Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

No, Steve Jobs Didn’t Mislead the Audience at Macworld 2007

Gene Marks, writing for Entrepeneur:

Have you ever purposely misled a customer? The public? The media? Steve Jobs did. And he did it to change the world.

Wow, this guy got “Steve Jobs”, “change the world”, and “misled” into the opening paragraph. This is going to be good, where by good I mean bullshit.

The story goes back to 2007, when Apple was first introducing the iPhone. Jobs knew that he had a product that would have an enormous impact on the way humans use technology — and also have an enormous impact on his company’s future profits.

Unfortunately, Jobs had a big problem: the iPhone didn’t really exist.

Apart from, well, it did. It had been in development for at least two years by this point. There were iPhones on stage. It only “didn’t really exist” if you have the loosest possible definition for the word “exist”. Words have meaning, you know.

Yet in January of that year, he planned to demo the iPhone to an audience at the company’s Macworld conference that included customers, partners, tech media…and the world. All he had to show them was a flawed, unfinished model and some big ideas. So what did Jobs do? He decided to mislead his audience.

Marks is referring to the kludges Apple engineers implemented to ensure that the demo ran smoothly: preprogramming a full signal strength indicator, setting up a so-called “golden path” for a more predictable demo, and having additional phones available onstage in case the current demo phone became unstable. This is framed by Marks not as a way to get a great demo of a product that wouldn’t be shipping or months, but as a deceptive move:

Sure, there was no way that Jobs was fully certain that all the features he promised on the iPhone would actually work in the real world.

The iPhone wouldn’t ship for six months after Macworld. The only feature that was shown onstage but didn’t end up shipping was the split view inbox in Mail. He may not have been certain but he was certain enough to state in the same presentation that the iPhone would ship by the end of June, and it did. In volume.

But he plowed ahead anyway with his fake demonstration. Why? Because he believed he was doing the right thing.

I’m starting to think that Gene Marks really doesn’t know the meaning of the words he uses. The idea that a live onstage demo was, in any way, “fake” is utterly laughable. And he did the demo because the he knew the iPhone was a great fucking product that was capable of being shown publicly.