Steve Jobs did plenty of great things in his time, but one thing would have surely shone through whatever path his life had taken: his cutting wit.
That Jobs was a perfectionist is undoubted. That he expected greatness of others is also clear. And — if you’ve read Walter Isaacson’s bio Steve Jobs —you’ll know that the great man was also something of a sociopath.
Add these traits together and you get some of the best, most barbed remarks ever uttered by a CEO in public.
Ice Water In Hell — D Conference 2007
It’s like giving a glass of ice water to someone in Hell.
One of Jobs most famous quips, and one of the few which were caught on video. During an interview with Walt Mossberg at the fifth D conference, Jobs talked about Apple being one of the biggest Widows developers thanks to iTunes.
I love it because of the look on Jobs’ face as he says it. You can tell that it popped into his head, then he thought about it for a second before actually saying it. Here’s Mossberg on the aftermath:
When Gates later arrived and heard about the comment, he was, naturally, enraged. In a pre-interview meeting, Gates said to Jobs “so I guess I’m the representative from hell.”
Jobs merely handed Gates a cold bottle of water. The tension was broken, and the interview was a triumph, with both men acting like statesmen. When it was over, the audience rose in a standing ovation, some of them in tears.
The Pcjr — Playboy 1985
Playboy: Are you saying that the people who made PCjr don’t have that kind of pride in the product?
Jobs: If they did, they wouldn’t have made the PCjr.
Jobs was asked about the IBM team that produced the PCjr, and he called it out as being a piece of junk made to please focus groups, and made to earn money. The team behind the just-released Mac, on the other hand, “wanted to build the greatest computer that has ever been seen.”
Some things at Apple haven’t changed much at all.
Amazon ($3.42) — The Second Coming of Steve Jobs 2000
You’ve baked a really lovely cake, but then you’ve used dog shit for frosting
This might be the best Jobs quote, thrown at a NeXT programmer in a project review.
People Don’t Read Anymore — NYT January 2008
On the Kindle at Macworld 2008:
It doesn’t matter how good or bad the product is, the fact is that people don’t read anymore. Forty percent of the people in the U.S. read one book or less last year. The whole conception is flawed at the top because people don’t read anymore.
This wasn’t the first time that Jobs played down Apple’s future plans by stating the opposite of what was in fact being developed. It also happened with video on the iPod, and the seven(ish)-inch iPad.
But this quote was notable because it wasn’t just a dig at Amazon, but at the U.S. population in general. It seems that (as we’ll see below) Jobs thought that you’re a nation of TV-watching cattle.
Bag of Hurt — Apple Notebook Keynote 2008
Blu-ray is just a bag of hurt. It’s great to watch the movies, but the licensing of the tech is so complex, we’re waiting till things settle down and Blu-ray takes off in the marketplace.
Less of a barbed comment and more of an straight-talking statement of the truth, Jobs’ thoughts on Blu-ray have turned out to be mostly right. Sure, you can find the disks on the shelves of video rental stores, but those stores will soon all be gone.
Notably, this quote even made it into Urban Dictionary.
Bill Gates Should Have Dropped Acid — NYT July 1997
I wish him the best, I really do. I just think he and Microsoft are a bit narrow. He’d be a broader guy if he had dropped acid once or gone off to an ashram when he was younger.
Hard to argue with that.
The Problem With Television — Wired Interview February 1996
When you’re young, you look at television and think, There’s a conspiracy. The networks have conspired to dumb us down. But when you get a little older, you realize that’s not true. The networks are in business to give people exactly what they want. That’s a far more depressing thought. Conspiracy is optimistic! You can shoot the bastards! We can have a revolution! But the networks are really in business to give people what they want. It’s the truth.
Translation: The revolution will be televised, but everybody will be watching American Idol reruns on the other channel.
Thoughts On Flash — April 2010
We also know first hand that Flash is the number one reason Macs crash.
Another prophetic quote, and this time one that made it all the way through to the final draft of an official Apple press release.
Two years later, Flash is all but dead. It’s lack wasn’t even mentioned as a “con” in any of the big-name reviews of the iPhone 5. In fact, apart from the odd restaurant website (probably coded years ago), I can’t remember the last time I came across a site that required it.
‘I Make Fifty Cents Just for Showing Up’ — Apple Annual Shareholders Meeting 2010
I get 50 cents a year for showing up. And the other 50 cents is based on my performance.
Jobs famously made just $1 per year salary, a symbolic sum which turned out to be pretty practical when responding to a Teamsters Union agent’s question at a 2010 shareholders meeting.
A CEO on a multi-million dollar salary might have ended up looking hypocritical when asked about his company’s pay/performance stance. Jobs not only had an answer, but he got a laugh.
Slime Bucket — Phone Call to NYT Writer Joe Nocera 2008
Badgering Apple PR about rumors of Jobs’ cancer recurrence in 2008, NYT journalist Joe Nocera got a phone call from Jobs. Imagine picking up then phone and hearing this:
This is Steve Jobs. You think I’m an arrogant [expletive] who thinks he’s above the law, and I think you’re a slime bucket who gets most of his facts wrong
Amazon — Steve Jobs By Walter Isaacson 2011
I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple’s $40 billion in the bank, to right this wrong. I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go thermonuclear war on this.
Samsung, Android, whatever. The funniest part of this is that Apple had just $40 billion in the bank at the time. It could have spent all of that, and still have more left over now. Actually, that’t the second funniest part. The best is what he supposedly said on the subject to former Apple board member and then-Google boss Eric Schmidt:
I don’t want your money. If you offer me $5 billion, I won’t want it. I’ve got plenty of money. I want you to stop using our ideas in Android, that’s all I want.