Steve Jobs Is Having a Bad Week

So, funny story. For some bizarre, unexplainable reason, I was not able to access the Tech tAUk blog for the past couple of days. Everyone else could, but my home server just wouldn’t give me access. But now that I’m back on, we’re going to zoom through the big stories.

Let us now focus on Steve Jobs, a man who has been likened over the years to Howard Hughes. Very rarely does the public hear about Steve Jobs unless he gives one of those keynote presentations where he shows off Apple’s new products. Then he withdraws from the visible realm and we have to just sit and wait for the Apple Messiah to return.

I guess the can of worms has finally opened. Well, several cans.

First off, let’s get to some more details about the Gizmodo saga. You can read my  incredibly comprehensive post on the legal issues surrounding that mess here. Of course, since then, another iPhone prototype has turned up in Vietnam. Oh, and the Vietnamese site that got the iPhone also got its hands on a Macbook prototype.

But let’s focus on Gizmodo right now. People wanted to know exactly what Steve Jobs’ role in this mess was. Steve Wozniak publicly laughed it off and sympathized with the employee who lost the iPhone, but he’s always been the more jovial of the two. Tech bloggers were asking what Jobs was thinking.

I think we have our answer.

In what seems to be the clearest evidence yet that Gawker Media editors didn’t talk to an attorney before buying a lost or stolen prototype iPhone, new court documents reveal the gadget blog balking after Apple CEO Steve Jobs personally requested its return.

Yes, you read that right. Steve Jobs personally contacted Gizmodo editor Brian Lam and asked for the phone back. Lam responded with the following e-mail.

Hey Steve, this email chain is off record on my side.

I understand the position you’re in, and I want to help, but it conflicts with my own responsibilities to give the phone back without any confirmation that it’s real, from apple, officially.

Something like that–from you or apple legal–is a big story, that would make up for giving the phone back right away. If the phone disappears without a story to explain why it went away, and the proof it went to apple, it hurts our business. And our reputation. People will say this is a coordinated leak, etc.

I get that it would hurt sales to say this is the next iphone. I have no interest in hurting sales. That does nothing to help Gizmodo or me.

Maybe Apple can say it’s a lost phone, but not one that you’ve confirmed for production–that it is merely a test unit of sorts. Otherwise, it just falls to apple legal, which serves the same purpose of confirmation. I don’t want that, either.

Gizmodo lives and dies like many small companies do. We don’t have access, or when we do, we get it taken away. When we get a chance to break a story, we have to go with it, or we perish. I know you like walt [Mossberg, of The Wall Street Journal] and [The New York Times’ David] pogue, and like working with them, but I think Gizmodo has more in common with old Apple than those guys do. So I hope you understand where I’m coming from.

Right now, we have nothing to lose. The thing is, Apple PR has been cold to us lately. It affected my ability to do my job right at iPad launch. So we had to go outside and find our stories like this one, very aggressively.

I want to get this phone back to you ASAP. And I want to not hurt your sales when the products themselves deserve love. But I have to get this story of the missing prototype out, and how it was returned to apple, with some acknowledgement [sic] it is Apple’s.

And I want to work closer with Apple, too. I’m not asking for more access–we can do our jobs with or without it–but again, this is the only way we can survive while being cut out of things. That’s my position on things.

B

What a dick, right? The nerve of that guy to reasonably ask Apple to confirm the authenticity of their product to protect their reputation!

Okay, so Steve Jobs is a bit of a dick. But it’s not like he’s a complete dick, right?

Well, you’ll have to be the judge on that one.

Some background: Gawker Media, which owns Gizmodo, also owns the site Valleywag. Valleywag focuses on Silicon Valley gossip. So one of their bloggers, Ryan Tate, drunk e-mailed Steve Jobs in the middle of the night, complaining about how one of the iPad ads described the device as “revolutionary.”

The entire back-and-forth is riveting. You can read it below, interspersed with some of my snarky comments.

Whatever you say, Bob Dylan.

But that “freedom from porn” quote is kind of, as Tate himself put it in his reaction piece, “absurdly Orwellian.” Steve Jobs is now acting as if Apple is the purity police and smut will not be allowed on the iPad.

Now, loyal blog readers might remember I addressed Steve Jobs’ anti-porn crusade previously, and that there is still a Playboy iPhone app in the iTunes store.

My guess here is that Playboy, unlike most “smutty” apps, is backed by a major publishing company, and so it gets a pass.

Ah, yes. We’ve hit upon this delicate issue of Flash.

So no Gawker for the iPhone? Oh, well.

Perhaps to give you a clearer idea of Jobs’ views on Flash, here’s an excerpt from a blog post he did on the Apple website:

Adobe’s Flash products are 100% proprietary. They are only available from Adobe, and Adobe has sole authority as to their future enhancement, pricing, etc. While Adobe’s Flash products are widely available, this does not mean they are open, since they are controlled entirely by Adobe and available only from Adobe. By almost any definition, Flash is a closed system.

Basically, the reason Apple’s embracing HTML5 is the same reason YouTube is. All you need to run HTML5 is a browser that can run it and you’re set. And most browsers have already jumped onto this bandwagon. Flash is a little more complicated and requires downloads and updates and all sorts of unnecessary sidecar stuff.

There’s a lot more to this debate, but I’m not going to rehash all the fine points of both sides here.

Yeah, that’s something I think Steve should think about instead of adopting this no tolerance policy. If adults over 18 choose to view porn, that is their disgusting privilege. But if Steve’s concern is that kids could view porn, then why doesn’t Apple work on smarter, more sophisticated parental controls?

Much as I think he’s being a bit of a dick here, Steve’s right. Which brings me to another sidecar.

Last Friday, comedian Bill Maher did a “New Rule” that started off criticizing President Obama for bashing the very technologies he used to get elected (which I had some fun with a few weeks ago) and ended with a call for Steve Jobs to fix America. The point of the segment was that as a country, we’re never looking to the future and lobbyists are always trying to keep things from changing. Whether you like him or not, Steve Jobs is always looking towards the future, what the next best thing is. As Maher put it:

In 2001, Apple reinvented the record player; in 2007, the phone; and this year the computer. I say, for 2011, we let them take a crack at America.

Click here to watch the segment.

Anyway, back to the catfight e-mails.

Again, being a bit of a dick (and I’m pretty sure that line about “erroneous blogger reports” is complete bullshit), but he does have a point.

But Jobs has got to be kidding us if he thinks Jason Chen’s house wasn’t broken into. How else do you think they confiscated his gadgets, Steve? They didn’t ask politely…

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