Steve-V-Steve: The Keynote Translated!

by Chris Seibold Jan 17, 2006

The Japanese language, it is thought by some, is impossible to accurately translate into English. The problem arises, according to Bill Bryson in Mother Tongue, because Japanese is full of subtleties while still being complex and dense. Even native speakers can have trouble deciphering exactly what they hearing according to Mr. Bryson, who then cites the example of Emperor Hirohito. The story that Mr. Bryson relates concerns the Emperor’s announcement that Japan was surrendering during World War II. According to Mr. Bryson, the populace, owing to the vagueness of the announcement, remained largely unaware of the message the Emperor was trying to convey.

One is naturally struck by the similar troubles of accurately translating Japanese to English and translating CEO-speak to English. Sure, the CEO may sound like he’s speaking a language we are familiar with and the message may seem obvious but, in reality, the message is carefully crafted for maximal positive impact. With that in mind, let us translate Steve Jobs’ recent Macworld keynote into more easily understandable terms with the Apple Matters CEO to Regular Guy Translator™ (soon to be a Google Beta).

Jobs: “We’ve got a lot of great stuff for you today.”

Translation: This is a dog and pony show and unless the dog freakin’ copulates with the pony and the pony gives birth to a cat in the next ninety minutes people aren’t going to be satisfied.

Reality: Few are ever truly sated by a MacWorld keynote, there is always a wild rumor that doesn’t happen and even if every rumor were true, the Newton wouldn’t return.

Jobs:  “So that’s what we’re up to in music…But It’s MacWorld. So, we’re going spend the rest of the day talking about the Mac!”

Translation: No new iPod shuffles in color for you!

Reality: The iPod is such a monster hit and garners so much media attention that introducing an actual iPod at MacWorld would be foregoing a whole round of separate media exposure for the latest iPod. Why introduce an iPod at something already well covered when you can generate another huge happening in a few weeks or months? Expect special events for significant iPods updates.

Jobs:  “There are now over 1500 widgets available for OS X Tiger. We decided, boy, we had better do a few more of own to contribute to that pool.”

Translation: Most third party widgets suck. I was hoping you guys would really pick up the slack here, but, you blew it. So Apple had to expend our resources to make sure Dashboard stays relevant.

Reality: There are a ton of Widgets, too many to wade through to find the truly useful or interesting ones.There are exceptions: here’s a great one. In any event, Widgets seemed like the greatest thing since cyanobacteria ratcheted up earth’s oxygen levels billions of year ago but there aren’t a lot of Widgets compelling enough to use instead of a web browser.

Jobs:  “I’d like to talk about iLife”

Translation: I’d like to talk about iLife.

Reality: Steve Jobs likes to talk about iLife

Jobs:  “That is the podcast studio that is now built in to the new GarageBand.”

Translation: I can’t believe podcasting has gotten this popular, we didn’t see it coming at all.

Reality: Podcasting is a surprise hit, it is good to see Apple being so responsive to what consumers want, this feature should move more than few copies of iLife ‘06.

Jobs:  “The iMac is up to twice as fast as…”

Translation: The “up to” is the kind of wiggly definition of performance that is my specialty. The chip tests twice as fast on one particular benchmark but give me ten minutes and I could find fifty Adobe Photoshop filters that would make a single core PowerPC look like Hal in comparison.

Reality:: In the past Apple has eschewed these same benchmarks preferring, instead, to focus on the tasks where Altivec enhanced chips excelled. Now both are likely true, the Intel chips are likely twice as fast in some areas than the G5, the G5 likely trounces the Intel in others.

Jobs:  “The iMac is up to twice as fast…”

Translation: The Intel chips aren’t 64 bit

Reality: In general, the biggest advantage of 64 bit chips (like the G5) is their ability to address much larger amounts of RAM than their 32 bit cousins. While a 32 bit chip tops out at 8 GB of RAM the upper limit for a 64 bit chip is somewhere in the exabyte range. Of course, this advantage was lost on iMac users who had two slots for memory. The biggest advantage of the G5 for the iMac was the increased Front Side Bus speed and the increased clock frequency. Don’t expect the PowerMacs to show up with 32 bit processors.

Jobs:  We want to emphasize the Mac name so we’re calling it the Mac Book Pro

Translation: “i” is for things for things we can easily associate with the iPod, things that are starkly white or black. When we introduce more consumer gadgetry we’re going to associate those with the iPod, our pro computers will be associated with the Mac name only.

Reality: A smart move, associating their consumer products with the iPod is a great idea if Apple is planning to make a move into the living room. Distancing the pro line from the iPod has the additional effect of assuring buyers that they are getting a computer instead of an iPod accessory.

Jobs:  “Five to six times as fast as the PowerBook”

Translation: You want new lappys? No problem, meet the high margin line!

Reality: The PowerBook is a bit long in the tooth but, mobile computer expectations being what they are, it wasn’t as big of a deal as folks obsessed with the numbers would think. The PowerBook G4 was more than adequate for most uses. After all it was faster than the Mac mini which Steve told us last year would satisfy 90% of users.

Jobs:  “…we added HD to iMovie and, boy, it was the right thing to do!”

Translation: When we added HD to iMovie it was a worthless gimmick for the vast, vast majority of users. In fact, it still is. But, this morning I read This Day In Apple History which included a jab at The Year of HD.

Reality: People using a camcorder that costs 75% much as MacBook Pro probably aren’t worried about the price of iMovie. It is amazing just how much Apple has been able to wring out of iMovie while still keeping it simple to use.

The easy thing at this point is to call Steve Jobs a master obfuscator. That notion must be tempered with the realization that Steve Jobs, particularly at events such as MacWorld, is in full sales mode. It is his job to place Macintoshes, iPods, and the whole of Apple in the most positive light possible. While the preceding may seem to cast aspersions one Steve Jobs’ genuineness in such situations we have to remember the first rule of sales: first, you have to believe in the product.

Believing in a product, to those without sales or direct endorsement experience, may seem that this is an all or nothing proposition. Either the product is truly miles ahead of the competition or it’s just another “me too” offering. That seems to be the most rational way to judge the situation. Yet, if you’ve spent any time working in the media you know folks like radio show hosts can work themselves


  • Jobs: “Today, we’re releasing Mac OS 10.4.4”
    Translation: “We’re probably going to do this five more times before the end of the year. Oh, did I mention we’re dragging our developers through the same universal binary crap too? So stop whining!”
    Reality: OS’s are complicated and buggy. Don’t think because you have a Mac that there is nothing wrong. Imagine what happens when you make it run on multiple architectures.

    toadkicker had this to say on Jan 17, 2006 Posts: 10
  • Jobs: “I’d like to talk about iLife”
    Translation: I’d like to talk about iLife.
    Reality: Steve Jobs likes to talk about iLife”

    Nice idea for an article, Chris. Also nicely researched -I can imagine you must have been sitting there watching the whole thing listening intently to what Steve said.

    ”...the biggest advantage of 64 bit chips (like the G5) is there ability to address…”
    <u>There</u> is a place, and <u>Their</u> is for them, and <u>They’re</u> is to what They Are.

    “That notion must be tempered with the realization that that Steve Jobs…”
    Heh… 2 “that”s

    Luke Mildenhall-Ward had this to say on Jan 18, 2006 Posts: 299
  • The Japanese comment is a complete load. If you try to translate between any two languages it is impossible to fully capture all of the nuances. (Spoken) Japanese is actually a language that is NOT dense. It contains a lot of words that are used for social interaction and are not intrinsically related to the topic. The difficulty comes from the fact that a lot of the conversation is unspoken and must be derived from context or a previous conversation. It’s not fun to come into the middle of a conversation!

    macdeano had this to say on Jan 20, 2006 Posts: 1
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