Today in Apple history: Steve Jobs flips out over iPad tweet

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The first-gen iPad in all its glory.
Steve Jobs did not like losing control of the iPad narrative.
Photo: Apple

February 8: Today in Apple history: Steve Jobs flips out over iPad tweet February 8, 2010: Steve Jobs reportedly flips out over a tweet sent from an iPad by a Wall Street Journal editor.

The reason? Apple showed the iPad to top staffers at the news outlet months ahead of its official release. While Jobs already had unveiled the device to the public, the suggestion that people outside Apple gained early access to the tablet was apparently enough to upset the CEO.

The tweet quickly disappeared.

During the run-up to the iPad’s launch, Jobs met with The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. Apple wanted to get the news organizations on board developing flashy apps for the upcoming tablet. Some of the journalists got their hands on the tablet. One inevitably took to Twitter to show off his early access.

Jobs was having none of it.

tweet
The offending tweet.
Photo: Alan Murray

In the early days of the iPad, pundits regularly discussed the idea that the tablet might rejuvenate magazines and newspapers. Some saw it as a savior for struggling media outlets, much as iTunes proved a boon for post-Napster music companies.

Jobs was already on edge at this time, as he frequently was before any big product launch. Not known for going “off message” during meetings with the press, he reportedly told The New York Times that he was being showered with abuse by some so-called Apple “fans.” He said some of the emails he received about the iPad included “really nasty stuff… [things] like ‘F**k you and your family.'”

Steve Jobs controls the iPad narrative

With a desire to control the iPad narrative, it’s understandable why something as minor as a tweet sent from one of Apple’s upcoming tablets would enrage Jobs.

At the time, the guy who sent the offending tweet — Wall Street Journal online executive editor Alan Murray — told Valleywag, “I would love to talk about this, but can’t.”

“I will say that Apple’s general paranoia about news coverage is truly extraordinary,” he added later. “But that’s not telling you anything you didn’t already know.”

Stephen Colbert brings iPad to Grammys

The iPad’s actually made another prelaunch public appearance. A week earlier, the tech world went into meltdown when Stephen Colbert used a prerelease iPad to read a nominations list at the Grammys.

“I saw [Apple] announce it, and I went, ‘God, I want one of those,'” Colbert later told reporters. “I went, ‘I’m opening the Grammys. Send me one and I’ll take it out of my pocket [onstage].’ By the way, it’s gone — I don’t get to keep it. They handed it to me backstage, took it out, and I handed it to them when I got offstage.”

In other words, when it came to secrecy and control, Apple wasn’t taking any chances!