Notes from from an Apple watcher stuck on the wrong coast
Apple’s (AAPL) CEO was scheduled to give the 6 p.m. PDT keynote at All Things Digital Tuesday night, but the show is running late and rumor has it that he’s been pre-empted, at least temporarily, by Rupert Murdoch. Makes sense. Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher may think this is their show, but Murdoch — as CEO of the News Corp. (NWS) — pays the bills.
Several sites are live blogging his remarks, including CNET’s Ina Fried and All Things D’s own John Paczkowski, but so far Endgadget’s Joshua Topolsky seems to be taking the best notes. Mostly mush from Murdoch.
Walt and Kara appear on stage only 19 minutes late. A certain amount of small talk is to be expected, I guess.
Steve Jobs finally appears at 6:22 PDT.
First question is about passing Microsoft’s (MSFT) market cap, which Jobs describes as “a little surreal” but basically irrelevant. Says Apple, when he came back to the company in 1997 was 90 days from going bankrupt.
Second question about Adobe (ADBE) Flash. Jobs waxes philosophic. Technologies run in cycles, he says, they have their summer and then they go to the grave. Flash, he maintains, is on the wane and HTML5 is ascendant. He’s painting it as a simple technological decision by a company with limited resources that has to choose carefully which horse it rides.
Third question is about all the e-mails he’s been sending. He says Ryan Tate, the Valleywag correspondent with whom he corresponded a few weeks ago, never identified himself as a journalist. As far as Jobs knew he was just an ordinary citizen who was sending him obnoxious messages. Jobs wanted to straighten the guy out — and he published it!
In answering that question, Jobs just confirmed — for first time, as far as we know — that the e-mails that seem to be coming from him are in fact being written by him.
Fourth question is about the lost iPhone prototype. Walt frames it as a freedom of the press issue. Jobs describes it as a story that has everything — theft, buying stolen property, extortion, maybe even some sex. Gets out of it with a big laugh.
Fifth question is about Foxconn suicides. Jobs describes it as a copycat situation, says the rate is still relatively low for a factory with 400,000 employees. Says he has people over there trying to understand what’s going on.
Sixth question is about Google (GOOG). Jobs resists several attempts to paint it as a platform war. Asked by Kara if he feels betrayed by Eric Schmidt, he replies that his sex life is pretty good, how’s her’s? That’s how you duck a question!
Things got a little strange after that. Fried ran out of batteries. Jobs starting talking faster than Topolsky could keep up.
The seventh question, as near as I can tell, was about AT&T. Jobs isn’t going to comment on whether he’s going to use another carrier for the iPhone.
Jobs changes the subject to the iPad and says that the tablet actually preceded the iPhone, which he describes as a secret, but which has been pretty widely reported. When he saw the prototype, he realized he could make a phone out of it, and the tablet got backshelved.
Eighth question is about whether the iPad can save journalism. That’s a softball. Jobs gets to say that a free press is the foundation of a free society, that we need editors more than ever before, that readers are willing to pay for content, and the press should do what Apple does — price aggressively and go for volume.
Ninth question: Will the iPad replace the laptop? Jobs makes a strange analogy to the shift from trucks to cars as American was transformed from an agrarian society to one that worked mostly in cities. Things get even stranger when he compares the “magic” of the iPad to a Claritin commercial where they strip away the film.
Tenth question is about how Apple curates the App Store. He says there are only a few criteria: does the app work as advertised, does it crash, does it use private APIs? Claims to approve 95% of what it sees. Admits to making mistakes, but also says people lie and go running to the press. We don’t run to the press and say this guy’s a son of a bitch liar. (!)
Eleventh question is an old chestnut journalists drag out when they’re getting close to the end: So what’s your day like? Answer: Best job. Most brilliant people. World’s best sandbox. Biggest startup on the planet. Etc.
Twelve: What will the next ten years of your life be like. Topolsky describes the pause that follows as “super long.” Jobs circles back to the Gizmodo stolen phone story. Sticking to core values. Making the best products.
You might think Walt and Kara would end it there… but no! They ask about the ad business (Apple is just doing it for the developers, says Jobs), privacy (Jobs makes a joke about Google’s collection of Wi-Fi locations) and the cloud.
The session ends with audience Q&A. Questions about his Stanford speech (life feels even more fragile today), advertising analytics (Jobs is “pissed off” that analytics companies were publishing data about unreleased Apple products), new kinds of film distribution, tethering and wireless sync (we’re working on it), using iPhones to actually make phone calls (things should get better soon), digital downloads that don’t play on the iPad (Jobs feels your pain), mobile gaming (the market on the iPhone has exploded!), a new interface for the TV (until consumers are willing to pay for a set-top box, there’s no incentive for Apple).
And that’s a wrap. With any luck, All Things D will post the video before long.
[Follow Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Twitter @philiped]