Steve Jobs at D8: Post-PC era is nigh

In a speech at the D: All Things Digital confab, the Apple CEO says the day is approaching when not everyone will need a traditional computer. Plus, Jobs on Google, Windows, iPhonegate, AT&T, and more.

Ina Fried Former Staff writer, CNET News
During her years at CNET News, Ina Fried changed beats several times, changed genders once, and covered both of the Pirates of Silicon Valley.
Ina Fried
5 min read
Steve Jobs at D8
Apple CEO Steve Jobs settles in for a long chat with D8 hosts Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher. Asa Mathat | All Things Digital

RANCHO PALOS VERDES, Calif.--At the D8 conference here, Steve Jobs didn't whip out the newest iPhone or tell us which category will be next to get an "i" before it, but his words offered a glimpse of where the iconic CEO thinks the industry is headed.

Speaking for an hour and a half at the D: All Things Digital confab, Jobs said the day is coming when only one out of every few people will need a traditional computer.

"When we were an agrarian nation, all cars were trucks because that's what you needed on the farms." Cars became more popular as cities rose, and things like power steering and automatic transmission became popular.

"PCs are going to be like trucks," Jobs said. "They are still going to be around." However, he said, only "one out of x people will need them."

Jobs said advances in chips and software will allow tablet devices like the iPad to do tasks that today are really only suited for a traditional computer, things like video editing and graphic arts work.

The move, Jobs said, will make many PC veterans uneasy, "because the PC has taken us a long ways."

"We like to talk about the post-PC era, but when it really starts to happen, it's uncomfortable," he said.

Jobs noted that people still laugh at him when he talks about the iPad as magical, and he tried to put that feeling into more concrete terms. "You have a much more direct and intimate relationship with the Internet and media and apps and your content," Jobs said. "It's like some intermediate thing has been removed and stripped away. Like that Claritin commercial where they strip away the film--it's like that."

Among the other big revelations that came out of the talk was the fact that Apple was actually working on a tablet like the iPad before the iPhone, but put the project on hold when it saw an opportunity to crack the phone market, which is far larger than even the PC business, in terms of units.

When pressed, Jobs also opened up a bit on the story behind Apple's dispute with Gizmodo over the lost iPhone, which Jobs said may well have been stolen.

"There is a debate of whether it was left in a bar or stolen out of his bag," Jobs said.

Jobs allowed that the whole matter does make for a great story. "It's got theft. It's got buying stolen property. It's got extortion," he said, adding that there is probably sex in there somewhere. "Somebody should make a movie out of this."

Jobs also spoke on a range of other topics, including his thoughts on AT&T, Adobe and Flash, and Apple's relationship with Google. And he even shared a bit on what daily life is like for him and the rest of the team at Apple.

Jobs said that though there are problems, AT&T does offer the fastest 3G network. He said he thinks the quality issues are improving but added that he only wishes he could say they were improving rapidly. "I do think they have some issues," he said.

Asked by moderator Walt Mossberg whether there could be an advantage to the iPhone being offered in the U.S. by more than one carrier, Jobs said. "There might be."

Jobs declined to say whether that might happen this year.

On the chilling of Apple's relationship with Google
"They decided to compete with us, and they are," Jobs said, adding that he was referring to the phone business primarily. As for Chrome OS, he said, "Chrome is not really baked yet."

Jobs was asked if he sees himself in a "platform war" with Google. Jobs said that's not how he thinks about the world.

"We never saw ourselves in a platform war with Microsoft," he said, adding, "maybe that's why we lost." Instead, he said, Apple just focuses on building the best product.

The competition with Google, he said, was launched by Google, not Apple.

"They decided to compete with us," Jobs said. "We didn't go into the search business."

Asked whether Jobs got a call from Google CEO Eric Schmidt, he said, "no, they started competing with us, and it got more and more serious."

On why he likes the consumer market better than selling to businesses
"(In the consumer market) every person votes for themselves," Jobs said. "If enough of them say yes, we get to come to work in the morning." In the enterprise, he said, not so much. The people that use the products aren't the ones that choose which products are used, and the people that make those decisions, Jobs said, "are sometimes confused."

On why Apple doesn't support Flash
"Apple, Jobs said, is still a company with limited resources and chooses to focus that energy by picking technologies that are in their "springs" as opposed to those on the wane.

"The way we have succeeded is by choosing which horses to ride very carefully," he said.

He noted the company's moves in the past, such as building the iMac without a floppy drive.

"If you choose wisely, you can save yourself an enormous amount of work," he said, noting that that is what allows Apple to make things that are great, as opposed to just OK.

On whether Apple has too much control with the App Store
"We have two platforms we support. One is completely open and uncontrolled, and that is HTML 5. We support HTML 5. We have the best support for HTML 5 of anyone in the world."

"We then support a curated platform, which is the App Store," Jobs said, adding that "we've got a few rules." The app has to function as advertised, Jobs said, adding that it also can't crash or use unsupported APIs. Still, he said, 95 percent of applications are approved within a week.

On how things work at Apple
"We are organized like a startup," Jobs said. "We are the biggest startup on the planet."

Apple, he said, has no committees, just people in charge of specific areas.

"What I do all day is meet with teams of people," he said. Asked by Walt Mossberg whether people at Apple ever stand up to him and tell him he is wrong, Jobs said they do. "We have wonderful arguments," Jobs said, adding that he doesn't win them all. "The best ideas have to win, otherwise you don't have good people who stay."

On why he doesn't change
"When this whole thing with Gizmodo happened, I got a lot of advice from people that said you've got to just let it slide. You shouldn't go after a journalist because they bought stolen property and tried to extort you." Jobs said he concluded the worst thing would be if he started letting more things slide. "I can't do that. I'd rather quit."