WWDC 1997 Video: Steve Jobs Handles A Public Insult

This is from a video that has been making the rounds this week.

It’s a one hour and fifteen minute video of Steve Jobs taking questions at the Apple WWDC in 1997.

In it you can see how he already knew what he wanted to do with Apple, the idea behind iCloud, and more.

But what I want to focus on is Jobs handling an insult during the session.

Jobs is not running Apple. Amelio is. Jobs is his “advisor.” So Jobs has no real authority, as he states at least twice in the video.

About four minutes in, comes the first question that sets up the insult later on. It concerns the death of OpenDoc, a container format Apple had in development that would allow users to piece together bits from a variety of programs into one document (almost like widgets on a desktop today):

About forty-five minutes later, the insult happens. Notice how quickly Jobs catches on that the opening praise is hiding a knife that’s on a trajectory towards his back. How he handles this should be a lesson to stars, politicians, and CEOs even today.

The cut off audio was him saying he thought they had time for one more question.

You’ll notice he didn’t address what he’d been doing for the past seven years. Does that even matter? Look at what he and Apple have accomplished since 1997.


Filed under Apple: The Company, Video

14 responses to “WWDC 1997 Video: Steve Jobs Handles A Public Insult

  1. Imcl

    Mike thanks or posting this. Could you transcribe what the po’d developer asked? Especially in the beginning I can’t understand his words. Thx!

  2. anon

    The first lines:
    Developer: What about OpenDoc?
    Jobs: What about OpenDoc?
    D: yeah?
    J: yeah?
    J: What about it?
    J: It’s dead, right? It’s dead, right?
    D: Oh I don’t know. I spent a lot of time working on it and (it makes me) sad.

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  5. Bob

    In the second video, this is what I think the questioner asked. I knew him at the time, by the way, and he was one of the brightest people I ever worked with – he taught me so much.

    “Mr Jobs, you’re a bright (and successful?) man. It’s sad and clear that on several (topics?) you’ve discussed, you don’t know what you’re talking about. I would like, for example, for you to express in clear terms, how, say, Java, in any of its 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.”

  6. Bob

    Thanks Bob, i’ll use in a motivation session at a team presentation

  7. WTF? Steven Jobs did a LOT during those 7 years, both with NeXT and Pixar. It’s thanks to what he DID during those 7 years that Apple is successful today with OS X and thanks to OS X, the iOS platform.

    Some people need to learn more about this incredible character!

  8. It’s worth noting that Steve Jobs was 100% correct. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OpenDoc for the troubled history of the OpenDoc implementation. (“JavaBeans” is the replacement Java-based component system Steve refers to.) In the open source world, GNOME and KDE both attempted to build similar component systems (Bonobo and kParts), which achieved technical success after a decade of work but still haven’t left to any significant user-facing improvements (the “compound document” idea which was supposed to be the selling point). The Object-Oriented framework that Apple eventually settled on instead was NeXTSTEP, which because OS X and iOS and has been a huge success.

  9. Fernando

    OMFG, years later he releases iCloud and pass-out!
    Seriously, I’m shocked about this, was this his godly mission on life?
    Mission-acomplished, like a bad-ass – F**K YEAH!

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