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January 08, 2006

Steve Jobs Presents

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

With mere hours until MacWorld opens in San Francisco, Mac fans are burning to learn what new delights the Apple geniuses have cooked up. (I wouldn't mind an iPhoto that doesn't crash quite so often.) Steve Jobs' address is, of course, the slick, mock-turtle/rock-star highlight of these events. But what the advent of MacWorld has this media and showbizzy kinda guy really wondering about is: What goes into these high-tech dog-and-pony shows anyway?

So I was tickled to run across this Mike Evangelist account of just that. Involved in the development of iDVD and Final Cut Pro, Evangelist once helped prepare the video segment of a Jobs MacWorld presentation.


I had worked on my five-minute Final Cut Pro demo for weeks, selecting just the right sample material and honing (I thought) my delivery to a fine edge. My boss and his boss were there for moral support. Steve, as was his custom, sat in the audience. I was very nervous, and having Steve's laser-like attention concentrated on me didn't help. About a minute into the demo, Steve stopped me, saying impatiently, "you gotta get this together or we're going to have to pull this demo from the keynote."

Is Steve Jobs the closest equivalent we have these days to an old-time movie-studio boss?

Wikipedia explains where the expression "dog and pony show" comes from.



posted by Michael at January 8, 2006


Yikes. It sounds like he is.

Posted by: claire on January 8, 2006 3:47 PM

I think the question would turn on whether Jobs has articulated a vision of what such a presentation should look like. If he hasn't, he's on a power trip: "Again, only I know how to put this stuff over." If he has, then the Mr. Evangelist (interesting name, given the circumstances he's writing about) apparently wasn't paying enough attention.

What convinced me that George Marshall was a very, very, very smart guy is that he articulated a simple version of military strategy that he could easily convey to the vast masses of new officers that the U.S. Army would need as it expanded from hundreds of thousands to millions of men in the run-up to WWII. Everybody was given the same tactical-strategic formula (modifiable for local conditions without fundamental distortion) and thus everybody could understand each of the key roles they might be called on to execute under fire. A very, very powerful paradigm that worked pretty darn well, especially considering that Marshall didn't have the German hyper-professional army culture to work with.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on January 8, 2006 5:41 PM

It's funny---they had a TV movie about the saga of Jobs and Bill Gates about 8-9 years ago, and it implied that Jobs had been a real sunuvabitch but had gone through a transformation and become a much nicer guy. Hmmmm. Doesn't sound like that is quite true! Jobs has a history of quite demanding, impulsive behavior. Supposedly someone tried to talk to him in the Apple headquarter elevator, and Jobs was just so irritated by them that he said "What do you do here?" and when they told him he said "You're fired." He sounds like a smart but troubled guy.

Posted by: annette on January 9, 2006 10:58 AM

It's funny, isn't it? He's got this Zen cool-guy aura, but he seems about as tightly-wound as a person can be. I wish my memory were in better shape. I read that Steven Levy book years ago, the one where he quoted people saying that Jobs creates a "reality-distortion field" around him. It was a good book, but I can't remember much of it. Does Jobs articulate his vision well, or just charge-people-up/abuse-them until he gets what he wants? I can't remember. (I've read books about the old studio chiefs, and I can't remember if they articulated what they were looking for well either. I doubt it, but I could be wrong.) If we're to have computers, I guess I'm glad Jobs is out there, making sure that aesthetics and the user experience and creativity all play roles in the development of the tech and the culture. He's got a vision. I once spent a half-day on the Microsoft campus, and judging from the handful of people I met and watched there, I wouldn't want to live in their universe ...

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on January 9, 2006 11:34 AM

Seems like Jobs has always understood that you need to go for maximum impact. Hence, his "Oh, yes, one more thing..." teaser of the really cool stuff that (hopefully) everyone will want.

There has been some speculation that Apple will unveil a PC that seamlessly runs both Mac and Windows, because of the recent shift to a new chip set. We shall see.

Posted by: Alec on January 9, 2006 1:09 PM


As I heard the Jobs story, he questioned the guy in the elevator about what he did for Apple, and when the guy couldn't cogently explain what his function was, Jobs canned him. (This was just after Jobs took the reins of the company back from its somewhat less than exciting interim managers, and presumably Jobs felt the lack of strategic vision had contaminated the workforce at large.)

That's a little different from firing someone simply for having the nerve to talk to him on the elevator. Although, possibly, even more intimidating.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on January 9, 2006 1:25 PM

As an Apple fanboy, I am in awe of what Steve Jobs has been able to accomplish. (but that doesn't mean I would want to work for him...)

I think that, like the old studio chiefs, he can't necessarily articulate what it is he wants, but he knws what he doesn't want, and the force of his personality is such that he can keep people working at something until it is as close to perfection as they can make it. I think one of the differences between Steve now and the bad old days is that he at least has some level of awareness of practicality. (One of my favorite stories about him is how he had the factory for NeXt repainted 3 or 4 times until it was just the right shade of blue-grey...)

Posted by: jimbo on January 9, 2006 7:57 PM

Macs rule!

Posted by: Aakash on January 10, 2006 1:46 PM

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