Steve Jobs lived up to the hype at D8 on Tuesday, forecasting a dim future for PCs and Google TV, offering candid comments on the Gizmodo iPhone incident, and more.
Thrown by All Things D and hosted by the Wall Street Journal's head tech writer, Walt Mossberg, this year's D conference (the eighth, hence "D8") is the first since 2007 in which Jobs has participated. Given the media attention, you'd think Jobs was the only one speaking.
Jobs began by noting that while Apple surpassing Microsoft in market valuation is "surreal," "it doesn't really mean anything." He batted aside the usual questions about Flash, Adobe, and his "Thoughts on Flash" essay, still pushing HTML5 and saying he merely wrote that essay in response to "being trashed by Adobe in the press."
On the subject of PCs, he said they'd taken us a long way, then made a trucks vs. cars analogy, explaining that, before people built metropolises, they drove trucks, because they needed the boxy utility. But now they drive cars. Only one in a certain number of people still need trucks. PCs are the trucks. Macs are cars. You getting this?
One of the most interesting pieces of Apple-related news in the company's history is Apple's feud and possible legal action against Gizmodo over the allegedly stolen iPhone scandal. [Disclosure: I am a former employee of Gizmodo, though I left before the scandal took place, and Fast Company has an ongoing partnership with Gizmodo in which both publications run stories from the other.] Jobs framed the situation by saying "they bought stolen property and tried to extort [Apple]," which makes it pretty clear that Apple will continue to pursue the case through legal means. He also joked about the juiciness of the whole saga. "It's got theft. It's got buying stolen property. It's got extortion. I'm sure there's some sex in there," he said. "Somebody should make a movie out of this."
On the subject of Google TV, Jobs had some interesting words:
The television industry fundamentally has a subsidized business model that gives everyone a set-top box, and that pretty much undermines innovation in the sector. Ask TiVo, ask Roku, ask Google in a few months. The only way this is going to change is if you start from scratch, tear up the box, redesign and get it to the consumer in a way that they want to buy it. But right now, there’s no way to do that….The TV is going to lose until there’s a viable go-to-market strategy.
He explains that this is why he still calls Apple TV a "hobby": television can't fully connect and integrate with the Internet given the cable companies' control of set-top boxes. Google's attempt, remember, takes a new approach by often staying out of sight, but Jobs seems to think that option won't see much more success than Windows Media Center or any of the other attempts at connecting televisions.
Jobs wants to encourage old-school (read: not blogging) journalism on new media, but seems as frustrated as the rest of us with publications' inability to monetize.
The iPad actually predates the iPhone, in a certain sense—Jobs tasked his engineers with building a tablet, then realized afterwards that the new designs lent themselves to a smartphone. That's been reported before, but it's neat to hear him explain it in full.
He calls Apple "the biggest startup on the planet" due to the collaborative, non-hierarchical upper management structure.
Later in the interview, he returned to the subject of the Gizmodo/iPhone story and said he was advised to let it slide, adding, "You shouldn't go after a journalist just because they bought stolen property and tried to extort you," but said he ultimately felt like the whole thing went against Apple's "core values." He said he'd "rather quit" than let it slide.
He admits to occasionally making mistakes in the App Store approval process—we're all perfectly aware of that, but it's refreshing to hear it from Jobs. Now about rejecting that iFart app for the iPad...