Apple podcast: Steve sounds off
Can I recommend an episode of a podcast? It rambles on for about an hour, but it does feature one of the most fascinating figures in the modern history of technology letting rip about his company and its philosophy. It should be available on the Apple iTunes store soon.
Apple's conference call with analysts after it reported another set of record set of results always promised to be interesting enough - if you were an obsessive Mac-watcher or an investor desperate for further nuggets about the gross margin on the iPad, sales of which had disappointed a demanding Wall Street.
Then, after the chief financial officer had trundled through the details of the results, there was a big surprise. Steve Jobs, who hardly ever takes part in these financial set-pieces, was joining the call: first to say a few words, then to participate in the Q&A.
And as soon as Apple's founder and presiding genius opened his mouth, it was clear he was in fighting mood. First in the firing line, RIM, the makers of Blackberry. Their sales had been overtaken by the iPhone for the first time in the last quarter - and in Mr Jobs' view, that was it: game over, no hope of them making a comeback in the foreseeable future.
That was just the hors d'oeuvre. His two main targets were Google's Android system for mobile phones - and anyone deranged enough to think they could take on the iPad. Mr Jobs seemed irritated by the idea that Android phone sales were now overtaking the iPhone, though he suggested the data were unclear. Then he went on the attack. Google had characterised the Android system as open and Apple's IOS as closed - that was "disingenuous", though he didn't quite explain why.
Microsoft was a real example of a company using open systems (that will surprise some of Mr Jobs' disciples) and in any case "open" didn't always win. "We think open versus closed is just a smokescreen to hide the real issue of what is best for the customer - an integrated or fragmented approach." The customers, he said, just wanted something that worked and he was confident that this approach would triumph over the "mess" that was Android's multiple variants and different app stores.
Then he moved to the avalanche of new tablets about to enter the market, suggesting that only a handful of them might prove credible. Mr Jobs seemed outraged that rivals thought seven inches might be a sensible size for a tablet screen - Samsung is just one firm producing a tablet that size.
A seven-inch screen, he maintained, was just 45% as large as the 10-inch iPad. He suggested that makers of such tablets should include sandpaper in the box so that users could sand down their fingers to the right size to be able to use the apps on such a small screen.
The great showman finished this particular rant with a prophecy - the current crop of tablet rivals would be "DOA, dead on arrival." Also dead now are the rumours that Apple is about to unveil a smaller version of the iPad. Steve told us that the tablet was a product "we've been training for for a decade", and he wasn't about to admit that others might have got it right.
During the question and answer session he first parried a query about Apple's bitter dispute with Adobe over the use of the Flash video streaming technology - "Flash memory? We love Flash memory" - then went on to claim that most video on the web was now in the HTML5 format anyway.
While Steve Jobs was holding forth, another Steve was getting some very bad news. Microsoft announced the resignation of Ray Ozzie, the man who inherited the chief software architect from Bill Gates and was seen by many as the firm's leading creative force. For the CEO, Steve Ballmer, to lose one senior colleague might be seen as misfortune - but after months which have also seen the departure of Robbie Bach and Steven Elop, it's beginning to look like carelessness. Mr Ballmer may be many things, but an articulate and inspiring apostle of his company's vision he is not, so he could do with a supporting chorus.
Which brings us back to Steve Jobs. You can argue with much of what he said last night. Is Google's "let a thousand flowers bloom" approach really failing to deliver compared with Apple's rigid approach? Are all seven-inch tablets doomed to fail? Are customers really well-served by devices that can't deal with Flash? But you can't accuse the Cupertino conductor of a lack of leadership or vision. The only problem for Apple is what happens when he decides to put the baton down.