Apple WWDC ’97 closing keynote by Steve Jobs: Forecasting the future

Apple WWDC '97 closing keynote by Steve Jobs: Forecasting the future

I had several people criticize my recent post about Steve Jobs, my thoughts on how he effected my life. I deleted them all, because soem of them were nasty or otherwise just negative in general and have no place on this blog. These comments though came to mind as I watched the video above, a recording of the keynote Steve Jobs gave from the Apple World Wide Developer Conference back in 1997. I hadn’t ever seen this before, but I was riveted as if it were being broadcast today.

To give a little backstory, Steve Jobs had been previously kicked out of Apple, that is until 1996 the company he started in the interim, NeXT, was purchased by Apple of nearly $500 million and Jobs was brought back into the company. At the time of the taping of this video his position was fuzzy at best, although he was still extremely opinionated. The video sounds like it wouldn’t be that interesting, it’s essentially him answering people’s questions for a solid hour, giving his opinion on the state of Apple and the future of the company and technology in general… which is exactly why I’m posting it.

To show you what I mean, here’s my favorite line from the video, as well as the most prescient one. I’ve paraphrased it slightly for clarity.

To me, what I want is this little thing I carry around with me, it’s got a keyboard on it – to do email you need a keyboard, until you perfect speech recognition, you don’t sit there and write stuff, you need a keyboard. And, you need to be connected to the net, so if someone would just make a little thing, where you’re connected to the net all the time… my god I’d love to buy one.

In 1997, he was describing the iPhone. Nearly 10 years later, he released the iPhone. I’m not sure how many people, technologists or otherwise, have made such a prediction and actually followed through with it.

It’s interesting that he mentions speech recognition, especially in regards to the recently announced Siri. You can read John Gruber’s review of Siri which gives a good look at how it works and what you can expect from it. To me it seems that speech recognition is the next step in Apple’s course. Earlier tonight I tried out the the existing voice commands on my iPhone 4, and the results, as they’ve always been, were miserable. I asked my phone to “play Radiohead” and it started to call a random contact from my address book. This has always been my experience with the voice commands, they’ve never worked. There are other phones that have voice recognition voice commands built in, though I doubt that any of them will match the quality and precision of Siri, and that’s where Apple will excel, because they do things better.

It’ll be interesting to see the mobile computing market (let’s stop calling them phones) in the next couple of years. Apple has made it clear that Siri is in beta, which means that it’s not perfect, and it’s certainly has room for improvement. Like the original iPhone, it lacks a certain polish and refinement, but it will surely be leaps and bounds ahead of what others have to offer. In the coming years the refinement will be there, and with it a slew of competitors trying to meet that seem quality, though trying to play catch up, just like what’s happened with the iPad. Pundits and analysts will, as usual, try to analyze what makes Apple work, and espouse their opinions on how things Apple should do to become “truly successful” and end up giving more awful advice.

The thing is, I think Steve Jobs has had a course charted for Apple for longer than any of us can possibly imagine, and that we’re all still in for a very long, exciting journey.

Bobby

7 Comments Apple WWDC ’97 closing keynote by Steve Jobs: Forecasting the future

  1. Jože October 12, 2011 at 3:01 AM

    well said! and I’ll definitely watch this keynote

  2. True October 12, 2011 at 6:48 AM

    Hi Bobby,

    I’ve been reading your blog for a few years now. I like your humble kind voice and your charisma. I read your post yesterday on Scott Schuman and I just want to caution you on censorship just a little bit.

    Scott Schuman censors The Sartorialist immensely. Any comment on there that remotely questions or criticises his work is deleted. I am cognisant of the fact that the internet can be a mean place and people throw mean and abusive things in comments sections all the time. However, I do think that comments, questioning and criticism (negative or otherwise) keeps people honest and can have the ability for you to question yourself and grow.

    It would really make me sad to see this blog go in the way of Scott Schuman’s blog. Please stay honest, Bobby. Don’t become a Blog Dictator.

    Your Truly,
    True.

  3. Felcom October 12, 2011 at 7:21 AM

    Blog dictator? Really? I kinda thought that was the purpose of starting your own blog…so that you have your own space. The owner and authors dictate the content and we read it. That’s how it works. Just because you visit this blog doesn’t mean you’re entitled to have it run the way you envision. You have no ‘commenter rights’ that are supposed to be upheld by the blog admin.

    “I deleted them all, because some of them were nasty or otherwise just negative in general and have no place on this blog”

    This is perfectly reasonable. I wouldn’t want negativity and slurs on my blog either. Often times negative comments will lead to a discussion that isn’t relevant to the post.

    I’m sure this blog is a large source of pride for Bobby and it is his right to maintain it in the way he sees fit.

  4. Mike Mitchell October 12, 2011 at 10:03 AM

    I’m trying to understand why anyone would post nasty things about your SJ post. While I may be biased (I work for Apple), what you posted is on par with millions of other people who properly recognize what a hugely profound and personal impact he had on people’s lives. I’m just baffle as to why anyone would bash you for that post.

  5. Bobby SolomonBobby Solomon October 12, 2011 at 11:21 AM

    @True – I don’t know anything about Scott Schuman’s moderation practices, but I’d guess that he gest 100 times the insane comments that I get. If I were him I’d do the exact same thing.

    There’s also a huge difference between criticism and negativity. Negativity, in my opinion, is a vile thing that comes out of weak people. Constructive criticism is and important and vital tool that does help people learn and grow. I’m nothing but honest on my site and in my life, and that’s what’s gotten me to the place I’m at.

    I’ve said it a million times before, if you don’t like the way I run my blog, don’t read it. There are plenty of other design blogs out there, this is how I see the world.

    @Felcom – You got it, my friend. Thanks for the support.

    @Mike Mitchell – People are nuts, let’s not waste our time trying to understand them.

  6. maya October 13, 2011 at 3:40 PM

    To the Negativity,

    When Steve Jobs brought us the marketing campaign to Think Different. He wasn’t talking about being a naysayer as a mode of being cool or hip-ster. He was talking about actually thinking and testing and observing and making real changes to the world we live in. To make it better.

    Your need to heartlessly respond to a genuine post reflecting gratitude for what someone has given this world only says that it is, in fact, you that doesn’t have a place in this blog.

    Thank you, Bobby, for this blog. Thank you for taking these moments to pause for the loss of one of the Crazy Ones. I only recently discovered that the Fox is Black and I love it.

  7. Justin van Zyl (@justinvz) October 17, 2011 at 6:59 AM

    In addition to the iPhone, he talks about cloud computing. More than anything else, he was a visionary of immense capabilities and imagination. I’m sure we are in store for some more treats over the next few years.

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