Steve Jobs: No Tablet, No PDA, No Cell Phone, Lots Of iPods

by , 5:00 PM EDT, June 5th, 2003

Steve Jobs spoke recently at an invitation-only conference called D: All Things Digital. Hosted by Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher of the Wall Street Journal, the event was billed as "the executive conference only Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher could create. A series of unscripted, unfettered Wall Street Journal interviews, live on stage, with the leaders of the digital revolution." The speaker list included such notable names as Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Steve Case, Meg Whitman of eBay, Barry Diller of Vivendi Universal Entertainment, Hillary Rosen of the RIAA, and several other tech luminaries.

According to Denise Howell's blog, the audience itself was somewhat star-strewn with Esther Dyson, Steven Levy, and other notables listening. Ms. Howell's blog was also the source of some controversy as she, and fellow attendee and blogger David Hornick, published near-transcripts of some of the speakers' interviews at the conference. The controversy comes from the fact that reporters attended under a gag order imposed to allow the speaking execs to loosen their tongues. The problem is that no one told that to the non-reporters in attendance, thus they had no gag-order. This information comes to us via an interesting article at on the subject.

Their loss is your gain, however, as some very interesting information comes to us from Steve Jobs. In her blog, Ms. Howell notes specifically say: "Please don't mistake these jottings for a verbatim transcript or a complete portrayal. They are necessarily paraphrased and incomplete." Still, Ms. Howell is a respected blogger, as well as being an attorney, and as long as you keep the hearsay nature of this information in mind, the Apple-aspects will be of interest.

Of particular note is the flat-out acknowledgement that there will not be an Apple-branded PDA or cell phone. From Ms. Howell's notes:

M [Walt Mossberg]: A lot of people think given the success you've had with portable devices, you should be making a tablet or a PDA.
J [Steve Jobs]: There are no plans to make a tablet. It turns out people want keyboards. When Apple first started out, "People couldn't type. We realized: Death would eventually take care of this." "We look at the tablet and we think it's going to fail." Tablets appeal to rich guys with plenty of other PCs and devices already. "And people accuse us of niche markets." I get a lot of pressure to do a PDA. What people really seem to want to do with these is get the data out . We believe cell phones are going to carry this information. We didn't think we'd do well in the cell phone business. What we've done instead is we've written what we think is some of the best software in the world to start syncing information between devices. We believe that mode is what cell phones need to get to. We chose to do the iPod instead of a PDA.

According to Ms. Powell, Steve Jobs also says he think that Apple will hit the 1 millionth iPod mark relatively soon. While Apple announced having hit the 700,000 iPod mark in a press release last month, the following comments amount to a forecast of iPod sales from Steve Jobs, a very rare event, indeed. From Ms. Howell's notes:

M: How many iPods have you sold?
We passed the 700,000 mark recently, will probably sell 1 million by some time this summer.

M: Do you have plans for movies on the iPod?
J: I'm not convinced people want to watch movies on a tiny little screen. To paraphrase Bill Clinton, "It's the music, stupid, it's the music!" Music's been around for a long time, will continue to be, it's huge. Not speculative, a real tangible market.

There is a lot more information in Ms. Howell's blog, which is titled Bag and Baggage. In addition to the extended notes on Steve Jobs' interview, she also has notes on the dinner interview with Bill Gates (he thinks the Tablet will be pervasive), and the interviews with Meg Whitman and Barry Diller. She also has comments about the gag order issue itself. To find the Jobs-relevant information, scroll down to the May 30th entry, titled "Interview With Steve Jobs."

It should also be noted that the Wired article quotes Walt Mossberg as saying the bloggers did not break any rules, but that the rules might be changed for next year's events to include audience members.

The Mac Observer Spin:

You can stop putting off that Palm and/or cell phone purchase. If you have been waiting for Apple to deliver either device, despite all the hints and suggestions to the contrary, it would seem that it is time to bury that hope.

As for the number of iPods sold, the news is that Steve Jobs expects to sell half as many iPods, 42.8%, in the next couple of months as the company has sold in the last 20 months. That's impressive.

Note that this whole issue of blogs is yet another indication of the changing nature of news coverage and information dispersal. Blogs are becoming more and more important in the grand scheme of things, and the rules are changing all around us. That, however, is a subject for another article, for another time.