For months now, one of the best-read blogs in technology circles has been the starkly funny, pull-no-punches Secret Diary of Steve Jobs.
Otherwise known as "Fake Steve Jobs (FSJ)," the author--who writes as if he is, in fact, Steve Jobs, uses his blog to poke vicious fun at anything Apple, technology or Silicon Valley, all the while claiming the mantle of the marketing genius that is Steve Jobs. His motto? "Dude, I invented the friggin' iPod. Have you heard of it?"
As the blog has gained readership, and influence--Fake Steve Jobs was named the 41st most influential person in business by Business 2.0 magazine--the buzz around his true identity has grown and grown. Some would say that it doesn't matter, and that in fact the blog is better if we don't really know. But media being what it is, names of candidates for the blog's authorship are constantly bandied about. Is it Nick Denton of Valleywag? Is it Steve Jobs himself?
Earlier this year, Valleywag , identifying him as Wired.com Managing Editor (and a former editor of mine) Leander Kahney. But Kahney quickly fired off a rejoinder to Valleywag, denying it was him.
CNET News.com doesn't know who FSJ is. But we do know what he thinks. On Monday, just days after Jobs' huge public relations effort build around the launch of the iPhone went off mainly as planned, FSJ sat down for an open-ended instant-message conversation with News.com. The only ground rule? That there be no discussion about his true identity. But given that the real Steve Jobs hasn't talked to CNET in years, the interview was conducted as our first such opportunity in a very long time.
When I saw photos of Mexicans climbing the fence to get into the U.S. and buy iPhones over the weekend, well, I'll be honest, I cried.
Q: I'm curious as to your take on how the iPhone is being received by the public and the media so far.
Fake Steve Jobs: Well, I'm glad to see the iPhone getting the acclaim it deserves. The world changed on Friday and I'm really proud of the work we've done. I think it just shows that the public is a lot smarter than we often think. They know quality when they see it. When all those people lined up for a product that they didn't need to line up for, I think that spoke volumes about the kind of people we're reaching out to with the iPhone. And when I saw photos of Mexicans climbing the fence to get into the U.S. and buy iPhones over the weekend, well, I'll be honest, I cried.
So, AT&T? I mean, seriously. AT&T?
Fake Steve: Yeah. Agreed. I know. And look how they've (messed) it all up already, just in the first three days. F-----g frigtards. You wouldn't believe the phone calls I've been having with those idiots. Well, maybe you would. I called that jackass CEO, got his receptionist, and she asked me what I was calling about. I told her the iPhone, and she told me I had to dial a different number, 800 something or other. I'm like, lady, I'm f-----g Steve Jobs, and she says, "Sir, I don't care who you're f-----g, you can't just call up and get our CEO." Unreal.
Speaking of another CEO, I'm curious about you and Bill Gates. You seemed to get kind of choked up on stage at the D5 conference. Are you and he pals now?
Fake Steve: Beastmaster Bill and I go way back, as I'm sure you know. I just felt, sitting there looking at him, how old he's become, and me too. We're old men now. Weird, right? I mean, there were kids in that audience who weren't born when Bill and I started out. It just got me thinking, that's all.
Since we're talking about big figures from your past, I'm curious: You were kind of harsh in your Woz post. Why no love for the Woz? I mean, did he really have to wait in line?
Fake Steve: Look, Woz is a nice enough guy. He didn't need to wait in line. That's the big misimpression. We gave him an iPhone early last week. Two of them, in fact. Then he shows up at the store as if we didn't. He's looking for attention, OK? And he likes to play the martyr. Frankly, I think Woz should go do some work. Start a company or something. He's too young to be just hanging out doing nothing and dining out on his glory days. Also, just remember: Woz didn't want to quit his job at HP to start Apple. Are you aware of that? I had to twist his arm, the big dope. His dad told him he should stay at HP and that I was a scumbag. Dumbass Woz. He'd still be at HP, or probably he'd have been laid off by now, if I hadn't saved him. He'd be living in some ranch house in Mountain View, driving a (crappy) car, complaining about the house prices in the Bay Area.
Well, but Woz is a hero to the people because he shows up at everything riding his Segway, meeting the people, pressing the flesh. Why don't you do that?
Fake Steve: I'm allergic to non-vegans. I get hives. Honestly, even with allergy medicine if I get too exposed I suffer for days afterwards.
So, is that really your car and your house, as has been reported, on Google's Street View?
Fake Steve: That's my stuff, yes.
How did you feel having your stuff broadcast to the world like that? I mean, it's your car and some guy going into an adult video store. And that's basically Street View for you.
Fake Steve: No me gusta, as they say in French.
So...I have to ask. If, as you've said, LSD inspired the Apple II, what drug inspired the iPhone?
Fake Steve: Well I've been using crystal meth pretty heavily for the past few years, but I don't know if I would say it inspired the iPhone. Maybe it did.
Does that account for the paranoia when it comes to product leaks?
Fake Steve: Very much so. I can't stand disloyalty.
But I mean, specifically the meth. I mean, if you were toking up, what do you think your reaction to leaks would be? After all, isn't that a much more vegan substance?
Fake Steve: Well, I do still smoke pot. It takes the edge off the crank. But yeah, the crank makes me very paranoid. We've put in some crazy security stuff. You wouldn't believe it.
Firing people really turns me on. It's invigorating. When I'm bored or can't think of a new idea, I'll just go out on campus and fire someone for no reason.
Tell me what you've got.
Fake Steve: All the usual stuff: iris scanners, fingerprint readers. But we've doubled the size of our security squad in the past year, and also armed them more heavily. It used to be just tasers. Now they're carrying real guns. And we're also doing lots of groundbreaking stuff with neural implants. We started with the PR people. That's how we get them to recite stuff about the iPhone battery life. I hate seeing them described in (New York Times writer) Joe Nocera's column as "robots." They're not robots. They're cyborgs. Big difference.
So, changing gears a little bit. In the film Pirates of Silicon Valley, Noah Wylie played you. How did you feel about there being a "fake" Steve Jobs?
Fake Steve: I only wished that he looked more like me so I could send him to attend events in my place.
Back to Apple, I've always heard that you manage the company through fear: fear of firing, fear of being screamed at, etc. Why do you think that's a good way to manage a company?
Fake Steve: Well, my forthcoming book includes a rather long explanation of why fear works, and I think it's going to break new ground in the world of business management techniques. But just to give you a hint: look at that movie The Bridge on the River Kwai. Remember how well those lazy, stupid Brits built that bridge? Now ask yourself, Why? Because of fear. Those hardass Japanese scared the (crap) out of them, and they played way above their abilities. Same with apple employees. Plus I just like doing it. It's fun.
Firing people really turns me on. It's invigorating. When I'm bored or can't think of a new idea, I'll just go out on campus and fire someone for no reason. It's like fresh blood for a vampire.
In addition to running Apple, you're the biggest shareholder in Disney and a board member. When are you going to take over as CEO there?
Fake Steve: I'm not. I like having Robert Iger there to take the heat. I'm running the place, make no mistake. I have been since the merger. But Iger is a great spokespuppet, sort of like Om Malik and Michael Arrington.
Now, why no Beatles on iTunes? The people want it.
Fake Steve: Two words: F-----g Yoko (Ono). She insists that if we put songs on iTunes we must call the band "John Lennon and the Beatles," and we must list Yoko as a band member, even on the early albums, which were recorded before she met him.
What's next for you now that the iPhone is at least an initial success?
Fake Steve: Hoo, boy. Well as you probably understand, the iPhone is going to need a few more major iterations before we really get it right. That will keep me busy for a few years. Plus, I'll be taking over the music and movie industries.
What are the odds the backdating scandal forces you out of Apple and back to Reed College (where Jobs matriculated, but never graduated)?
Fake Steve: Out of Apple, I'd say odds are 2 to 1 in favor of this happening. Back to Reed, I don't know. I doubt it. I'll go play Segway polo with Woz.
There are some people who think you just might not be the real Steve Jobs. What is your response to that?
Fake Steve: I'm a bit taken aback. I can't imagine where anyone gets that idea. I'm sort of at a loss for words.