Steve Jobs called Sports Illustrated’s 2009 iPad demo ‘stupid’

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Steve Jobs wasn’t a fan of news leaking out about future products.

Is it any wonder that Steve Jobs — who transformed Apple from an incredibly leak-heavy company during the 1990s, into one of the most secretive tech companies in existence — hated word getting out about his future products?

While bloggers and other reporters could get harsh treatment from Apple, however, it was loose lips on the part of actual Apple partners that really threw Jobs into a rage.

An anecdote from a new story about Time Inc. in this week’s New York magazine illustrates this, by relating how Jobs responded to Time Inc. releasing a YouTube video showing how its publications might survive the digital age, by harnessing the possibilities offered by the iPad.

The problem? Apple hadn’t yet announced the iPad’s existence.

The video quickly racked up the hits online, and can be viewed below:

While it’s certainly got a few neat ideas, Jobs was far from impressed by the showcase. Journalist Gabriel Sherman writes:

In 2009, Terry McDonell, then the editor of Time Inc.’s sports group, attempted a digital intervention. Apple was rumored to be readying a “genius device” that would save the magazine business, and McDonell partnered with design firm the Wonderfactory to develop a prototype of Sports Illustrated’s tablet magazine. The exercise generated media buzz when McDonell debuted a three-minute video demonstration online.

But according to sources, Steve Jobs was upset that the company had released the prototype before he had had a chance to reveal the iPad—and a tablet edition of Time—to the world. “I think it’s stupid. Really stupid,” Jobs told Time Inc. executives during a meeting in New York in 2010 when asked about the prototype.

The meeting went downhill from there. Jobs, suffering side effects of hormone treatment following his liver transplant, started tearing up as he complained that Fortune had kicked him when he was down by running a story on his stock-option-backdating scandal.

Exactly why Jobs was so upset isn’t made clear. Did he dislike the generic tablet that Time Inc. had dreamed up for the video? Did he not approve of the way the editorial team was envisioning how magazines might look on the iPad, which were certainly a bit noisier than the minimalist style Apple might have opted for? Or was Jobs simply upset that the company was going ahead with its video before Apple had the chance to even announce what turned out to be the iPad?

Whatever the reason, the story clearly resonated with the people who witnessed it live. And given that tablets haven’t exactly turned around print media, it’s not exactly like Jobs’ appraisal was entirely incorrect, either.

About the author

Luke DormehlLuke Dormehl is a UK-based journalist and author, with a background working in documentary film for Channel 4 and the BBC. He is the author of The Formula: How Algorithms Solve All Our Problems, And Create More and The Apple Revolution, both published by Penguin/Random House. His tech writing has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, Techmeme, and other publications. He'd like you a lot if you followed him on Twitter.

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