Blog Post

With success, a kinder, gentler Steve Jobs

Success, they say, mellows out even the fiercest of tyrants, making their dictates seem almost benevolent. Steve Jobs, the enfant terrible of yesteryears, whose unrelenting quest for perfection has driven many to Ole Tennessee or an asylum (whichever is closer) is showing signs of a kinder, gentler self, happy to share (within limits) the glory, and espousing the virtues of team work.

The timing isn’t lost on some, especially those with a more refined taste for the jugular. Apple, despite its recent tussles with the Securities & Exchange Commission, has been defying gravity, and today joined the $100 billion club, ending the day with $102.7 billion in market capitalization. Of course the elusive iPhone has mesmerized not only the fan-boys, but also the entire mobile industry. [digg=]

At the D Conference today, twice he gave glimpses of the new Steve Jobs that stood out from his pontifications about iPhone, Apple TV, and the industry at large. He joked, he threw punch lines, and he was even nice to Bill Gates. He even admitted that he read Fake Steve Jobs, and some of the stuff is funny. (Shocking isn’t it? After all Apple went gunning for folks printing rumors about Apple’s products.)

In the brouhaha over iPhone, many missed this little quip from His Jobsness. “If you want to hire bright and creative people, you can’t over rule them. You can do that once or twice a year,” he told Mossberg in his chat with Walt Mossberg. (At this point, I muttered, something unprintable.) We all thought at Apple it was all Steve all the time.

We have seen the Mac faithful being hypnotized with his thespian skills, but at the D, he was the toast of a ballroom full of some bodies, proving that had he gone Hollywood, he would give George Clooney and Nicholas Cage a run for their money. He claimed Apple had two $10 billion dollar businesses – the computer and the music business – and will soon have another $10 billion business, the phone. Apple TV, which has received a lukewarm reception, was dubbed a hobby, something where many others before have failed before.

A hobby that merited an onscreen demo and press release…. Please even my inner fan boy refuses to buy that. Was it a Zen moment of spin? Or just another scene in a drama where Jobs will emerge as the savior? The digital Robin Hood so to speak? Or was it a bit of both.

At a gathering where profound utterances are as commonplace as exchange of business cards, Jobs dominated the conversation, impressing men (and women) who often grace the headlines of the same Wall Street Journal that was the host of the conference. Once again he is the center of the technology universe. And he did it his way.

It is hard to begrudge him his success. In his appearance with Bill Gates, my former boss, Josh Quittner noted, Jobs had the sweetest lines. Like this one, he uttered when looking at BillG:

“You know, I tend to think of things as Beatles or Bob Dylan songs. There’s one Beatles song that goes, ‘You and I have memories that are longer than the road that stretches out ahead.’ That’s clearly the case here.”

A moment of tenderness, or just a guy who knows that it is the last frame of the film that you remember forever. The evening ended with a standing ovation – there is no other way to cap a $100 billion day!

31 Responses to “With success, a kinder, gentler Steve Jobs”

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  2. oh it’s a good article.
    I felt really sourprised when i read it.

    I think everybody will be a sucessful people if they can live their present as if it would be the first.

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  3. Kartik

    I’m not quite sure I agree we are seeing a kinder, gentler, S.Jobs. Perhaps for publicity, yes, however behind the scenes his passive-aggressive nature lurks inside.

    Supposedly, at that same conference Vincent Nguyen experienced this first hand when Jobs inferred Nguyen to change his domain name from MyiPhone to MyDreamphone:

    Heaven forbid an admitted Apple fanboy grow the iPhone legend. I think I’ll take Bill and Melinda Gates’ Foundation as a lesser evil to Jobs’ holier than thou attitude.

  4. Mr. Malik – you have a knack of looking under the surface. Good analysis of a great event.

    I loved watching those videos. It was the zen of Jobs and the calm of Gates. One thing that is quickly evident from this is – Jobs comes across as a person who still has a lot to prove while Gates looks deeply satisfied like a Sadhu ( While Gates looks like entering Sanyas – retirement (, Jobs is still in the prime of his Grahastha Ashram. Again, there are a number of personal reasons (I won’t go there – Read iCon) that one could highlight why Jobs is still so thirsty.

    Jobs’ thirst is doing a lot of good for customers. Jobs has this beautiful left brain, right brain conflict going on that creates these stellar products. Go Jobs Go!
    Another thing that came out from this was something that Jobs joked about: both of them being dinosaurs in this new Googly age. These guys will not be extinct anytime soon but their era is not what will define the next 20 years. iPhone is great but that is not all. This “Post-PC devices” era will not be dominated by Google either. Watch out for the next Google! What say Mr. Malik?

    • Hitesh Parashar (
  5. I wouldn’t write off the iPhone at this point. When the iPod first was presented to the world, many made fun of it, and said it should really be marketed as a portable hard drive.

    Also, I would be surprised if all that was preseted about the iPhone a couple of months ago, would turn out to be all. I’m sure Apple has some goodies, to be revealed just in time for the launch.

    Either way, here in Europe we get to sit it out and see how it works. :)

  6. sheeeeeeezus, but you can type one mean shade of bitter, om. that was one of the most “back-handed” allegedly complimentary blog posts i’ve ever read, in a field where bitter is often a pre-requisite for sitting down in front of the computer keyboard.

    even when you say, “… you can’t begrudge him his success,” it sounds like it’s being said through very clenched teeth and fists squeezed tight. did you chomp off and swallow the end of your cigar, also, while typing that??

  7. Bastian

    They both seemed nervous at first. But, Jobs relaxed and Gates did not. Gates seemed to know the future (with Microsoft goggles for certain) while Jobs said he did not know. I thought that was interesting.

  8. I suspect that it hasn’t been all Steve at Apple for some time. This is partly a creation of the media and the fact that Steve is the front man for Apple – and a front man that takes a personal interest in his company. It is the mark of a good CEO – he doesn’t run the company by the numbers (although, they are not fogotten).

  9. “With success, a kinder, gentler Steve Jobs Success, they say, mellows out even the fiercest of tyrants, making their dictates seem almost benevolent.”

    What? Somebody get the memo over to Larry Ellison. I don’t think he got it the first time.

  10. They’re just like Magic and Bird late in their careers. Soaking in the last few days of the “Golden Days” and looking back at a rivalry that has revolutionized the tech industry – Just as Magic and Bird did to the NBA…

  11. Hayth,

    its more than just his one liner about the iTunes. his comments about sharing and caring. fake steve jobs and all the other stuff prompted me to write the post.

  12. Johann,

    as i said earlier. this is a personal choice i made to not talk about that. however, you are spot on that he has talked about it. its a personal issue which he discussed. just one of those things.

  13. I assume by your comments then that at their last interview together (was it Newsweek?) that Jobs was not nice to Bill Gates and was the ‘old’ Steve?

    I never read the article, so I really don’t know.

    To me, Jobs was exactly what I expected him to be at this event, no matter his current situation. I never expected him to say an unkind word to Bill.

    (Enjoy you on Cranky Geeks)

  14. Hayth

    He also said that developing iTunes for windows was like “giving someone a glass of ice water in hell”. Not exactly kinder or gentler. Good stuff nonetheless.

  15. Johann

    Om Malik writes: “rumored brush with cancer”

    — Steve Jobs’ bout with cancer is far from rumor, he’s plainly stated both at the time of his diagnosis, and publicly many times after (including a Stanford University commencement speech) that he had a rare form of pancreatic cancer that was treatable. He has said that his life view has changed after coming back from that near death experience.

  16. Moose,

    I just decided to leave out the personal stuff, his rumored brush with cancer out of the post, out to respect for personal nature of that bit of information. Not because it isn’t out there, just felt it was the right thing to do.

  17. Nice write – “begrudging” is obvious. Yesterday’s Apple market cap = double that of Dell – just for comparison.

    “Hobby” refers to Jobs own hobby that looks to surpass Gates’ $5000 vision of what a media center PC should become. A good deal more expensive than my [upgradable] $299 Apple TV don’t you think.

    If I had a spare $5000 to spend in the living room [cripes!], I’d buy a snazzier, bigger HDTV and have money left over.

    Jobs got that right, too – because everyone already has a TV set to hookup to his “hobby”.