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Steve Jobs had a plan, see...
June 26, 2011 12:41 PM   Subscribe

Video of Steve Jobs discussing iCloud and other current Apple products, at the 1997 WWDC. Yes, 1997. Via Daring Fireball.
posted by Brandon Blatcher (58 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm sure this is actually Steven Jobs from the future. Apple will invent ifuture just so that they can go back in time to drop names like icloud into discussion well in the past.
posted by greenhornet at 12:50 PM on June 26, 2011


Brandon, this is interesting quite apart from any iCloud business. Thank you for posting this.
posted by VikingSword at 12:51 PM on June 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Brandon, this is interesting quite apart from any iCloud business. Thank you for posting this.

What I found interesting about it was how Jobs clearly had an idea of where he wanted Apple to go and then proceeded to execute that vision over the next decade. The iCloud bit was basically what he was living back at Next and its what he wanted to bring to the market.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:00 PM on June 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Agreed, VikingSword.

Thank you for posting this, Brandon Blatcher.
posted by The Confessor at 1:01 PM on June 26, 2011


Yep. Here would be a funny video. It would be called "What it means to be a visionary". It would then include Jobs discussing his vision of what the future would look like - and we'd know that it came true; then there would be a segment of one of Ballmer's performances, like for example his laughter about the iPhone and his confident outlining why he "likes where we are with our strategy". Just for contrast. The meaning of "visionary". Ha!
posted by VikingSword at 1:04 PM on June 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


I was rather hoping it would be the younger more rotund cute bearish Steve Jobs doing this presentation (left), not an earlier echo of his current clean-shaven self (right)...

But oh well. *sigh*
posted by hippybear at 1:05 PM on June 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


This is interesting because nobody has ever come up with a plan and stuck to it before Steve Jobs. That will be his greatest legacy.
posted by Ad hominem at 1:17 PM on June 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


I was rather hoping it would be the younger more rotund cute bearish Steve Jobs doing this presentation (left), not an earlier echo of his current clean-shaven self (right)...

Thank you, hippybear, for letting us know what version of Steve Jobs you'd like to fuck. It was very relevant to the thread.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:20 PM on June 26, 2011 [13 favorites]


I'm always glad to oblige, Brandon Blatcher. I didn't know you would regard such information as being so important, but since you do I'm pleased that my contributions could make such an enormous difference to your thread.
posted by hippybear at 1:26 PM on June 26, 2011 [15 favorites]


Is there an interesting spot in the video that I can jump to? I normally love stuff like this (like Doug Engelbart's original mouse demo), but a few minutes in there's nothing particularly visionary that's come up, and I don't really want to sit through an hour of tech Q&A.
posted by moss at 1:31 PM on June 26, 2011


Well, if I was forced to fuck one of 'em, I think it'd probably be '97 Jobs. He seems like a happy medium between Beardy Bear Jobs and Skeletor Jobs... and the floppy hair kind of cute.
posted by The Confessor at 1:31 PM on June 26, 2011


I'd say in that photo he looks more like a chipmunk than a bear.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 1:32 PM on June 26, 2011


I watched this in its entirety, and near the end it really gets rolling. A bit before the 1 hour mark, he starts talking about "network dialtone" and how the crucial technology would be connectivity. Then at 1hr1min, someone asks a question about the Newton. At that point, Jobs describes what we would now call the Smart Phone market, and his plan for the future. You can see iPhone all over this. He also talks about how Apple will support two OS "stacks" but can't support three. You can see iOS all over this.
posted by charlie don't surf at 1:34 PM on June 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Like the town hall feel. As a curmudgeon, I sometimes miss those underdog days. The clone stuff was interesting, hadn't heard Job's take on that before. Overall, he's had a remarkably consistent message over the years. Except that in 1997, it wasn't at all obvious that his message would succeed.

I would choose Early 2000s Steve for a down-low hook-up.
posted by acheekymonkey at 1:37 PM on June 26, 2011


...and then he talks about the switch to Intel, OSX Lion, and Beyonce! How did he know all this?
posted by run"monty at 1:37 PM on June 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Is there an interesting spot in the video that I can jump to?

At 14:50 he describes iOS based on the way he was living at the time.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:37 PM on June 26, 2011


Scratch that, go back to about 14:00, for him talking about what became iCloud, iOS and all that.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:42 PM on June 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Specifically, at 14:00, he's talking about how his "now obsolete" NeXT hardware from 1990ish paved the way for how people should interact with the network in the future.

I followed NeXT with intense interest, because those machines showed a clear path for what Computing Should Be: the power of UNIX, a brilliant graphical interface, Display Postscript for formatting and printing, the power of the network, an object-oriented API that tied each of those things together -- and yes, a stylish design. Here was a computer that came with freakin' Ethernet built-in in 1986 (and could be used, out of the box, as a web server in *1991*). Here was a computer that made things easier for everyone, regardless of whether they were occasional users or power users or hardcore coders.

The fact that Steve Jobs could see the future in 1997 isn't really that exciting when one can look at the 1986 NeXT cube and the NeXTStep OS, and see that they very clearly point the way to where we are today.

When you use Windows 1.0 or 2.0 from the 80s, it barely reminds you of today's computers. When you use early versions of NeXTStep from the same points in the 80s, it is quite clearly a fully-functional but somewhat rudimentary version of the way modern operating systems work today - including e-mail and Ethernet connectivity to the Internet. Steve Jobs' design for desktop computing was correct *27 years ago* and still applies today.

NeXT's designs were truly magical. Here, it seemed, were machines designed to assist with invention of any sort.

But while I've championed Jobs' vision of desktop computer since the NeXT days, and have been truly thrilled to see Mac OS X allow Apple to rise from the ashes of the Performa series, I am deeply scared and saddened by Jobs' vision of tablet and mobile computing. The world of possibilities that accompanied NeXTStep and that awesome magnesium cube has been replaced in the mobile space with a constrictive interface, a walled garden of applications, and a focus on consumption rather than invention. If Jobs' description of the future today will be correct 27 years from now, I'm not sure it bodes well for the future.
posted by eschatfische at 1:44 PM on June 26, 2011 [23 favorites]


This is interesting because nobody has ever come up with a plan and stuck to it before Steve Jobs.

I was going to be snarky about this (Napoleon! Trump! Putin!) but then I realized this was already snarky.

And I feel all old all over.
posted by chavenet at 1:46 PM on June 26, 2011


I was going to be snarky about this (Napoleon! Trump! Putin!) but then I realized this was already snarky.

I shouldn't snark about Jobs, It really is impressive how he executed. And I ceratinly love my iPad, I have said before in different threads that it is better than a flying car or jetpack IMO.

I was reacting to the criticism of Ballmer. Ballmer is simply a different type of CEO, a CEO for a mature company that is trying to make slow steady inroads into new markets, and hold on to what it has. Gates was the visionary at Microsoft.
posted by Ad hominem at 2:02 PM on June 26, 2011


his current clean-shaven self

Did you not see his crazy pants?
posted by dobbs at 2:05 PM on June 26, 2011


So he was talking about this in 1997 and finally got around to implementing in 2011? WTF was he doing all that time!
posted by mazola at 2:07 PM on June 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also: I am surprised the stage did not cave in under the weight of all those CRTs.
posted by mazola at 2:09 PM on June 26, 2011


Oh no, eschatfische, he’s giving consumers the products they want: won't anyone think of the children? More and more iOS apps allow you to create. And the computer isn’t going away. You're making a mountain out of a molehill.
posted by davel at 2:09 PM on June 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Someone should bookmark this thread to cite as precedent for the next witch trial in Metatalk due to a salacious comment about a woman celebrity. Nothing will make people change their pre-fabricated opinion, but the acrobatics that someone will perform to demonstrate that this is non-applicable will be hilarious.
posted by Mayor Curley at 2:12 PM on June 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


My intro to CS professor extolled the possibility of Netflix in 1993. We'd all read *Neuromancer* before that. There is nothing visionary about the "cloud", much less off-site backups.

"I think they're making enormous progress toward executing what is a pretty clear strategy. And that strategy revolves around one fundamental concept, which is to make some really great products. And I believe firmly that there is a sizable market for some really great products."

Brilliant!
posted by 0xdeadc0de at 2:16 PM on June 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Does this mean that he hasn't had a new idea in 14 years?
posted by Plutor at 2:19 PM on June 26, 2011


"Well, if I was forced to fuck one of 'em, I think it'd probably be '97 Jobs."

Time to reset the Cooter Countdown. Also: Apple Blue.
posted by MikeMc at 2:22 PM on June 26, 2011


I bet Jobs was happy when he finally had a billion dollars in the bank and could spring for a new pair of jeans.
posted by mazola at 2:27 PM on June 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Mayor Curley: You'd probably just get bogged down in counter-examples. (Look at the women's tennis thread about grunting). This happens way more often when we're talking about women (either because straight guys are the majority or they feel more comfortable speaking out or any number of reasons). I'd rather it stopped all together, personally.
posted by ODiV at 2:27 PM on June 26, 2011


Why does 1997 look like 1986?
posted by litnerd at 2:33 PM on June 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


Someone should bookmark this thread to cite as precedent for the next witch trial in Metatalk due to a salacious comment about a woman celebrity.

Really, mostly what people should do is (a) not make driveby comments about the comparative hotness or fuckability or etc. of incidental post subjects and (b) not respond to that to such an extent in thread that cleaning it up when it does happen is impractical. The first bit's the really important one, but the second one is why I'm commenting on it here instead of just nixing hippybear's original, multiply flagged comment.

It be great if people would let that line of conversation drop, but if not you all know where Metatalk is.
posted by cortex at 2:59 PM on June 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Does this mean that he hasn't had a new idea in 14 years?

And that he is apparently allergic to criticism or disagreement. Over that kind of timespan, it takes a particular breed of egotism to never alter your ideas to suit the time or technology.
posted by kafziel at 3:07 PM on June 26, 2011


The fact that Steve Jobs could see the future in 1997 isn't really that exciting when one can look at the 1986 NeXT cube and the NeXTStep OS, and see that they very clearly point the way to where we are today.

As was the Amiga (though not in terms of networking/Internet, but in terms of media. I used to get excited about these things but now computing and the net with all of the creative and innovative people working in all aspects of it, it's just there, and impressive, but I've lost that "this is the future" sort of feeling I had back then.
posted by juiceCake at 3:10 PM on June 26, 2011


In the future, EVERYONE will be wearing black jumbers and old man's jeans.
posted by Harry at 3:28 PM on June 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Jeans patches? JEANS PATCHES?
posted by Apropos of Something at 3:29 PM on June 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


As was the Amiga

Now we are talking. The Amiga came with a little Fur Elise midi demo, to show off to friends who stuck with the 64, I would run it. They would chuckle and say, no big deal. I can play SIDs on my 64. They would stop laughing when I got 10 of them running at once. Adding to that, HAM, that allowed the Amiga to display 4096 color graphics in 1985 and preemtive multitasking the Amiga was a great, if flawed, machine.
posted by Ad hominem at 3:33 PM on June 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


The fact that Steve Jobs could see the future in 1997 isn't really that exciting when one can look at the 1986 NeXT cube and the NeXTStep OS, and see that they very clearly point the way to where we are today.

Jobs co-founded NeXT back in 1986.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:35 PM on June 26, 2011


There is nothing visionary about the "cloud", much less off-site backups.

Well yes, since it did not then exist, it was visionary. It just wasn't unique to Jobs.
posted by dhartung at 3:43 PM on June 26, 2011


I followed NeXT with intense interest, because those machines showed a clear path for what Computing Should Be: the power of UNIX, a brilliant graphical interface, Display Postscript for formatting and printing, the power of the network, an object-oriented API that tied each of those things together -- and yes, a stylish design. Here was a computer that came with freakin' Ethernet built-in in 1986 (and could be used, out of the box, as a web server in *1991*). Here was a computer that made things easier for everyone, regardless of whether they were occasional users or power users or hardcore coders.

The fact that Steve Jobs could see the future in 1997 isn't really that exciting when one can look at the 1986 NeXT cube and the NeXTStep OS, and see that they very clearly point the way to where we are today.

When you use Windows 1.0 or 2.0 from the 80s, it barely reminds you of today's computers. When you use early versions of NeXTStep from the same points in the 80s, it is quite clearly a fully-functional but somewhat rudimentary version of the way modern operating systems work today - including e-mail and Ethernet connectivity to the Internet. Steve Jobs' design for desktop computing was correct *27 years ago* and still applies today.


I remember a seeing an old NeXTStation in the late 90's, and I was totally blown away at how advanced the old NeXTStep OS was compared to the latest and greatest version of Windows or Mac OS. NeXT was waaaaaaay ahead of its time.
posted by gyc at 3:44 PM on June 26, 2011


Over that kind of timespan, it takes a particular breed of egotism to never alter your ideas to suit the time or technology.

Given the notion is that Jobs needs to "alter his ideas", it's quite curious that the rest of the world seems so hellbent on copying those same ideas.

He's doing just fine staying true to his vision, it seems, and all of us benefit, whether we use the end result of his innovations, or whether we use some clone or derivative thereof.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:57 PM on June 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


Arrogant CEOs are a dime a dozen, but CEOs whose arrogance is as functional as his are practically nonexistent. I can forgive Jobs a lot because he's arrogant about the things that a technology leader should be arrogant about, which is his vision, supplemented by ideas from his staff and anywhere else he can get them, for what the computing experience should be like for the user. And to my way of thinking he's right enough of the time that I'll put up with the rest, cut him lot of slack and say "this doesn't look right but I'm prepared to be proven wrong; let's see where he's going with this". A substantial percentage of the time I'll end up agreeing with him on that too. I can't think of another CEO who has earned my respect in this way -- the industry seems to be populated entirely by counterexamples.

But I have to say that what he's talking about here wasn't that much of a standout; in the '90s the buzz was all about the network computer, with only fine distinctions about where the network boundary should be. In the mid-90's everyone was talking about how Netscape was the return of the thin client. (This was about the time, by the way, that a certain other rich and famous technology CEO published a book called The Road Ahead, in which the word "Internet" hardly appeared at all.) Next thing you know, Netscape is crashing constantly on Windows, I.E. is pushing platform-specific embedding technology and its own platform-specific java extensions, and the whole thing turned to shit for the better part of a decade. Now we get to take another swing at it, and while MS is still a huge, dominant force, that dominance is appreciably diminished and its cred hugely weakened. It'll be interesting to see where this goes.
posted by George_Spiggott at 4:17 PM on June 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


To abbreviate that a little bit: I'm not sure this speech counts as visionary, because in the mid-'90s everyone, barring certain 800 pound gorilla incumbents, was talking kind of like this.
posted by George_Spiggott at 4:29 PM on June 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure this speech counts as visionary, because in the mid-'90s everyone, barring certain 800 pound gorilla incumbents, was talking kind of like this.

But I'm curious, how many people actually achieved that vision? Does anyone know of any videos or text that Microsoft or whoever can point to and say "Oh yeah, i was talking about this in '95"? I'd love to see'em,
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:38 PM on June 26, 2011


Well, certainly not Microsoft -- that was the massive counterexample I gave. And not to indulge in MS-bashing too much, but they're what pretty much killed it until wireless technology improved to the point where network computing became nearly an inevitability, and with it, the realization of a critical mass of users that your data and maybe even apps really had to live somewhere besides the thing you accessed them with. Though Apple deserves a huge amount of credit at this point -- the Blackberry and the Sidekick and lesser-known things like various wireless Palm platforms were all very well, but pretty niche-y. The iPhone really was the game changer.
posted by George_Spiggott at 4:46 PM on June 26, 2011


I'm struck by Jobs' candidness in this video. After years of basking in the glow of his squeaky-clean, rehearsed RDF, it's refreshing to hear him swear a bit and openly criticize his company's missteps in public. I can't remember the last time I heard him speak so honestly about things that aren't pure glowing magicality.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 5:26 PM on June 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well at that time, he was just an advisor to Apple, and was probably busy plotting the ouster of Amelio, so it's not surprising that he had plenty to criticize about how Apple was run at that time.
posted by gyc at 6:48 PM on June 26, 2011


TWPL: I'm struck by Jobs' candidness in this video.

Did you go to the point I recommended, 1hr1min? Jobs prefaces his remarks by saying "My opinion doesn't matter, but..." and then gives his opinion. This is Jobs 2.0b. I don't think people understand the context here. Next had just been bought by Apple and Jobs was an advisor to Apple, helping them integrate Next into Apple, both as personnel and as code. Around that point, Jobs says, "I'm helping Gil Amelio.." with that stuff. Jobs was not yet CEO, and from his actions, like selling stock options he was granted with the purchase of Next, he didn't look like he was going to be CEO, or wanted to. In later interviews, Jobs admitted that he didn't think Apple was going to make it so he cashed out.

GS: I'm not sure this speech counts as visionary, because in the mid-'90s everyone, barring certain 800 pound gorilla incumbents, was talking kind of like this.

No, not really. I remember going to a lecture by an Apple VP of Engineering right about when Jobs was ejected, sometime around 1986. The VP was talking about what was about to become the Advanced Technology Group. He said that Apple had just bought a Cray supercomputer to design chips, but they ran it on two shifts. During the day, they'd use it for chip design, but at night, they'd run it as a single-user computer. They wanted to know what a single user could do with a gigaflop, a megapixel display, and a gig of RAM and dedicated hard disks, and gigabit ethernet. Then he laid out Jobs vision, that every computer would have these features within 20 years, and that they decided to start playing with a supercomputer simulator of how these features would be of practical value. Well, I don't think anyone quite had those features within the decade, but AFAIK only Apple actually envisioned it with specific intentions of implementing it, and they created a specific prototype of that vision at least a decade before anyone else.

Unfortunately, the VP then segued into Sculley's vision. It was a herald of doom for Apple, but we didn't know that yet. The VP talked about how lead times on new computer designs were taking about 2 years, so their designers were now having to compete with what the other manufacturers would ship 2 years in the future. They were creating computers that would be ready in 2 years, and would need features that weren't practical yet, in the hopes of competing with their competitor's technologies that would be ripe in 2 years. He called it "predictive reaction." They were reacting to their own predictions of what their competitors would ship. The results: fracture of the Mac line into too many units, I call it "Performa Syndrome."
posted by charlie don't surf at 6:52 PM on June 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


A few years ago, as a joke, I swapped a friend's work machine for a stock NeXT cube.

The only thing it lacked was a DHCP client - once we set it up with a static IP, it was good to go.
posted by zippy at 10:35 PM on June 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Why does 1997 look like 1986?"

Steve had just come out of stasis.
posted by Municipal Hare at 10:51 PM on June 26, 2011


he is apparently allergic to criticism or disagreement. Over that kind of timespan, it takes a particular breed of egotism to never alter your ideas to suit the time or technology.

Exactly. And that's why right after Steve Jobs took over an Apple at the height of its power in 1996, he quickly drove it into the ground.

No, wait...
posted by rokusan at 12:06 AM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Some of the stuff from the beginning really caught my attention:

11:47 - "I think this whole notion of being so proprietary in every facet of what we do has really hurt us. And again, the management and the vision that we had, encouraged that. Encouraged people to, you know, go reinvent the wheel out there [in] our own way. And yeah, it might be 10% better, but usually it ended up being about 50% worse, because there's a lot of smart people that don't work at Apple too."

This is fascinating, considering the whole idea of the iProduct/MacProduct line seems to be simultaneously encouraging proprietary and/or Apple-centric technology that are often reinventions while branding it as the new normal. But instead of them being only 10% better or 50% worse, it's often either 100% better or 500% worse, usually depending on whether you're a consumer or an enthusiast.

12:25 - "No, I don't think it's good that Apple is perceived as different. I think it's important that Apple is perceived as much better. And if that…if being different is essential to doing that, then we have to do that, but if we could do much better without being different, that would be fine with me."

It's interesting to note that one month later, he would be kicking Amelio out of the company, and three months after that, he would kick off the "Think Different" ad campaign.
posted by zombieflanders at 6:51 AM on June 27, 2011


Hasn't Apple tried and failed at the cloud stuff a few times before?
posted by smackfu at 6:58 AM on June 27, 2011


They tried and failed at the tablet stuff before the iPad. And tried and failed at the compact fanless Mac before the mini. And at TV set-top boxes before the Apple TV; and at portable computers before the PowerBook. Apple has never been afraid to keep trying until they get it right.

Whether iCloud will "get it right" or not remains to be seen. I'm... cautiously optimistic.
posted by Zozo at 8:22 AM on June 27, 2011



This is fascinating, considering the whole idea of the iProduct/MacProduct line seems to be simultaneously encouraging proprietary and/or Apple-centric technology that are often reinventions while branding it as the new normal.


I don't see Apple's behavior as particularly counter to the ideal espoused there about proprietary solutions. I think he's advocating an approach of being careful with your bullets (research money). Apple has no problem, clearly, with proprietary solutions. But he also killed a lot of proprietary stuff that didn't have a clear market, or that was not as good as something else that had a better potential.

They'll also happily use something that exists if it meets their needs (see Safari/Webkit). They improve the core, contribute back--but they also have their own proprietary additions to it as well. Again, starting at the user experience and working backwards: "How can we do this? Can we buy/borrow it? No? Then let's build it."

What struck me when I watched the video is that he heaps praise on the lieutenants, but only barely mentions Amelio (and never praises him the way he praises the other leads).
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 8:36 AM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Some of the stuff from the beginning really caught my attention:

11:47 - "I think this whole notion of being so proprietary in every facet of what we do has really hurt us.


You omitted the very important context. Jobs was talking about how Apple was perceived by the press, and how the media's perceptions about Apple's proprietary nature caused a lot of hype and BS that hurt Apple. Then he goes on to say that this is only a misperception and not the truth, that this is one of Apple's strengths, and that Apple will not fight the press, they'll bypass them and use PR directly on customers.
posted by charlie don't surf at 11:24 AM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Steve Jobs is the richest man in the world who openly attributes his success to visions derived from an acid trip
posted by ankurd at 12:52 PM on June 27, 2011


So that's where the spinning beach ball came from?!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:01 PM on June 27, 2011


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