).
The Mac 1944 Promo video
This video was talked about a lot in the news lately. It is an “in-house” commercial (because it was never aired) from the Mac team making a parallel between 1944 and 1984. Just like the US Army liberated Europe in 1944, the Macintosh would free the desktop workers from the tyranny of the IBM PC. Steve Jobs plays the part of FDR, in a rather unimpressive performance.
The video wasn’t news to me. I had seen clips from it before, and the Steve Jobs clip was partially shown in his 30th birthday video which was made public after his passing. I believe that many news sites have noticed that mentioning Steve Jobs increased their pageviews, and took every possible occasion to do it. The only interesting (and new) thing that this news coverage has brought is an article by Michael Markman, the advertiser behind the video. He explains how the original idea was to use Charlie Chaplin’s character of Adenoid Hynkel (in The Great Director) as a metaphor for both Hitler and IBM, since Big Blue used Chaplin in its PC commercials. The money quote is
Glenn, Mike, and I marched into Steve’s office to give him the pitch. Pretty much the way I outlined it in the previous paragraph. Steve’s eyes were sparkling through it all. By the time I got to, “and you as FDR,” I had made the sale. In the binary universe of Steve Jobs, something is either a zero or a one. This was a one.
The All Things D videos
Finally, in the wake of this year’s All Things Digital conference, The Wall Street Journal has released HQ videos of all of Steve Jobs’s appearances at the yearly tech gathering as downloads on iTunes.
These videos aren’t new — in fact, they have been on this site for months. However they are revealing of what impact Steve Jobs had on this conference, and how profoundly his absence can be felt now. In fact, this is exactly the topic of Steven Levy’s great article on Wired: All Things D Is Haunted by the Man Who Isn’t Here. Levy, one of the conference’s privileged attendees, describes how the the ghost of Steve is haunting it this year. I love his ending anecdote told by Larry Ellison:
My favorite story is Ellison’s, about how he accompanied Jobs frequently to the prototype Apple store in a nearby warehouse, set up so Jobs and his team could constantly tweak the experience to approach perfection. Ellison noted how contrarian the effort seemed. “Don’t you read the newspaper?” he would ask Jobs. “They’re saying bricks and mortar are dead.”
“We’re not using mortar,” Jobs replied. “We’re using glass and steel.”
Steve’s mark on All Things D, the only context in which he would openly discuss his views on the industry publicly, is no coincidence. It is a reflection of Steve’s “special relationship” with Walt Mossberg, dating back to the late 1990s. Mossberg was an early supporter of Steve’s comeback at Apple and his efforts such as the original iMac. That relationship is discussed in the Walter Isaacson bio, and it has since been confirmed by Mossberg himself, who wrote a touching piece on his favorite shared moments with iLeader. As for me, I cannot help but think of this post by Fake Steve Jobs back in the days when Dan Lyons was funny and anonymous. His jealousy for Mossberg can be felt in his narrative, but the piece is so funny that it is excusable.