When Apple CEO Steve Jobs took the stage at the annual D Conference hosted by The Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher earlier this week, he spoke candidly on many topics, from the stolen iPhone flap, to Apple’s relationship with Adobe, to the Foxconn suicides, and to his belief that PCs will play a small role in the future.
But did he drop any hints about what’s coming next week at Apple’s big shindig in San Francisco, the Worldwide Developers Conference, or WWDC?
Steve Jobs is a lot of things, but he is not stupid. He knows what to say and what not to say to raise the hype meter for the WWDC. His subtle hints help manage Apple fans’ expectations.
So here’s what I think his interview at the D Conference tells us about the WWDC.
No Verizon iPhone
Just about everyone—except for AT&T shareholders—hopes for a Verizon iPhone in the near future. But the odds of one being announced next week at the WWDC aren’t very good.
Mossberg asked Jobs about AT&T, and here’s what Jobs said: “They’re doing pretty good in some ways and in others they could do better. We meet with them once a quarter. Remember, they deal with way more data traffic than anyone else. And they’re having trouble. But they have the fastest 3G network and they’re improving.”
When an iPhone customer complained about AT&T’s shoddy service, Jobs immediately backed up AT&T and its efforts to shore up its network. He repeatedly praised AT&T for their competence. In a coup de grace, Jobs said he expects AT&T’s service to improve this summer (read: after the WWDC).
Only when pressed by Mossberg about advantages having the iPhone on other carriers, Jobs said almost dismissively, “There might be.” When Mossberg asked directly whether or not an iPhone will become available to other domestic carriers in the near future, Jobs said, “You know I can’t comment on that.”
All signs point to Jobs allowing AT&T to keep its exclusive hold on the iPhone, at least this year.
A Next-Gen iPhone
When asked about the stolen iPhone prototype, Jobs talked about the fascinating story elements. Oddly, he even brought up the story when describing something personal, such as his future and values.
There’s no question that the stolen iPhone upset him deeply. Why? Because the stolen iPhone takes the wind out of Apple’s sails for unveiling a new iPhone at the WWDC.
Jobs spends a good deal of time and energy creating hype and mystery right up to the moment of the announcement, so much so that this has become part of Apple’s DNA. If someone ruins the mystery, whether it’s a ill-timed blog, stolen product or media leak, especially on the eve of an announcement, it cuts Jobs to the core—and it did in this case.
Conversely, Jobs didn’t mention anything about a new iPhone, as if he was purposely avoiding the topic. Nor did he talk about mobile video chat, a key feature in the iPhone prototype. I’m thinking he’s saving it for WWDC. Thus, the odds are really good that a new iPhone will be unveiled next week.
iPad: Content Is King
For sure, Jobs will open WWDC with sales stats that crown the iPad a success. But did Jobs say anything at the D Conference that hints at iPad announcements coming down the pike?
Jobs talked a lot about the iPad’s ability to deliver great content, not just noise. “I don’t want to see us descend into a nation of bloggers,” Jobs told Swisher. “Anything we can do to help newspapers find new ways of expression that will help them get paid, I am all for.”
Jobs added that content providers are not pricing their offerings as aggressively as they should. Later, he made his point again, saying, “I believe people are willing to pay for content.”
People also want to create content on the iPad, according to Jobs. When Mossberg said that some people think tablets aren’t good for content creation, Jobs countered, “Well, why wouldn’t they be good for content creation?” He added, “These devices over time are going to grow to do new things,” such as productivity apps and video-editing software.
So what does this mean for the WWDC? It’s less of a sure thing, but I’m guessing Apple will announce a more tightly integrated relationship with big publishers that includes tie-ins to Apple’s new iAd platform. I’m also expecting to see some Apple productivity apps, particularly in video-editing.
Tom Kaneshige is a senior writer for CIO.com in Silicon Valley. Send him an email at email@example.com. Or follow him on Twitter @kaneshige. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline.