Steve Jobs has gone rogue. Taking the bait on a late-night e-mail from Valleywag Editor Ryan Tate, Jobs defended Apple’s App Store for offering “freedom from porn,” among other things.
Tate posted the entire back-and-forth, which began with his slightly drunken rage over an iPad commercial that promises a revolution. Tate tells Jobs that revolutions are about freedom: “If (Bob) Dylan was 20 today … Would he think the iPad had the faintest thing to do with ‘revolution?'”
“Yep. Freedom from programs that steal your private data. Freedom from programs that trash your battery. Freedom from porn. Yep, freedom. The times they are a changin’, and some traditional PC folks feel like their world is slipping away. It is.”
After a thread of seven e-mails debating Apple’s ban on Flash for iPhone OS devices, the merits of native vs. cross-compiled apps, and a police raid on Gizmodo editor Jason Chen’s home — another Gawker media blog along with Valleywag — Jobs dismissed Tate and writers in general:
“By the way, what have you done that’s so great? Do you create anything, or just criticize others [sic] work and belittle their motivations?”
It’s certainly possible that Jobs didn’t write the e-mails himself, but they fit his profile: Concise, opinionated, and completely bereft of corporate speak. If Apple public relations was picking through each line, they didn’t change much. Besides, Jobs sent the e-mails between 12:52 a.m. and 2:20 a.m.
As for the content of Jobs’ e-mails, I agree with Tate that Jobs’ offer of “freedom from porn” is unsettling in an Orwellian sort of way. It’s also not true, as there’s plenty of sexual content to be had just by searching the Web in Safari; and some adult material is selectively offered for iPhones despite Apple’s policy against it.
More troubling is how Jobs’ definition of freedom entails shielding your eyes from offensive material, as Apple defines it. That’s a slippery slope, and it’s already caused trouble in Cupertino. I think there’s value in criticizing Apple on that front, even if you haven’t created tech products yourself.
Bizarre interpretations of freedom aside, I enjoyed reading the e-mail exchange between Jobs and Tate. There’s a difference between spin and opinion, and Jobs’ e-mails display the latter. I can’t say the same is true with Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing, who has also sent e-mails to bloggers. Jobs is a perfect fit for Twitter, after all.