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.


October 12, 2011 / By