Steve Jobs interview D8

Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher's D8 conference interview with Steve Jobs has been posted in its entirety on iTunes for your higher quality, uninterrupted viewing and/or listening pleasure. It's quite a good interview and we get to see Jobs excited, pensive, and -- to quote him -- pi$$ed off.

A few of the points I found most interesting, after the break.


  • He defended his use of the term magical for the iPad but said he hadn't quite figured out why yet. The disintermediation of the keyboard and mouse, allowing direct interaction by the user on the screen was one reason, the 10 hour battery life breaking the bonds of power cords, and the small form factor allowing for new ways of movie and holding it were two more. Getting rid of what comes between users and apps/content is indeed powerful; magical is probably still in the eye of the beholder.

  • His analogy concerning personal computers being trucks and iPad being a car seems to reflect the mainstreaming of computers-as-appliance (or becoming very personal computers), complete with automatic transmission, power steering, etc. It takes a lot of the hard work out of using the computer and the internet and opens it up to a much wider audience for whom traditional PCs (trucks) are difficult to use and hard to comprehend to the point of being hostile and/or scary (including Macs). Geeks forget the tyranny of viruses, complex installs/uninstalls, and confusing windowing systems under which their less tech-savy family members live (and for which they endlessly call for support).

  • Jobs thinks current mobile ads "suck" and Apple is doing them because no else has done them well enough yet. Apple's goal is to help developers of free and cheap apps make some extra money through advertising. (It's worth pointing out it also binds them and their revenue more tightly to Apple's iOS platform at the same time). Jobs repeated his charge that mobile users aren't going to search (Google's traditional strength) but to apps, and the experience their getting for in-app advertising is jarring. Given that Apple is focusing on content-driven, interactive ads and seems to have signed premium brands to platforms means they're taking it seriously. Whether it works or not we'll have to see, but iPhone usage patterns -- interstitial as they are -- make for a prime target. (No more tweets to read... but hey, look, Wall-E 2 is coming out and I can Eva cannon some human-blobs...!)

  • Curation of the App Store, when it goes wrong, can't be defended by saying 95% of apps get approved in 7 days, and the 3 top reasons for rejection are apps that don't do what they say they do (though we'll come back to that in a moment), apps that crash on launch, and apps that use private API (that could break in the next OS update). The price of exerting editorial control is editorial responsibility. Jobs chose to point out app reviewers (and Apple) were just people, and they make mistakes, and can't foresee everything in advance -- like a rule against defamation conflicting with apps making fair parody of public figures. It's not that Apple is making mistakes (they are), its not that Apple is learning and improving (they are), it's that they continue to do so in a black box using editorial ambiguity to shield them from the responsibility mandated by their control.

  • Calling some developers whose apps were rejected "liars" rankled the feathers of some other developers since they couldn't tell to whom Jobs was referring. The complete interview makes that clearer. He was referring to people who deliberately tried to game the system and get apps approved that did things they weren't supposed to, and game the press into writing about them -- and taking Apple to task -- when they were rejected. My guess is he was referring to those who tried to swipe personal information from users, who presented an app with web-based image content they switched to porn after approval, or who used private API. (Steven Frank pointed out Opera could be on that list as well, if indeed they complained publicly about their App Store approval process before even submitting their app).

  • When asked about content creation on the iPad, Jobs mentions movie editing -- and this was before iMovie for iPhone (but not yet iPad) was revealed. Being able to finger paint with productivity is going to be both a huge challenge for Apple and a huge potential immersive win for users.

  • When asked about tethering to sync iTunes media to iPhone and iPad, Jobs reframed the question saying what users want to do is not sync but share their content -- bought or otherwise come across -- from their library to all their devices. He said Apple is working on this. Maybe, like copy and paste and multitasking it's taking a while but will work well. Rumors persist they'll use their Lala acquisitions to move iTunes to the cloud (if the media companies allow it). However, local wireless transfer would also be appreciated.

  • Likewise, when Sugar Sync asked about access to the file system to better "round-trip" the wireless syncing process for users (move their docs from the cloud to the device and back), Jobs said they should talk. So coy.

  • Privacy was big for Jobs, and something that might be a competitive advantage against companies like Google, Facebook, and Adobe (now owners of Omniture) whose revenue depends on aggregating and selling against user data. He was adamant that users be asked before their personal data gets used -- again and again until they deliberately decide they don't want to be asked any more. As fired up as Jobs got about app rejections -- and the Gizmodo iPhone 4 incident -- when asked about the new rules in the iOS 4 license that limit "advertising" he almost got out of his chair. The idea that Flurry could get developers to embed code in apps that reported device, location, and other user information back to their analytics to the extent they could tell Apple was testing iPad and iPhone 4 months before release shocked Apple and provoked an immediate response. Likely the thought Google could do the same, and use that information for competitive advantage with Android, is why the new rules are phrased exactly how they are.

  • When speaking about gaming, Jobs mentioned that iPhone and particularly iPod touch, had created a subset of casual, inexpensive gaming. He particularly stressed iPod touch sales during the holidays. Apple is pretty much alone in offering a high-profile, fully compatible, non-smartphone version of their smartphone platform. That they've been pretty much alone in this going on 4 years is remarkable. Every other player has totally conceded the early teen market to Apple and let those users grow up immersed in iOS, ready to graduate to iPhone and/or iPad. Staggering. (Then again, what would a non-smartphone, fully compatible BlackBerry device be, and how would it play in the gaming space?)

  • We've gone over what Jobs said about the difficulties surrounding Apple TV's go-to-market strategy and why it's still a hobby, but its irksome so it bears repeating. Jobs thinks it's hard to sell users another box to add to their TVs. Cable and satellite companies will need to be taken out of the equation the way big box stores were for music and carrier control was for phones. Regionalism and lack of standards doesn't help. Mac Minis with HDMI-out don't help either when Front Row pales in comparison to Apple TV UI and Apple TV UI pales in functionality compared to the various XBMC forks and even iOS. Rumors of a cheap Apple TV running iOS are interesting. iOS replacing Dashboard and Front Row across the line is transformative. (Assuming an elegant control scheme, which isn't an easy assumption to make).

There's a lot more to the interview, of course, so give it a listen and let me know what you think.

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