Sunday, May 16, 2010

My Amazing Email Exchange With Steve Jobs

By Ryan Tate

I didn't plan to pick a fight with Steve Jobs last night. It just sort of happened: An iPad advertisement ticked me off; I sent the Apple CEO an angry email; he told me about "freedom from porn."

The electronic debate proceeded from there.

Of course, there was a bit more to it than that. There's the context: Jobs' legal fight with my employer Gawker Media, over the handling of an iPhone prototype; my long-simmering worries about Apple's growing power to limit self expression through its lockdown on iPad apps; and the fact that my wife, who might normally (and quite sensibly) veto the idea of spending Friday night sending email flames, was out of town.

So in retrospect I was primed to lash out. But there was some serendipity too: Watching a new episode of 30 Rock on my digital video recorder, I somehow failed to skip over an Apple ad I'd never seen before, one that billed the iPad as nothing less than "a revolution." You can see an excerpt of the ad at the bottom of this post.

With a Stinger cocktail at my side, I dashed off a short, pointed question to Jobs' well-known email address.

A few hours later—after midnight here in California—he got back to me. And I got back to him. And so on.

Read the rest here.


  1. The entire exchange is amazing to me. Jobs is stubborn. It makes me wonder how much his health battle has affected him. You introduced several legitimate criticisms, and Jobs barely addresses them, or retorts 'so what have you ever done?'

    Really? This is how you listen to the customer and the public, Steve? At any rate, two notable things to take away from this exchange (if it is legitimate and real):

    1. I quote: Its not about freedom, its about Apple trying to do the right thing for its users.

    Holy . . . seriously, Steve? SERIOUSLY? I expect that from Gates and Balmer. I guess you picked up a few things from their play book. Keep saying things like this, Steve. It WILL come back to haunt you. Or should I say, it will haunt Apple.

    2. Apple has declared open war on Flash. The struggle will be bitter and prolonged for Apple since Adobe is not disappearing anytime soon from the PC. Apple might as well be declaring war on javascript, or css (even Microsoft tried and failed, Steve. Get a clue and put down the hubris). As long as Steve Jobs breathes, there will be no Flash on the iPhone/iPad/iPod. Honestly, that hurts Apple FAR MORE than it hurts Adobe.

    NOTE: this can only apply if the exchange listed at Business Insider is real. Otherwise, the original author should not be taken seriously by ANYONE.

  2. I'm sorry, but I completely disagree.

    For reference, I've been in the industry for over 20 years now. (Has it really been that long? Man, I'm getting old.)

    If Apple wants to restrict its platform, there's nothing wrong with that. Let the market decide, which they have - Apple has sold gazillions of products and makes a nice profit.

    If you want something that Apple doesn't provide, find it elsewhere in the marketplace, or provide it yourself if you think you can make a profit doing so.

    I have used several of Adobe's products, and while many of them are currently the industry standard, I have been very unimpressed by them. But companies and products come and go. Remember DOS Memory Managers? Borland? MicroProse? Commodore or Amiga? DEC? If Adobe's products are found deficient in the marketplace, or are no longer necessary, alternative products will become available to supplant Adobe's offerings.

    If Adobe doesn't provide a product (Flash) up to the standards demanded by the market, then it will be supplanted by superior alternatives. Right now, people are touting that HTML 5 will eliminate the need for Flash, but that remains to be seen.

  3. "If Adobe doesn't provide a product (Flash) up to the standards demanded by the market, then it will be supplanted by superior alternatives."

    I would disagree with your disagreement. The market has chosen Flash for over a decade now. It is not demanding a replacement for Flash - Apple is. Apple is not the market. Apple's decision isn't 'helping' their customers . . . it is restricting their existing choices on how to view media on Apple's platform. Last I checked, that's not a good thing.

    Steve wants to make a bet that it will not hurt Apple. In the long run, it will. It's like PowerPC versus Intel all over again. Jobs consistently picks this type of long-running fight . . . and loses most of the time. Thank goodness this time it is 'only' Flash.

  4. I'm a big fan of Flash. But personally I believe Flash, in its current form, is on it's way out.

    I believe the main reason is advertisers. Currently, all ads that display any kinds of dynamic content like video, animations, interactive graphics are all Flash. People that only want content use any number of ad blocker browser plug-ins to keep any Flash object in a page from appearing. It's mostly younger tech savvy people that do this. And they're a minority. But a growing one.

    This does not please advertisers or the sites that rely on ads for revenue. So how to get around this? By using no plug-ins. By just serving up ads via html, which ad blockers would not be able to parse. Content html and ad html would be hard for the current batch of ad blockers to even guess what to parse.

    Unless Flash somehow changes and becomes something new and better, I think HTML 5 is the future. Look any map application today. Google, Bing, Mapquest, etc. They all use AJAX, which requires no plug-ins. The number of applications written in HTML 5, Perl. AJAX. PHP, etc will continue to expand because They've evolved to a point that you no longer need a plug-in to create and render these things in the browser, the browser is advanced enough to do it on its own.

    Another issue is that the format is closed and practically the only way to create Flash objects is via Adobe software. You can't say the same about PDF, doc, html, txt, mpg, mp3, mov, mp4, which can be created via multiple platforms. While some of these formats might be patented, they are largely open and no on person controls the tools needed to create them.

    Re: Steve Jobs. That man is a genius, but not to be trusted. He sees an opportunity in getting bed with all the Old Media content providers and believes all the crap that is fed to people about copyrights, patents, and the like. He is not some artistic type that some people paint him as, he is a litigious control freak that wants to hobble people's ability to use products however they want.

  5. Silver Bully,

    Yes, the market has chosen Flash for over a decade, but that is because there have been no superior alternatives. Apple is demanding a replacement for flash as a participant in the market. It is Apple's platform, and they can restrict it however they choose; if Apple's customers don't like it, they can look for other alternatives.

    Companies restrict their customers choices all the time. Does McDonalds offer tacos? No, but Jack In The Box does. Does Staples sell lawn equipment? No, but Home Depot does. Does one company have better service than another? Does one company have better prices than another? Does one company ship faster than another? Does one company have a better web site than another? Does one company have a better return policy than another? Those things, plus many more, differentiate companies in a marketplace.

    Apple may not be satisfying one of your needs in the marketplace, but they are making a decision regarding a level of quality of the experience that their users will have when using their products.

    Yes, Jobs and Apple have made decisions that both you and I would disagree with, decisions that have hurt the company.

    But there is absolutely nothing wrong with a company restricting its users choices.