As you know, Steve Jobs gave his WWDC '06 keynote presentation Monday at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. Many people have written about it, so I won't go in to any depth here as I have talked about Steve's authentic approach many, many, many times before. He's the best. Interestingly, many in the media were disappointed in the keynote, both the content and the delivery of the presentation. I find this odd, but I guess I should not be surprised. Sure, the WWDC '06 keynote may have paled a bit when compared to other Jobs keynotes, but that's just because they (and he) are always so friggin' good. All 'n all, I'd say it was still another great example of how to run short demos and present material to a very large room. Compared to the majority of corporate keynote addresses, which are dreadful, Jobs and his staff did a good job Monday. Here's the most intelligent piece on Jobs' keynote Monday by Macworld's Chris Breen. (Also interesting comments by Les Posen).
Above, Jobs introduces his assistants in the order of their appearance from left to right.
Back to the future
Instead of talking about this summer's keynote, I'd like to point you to a Steve Jobs Macworld keynote you probably have never seen, though you may have heard about it (you know, the one where a certain blond showed up via satellite, and I'm not talking about Madonna -- wait, is she still blond?). In the summer of 1997, Steve Jobs was back in the saddle again at the "beleaguered" Apple, though not yet as CEO. In fact, no CEO or Chair had been named yet since Gil Amelio was asked to step down (guess who would eventually take these titles). At the time of Macworld Boston in 1997, Apple's future was not at all certain. The press thought they were dead, and even Mac loyalist who knew the technology and what the brand meant were beginning to worry. Perhaps this Wired magazine cover sums it up best. In this context, then, Steve Jobs delivered a 35-minute Macworld keynote address. No sexy product launches, but one of the best talks by Steve Jobs at a Macworld ever.
I remember listening to this live on an old 6100 at 2:00am in my Osaka apartment. I was captivated by Jobs' words; there was certainly no video then. I was an evangelist and I wanted to believe. (I had no idea I would be leaving Japan to work in Cupertino just a few years later.) This presentation is historic, for more reasons than one, as you will see. But I like it most because it's short, logical and reasonable (satisfying my left brain), and yet filled with hope, empathy, and optimism (satisfying my whole mind). The use of a well-made video in the middle of the keynote was well placed and added strength and credibility to his message. I wish other presenters would make better use of strategically placed relevant videos within their presentations.
Above: Jobs reviews what matters most: The Mac and the Apple brand.
Colin Crawford (see his blog), the President of Mac Publishing at the time, gave a short overview of where the Mac stood at that time and did his best to introduce Steve Jobs. I say "did his best" because if there was ever a man who needed no introduction at a Macworld, it is Steve Jobs. Today, I like the fact that Jobs starts his presentations with a simple "good morning," rather than the usual "Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome...." over the PA and the "It's an honor to be here..." from the presenter. I am not suggesting there is anything wrong with this, but I like the simple and humble beginnings of the Jobs keynote; he just walks on stage (often to thunderous applause) and gets started. Contrast this to the more unzen-like introductions of some other famous CEOs.
The crowd reacts instantly with a knowing laugh. Said Jobs, "...we've been walking all over it!"
Mt favorite part of the 1997 keynote is at the end. Go to the 36:00 min mark to hear Jobs conclude his talk. The essence of what he says here will play out over the next year in the award-winning Think Different campaign. (Read Behind "Think Different" — excellent stuff for those interested in branding or marcom). Here's an excerpt from Jobs' closing comments:
"...You still have to think differently to buy an Apple computer. The people who do buy them do think differently...they are the creative spirits of this world. They're the people who are not just out to get a job done, they are out to change the world...A lot of times people think they're crazy. But in that craziness, we see genius. And those are the people we're making tools for."
— Steve Jobs, Macworld 1997
If you think this sounds like hubris or just plain old marketing crappola, then you don't really understand Apple and its loyal base. Perhaps Jobs planned these words out, but he was in no way reading them or repeating a memorized script, at least it did not appear that way (which is the point). It came across as coming straight from his gut, from his heart. He spoke on that stage in Boston at a time when Apple was at one of its lowest points. And yet Jobs' presentation gave the loyal base exactly what they needed then: a hard dose of reality coupled with a plan, and an injection of inspiration and confidence that said the loyal users' commitment to "the cause" was not in vain. Nine years later, I'd say Apple has done even better than anyone had dreamed or predicted, except, of course, for Jobs and the Mac faithful. They knew it all along (right?).
Related links (videos)
• Old documentary on Steve Jobs, Next, and entrepreneurism
• Part II of documentary
• Steve Jobs at the podium introducing "1984" commercial (1983)
• Flash back to 1981
• Macworld 1997 keynote by Steve Jobs (in case you missed it).