I Don’t Typically Do This

by Martin Gordon

Steve Jobs Q&A at WWDC 1997

WWDC 1997 took place in mid-May 1997, five months after Apple bought NeXT and less than two months before the ouster of Gil Amelio. Steve was serving as a consultant to Apple while his NeXT took control of Apple.

The linked video starts when Steve discusses what is basically iCloud, but the rest of the video is worth watching for the Q&A, which includes this gem:

Q: Mr. Jobs, you’re a bright and influential man.

SJ: Here it comes…

Q: It’s sad and clear that after several counts you’ve discussed, you don’t know what you’re talking about. I would like for example for you to discuss in clear terms how Java in any of it’s incarnations addresses the ideas embodied in OpenDoc. And when you’re finished with that, perhaps you could tell us what you personally have been doing for the last seven years.

SJ: You know, you can please some of the people some of the time. One of the hardest things when you’re trying to effect change is that people like this gentleman are right, in some areas. I’m sure that there are some things that OpenDoc does, probably even more that I’m not familiar with, that nothing else out there does. And I’m sure that you can make some demos, maybe a small commercial app, that demonstrates those things. The hardest thing is what…how does that fit in to a larger cohesive vision that’s going to allow you to sell $8 billion, $10 billion of product a year? And one of the things I’ve always found is that you’ve gotta start with the customer experience and work backwards to the technology. You can’t start with the technology and try to figure out where you’re gonna try to sell it. And I’ve made this mistake probably more than anybody else in this room and I’ve got the scar tissue to prove it, and I know that it’s the case. And as we’ve tried to come up with a strategy and vision for Apple, it started with what incredible benefits can we give to the customer, where can we take the customer. Not starting with, “let’s sit down with the engineers and figure out what awesome technology we have and how are we gonna market that”. And I think that’s the right path to take.

On programmer productivity:

The way you get programmer productivity is by eliminating lines of code you have to write. The line of code that’s the fastest to write, that never breaks that doesn’t need maintenance is the line you never had to write. What the goal here is to eliminate 80% of the code you have to write for your app.

And for the “That’s fine for Merlin” crowd:

Some mistakes will be made along the way. That’s good. Because at least some decisions are being made along the way.