AT LARGE: The end of the Steve era

AT LARGE: The end of the Steve era

Encrusted with chocolate from a weekend binge, ARN's Matthew JC. Powell tries not to get the keyboard sticky . . .

Surprise! I've moved again. What can I say? It's all the caffeine -- I get jittery and have to change pages occasionally. It's a quirk you'll get used to.

My phone rang the other day, as it is wont to do from time to time, and in typical style, I answered it.

"Hi Matthew," a voice on the other end said, "it's Steve from Apple".

I thought to myself "Shazam! Could this be interim CEO Steve Jobs?" (I didn't really think his job title to myself, but I have to put that in the paper in case you don't know who I'm talking about. It's a journo thing.)The voice on the phone was, of course, not the acting head of the company, but rather local soon-to-be-ex executive Steve Vamos, answering a request for a quote about a rumour. I've spoken with Vamos countless times over the years, both here at ARN and in my shady previous life, and I've never once thought it could be Jobs on the line. Until now.

The difference now is that there are fewer Steves about the place. This time last year Apple was crawling with Steves, with Vamos and Rust ruling the local roost and Wozniak and Jobs returning triumphant as cofounder/messiahs to headquarters in the States. Then Rust removed himself to Bay Networks at the end of the year, and Vamos is about to pick up the reins at the unpronounceable ninemsn. Meanwhile, Woz has faded into the wallpaper in Cupertino.

So Jobs is the only Steve left in the public gaze. Jobs, who has single-handedly extended the meaning of the word "interim" to previously undreamt limits. Jobs, who has turned down the mantle of leadership at Apple the requisite three times, Caesar-style. If he is true to legend, he should now take it.

Lifrstyles of the rich

I don't know if you heard this, but the board of directors offered Jobs a stock package amounting to around 8 per cent of the company if he would take the top job. Put your calculators away, it adds up to $US270 million at the going rate. Don't know about you, but I'd find that a pretty attractive offer. That kind of money just might be enough to lure me away from ARN, if they threw in a car.

My point? I don't think Apple's offer is going to get any sweeter for Jobs, so he should either take the job and stop it with this ridiculous "permanent interim" thing or decide he doesn't want it and go back to the cartoon business. Either way, Apple's partners need to know what the future holds, and soon.

On a side note, I hear that Apple has decided not to use the Dalai Lama from its "Think Different" campaign in Asia, saying that Tibet's spiritual leader is not widely recognised in the region. Apparently pictures of American aviator Amelia Earhart will be used instead. Now that's what I call different thinking.


In the March 25 issue of ARN, I discussed my experience of Internet telephony, with the conclusion that it wasn't quite my thing. I did say, though, that my brief dalliance with this technology had been a while ago. I heard back from a reader a week later who had more recent experience with the stuff. An excerpt:

"I've chatted to several people (mostly from the US) and the quality was quite clear, no need to SPEAK UP A BIT or talk at a ridiculously . . . slow . . . pace to be understood. However what disappointed me was the type of people this technology attracted. Out of 70 users, I found:

40 were men only wanting to chat to "hot, sexy women"10 were men rather keen to display parts of their body via Web cams10 only wanted to chat to family members"The last 10 I could actually chat with assuming a) they answered the call and b) they were interesting to talk with (although one American lady was rather . . . er . . . enamoured with my accent and asked if I would talk dirty to her).

"The whole experience did leave me with a feeling that I'd have just as much success dialling random people on the POTS and saying ÔHi, I just pressed some numbers and ended up calling you. Would you like to chat for a while?'"Of course, all of these technologies have to start somewhere. How long did Alexander Graham Bell wait for someone to pick up on the other end? In those days he wouldn't even have had "hold" music.

In other feedback news, the technology writer with whom I have a bet about speech recognition found out I had sought your opinions on the subject. When I told him that the response had been overwhelmingly negative, he raised the bet to $20. A fool and his money . . .

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