Vanity Fair: Apple’s Steve Jobs is white-hot center of mass-market media

“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 company,” “Michael Wolff writes for Vanity Fair.

“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 else,” Wolff writes. “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,” Wolff writes. “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.”

Steve Jobs is “not just McLuhan in the media business, he’s Edison—the autodidact garage inventor. And, too, he’s Henry Ford. Part of the great frustration so many people have had with Jobs is that, in this virtual, transubstantiating age, he has always wanted to act like an industrialist. One of his real loves is manufacturing. Building factories. Making things—which certainly distinguishes him, because there is nobody now working in the American media business who has ever actually made anything,” Wolff writes. “To Jobs, with his 99-cent-song and $1.99- video downloads, content is the commodity. The machine is the precious, unique, coveted, valuable, holy vessel. The machine is the idea.”

Full article with much, much more and highly recommended here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “iceforest” for the link.]

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32 Comments

  1. This article was so pumped up it made me sick.

    Steve Jobs is just a man who put’s his pants on one leg at a time like the rest of us.

    Sure he’s a bit more exceptional at media marketing and cult generating, but he’s no Walt Disney.

    If he and Apple produce safe, secure and reliable products I might buy them.

    But I don’t buy into all this hoopla about Steve Jobs, I know more about the man than I really wanted too.

  2. Good grief, I’m so sick of people writing articles without doing any decent research… any Apple follower would see that this article has been written by someone without a heck of a lot of knowledge of Steve or Apple for that matter. This article is just filler fodder for the masses – certainly not anything valuable for we Mac lovers…

    Lame.

  3. Just an awful article. This guy talks and thinks too much. Wordy, like a lot of American stuff these days.

    And always stretching to link everything in the world with politics, and Bush and Clinton.

    Don’t waste your time with this crap.

  4. Whatever you think about this,
    Steve Jobs is the Henry Ford of the computer world. And Thomas Edison. I hope that textbooks point to him, not Gates – because though he may be a fine person/businessman/whatever – he is not responsible for making computers useful to all of us.

  5. John Gee – “Gates… a fine person”? What are you on? Crack? Just a guess. ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”wink” style=”border:0;” />

    Neil – If you don’t own/like Apple products, what are you doing hanging out on a Mac site? Got Apple envy, perchance? ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”rolleyes” style=”border:0;” /> Go troll elsewhere.

  6. “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.”

    Let’s try to focus on this and how everything Apple does stems from and comes back to the Mac. For those who feel that Apple has become “the iPod company,” understand that the device, the software, Apple-branded applications and peripherals are all but worthless without the Mac.

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