I met Steve at Whole Foods and got 5 minutes of chat out of him.
I was checking out and was tapped on the shoulder. I was asked where I got the lemonade I was checking out with. I pointed to the back of the store and told him where I found it. As he turned around I said something bro’ish like “this stuff rules and you should go get some” and he laughed a bit.
About now I made eye contact with him. In hindsight he knew what was about to happen, because he started nodding as soon as I started saying “You kind of look like Steve Jo…”. Right about here he is grinning, almost implying that I should spit it out. “I guess you’re Steve Jobs. I’m Ryan, I work at Facebook.”
Then I shook his hand and let a chat flow, ready to leave him alone if it seemed I was getting on his nerves.
Not so interesting, but this is a pretty rough description of what happened next. He asked what I do for Facebook. I told him I deal with “Internet Bad Guys” and he mentioned that Apple’s got some good folks that “deal with that too”.
Ran out of trivial chats, and I said it was nice to meet him. He remembered my name and said bye, and I remember being impressed with him minutes later that he remembered my name considering how many people he must have to deal with.
I shot Steve Jobs on a magazine assignment, in 1989, at NeXT Computer in Palo Alto, California (before he reconnected with Apple). I arrived on location early to look around for props. I found a replica of theRosetta Stone hanging on his office wall.Perfect! Consider it the original tablet computer. I took it to the lobby, where I had more room to set up lights and cameras, and I wouldn’t have to drive Jobs out of his own workspace while making Polaroid test shots with a stand-in. (In the analog era we called them “Paranoids.”)
But there were several huge windows in the lobby. I sent my assistant out to bring back yards and yards of opaque, black velvet drapes to block the daylight, so I could control my lighting effects. It took a few hours to seal out the sun and turn the lobby into a makeshift studio. Everything was ready to make this photo shoot as convenient as possible for Jobs.
He arrived accompanied by an entourage that included musician Stephen Stills (of Crosby Stills Nash & Young), whom I already knew from an album cover shoot we did in 1977. Jobs brushed right past me, took a perfunctory look at my set and said, right In front of everyone, “Who’s stupid f%∞&@¢# idea was this?” I said it was my stupid f%∞&@¢# idea, and if he didn’t like it he could go f%∞& himself because I went to a lot of trouble just to make him look good—for me to look good for my client, too.
I don’t remember the details, but while some huffing and puffing went on among Jobs’s acolytes, I went over to say hello to Stephen Stills. I was prepared to pack up and leave without a picture. But Jobs came over, all smiles, and apologized.
Only recently, after reading his posthumously-published biography, I discovered that such startling outbursts of invective were not reserved for visiting photographers, like me. Apparently, they were pretty common. Jobs used shock and awe to separate the meek from those with more mettle. Anyway, we got down to work. Several different setups and wardrobe changes later, we finished with The Nose.
Honestly, I was shocked. I have never heard somebody order 4,000 lattes to go. I didn’t say anything because I was shocked. But my first impression was that he was just being humorous. He sounded like a gentleman.
My friends were surprised and jealous, like, “Wow, you got a chance to talk to Steve Jobs?” They say to me, “You should’ve said more! You just say Good morning and How can I help you.”
Before him, we never received such an order. After he made the call, everyone copied him, prank calling our store and ordering thousands of lattes—to this day!
Steve and I spent more time negotiating the social issues than we did the economic issues. He thought maintaining the culture of Pixar was a major ingredient of their creative success. He was right.
Periodically he would call and say, “Hey, Bob, I saw the movie you just released last night, and it sucked”. Nevertheless, having Jobs as a friend and adviser was additive rather than the other way around.
Apple chairman Arthur D. Levinson spoke at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business on February 19th, 2013.
I’m still not to the point where I walk into that boardroom and don’t miss Steve, He was a one of a kind guy. The Steve Jobs that was in the public eye was not, for the most part, the Steve Jobs that I knew.
I had been a contributor to Apple’s eWorld online service, a paid site managed by AOL. One of the first things Steve did when he came back was ax eWorld, which had just been made obsolete by the emergence of the Web. A lot of people were heartbroken by the shutting down of this cute little virtual walled garden. I attended the Boston Macworld that year, with a press pass, and at a “Meet Steve” party, I told him I had worked on eWorld, but congratulated him on axing it. “The Web, right?” he replied with a smirk. It’s ironic to see that Apple and other companies are inexorably moving toward creating their own walled gardens in the cloud, in part to provide protection to their customers.
Not only did he (Steve) know and love product engineering, it’s all he really wanted to do. He told me once that part of the reason he wanted to be CEO was so that nobody could tell him that he wasn’t allowed to participate in the nitty-gritty of product design. He was right there in the middle of it. All of it. As a team member, not as CEO. He quietly left his CEO hat by the door, and collaborated with us. He was basically the Product Manager for all of the products I worked on, even though there eventually were other people with that title, who usually weren’t allowed in the room
I am off doing other things now, again, but it’s still Product Design, and I still love it. That is what I remember most about Steve, that he simply loved designing and shipping products. Again, and again, and again. None of the magic that has become Apple would have ever happened if he were simply a CEO.
Steve’s magic recipe was that he was a product designer at his core, who was smart enough to know that the best way to design products was to have the magic wand of CEO in one of your hands. He was compelling and powerful and all that, but I think that having once had the reigns of power wrestled away from him, he realized that it was important not to let that happen again, lest he not be allowed to be a Product Manager any more.
I got hired to work at the Apple store in San Jose in 2010 and had my first day of training at Apple Corporate. It was time for lunch at Caffe Mac’s, where all the engineers at Apple have lunch everyday. Our trainers gave us a full disclosure that sometimes Steve Jobs has lunch at Caffe Mac’s but it’s very rare. However, if it does happen, not to freak out and to just leave him alone.
Me and my new co-workers went off to Caffe Mac’s, sticking together because we were a little intimidated by the environment, afraid we were going to accidently do something or say something to offend the engineers. Suddenly, I started hearing a lot of chatter amongst my co-workers. I asked what the fuss was about and they said “Steve Jobs is in here getting lunch”. Gulp.
While I was getting lunch, I did everything I could to avoid him. I made sure to be on the opposite side of the room from him because a) I am awkward as hell and will say something weird b) I am a clutz and afraid I will trip and spill my food in front of him.
I got my food and headed towards the door. There were a couple of people walking in front of me. Someone was holding the door open for all of us, and it was Steve Jobs. I tried holding on to the door to let him and the people behind me pass. But he continued to hold on to the door, and like a kind gentlemen said, “No, after you” and then smiled at me.
In 2002-2003, Doug Morris [former Universal head] asked me to go up to Apple and see Steve. So I met him and we hit it off right away. We were really close. We did some great marketing stuff together: 50 Cent, Bono, Jagger, stuff for the iPod — we did a lot of stuff together. But I was always trying to push Steve into subscription. And he wasn’t keen on it right away.
Beats co-founder, Luke Wood and I spent about three years trying to talk him into it. He was there, not there, he didn’t want to pay the record companies enough. He felt that they would come down, eventually. I don’t know what Eddy Cue would say — I’m seeing him soon — I think in the end Steve was feeling it, but the economics, he wanted to pay the labels, but the fees were not going to be acceptable to them.
Steve called me in once. He said, “You know something, you should feel really good. You’re the only guys from software that ever built a piece of hardware successfully. That means that we can be the guys who cracked this code as well. Because we live in both worlds. We’re actually arguably better at this than at hardware. You know why they call it hardware? It’s really hard.”