June 02, 2010
Steve Jobs on Flash, Mobile, Platforms, Sex & DevelopersSteve Jobs is not only entertaining when he's front of a live audience, but he's engaging, passionate and you feel what he feels 'in the moment' when he speaks - at least that's how it is for me. For someone who cares more about delivering amazing products than quite possibly anyone in the technology industry, you can't help but have deep admiration and respect for the man, even if you disagree with his policies at times. For those who have attempted partnerships with Apple in the past, you know that it's not an easy place to navigate through from the outside, yet one point where it's hard not to agree - Steve Jobs has high standards and he doesn't deviate.
Last night, he was the opening act at the 8th annual D Conference (D: All Things Digital), a sold out event being held at a new venue this year, the Terranea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes, California.
You can't help but worry about his health given what he's been through in the last few years, and yet, while his body frame was thin as he walked onto the main stage, his presence was as powerful and present as ever. When asked about their market cap surpassing Microsoft, he only had one thing to say - "it's surreal." That said, he reminds us that it's not what matters at the end of day. It's not what keeps us coming to work everyday and continuing to build great products for people.
Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher interview Jobs together, starting with the flash controversy.
Steve uses the seasons as a useful analogy to explain why the decision they made isn't 'personal.' When you have limited resources, you need to pick technologies that are in the 'Spring Season,' he says. "Pick wisely and choose technologies that perform really well on your platform." In other words, you can't always choose all the horses to ride, sometimes you have to just pick the horse that perform the best on your platform. He speaks of HTML 5's growth, and the fact that there's been an avalanche of people using it.
Walt asks - "what about the consumers who go to a site on an iPad and see a big hole because it doesn't support Flash?" Steve says "those HOLES will be filled really quickly." Several companies I advise to and have talked to about HTML 5 in the last couple of months say their support for it is coming within six months, SO if the wait is really only six months or less, and consumers have a beautifully designed device to play with between now and then, support will be there well before the novelty of the iPad has worn off. At least that's the theory.
"We didn't start off to have a war with Flash," says Steve. "We just made a technical decision not to use one of Adobe's products. We were getting tired of getting trashed in the press, so we decided to get our thoughts out there about the technical pros and cons of Flash. That was it. We at least have the conviction to say it's not the best technology to incorporate into our product. Our customers expect us to make those choices. We need to bank on ascending technologies not ones don't perform the best on our platform." He then reminds the audience that they must be doing something right given that they've been selling one iPad every three seconds. The audience laughs.
It's all about conviction with Jobs - again and again. He always returns to the simple reason they exist and what gets him pumped up to design amazing products again and again. This conviction came out again in his response to a question about platform wars. Walt asked Jobs whether he sees a platform war happening right now and specifically references Facebook. "NO," says Jobs.
On platform wars between Apple and Microsoft - "We actually never really saw it as a platform war with Microsoft. We were always focused on making the best products for consumers. And we still think that way." I got the feeling he was trying to convey - you're missing the point - it's not about getting into a war with another player, it's about sticking with your core values and getting aligned with them in a way that is authentic and makes your customers sing.
I love it when Jobs does the 'knee on chair thing'
Next topic? Google because they're not on Apple's radar. Walt and Kara want to know whether he felt betrayed and whether he knew Google was going to get into the smart phone space in advance. Jobs doesn't go down that path - he simply says - "they decided to compete with us, that's it." So, does he see them as a competitor? "Sure," he says, "but everyone defines the smart phone market differently." At the end of the day, rather than worry about all your competitors, he says "we're going to just keep working hard at making better products."
He continues, "People vote with their pockets about what they want and don't want. It's one of the things I really love about the consumer market. It's not that way in the Enterprise market. People can't just vote, IT people make those decisions and sometimes they just get confused." (loudest laugh from the audience).
He then launched into his feelings about the value of "news gathering organizations," and what emerged after that was one of the better quotes all night - "I don't want to see us descend to a nation of bloggers." It must have gotten tweeted and retweeted in the subsequent hour although I still haven't checked.
They move into online content. On pricing, Jobs says, "one of the things we've learned is to price aggressively and go for volume. This is what has consistently worked for us." He feels that people are willing to pay for good content on the web if its priced aggressively.
Jobs brings up an interesting analogy to talk about the future fate of PCs (both platforms - laptops and desktops). "When we were a nation of farmers, trucks were really important and we used them because that's what we needed at the time. Then we moved into urban areas and cars became more important. PCs will be like trucks," he says. "They'll still be around, but there will be a migration." Was he telling us all indirectly to start the mourning process now since it's only a matter of time before tablets and mobile will be our only form factors? Our only productivity tools? This change he says, will obviously "make the PC world uneasy."
They move onto retail and iPhone apps. His tone is strong and firm when he talks about their two main platforms. "There are two platforms we support. HTML 5, which is open. Java Script is also open he adds....and then we have the app store. For apps, we have three main rules:
*it cannot crash
*it cannot use unsupported APIs
*the app must perform the way it says it will
As he gets drilled on this issue, he repeats three times - "We approve 95% of apps of the 10K+ apps we get within 7 days of receiving them. People try to submit apps that say they do one thing when in fact they do something else, so we don't approve those."
Kara asks him what is his typical day like.....in other words, 'what's it like to be you Steve?' More than one person in the room inevitably wants to know. I have to admit, it's a question that has gone through my mind on more than one occasion.
"We don't have any committees," says Steve. He half jokes that they are the largest start-up in the world......"we're organized like a start-up. We meet for three hours every week and just talk about everything that is going on. We also have a policy that you need to trust that people on your team will come through with the parts they're working on."
Back to core values and conviction again for the third time in the interview, he says, "the worst thing we can do as we get bigger is to let our core values slide. We have the same core values when we started that we have now. We still want to make the best products in the world - it's what kept me going ten years ago, five years ago and still keeps us going today."
Walt asks him why they're going into the ad business. Jobs says that it's all about their developers. "We think we'll be able to make more money for our developers than other people." Then he adds - "we have the stats," he says passionately. People are not spending that much time on search on their mobile devices - they're spending their time on apps. If you want to make developers more money, put ads in mobile apps, ads that will keep people in the app rather than taking them out of it to a web page."
Walt then brings up privacy. "We take privacy extremely seriously. We worry about location in phones for example. We worry about a 14 year old getting stalked because of our phone. It's one of the reasons we have the app store - we have rejected a lot of apps that just want to take your data and suck it up in the clouds. Privacy means that consumers know what they're signing up for and repeatedly." He says with strength - "ASK THEM EVERY TIME. Let them know precisely what you're going to do with their data." Hear hear Steve. Privacy may be going away but it doesn't mean that consumers don't deserve to know where their data is going and have the option to make a choice. Their own choice.
Jobs was ON last night and as passionate as ever. He was also authentic, deliberate and pensive. One very touching and remarkable comment that he made, sharing some insight into the past few years fighting his illness: he says he has learned just how fragile life is. Despite all of it, he says his sex life is pretty good.
Thanks for the share Steve and for showing up. Long live focusing on making kick-ass products and giving consumers an incredible experience. If only more people would step up to the plate to deliver.
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Nice article Renee! I love to listen to Steve Jobs! I still have a copy of a commencement address from years back. Love his focus on the real prize!
Posted by: Gayle Mitrano | Jun 2, 2010 7:46:00 AM
He's always amazing on the stage in front of an audience - it's as if he belongs there, was born to lead from there.
Posted by: Renee Blodgett | Jun 2, 2010 4:33:13 PM