So Steve Jobs Calls Me Up Again

So I’m sitting here this morning doing some meditation and my phone starts ringing.  I notice the number is a Cupertino number.  Excitedly, I pick up.  It’s my favorite former CEO!

“Steve, my man.  I was wondering when you were gonna call.”

“Hi, Aaron.  I wanted to let you know that we can talk a bit longer now, because it’s free mobile to mobile for us.  I finally got pissed at AT&T and I’m all Verizon now.  My goodness, what a relief!”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa.  Steve, you didn’t switch already?”

“Nope, I really felt like I wanted to repay AT&T for making it possible for iPhone to be itself.  So I stuck with them.  But I was in a call a couple days ago and the motherfucker wouldn’t stop dropping calls and I decided I’ve had it.  And to top it all off, AT&T made me pay the early termination fee.  I fucking hate cell phone companies.  But I’ve never had better call quality.”

Steve sounds like he’s in a chipper mood, though his voice does have this exhausted quality to it. I don’t think that’s going away anymore, though.  It always shocks me a little to hear such weakness in his voice and it left me speechless for a bit, but finally I broke the ice, “So the stocks took a bit of a hit on the initial news, eh?”

“Man, Aaron, I was prepared for that to be a real shitstorm. These Wall Street people are the biggest fucking morons on the planet. If they stubbed their toe they’d extrapolate that and then amputate.  It looks like we’re handling it okay, though.  I think they’re finally starting to get the message that despite their predictions, Apple is going to dominate.”

“No doubt, Steve.  You guys are the fucking kingmakers over there.  So you decided to go with Tim as CEO, huh?”

“I did.  Phil is good with the public and everything, but let’s face it. Tim is an operations master.  He may not be a product visionary, but without him, iPods would have never cost less than $350.  And the really brilliant thing about us now is that we no longer make the higher priced version of stuff.  We can sell an iPad for $500 profitably.  None of the other guys can profitably make a tablet that even comes close in price. And even if they do, it’s a fucking piece of shit.  We’re not the old Apple anymore, stuck with higher prices for a product, even if the product is good.  Now ours is the best in class, and it’s the most affordable.  That’s all Tim, and he’s earned this CEO spot.”

“On that note, how are you doing? You’re not going to be dead in a week, are you?  God, I hope not.”

“No, I didn’t take a turn for the worse or anything. But last week I was walking back to my office to answer an email, and when I got there, I just felt so exhausted.  It began to hit me that the day to day stuff is taking a lot out of me.  So, I decided it’s time to step down.”

“So, this is Apple post-Steve again?”

“Well, you need to keep in mind that I’ve been on medical leave for awhile, so Apple’s been moving along without me.  But this is going to be a transition.  The real beauty of this is that I can still be involved. It’s not like I’m going to walk into Apple’s campus tomorrow and be escorted out by security at Tim’s request.  They will do whatever I tell them to do.  It’s just that now I don’t have to worry about all the random bullshit that you have to deal with as CEO.  Any time I spend at Apple can just be focused on the products.  And that’s really the reason people worry about me leaving. They worry about the products.”

Yeah, it wasn’t like they were worried about Steve’s health.  “I mean, it’s obvious that Apple has laid a foundation over the past few years that they could just coast on for the next decade.  But Apple has only come out with things like iPhones and the iPad and iPod under you.  Can Apple make new game changers without you?”

“Oh, Aaron, people give me far too much credit for what I do for the products at Apple.  iPhone was made by a team of brilliant people.  Yeah, I made some decisions about it, but the team knows their shit.  And I honestly don’t know what the next blockbuster product is going to be.  Is iPad the device that will replace the personal computer? I don’t know.  Will something replace the iPad? I really don’t know.  People act like I had this vision for all of these major devices since the eighties.  But it’s mostly luck.  It’s seeing a 1.8 inch hard drive and thinking ‘wow, that could hold a ton of MP3s in your pocket’ or seeing multitouch and realizing that it could make a touch screen device far more usable.  There’s still a great team of engineers there that I think will have great ideas for products they can make with some of the new technologies that come along.”

Ah, he’s just starting to riff a bit. You really hear some gems this way.

“I know it feels like we’ve come along way.  You look around and you see devices in your pocket that are far more powerful than what previously would have filled an entire room.  But what we’ve started here, these new norms of always being connected, always having a super easy-to-use device with you, this is a completely new era of technology, and it’s just in its infancy.”

“So Steve,” I ask, “tell me, when you were showing iPhone to the world in January 2007, was your intent really to never have native third party apps, or were you just stalling with your ‘we don’t need no stinkin native apps, we have web apps’ rhetoric at the time, knowing full well that you were working on a proper SDK?”

“Aaron, I think you know as well as anyone that not every decision I make is a hit.  Honestly, I’m not totally sure what my thinking was at the time.  You have to remember the state of mobile phones at the time. It wasn’t like today where the mobile platform dictates the user experience.  Back then, it was all the carrier.  We were really new to phones at the time, you know?  I think it’s a mix of both, though.  I knew that if we tried taking on a native SDK from day one, that was going to be an utter failure. We had to get the fundamentals right before we went onto new things.  And we knew better than to just promise people we’d add it later; it would have killed off sales.  And iPhone’s Safari browser was just incredible.  So we decided to address native apps by offering Safari apps.  But, of course, that didn’t really work out.  People protested that. Hell, you wrote a blog post about it.  Ars stopped recommending the iPhone to people because there were no native third party apps and it didn’t seem like we were interested in making one. So we talked about it and we decided that a native SDK was the way to go.  That was obviously a great decision.”

“Indeed it was.  Indeed it was.  Now, I’m going to spare you from talking about Apple for awhile now.  It’s been great hearing you talk about Apple and technology.  I know you’ve probably gotten a flood of emails from fans saying how much they appreciate what you’ve done, and you of course know that I am a huge fan of what you’ve done for technology in your career.  So, thank you for that.  Now, what are you going to be doing now that you’re semi-retired?”

“Thanks, Aaron.  Coming from you, that really means a lot.  I am going to finally relax a bit, and spend more time with my family.  I’m excited to enjoy the new house, too.  You know, you can visit any time.  Laurene really wants to do dinner if you’re up for that.  I’m hoping we can think up some ways to fuck with Gizmodo editors.”

Man, I am so in.  “Can Johnny be my +1? I want to get him drunk and he can design up a really crazy prototype that we can leak to the Giz editors.”

“Wow, you need to be on Apple’s PR team. That’s just brilliant.  I think I’m going to go take a nap on the hammock outside, but I’ll talk to you soon, okay?”

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