While you wait for tomorrow’s keynote…

I am like all of you guys (I assume) eagerly awaiting for tomorrow’s WWDC keynote. The rumor mill is acting crazy and I am sure I will spend the night dreaming of iClouded skies. Until this week, Steve Jobs news have been kind of slow lately — here’s a roundup of the information I’ve collected in the past month, that some of you may have skipped:

 

  • The New Yorker did a story on the history of the computer mouse, back to Xerox PARC and the famous Steve Jobs visit that supposedly inspired Lisa then Macintosh. One of the mouse’s inventors, Malcom Galdwell, recalls what we already know, that Apple didn’t “steal” the mouse from Xerox. Unfortunately the story can only be accessed by subscribers — I didn’t subscribe just to read it. The abstract is here (not very well done). It contains interesting old sketches and pictures of prototypes, as well as quotations from the piece, such as this one:

    “I had a series of ideas that I wanted to bounce off [Jobs], and I barely got two words out of my mouth when he he said, ‘No, no, no, you’ve got to do a mouse.’ I was, like,‘What’s a mouse?’ I didn’t have a clue,” Hovey told Gladwell.

    (via Cult of Mac)

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  • We’ve talked about it earlier: the building of the extension of Pixar’s Emeryville campus, Pixar Phase II, is now over. Check it out on the excellent Pixar blog.
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  • A curious piece of trivia, some study was made to prove that Apple had actually the same effect on fanboys that a religion (or, more appropriately, a cult) on its followers:

    As discussed in the new BBC documentary “Secrets of the Superbrands”, when you put an Apple fanatic under an MRI and start mentioning iPhone 5s and iPad 3s, neuroscientists found that Apple tends to stimulate the same parts of the brain as religious imagery does in people of faith.

    No news to me.

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  • And I thought I would never be able to find new keynotes… but no, two oldies came up this past month to add up to my impressive collection. I hope you guys take time to check them out, because they’re both pretty interesting.
    First, an interesting one (and in high quality, too) from 1996, where Steve Jobs still spoke as CEO of NeXT Inc. — but already famed CEO of Pixar — at a Microsoft Developers Conference, about NeXT’s server technologies, WebObjects. In the video he is a late speaker, which is a testament to how unimportant he seemed to be. He is also very casual and humble, as depicted in a number of articles from that time (he was just coming out of his wilderness years). Watch the keynote here (via Daring Fireball).
  • The second one I just found, and on YouTube, too! it’s a casual chat Steve Jobs had with then-struggling Mac developers at the end of the 1997 WWDC! Definitely worth a look if you’re interested in Steve Jobs history. Again, it is a testament to Steve’s unchanging character and principles. He stands by the same rules now as he did then,  including the most important one: building great products. He also mentions something I knew from a 1999 interview, quoted below:

    About 10 years ago I put in a T1 to my house. I’m actually getting ready to put a 45 mg fiber to my house, because I want to find out what that will be like, because everybody’s going to have that someday. But I have a pretty sophisticated setup; whether I’m at Apple or at Pixar or at my home, I log in and my whole world shows up on any of those computers. It’s all kept on a server. So I carry none of it with me, but wherever I am, my complete world shows up, all my files. Everything. And I have high speed access to all of it. So my office is at home too. And when I’m not in meetings, my work is fundamentally on email.

    in the aforementioned video, we discover Steve’s been working in such an environment since 1990. This is thanks to NeXT’s very advanced ‘inter-personal computing’ (i.e. networking) technology. So basically Steve’s been living ‘in the cloud’ for over 20 years, while we mere mortals will probably find out  what it’s like thanks to a product that he will introduce (if rumors are to be verified) tomorrow. The advancement of NeXT’s technology still continues to amaze me.

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  • Business Insider has published a thorough interview of Apple’s first CEO, Mike Scott. Honestly I haven’t had time to read it yet, so I wo’nt comment on it, but you can be sure I will pretty soon. (via TUAW) Same goes for the Fortune article Inside Apple, which I finally got my hands on last week, but haven’t yet had time to write about.
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  • Conan O’Brien dressed as  the iLeader in a baroque fresco by Fast Company: Continue reading

The Book of Jobs, version 3.0

Most of you have probably heard the news already, but it’s too important for me not to leave any trace of it on the blog.
The rumors surrounding Steve Jobs’ authorized biography have been confirmed. The book exists indeed, written by Walter Isaacson, and will be published by Simon & Schuster early next year. I will be called (hold your breath): iSteve: The Book of Jobs. The news broke out thanks to Philip Elmer-DeWitt, who writes the Apple column of Fortune.com. PED makes an interesting portrait of the writer in his column. Apparently the idea was his, and he had enough nerve and talent to seduce Steve into writing his biography.

I am, as I imagine you are, incredibly excited by the coming of this book.

The biggest news is of course that the book is ‘authorized’, meaning Steve, as opposed to previous biographies, helped its making instead of blocking it. What usually happens is that whenever a journalist or writer tries to interview someone from Steve’s entourage, he faces a wall of silence, akin to an omerta. Indeed, they should be wary of what they say, because historically Steve has shown some pretty harsh un-forgiveness with indiscreet friends and relatives.

The most famous example of this trait is Michael Moritz’s 1982 piece, The Updated Book Of Jobs, which he wrote as Time Magazine’s Silicon Valley correspondent (Moritz later wrote the first good book on Apple, and arguably the first Steve Jobs biography, The Little Kingdom). Moritz had been given carte blanche at Apple to write the portrait of Steve Jobs who was a serious candidate to become Man of the Year 1983. Instead, he turned out this much more critical piece, including a testimonial from Steve’s college friend Dan Kottke: “something is happening to Steve that’s sad and not pretty, something related to money and power and loneliness. He’s less sensitive to people’s feelings. He runs over them, snowballs them”. Steve apparently broke all ties with Dan after that article was published.

But this time, Steve is said to give biographist Isaacson acces to his closest friends and relatives. I imagine among the friends there will be Larry Ellison, Bill Campbell, Bob Metcalfe, perhaps Al Gore. I am curious about Steve’s relatives. Will Laurene speak up on her husband? I’ve never found any trace of her speaking of Steve in public. Or perhaps his biological sister Mona? That’s more likely.

The active collaboration of Steve will have of course positive as well as negative effects. So far, previous biographies (such as my personal favorite, Alan Deutschman’s The Second Coming of Steve Jobs) only could be based on interviews of ghosts from Steve’s past life (I’m referring to you, Dan Kottke and Andy Hertzfeld), or of pissed off former employees who had regained their ‘freedom of speech’. This is nicely put by Chris Smith in an article I will refer to below:

In recent years, several biographers have gamely tried to chart the depths of Jobsʼ psyche, with little help from the man himself. He rarely speaks to the press, save for tightly scripted sound bites, so all these accounts are based on talks with old colleagues and Apple Deep Throats, supplemented by occasional in-depth interviews heʼs granted to a few lucky reporters over the years.

Any journalist who’s tried to go a little deeper had to endure Steve’s legendary wrath, as described by Rich Karlgaard in his 2006 WSJ article Vladimir llyich Jobs? (for the heck of me I can’t find a link to it, but I have a scanned version on my Mac): Continue reading

Serious and trivial Steve Jobs news roundup

Hi folks!

It’s been quite a while, as usual, since the last time I wrote on Steve Jobs news. But then the aforementioned news have been kinda slow lately, so I don’t feel that guilty after all.

Here’s my news rondup of the past 3 weeks:


Serious news

  • Steve’s authorized biography is still in the works
    Kara Swisher of the WSJ (you know, the gal that interviewed Steve at D5 and D8 with Walt Mossberg) reassures us all about the upcoming Steve Jobs authorized biography by Walter Isaacson. I imagine that just like me you cannot wait to get your hands on that book (metaphorically speaking of course, since to pay a proper homage to Steve we should buy all it on the iBooks Store ;). I have recently been contacted by a French journalist who will soon publish his own biography of Steve in France. I told him how I felt about printed books, such an old fashioned way to tell the story of Steve. this is actually one of the reasons I built alla bout Steve Jobs.com. We are gifted with thousands of pictures and hundreds of videos of Steve Jobs and his work, why limit ourselves to text on paper? Moreover, the story will be outdated as soon as it’s published, since Steve keeps surprising us month after month…
  • Latest Steve Jobs glorification
    Last month, both Waren Buffet and Richard Branson had their say about Steve — and he is an inspiration even to them.
    Waren: “Admitting he didn’t know that much about the company, Buffett equated Jobs to Steven Spielberg, and his effect on his company. He said the talents of Jobs is a main reason for the company’s success over the past 15 years.”
    Richard: “He’s the entrepreneur in the world I most admire and I think [Apple] is the brand I most admire. He’s the greatest come-back artist as well. He’s twice been down and out and he’s fought his way out and created a brilliant global company.“
    You should watch the video of Branson (wait a minute… Virgin Apple.. that reminds me of something: ah yes, one of Fake Steve’s earliest posts :) )
  • Nice website by the Computer History Museum
    The Mountain View museum has a new website with a very interesting and rich timeline on the history of computing, you should definitely check it out. It’s got some pretty interesting pictures of young Steve, including one I’d never seen before.


Steve Jobs trivia

  • Emails from Steve
    If one relates to the frequency of his emails, Steve is still actively running Apple. He wrote two emails in the past 4 weeks: in the first one, from March 23, he confirmed that “We have no plans to” discontinue the iPod classic. The following day, he wrote a much-discussed email to an iPhone app developer whose ‘radiation measurement app’ (sounds like BS to me) was rejected on the App Store: “No interest”, the email said simply. 

  • TUAW made a funny analysis of Steve’s apparent age based on photographs of him using the iPhone app PhotoAge. I think the job is biased because of the quality of the picstures they picked, especially for 2010
  • Minyanville did an interesting and pretty complete piece entitled Apple’s Steve Jobs: Myth Vs. Reality. I checked it out, and surprisingly it’s error free. The end paragraph (“Rumor: Steve Jobs is dead”…) is a little borderline IMHO… but it’s worth checking out anyway.


The crazy rumor of the month

This month it’s from Cult of Mac: Steve Jobs Is Rumored To Be Resigning From Apple. At first I thought it was a (bad) April Fool’s Day joke… but I don’t see any such disclaimer. I hope this is the usual BS we Steve Jobs fans have grown accustomed to these recent months.

‘A real life Willy Wonka’


One day I was watching Tim Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and a phrase caught my attention. It’s a line when Augustus Gloop starts eating out the river, and Johnny Depp/Willy Wonka asks him to stop, insisting his chocolate must stay ‘untouched by human hands’. The phrase reminded me of Steve during his NeXT years. He used the exact same phrase to describe the robots that built the NeXT Cube in his automated factory (see an example here).

This got me thinking of the many similarities that could be found between Steve Jobs and the Willy Wonka character. The most obvious are:

  • they’re both widely-acknowledged geniuses at their art (respectively, creating chocolate and great technological products)
  • their products are magical and admired all around the world
  • they both work in super-secret environments (the chocolate factory, and Apple), and everyone wonders what must be going on behind the doors
  • they both have kind of a quirky personality (of course this is more obvious in Willy Wonka, but still, Steve Jobs is not your typical Fortune 500 CEO)

I didn’t think about that metaphor much back then… But it came back to me four times, the latest of which was yesterday.

First, of course, Fake Steve wrote about it in one of his earliest posts. The Bono character said to FSJ:

Jaysus, Mary and Joseph, you’re like Willy fookin Wonka in his fookin chocolate factory, out there baking up your fookin iPods, and meanwhile the fookin planet is fookin meltin, ya fooktard. I tell him, Bono, look, we all gotta do what we do, right?

The second instance was from more ‘respectable’ sources. It was the flurry of articles that got published when Steve was seen in Manhattan in early 2010 to pitch publishers about iPad. They all mentioned he was wearing “a very funny hat — a big top hat kind of thing” that evoked Willy Wonka (see here). Unfortunately there were no pictures — that’s why the caricature above was drawn, to compensate for this lack.

Then there was Mike Daisey, the now-famous writer/comedian who is currently playing a show in Berkeley entitled The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs. The show has been greatly covered in the tech press/blogosphere, and I wish I could give my own opinion on it. Unfortunately as you know I am a student in France, so I can’t afford to buy airplane tickets just to see one show in California… so I didn’t see the show. I hope it’s been recorded and we’ll see the video pop out at some point.

What’s interesting is the way Mike pitched his own show:

In The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, Daisey dives into the epic story of a real life Willy Wonka. He examines how the CEO of Apple and his obsessions profoundly shape our everyday lives—and travels to China to investigate the factories where millions toil to make iPhones and iPods.

The metaphor finally reached its climax in the video I discovered this week, from CollegeHumor.com. They have gone all the way with a 4-minute video portraying Steve as Willy Wonka. He let 5 Golden iTickets in iPhone boxes to let children discover his magical Apple factory… It’s very fun and enjoyable: so, enjoy. It’s even got Oompa-Loompas/Apple Geniuses :)

What do you think?

Steve Jobs a British knight?… and the hidden tribute in OS X Lion

Two interesting pieces of news today, while all of us are anxiously awaiting tomorrow’s announcement and the rumored/possible/yet unlikely onstage presence of Steve.

  • Steve Jobs was proposed then refused British knighthood in 2009: good summary from TUAW How Steve Jobs missed knighthood in 2009. Steve has never been very fond of prize and awards, so I’m not surprised he declined, I don’t think that being used politically is the main reason. Although he has always been careful never to make any public statements on his political orientations. Actually he never personally donated to the Democratic Party, it was always his wife Laurene who used her name for the donations.
    Reminds me of this funny incarnation Fake Steve/Dan Lyons did when Steve ‘received’ a Crunchie in 2008: Fake Steve Jobs Crunchies Acceptance Speech
  • Nice hidden tribute to Steve in OS X Lion, spotted by Cult of Mac:

 

Steve Jobs News Round-up

I’ve been pretty busy for the past two weeks, so once again I have to commited the sin of writing a “SJ news round-up” instead of duly posting about each news item separately. Truth to be told, it’s because I’m actively seeking my next internship right now — by the way, if any of you know a tech (or tech-related) company from the Bay Area that would be interested in my profile, please let me know.

BUT to my credit, Steve Jobs news have also been kinda slow lately. As could be foreseen, Steve didn’t show up at the Verizon event… can’t wait for the Daily event with Murdoch that should be coming soon. An iPad 2 event would certainly do, too :)

Let’s get on with the news:

Somewhat important – A group of Apple shareholders have suggested that the company prepare a succession plan in case Steve Jobs leaves, a so-called “CEO Succession Planning Policy.”

According to the proposal, which shareholders will consider at Apple’s annual meeting scheduled for Feb. 23, the company’s board would adopt a detailed policy that includes a directive for the board to “identify and develop internal candidates” to succeed Jobs, and “annually produce a report on its succession plan to shareholders.”

FYI Feb. 23 is one day before Steve’s birthday (and mine :) ) I’m sure the response will not surprise you:

Apple said in the filing that it opposes the CEO succession proposal, calling it unnecessary and pointing out that it could lend rivals an advantage by publicizing the company’s plans. In addition, it would “micromanage and constrain the actions of the board,” the company added.

The cult of secrecy has proven quite useful so I kinda have to agree — also I’m one of those who don’t even want to think about the departure of Steve.

(Source)

Remotely interesting – a new email from iSteve:

If it weren’t ironic, Srini could feel flattered to be called a “super salesman” by probably one the world’s best salesmen ;)

I’d like to finish with pieces of news that are kind of outside the usual realm of this blog:

1. The demise of Fake Steve
Here’s an interesting piece by John Gruber criticizing a Dan Lyons article in Newsweek stating that Apple, is ‘too late’ in the smartphones war, and that Android will inevitably win, for the best: Too Late.

For those who don’t know, Dan Lyons is the man behind the once-amazing Fake Steve Jobs blog. I write once-amazing because there’s something tragic about what happened to Fake Steve. I was in such a joy when I found the blog for the first time… it was so funny! I stil love to dig into it or re-read Fake Steve’s novel from time to time, and it never fails to make me laugh.

Yet all this ended in 2008, when Dan decided to stop writing Fake Steve posts and became ‘Real Dan’. His new blog was such a failure that now he’s back to Fake Steve. But it’s not Fake Steve anymore. It’s Real Dan using Fake Steve’s voice for writing boring/mostly wrong stuff about anything but Apple, usually. And when you read Lyons’ articles in Newsweek, it’s no wonder why.

I think it’s a real loss and I secretly hope that one day we’ll see Dan go back to his Fake Steve persona…. thank God there is actually a new funny SJ impersonator, the famed @ceoSteveJobs Twitter account. It’s become so famous that Steve tried to have it shut down. It’s worth checking if you use Twitter.

2. An interesting story from Pixar’s pre-SJ days
I always said I was not running an Apple blog, and once again I prove it by linking to this interesting piece fro Bob Sutton’s blog:
Pixar Lore: The Day Our Bosses Saved Our Jobs

Just a reminder: bob Sutton is the author who called Steve Jobs one of the world’s biggest assholes in his bestseller The No-Asshole Rule. Here he tells a story from the days when Pixar was not called Pixar yet, but was still owned by George Lucas, who desperately tried to sold it. It’s a pretty interesting look on the minds of Pixar’s historical founders, Ed Catmull and Steve’s enemy Alvy Ray Smith. I won’t say more.

John Sculley loves Steve Jobs

John Sculley met with Cult of Mac chief editor Leander Kahney for an extensive interview about his tenure at Apple and his views on Steve Jobs.

John Sculley on Steve Jobs, the full interview

If you have time, I suggest you read it. But I wouldn’t go as far as John Gruber and call it “fascinating”. For one I didn’t learn anything, apart from a couple of anecdotes. But most importantly, it confirms what I thought of John Sculley. He is a bitter old man who regrets what he’s done to Apple and Steve. The lengths to which he goes to show how much he loves Steve are so great it’s ridiculous. Examples:

It’s okay to be driven a little crazy by someone who is so consistently right.
I don’t take any credit for it. What Steve’s brilliance is, is his ability to see something and then understand it and then figure out how to put into the context of his design methodology — everything is design.
All the design ideas were clearly Steve’s. The one who should really be given credit for all that stuff while I was there is really Steve.

The there’s the part where he sounds like an ex lover:

Q: People say he killed the Newton – your pet project – out of revenge. Do you think he did it for revenge?

Sculley: Probably. He won’t talk to me, so I don’t know.

Same goes for the Bloomberg interview where he speaks of Steve seducing him to make him come to Apple: “He had dark, long hair at this time”… All of this reminded me of this old Fake Steve post, which, once more, though intended as hilarious, is in fact quite realistic.

The one point I did find interesting in the Kahney interview was how he describes how power was distributed at Apple:

Remember, he was the chairman of the board, the largest shareholder and he ran the Macintosh division, so he was above me and below me. It was a little bit of a façade and my guess is that we never would have had the breakup if the board had done a better job of thinking through not just how do we get a CEO to come and join the company that Steve will approve of, but how do we make sure that we create a situation where this thing is going to be successful over time?

I had never thought of it before. Mainly because Steve being “chairman of the board” was just a title for PR, and did not reflect his true role at Apple. Otherwise, Jobs could have imposed himself as a CEO. And I never knew he was still the largest shareholder either. Anyway, I totally disagree on his idea that Steve shouldn’t have been fired, because as I’ve stated before it is probably the best thing that ever happened to him — we wouldn’t have Pixar otherwise.

Finally, here’s an anecdote I found funny:

Sometimes… he was wrong tactically on a number of things. He wouldn’t put a hard drive in the Macintosh. When someone asked him about communications, he just threw a little disk across the room and said, “That’s all we’ll ever need.”

It’s the only part where John Sculley admits Steve can be wrong once in a while…