TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: iPod, Therefore I Am

iPod, Therefore I Am

Monty Solomon (
Thu, 6 Apr 2006 18:00:32 -0500

iPod, Therefore I Am

Vanity Fair
April 3, 2006

After 30 years as an outsider, Apple founder Steve Jobs is the
white-hot center of mass-market media. His obsession with design is
now America's: the machine has become the message. With the $7 billion
Pixar deal, Disney-kingdom of content-is Jobs's new playground. How
did he turn the tables?

The rise of Steve Jobs in American business life has always been a
story about exceptionalism. He's been the alternative. The other. The
anti-Gates (with Gates representing the triumph and profitability of
hegemony, constancy, mediocrity). Jobs is the artiste as
businessman-famously odd, difficult, flaky, rude. His businesses, even
his successful businesses, have been, in a sense, unbusinesses. The
formative point about Apple, which turns 30 this month, is that most
people didn't want one. From an adult-company perspective-that is, a
Windows perspective-Apple has been a child's company, a Peter Pan

But now it turns out that Jobs is not marginal, or eccentric, or even
fanciful at all. His is the at-one-with-the-American-consumer golden
gut. He's the ultimate media guy. Everybody wants to know what Steve
knows. Everybody wants to know what Steve wants. Whereas his evil
twin, Bill Gates, his epic rival, his Moriarty, finds himself smacked
upside the head by every Internet entrepreneur and, often, as
flummoxed by the direction of modern life and technology as everybody

This goes further. For most players in the media business, it's all
about blindly groping through a bollixed up, destabilized, haphazard,
random world. Nobody can see what's going on. If you survive, you
survive by luck and chance (and always with diminished prospects and a
lagging share price). Steve, however, proceeds with the greatest
assurance and aplomb and ever increasing value. He has special radar.
He's the official One-Eyed Man.

But further still. With some perspective-and 30 years will do-it turns
out that in critical ways the media business is such a tectonic-plate-
shifting, existentially precarious place because of Steve Jobs. What
Jobs has been doing these last 30 years, while everyone thought that
all he was up to was his specialized, la-di-da stuff, was literally
re-inventing, revolutionizing even-thinking truly differently
about-every aspect of the media business.

The bite-size and broken-grid elements of nearly every printed page
owe themselves to the Macintosh. The plasticity of pictures, of video,
and the ease and economy with which the visual world can be
manipulated, in which everybody becomes his own director, in which the
barrier-to-entry costs fall every day-the full effect of which has yet
to be felt by the media industry-is a Mac by-product. The
transformation (or death, depending on your point of view) of the
music business is Steve and the iPod-and, shortly, the iPod will do
for video what it's done for music. And this is not to even mention
the personal computer itself, whose very look and feel and identity
and fundamental metaphor come from Jobs (albeit channeled from Xerox
PARC). Everywhere, Jobs has been helping media consumers take media
away from the media business itself. And now, with uncertain,
ostensibly modest purpose ("We're really buying into Bob's vision," he
said about Disney C.E.O. Bob Iger), he's entered Disney as its largest
shareholder and most eminent figure.

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