This week Steve Jobs took center stage to speak about Apple again. It’s a place – the center stage that is – that he knows very well, and he showed his passion for the technology he and his company are creating. This time it was the D8 Conference, where All Things Digital producers Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher grilled him about the direction of Apple and his various beefs and passions.
It is interesting to note that when asked about the “war with” – and you can fill in the blank – the response from Jobs was typically the same. When asked about the so-called “war over Flash,” Jobs responded by offering this take:
“we didn’t start off to have a war with Flash. We just made a technical decision.”
As for platform wars, Jobs offered this thought on the one fought in the 1980s and 1990s with Microsoft:
“We never saw ourselves in a platform war with Microsoft, and maybe that’s why we lost.” To that he further noted that this is why Apple focused on how to build a better product instead.
The current war with Google was also brought up and Jobs took a defensive approach, noting:
“They decided to compete with us… so they are. They started competing with us and it got more and more serious.”
So what does this really mean? Obviously, most of this is just wars of the words. Apple and Adobe will continue to engage over Flash, as the iPad currently doesn’t support the technology. Jobs clearly thinks the technology is outdated and Adobe thinks it has a future. The issue will be whether a few million iPads will change the latter’s direction, or whether the hundreds of millions computers out that already run Flash will have to go a new direction.
The issues with Google and Apple could be bigger, especially as this is new competition that Apple never really saw coming. As Jobs noted, Google started to compete with Apple – but Google also started to take on Microsoft, Yahoo, Nokia, RIM, Palm and a slew of other companies as well. Google didn’t just branch out, it blitzkrieged into mobile operating systems, alternative browsers, and even desktop operating systems.
Finally, the issue of the war between Microsoft and Apple is probably one more in user’s minds than it is to either of the companies. Clearly Microsoft doesn’t want to lose its grip on the PC market, and Jobs may be saying that we’re past the PC era. But this isn’t close to true. Tablets, such as the iPad, are great for reading, watching videos and surfing the Web. But they’re not ideal for writing, creating video or for building websites. For those you still need a computer, and you need servers to host that content. Try hosting anything on a tablet.
In the end it comes down to the fact that Steve Jobs is a great showman, and he’s better at putting on the spin better than any PR master. He’s got a real passion, and he speaks to an equally passionate audience. The question will always be “what can you do next?” It is just whether he can keep answering that question, while waging so many wars, because wars can be costly, even when they’re just wars of words.