When Steve Jobs and Local Government Collide

Soon after he unveiled iCloud at the WWDC keynote, Steve Jobs went to a Cupertino City Council hearing to present Apple’s plans to build a new campus. The city council recorded the visit, and has made it available on YouTube.

For many reasons, it’s a remarkable thing to watch:

  • While not as polished as his keynotes, Jobs still gives a brilliant performance. He forcefully but respectfully conveys his message: Apple wants to stay in Cupertino and build this campus. Let us do that.
  • His slide deck complements the serene images of the new Apple campus. When displaying text, he uses a light beige background instead of the slate grey standard for Apple keynotes (and in Apple Keynote). There’s a California cool to it all.
  • The main building may resemble a spaceship as Jobs mentions, but it’s also very reminiscent of the Pentagon outside Washington, D.C. The Pentagon can hold 26,000 employees. This new Apple Ring will accommodate 13,000. Apple, infamous for its secrecy, wants to build a gorgeous fortress in Cupertino.
  • There’s a remarkable diversity in the audience at the hearing, and within the city council itself. There are few places in America where immigrants speaking in broken English can be elected to office.
  • But the city council members don’t acquit themselves very well, being generally starstruck. The question about free wi-fi comes off as petty. The question about safety standards is superfluous. One councilman gets sentimental. Serious questions could have been asked of Jobs – what will an influx of 12,000 employees do to area traffic? – but they weren’t.
  • The implicit threat Jobs makes during his presentation – that Apple will leave Cupertino if this campus isn’t approved – is made explicit during the question period. That’s when it becomes clear why Jobs is there.

Steve Jobs has been on medical leave from Apple since the beginning of the year. But he’s still the public face of the company. When Apple needs him, he’s there. And as shown by this city council hearing, he’s damn effective.

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