Slightly late but: Bob Keefe was right and pretty much all the Mac blogosphere (including Gruber) was wrong (updated)

It seems Apple had an event the other day. (I dunno, I was on holiday.) And in the Q+A afterwards, a journalist – it has to be a journalist, you’ll see – asked Steve Jobs why Apple’s gear, despite having Intel chips inside, doesn’t carry those “Intel Inside” stickers that you see all over the place.

Before you go on, did you *know* what the answer was before the question was asked? That is, did you know *why* Apple was turning down the marketing benefits that accrue to companies which use the Intel Inside sticker – which are substantial? Pause, and answer honestly.

If you didn’t absolutely know why, you were wrong to pillory him. That means Gruber and Macuser, Macalope and others. You didn’t know. You assumed. You guessed. You presumed. That ain’t factual journalism. It’s jackass-y to take the piss out of someone who’s doing a better job than you. (In fact, I call on Gruber to recall his Jackass award. Investigation is never jackassery.)

One could almost argue that given that Apple’s directors are obliged to maximise shareholder value (all directors of public limited companies are, by law), and that putting those stickers on would increase the profit margin (at a given price) of Apple machines, it would be almost necessary for Apple to use the stickers. (Here’s some help: “Over the years, Intel has spent more than $3 billion to subsidize OEM marketing programs that promote their own brands, along with Intel’s. (That little five note “Intel sound” you hear whenever you see a Dell, HP, IBM or Lenovo ad on TV means Intel has paid roughly half of the cost of the ad.)” Intel’s official history of the campaign doesn’t mention the money it puts in.)

And I’d bet too that if it did, and Macbook and Macbook Pros and iMacs and all had those stickers on, then the Apple blogosphere would have given a collective shrug and said “Well, everyone else does…”

So if you didn’t know, then Bob Keefe was asking a question that you didn’t know the answer to. And that’s one of the functions of journalism: finding out stuff only some people know and telling it to lots of people. You generally find that you don’t learn unless you ask. The stuff that people offer unprompted to tell you is usually the least useful. That’s why journalists – though not bloggers – often skate over the bumph in press releases and look for the “meat”.

Plus there’s a technique to Q+As, especially those with lots of journalists, that bloggers simply don’t know about because they don’t have the experience. One person asks a question, gets an answer: that might prompt someone else, who knows a little about the subject being answered, to glimpse a gap or a change between what’s been said and what’s been said before to the same question. That leads to a new angle to probe, until you start to open up angles that weren’t obvious before. It’s like the middle game of chess – tactics, responses, new tactics, result. We’re feral beasts in the media, remember? That’s why we work best in a pack, chasing the prey, nipping its legs until it falls over and we can feast on the flesh. (Pauses.) Intellectually, of course.

Derek Powazek calls it the Columbo technique, and he’s absolutely right: there are no stupid questions, only stupid (or dismissive, unhelpful) answers:

As a consultant, I often find myself asking questions that, on their face, may seem stupid. That’s because terminology varies so much in organizations. When I say, “What do you mean by branding?”, it’s not because I don’t know what the word means, it’s because I want to know what the client thinks it means.

It all kind of reminds me of Columbo. If you’re too young to remember, it was a detective show where a bumbling detective catches the bad guy because everyone generally thinks he’s too dim-witted to do his job. Keefe should hang a photo of Columbo in his office after his sticker question.

(I remember Columbo. The most brilliant series, only equalled by House. I wonder if Columbo-as-doctor could work?)

O’Keefe himself is amazed, and gives his own (good) reason for asking the question. Unfortunately, as keeps happening, people then don’t bother to consider his reasoning, but just start from the same place they were, and criticise him. (Sadly, that group includes John C. Welch, who one can usually rely on to have an accurate, if not restrained, perspective.)

Update: the point had been made back in January 2006 that Apple hadn’t signed up – but that didn’t answer the why part of it. Keefe was still right to ask the question.

Instead, Macjournals has it right: can you think of a question that will prompt a response from Jobs that isn’t completely rodomontade?

What questions do you think Steve Jobs is going to answer?

He doesn’t talk about the past, and he doesn’t talk about future products. He ruled out talking about iPods, iPhones, and the music business because it was a “Mac” event. Read Macworld’s coverage of the live event and look at these other killer questions that people asked Jobs at the event

  • Does the iMac have a future now that more and more people are buying laptops? (Hint: Jobs had, within the hour, announced three new iMacs)
  • How is Apple’s relationship with Google? (Who really expected an answer other than “Fine, thanks for asking?”)
  • Is Apple going to make a multitouch-operated Mac? (Jobs called it a “research project,” noting, as have many others, that it’s not clear the concept makes sense for the normal orientation of a display. In other words, he didn’t rule it in or out.)
  • Is it Apple’s goal to surpass Windows in PC market share? (They’ve only been asking this question for 22 years, so who really expected a no-win yes-or-no answer? As Apple has done for decades, Jobs said they’re focused on making the best products possible.)

really are the typically dumb questions that do get asked at Apple pressers. The sort that the Appleblogosphere applauds but which don’t advance our knowledge one bit. Hell, Fake Steve Jobs could answer them as accurately.

Later update: I’ve added comments in italics to various of the comments below where I think they need one. And your challenge, before you hit that comment button, is: besides your comment, tell us the question you would ask Steve Jobs to get an insightful response. I’ll see if I can channel him for ya.

Update bonanza: Jason Snell at Macworld admits that it’s all gone wayy out of proportion, and confesses:

Of course, I asked my own question that day — a clarification about iWork ’08’s Excel compatibility — that elicited a one-word response from Jobs: “No.” (Turns out I shouldn’t have been asking about Excel Macro support in Numbers. If I had asked Jobs about AppleScript support instead, I might have struck gold: turns out Numbers is completely bereft of scripting support. Drat!) By the standards of many of Keefe’s critics, I am also a total loser, because I asked an uninteresting question that could’ve just been cleared up by Apple PR later. Okey dokey.

Yup, getting there, Jason. When you’re interviewing chief execs and their near-tos, you need to get your weapons ready, be prepared. It’s the Wimbledon final and you’re up against the pros. Are you?

And so let’s sum up many of the comments here: sure, the piece has been cited three times (once by me – you folks don’t look at embedded links, eh?). As I said, because I read it, that piece does not answer the question of “why not”. It’s vague. And as Gary Marshall notes further down, times change. I asked Jobs about video on iPods a few weeks before Apple launched one. And his answer was noticeably prevaricating compared to those he’d given before. Which was a clue that it was indeed on the way. Journalism lies in little gaps like those. Or in big stupid-seeming questions which lay bare the underlying thinking of a person or company. Like Bob Keefe’s one.


  1. I’m not a member of the ‘Appleblogosphere’; just a guy who owns a Mac (actually, my family has two MacBook Pros and an iMac, in addition to an old PC). I have to say, the day Apple starts putting those ugly-ass stickers on their machines is the day I stop buying them. OK, I said that to be intentionally grandiose. I’d still buy the Mac, but I would damn sure peel the sticker off as soon as I pulled it from the box. Sheesh..

  2. When Apple puts more energy into designing a bag for the iPhone than Dell puts into designing an entire desktop, it’s not an ‘assuption’ that the anwser is going to be ‘those stickers make our high end product look like Walmart fodder’. Although it’s true that sometimes asking obvious questions produces responses that might not have been expected, that’s never true of Jobs. The question illustrated a complete lack of understanding of Apple at almost all levels.

  3. Should Bob Keefe have been pilloried? Certainly not, and I’m not sure it raises Keefe’s status to Jackass of the Week. However, Keefe did show a remarkable lack of insight into Apple – something he should have known. Or you can go back nearly two years to get the answer: Apple doesn’t do co-branding.

    Nigel’s opinion is spot-on. Most Mac users already have the answer to Keefe’s question internalized: Macs are not me-too products, and using the “Intel Inside” logo and jingle would equate Macs with every other competitor. Question answered. Move on.

  4. I’m sorry Charles, but Gruber et al are right and Keefe and yourself are wrong.

    I’m afraid to say you obviously just do not get it at all. This was not a simple covert digging-for-answers type question. It was absolutely an “I have no idea what the Apple ethos is” type question and you unfortunately drag yourself into that camp by defending the journo in question.

    Gaudy stickers are the absolute antithesis of the elegant functional minimalism that pervades all Apple products as well as the “we build the whole widget” concept. The answer is beyond obvious to anyone with any decent level of understanding of Apple.

    I’m also afraid that Keefe’s excuse as to why he asked his question which was that he is writing a story on the “Intel Inside program”, just demonstrates it was also a selfish question inappropriate to the event at hand as John C Welch ably argues.

    It certainly gave me a laugh. :-)


  5. Charles

    Monday 13 August 2007 at 5:04 pm

    @5 – sorry, but I do get it; I’ve spoken to Steve Jobs and been in the room where he’s been interviewed a great deal more than you, I’ve asked him more questions – I’ve asked a lot of people up and down industries more questions – and I know what does and doesn’t work. The given “other” questions above were pitiful. Crap. Not going to find out anything you couldn’t work out by asking yourself. Keefe’s question opened the door to “but why are you leaving money on the table if this is going to hurt your margins? Or is it not going to hurt your margins to make this shift?”

    And Keefe’s piece has been written – – and the Apple part is the top of it. It’s not an “excuse”. It’s a relevant reason. Apple’s machines have Intel inside.

    The fact is that, not to be rude, you don’t get journalism. It is not the same as deciding you know what someone thinks. The blogosphere thinks it knows stuff. It “knew” there would be an iPhone API. It “knew” Apple wouldn’t use Intel chips. (Remember?) The Wall Street Journal didn’t turn to the blogosphere on the latter to find out the truth. And so it got the correct story first.

  6. Additionally, I think Keefe was so single-focused on getting just one more quote from Steve on the topic for his “intel inside” story that he was blinded to how stupidly obvious the answer to his question was. Both Steve and Phil gave exactly the expected responses and the rest of the audience guffawed at the naivety of the question.


  7. Apple got the same deal with Intel as they did with AT&T. No BS overpricing and subsequent discounting for jumping through hoops, just honest pricing in the first place.

    Apple pays no more for their Intel CPU’s than any other vendor, stickers or no stickers. No disservice to investors here.

    Everyone who has used a Mac longer than a couple of months would have known the answer to that question. Think of the inciteful questions he could have asked. “Are you grooming a successor?” “Will you ever build a headless iMac?” The list is endless. What did he ask? The equivalent of “Will the sun rise in the east tomorrow?” Duh!

    [Unless you’re working for Apple, you don’t know what it pays for CPUs or how that compares. The Intel Inside campaign gets money from Intel if you use the stickers – that means bigger margins. Is Jobs grooming a successor or does he not care? You don’t know. You’re making my point – CA]

  8. Charles, I wasn’t saying Keefe’s article was a “made-up” excuse.

    I agree with you that many questions at these Apple Q&A events are pretty pitiful as well – I more often than not find myself shaking my head when some analyst asks yet another “please spill the beans on new product x” type question. However, that does not excuse Keefe’s question. Ironically the iMac multi-touch question gleaned the pretty interesting info that it was an active research project at Apple. Even that was more useful than the duh(!) response in answer to Keefe’s selfish question.

    I also believe that your comparison of such a foundational Apple ethos as sticker-less design minimalism to the choice of a CPU (when there have been multiple CPU changes over the years for Apple prior to the intel change) is a bit of a red herring. Do you really truly believe Apple would ever consider marring the surface of their computers with stickers considering every extraneous, superfluous hardware button and the like has been excised already? Apple for whom Design is the be-all and end-all? I think Al Williams has it right – the sun will in fact rise in the East tomorrow.


  9. The idea that putting Intel stickers on a Mac is “obliged” to maximize shareholders’ wealth bears a moment’s consideration. One moment suffices.

    Elegant design is as important to Apple sales as it is to Lexus’. Plastering stickers and making Apple products look more like Gateways would certainly cost the company big. We don’t have to wonder whether that is true, we can just look at the Apple of beige boxes between the two Jobs eras to see what ugly can do to a company that has style.

    [You’re missing the point too. You think you know the answer. But is that Steve Jobs’s answer? And the post-Jobs beige-box Apple did a lot better, for some time, than the with-Jobs one; at leaast until the iPod. – CA]

  10. This whole piece is just a “we are journalists, outsides just don’t know shit” self-celebrating arrogant tirade … sorry, the fact that you have been asking questions for the last 20 years, or you had talked to Jobs doesn’t make you an effective facts or answers digger … I can play the same game, I am an seasoned academic researcher, and journalists employ colonizing, compromising interviewing techniques. Without immersing yourself within a community, journalists’ fake objectivity will never yield anything truly meaningful! And I could argue that the current state of the whole journalist industry would be a good indicator for my claim … see how easy to discredit a whole community, as you just did to your so called “blogosphere” …

    [So tell us a question you would ask Jobs to elicit a response that would give us an insight – one that he couldn’t just shrug off. You think journalism is easy? But I’ll let my CV speak for itself. – CA]

  11. Columbo had a script and it’s not a real approach to anything it’s fiction. If it opened that many doors why didn’t anyone of the others there walk through it? Did every other journalist in the room miss this wonderful opportunity because they don’t get journalism?

    It’s not often that Apple opens up like that especially with the top man answering questions live. With that in mind it’s a dumb question because it’s a waste of a chance to ask something that you couldn’t get a response to from Apple PR in an email.

    Besides which if you’ve spoken to Apple so often you should know that anyone asking the obvious follow up about margin would be met with a “we don’t discuss margin on individual products” response that Apple always gives in those situations.

    [Same as above – tell us your fantastic insightful question that will lift the Jobs armour then. -CA]

  12. ((( [The blogosphere] “knew” Apple wouldn’t use Intel chips. (Remember?) )))

    Actually, I don’t remember any such thing. People in the know are aware that OS X, like NeXTstep before it, is a highly portable system (NeXTstep ran on Motorola 680xx, Intel x86, HP PA-RISC, and Sun SPARC processors, while OS X runs on PowerPC, Intel chips, and the iPhone’s ARM1176jzf). A great many people suspected all along what became obvious early last year: that Apple had been maintaining a parallel version of OS X for Intel chips from the beginning.

    What we DO know is that a desktop computer formed from a single sheet of brushed aluminum, with no visible screws, and whose packaging is better-designed than other companies’ desktops, will never be adorned with a cheap-looking “Intel Inside” sticker. Still, to take your side somewhat, I don’t think asking the question was stupid, even if the reporter “knew” what Jobs would say. It was simply a question with an obvious answer.

  13. I would be completely shocked if Gruber did not know that Intel pays half the ad bill for OEMs that run its little cobrand adlets. Just about anyone who knows anything about the computer industry knows this, and Gruber is a pretty clueful guy.

  14. Call me an ignorant blogger or whatever, but I feel like I’m missing something.

    If he wanted to know why Apple doesn’t participate in the “Intel Inside” campaign to try and maximize shareholder value…why didn’t he ask that? Why ask about strictly the stickers? To me, “Are you considering participation in the ‘Intel Inside’ campaign to help raise awareness of your new processors and the cross-platform capabilities?” sounds a lot better then “Why don’t you put Intel stickers on your computers?”

    Sure, they may have similar meanings…but the latter has a much shallower tone than the former. I still think the answer is pretty obvious – Apple thinks of the computing experience as one, rather than software running on hardware – but I still think the words he chose make the situation that much funnier.

  15. Bob: Oh, wise guru.

    WG: yes.

    Bob: I’ve got a doozy of a question for you.

    WG: Okay. I’ll try to help.

    Bob: Will the sun rise in the east tomorrow?

    WG: Uh, well Bob. Where has it risen for the last 4 1/2 billion years?

    Bob: Yeah, yeah. I know all that jazz, but it’s me, Bob. I’m darn sure that if “I” ask it — “I’ll” be able to scoop a different answer.

    WG: I see. Well…

    Boob: Yes, yes!

    WG: …the sun will most definately…

    Bob: Come on!

    WG: …NOT rise in the west tomorrow.

    Bob: I win! You other guys can suck it. I’m so smart, S-M-R-T!

  16. “Think of the inciteful questions he could have asked. “Are you grooming a successor?” “Will you ever build a headless iMac?” The list is endless.”

    Those, frankly, are MORE Jackass-worthy questions than Keefe’s, because anybody who’s even been to an Apple event or spoken to Jobs knows that you’re going to get exactly zip on future products. I found it irritating that Keefe drew the flack because, more than anything else, who is anybody to tell him what questions he cannot ask?

    Personally, when I got my chance at the press conference (which I was actually AT, unlike most people throwing their weight around on this) I asked a question that I knew would get a dead bat: whether one-click publishing of iMovies to YouTube was going to cause problems with rights infringement. Why? Firstly because it’s a potentially dubious issue that I thought we might follow as a group, and secondly because it’s good to get an on-the-record response. Nobody else thought it worth following, and – interestingly – the question and answer (like quite a few of them) didn’t make the liveblog material pumped out by Engadget and others.

    No offence to some of the people in that room, but Jobs rarely gets a question that challenges him to respond or asks him to make a statement that’s actually of importance.


    (a colleague of Charles)

  17. Read this article to understand what the Mac-blogosphere is on about Charles, ignore the title, it’s a really good, insightful probe into what all this means.

    Regardless of whether you think he’s a fool or not, if he understood one iota about Apple, (which you’d think, being the person who’s job it was to report on an Apple announcement, he would), he’d see this question as bizarre.

    If I were Jobs, the only thing I would have said would have been, “Isn’t it obvious?”. To people like this guy, it obviously isn’t.

  18. OK, my favorite comment to this so far is from Mart who said

    “an “I have no idea what the Apple ethos is” type question and you unfortunately drag yourself into that camp by defending the journo in question.”

    This typifies the dark side of the cult of Mac. It’s a mean way of saying “you just don’t get it.”

    Mr. Keefe has an obligation to his readers. All of his readers. Most of whom “just don’t get it” when it comes to Apple. I know, I know, Mr. Keefe could have written the article without asking the question and inferred the answer, but without a quote or a source, its just a guess.

    Newspaper readers expect factual reporting backed up by good sources and applicable quotes. Mr. Keefe worked hard on getting an official statement from Apple and after asking for comment from Intel, Apple and it’s public relations staff and coming up empty he decided to use his time at the iMac event to ask the question of Mr. Jobs.

    This is not a dumb question to people who are curious about those Apple computers (Hey I heard they’re like PCs, why don’t they have the jingle that Dell uses then?)

    Now as to calling Mr. Gruber a “Journalist” I would have to agree with the quotations. I think you can fairly call Mr. Gruber a Blogger, and since he’s published, a writer, and since he is opinionated, a commentator. But journalist?

    From Wikipedia: “A journalist is a person who practices journalism, the gathering and dissemination of information about current events, trends, issues and people.”

    I don’t see the anointing people “Jackass of the Week” in that definition. I’ve read a little bit of Mr. Gruber and he has an interesting take on things Apple, but it’s just that, his take. Oh sure, he’s gathered information and disseminated it too, so he has practiced journalism, but name calling earns the quotations. It’s not journalistic.

    And oh by the way, we’re talking about Steve Jobs here, not the President of the United States or the Pope. It’s not an audience, it’s Jobs, trying to sell iMacs. For the privilege of taking up these reporters time with what amounts to an advertisement, they were given the time to ask questions.

    Hey, Jobs wasted their time, why shouldn’t they waste Jobs time?

  19. Charles

    Monday 13 August 2007 at 9:31 pm

    @18: I think Gruber falls under the definition of “journalist” – he does pick out things that are interesting. News (by the best definition I have ever heard) is “Stuff I care about, stuff I want to pass on”. Calling people jackasses might not be in the definition, but it’s allowable.

    I’ve added comments in italics to various comments, since people won’t read them otherwise…

    Oh, and as for whether the Appleblogosphere thought Apple would move to Intel:

    or just the Slashdot discussion: with comments like “Please explain the process whereby Apple will convert everyone’s old applications into fat binaries. Without access to the source.” Yeah, can’t happen. We know.

  20. TechnicolourSquirrel

    Monday 13 August 2007 at 9:50 pm

    Thank you for not joining the other MacHeathers in beating up on somebody just for asking the wrong thing.

  21. What do they call that again when people continuously ask the same question of an individual eventual expecting to hear the answer they’re looking for?

    Insan…., er, I mean ‘journalism’.

    [tell us the question you would ask Steve Jobs to get an insightful response]

    Given Jobs historical patterns of behavior, what would lead you to believe such a question even exists?

    [Hey, Jobs wasted their time, why shouldn’t they waste Jobs time?]

    At least that’s an honest and accurate assessment of the value of Keefe’s question.

  22. The question is idiotic on on a lot of levels especially on a level Keefer doesn’t get …

  23. I find it ironic that there are alot of “journalists” getting on their high horse about what is journalism and what is not when the state of their profession is in such sharp decline.

    Couldn’t so called journalists spend more time figuring out where 190,000 weapons went that the DoD apparently “lost” than complaining about one of their own getting skewered?

    I guess I can be glad that journalists actually care about what their readers say and just be content. When other journalist pick on other journalists, I guess they forget that their critics are readers first and journalists second when reading a colleague’s work.

    The Mac community has always been known to be passionate about the subject and those outside of the Mac community are also well known for spreading both intentional and unintentional FUD and misinformation. It would be nice for tech journalists to spend more time revealing stuff about actual technology (leave the Intel Inside sticker questions to the business journalists) rather than stuff that wanders to close to the “dismal science” or editorializing/opining.

    – James

  24. Chris said:
    “Mr. Keefe has an obligation to his readers. All of his readers. Most of whom “just don’t get it” when it comes to Apple.”

    Well I guess from that perspective, the Mac Blogosphere also has an obligation to *their* audience to write from that perspective. :-)

    I think you actually do a disservice to the general public. You ignore the degree to which the iPod has pervaded public consciousness to the extent that I reckon most people who know anything about Apple would at least know they are about design and cool – and gaudy stickers just do not fit that mold.

    Perhaps most importantly, it’s not as if this question hasn’t been asked before:

    It was an old question which had an extremely obvious answer that had been sufficiently addressed in the past and was only asked now because Keefe wanted a few more quotes for his other piece. This is the reason for the collective sigh.

    Anyway, at least it added some levity to the event. :-)


  25. The core issue is this guy asked a question because he didn’t actually understand what was asking in regards to the history of Apple Computer or the frankly, the branding, marketing and ad co-op issues of the computer industry since the 1990’s. Pretty appalling if you think about it. This would be if he was at a Ferrari and asked why there’s no 2-door Ferari for under $10k …

  26. “Couldn’t so called journalists spend more time figuring out where 190,000 weapons went that the DoD apparently “lost” than complaining about one of their own getting skewered?”

    I’m sure they could, James, but I wouldn’t expect them to be doing it at an Apple press conference.

    Asking questions shouldn’t be about making the questioner look clever or knowledgable. They should be about getting an answer: I don’t think anyone’s disputed that the answer wasn’t worth getting.

  27. “Keefe did show a remarkable lack of insight into Apple – something he should have known. Or you can go back nearly two years to get the answer: Apple doesn’t do co-branding.”

    Sorry, I had to turn down my NIKE-IPOD for a second. You were saying something about a lack of insight?

  28. Wow. As a Mac fan who has always bristled at the derogatory “Cult of Mac” and “fanboi” references, I’m disappointed in the hater-attitude of so many of these comments. If you read Keefe’s blog, he was working on a story about the Intel Inside promotion and had already asked Apple’s PR people about the issue. They are the ones who suggested he ask Jobs at the event!

    Sure, most of us who follow Mac news regularly would have been able to guess the answer, but don’t forget there are a whole lot of people out there, including many Cox News readers, who haven’t followed the Mac as closely as we have. For them, he got a great quote from Jobs that neatly sums up Apples philosophy and lets them see how seriously Jobs focuses on the overall experience of the Mac. That’s good reporting, no matter how you slice it.

  29. “It’s not as if this question hasn’t been asked before”

    Yeah, but things change. Jobs ruled out a video iPod a while back, heh.

    Rejecting Intel Inside as Macs moved to intel chips was specifically because Apple wanted the Mac, not its guts, to be the focus. But we’re way past that, Apple’s just told shareholders that its margins are tight due to product transition, and PC firms cheerfully (well, maybe not cheerfully) admit that without Intel Inside money they wouldn’t be competitive. Factor in the huge market awareness of Intel Inside, which could arguably reassure potential switchers, and personally I think it *is* interesting that Apple doesn’t do the Intel Inside thing. As beeblebrox says, it’s not as if Apple doesn’t do co-branding. Not just the Nike iPod thing, but putting AdSense into iWeb, Google Maps on iPhone, exclusive deals with phone networks for iPhone, etc.

    “leave the Intel Inside sticker questions to the business journalists”

    Eh? Tech and business issues are intertwined. Separating the two means you only get half the story.

    “Why ask about strictly the stickers?”

    He didn’t. He’s been slightly misquoted – MacWorld says the full question was: “Thank you, it’s Bob Keefe with Cox Newspapers. Can you say why you all are not participating in the Intel Inside program, putting the stickers on your new or previous Macs?”

  30. I don’t think I ever came across people who were more priggishly fanatical than some of the mac users in this thread when I wrote about religion. Keefe asked a perfectly good straightforward question from outside the RDF. He even got an informative answer from Jobs. It might have been better to ask about eg backdated stock options, but that would have drawn a less informative answer.

  31. “However, Keefe did show a remarkable lack of insight into Apple.”

    The fact that the answer was obvious to some people is irrelevant. I think he was just there to get a quote, to better explain to his readers (not the Apple crowd) how “OEMs are finally being re-empowered to talk about their own brand.” This is the crux of his article and Apple is a prime example. When Steve Jobs says “We’d rather tell them about the product that’s inside the box,” he is de-emphasizing the role of the innards, the CPU, etc. Instead, Apple is emphasizing the whole product, a better consumer experience, and Apple’s own brand. Not Intel’s. The impact of the product differentiation strategy is worth way more than a few million in advertising dollars. If the story is to be believed, other manufacturers like Hewlett-Packard, Dell and Lenovo, are starting to follow suit.

  32. A fascinating discussion.

    We’ll always need journalists – proper journalists – IMHO, but sorry, Charles, I don’t buy your “it has to be a journalist” theory; at least, not on all counts.

    Real, paid-up journalists – at least, the kind that they have at the Guardian and the BBC – will *always* find out stuff that the blogosphere never will. Why? Because that’s their job. And not only is it what they’re paid to do, but it’s their passion too. Much of the blogosphere may also have that passion, but they’re never going to spend months of time, effort and money tracking down stories, like “real” journalists do.

    Having said that, one has to ask what happened to the “proper” journalism in the USA from 2001-2006(ish)? (Okay, I’m talking about political rather than IT journalism, but the point still stands). The truth is that virtually the entire profession was involved in a shameless dereliction of duty, from which it’s still emerging now.

    I remember meeting Americans on holiday, who complained to me that they simply could not pick a mainstream American newspaper that didn’t follow the George W party line. I met a Greenwich Village cinema owner in Costa Rica, who said “I’m tired of my media *shouting* at me, you know?” I told him about the up and coming anti-Iraq war in London (biggest UK march against anything, ever, as it turned out) and he knew nothing about it. His wife said that she’d take part in something like in New York, if there was one. She was astonished to find out (via my girlfriend) that there was just such a march about to happen in New York. They simply didn’t know.

    This may seem like a massive tangent, when we started with logos on Macintoshes, but these were *your colleagues*, Charles, like it or not. These were the people that were paid to ask those obvious, but stupid sounding questions – “Mr President, isn’t it true that Saddam had no involvement in 9/11?” – and for whatever reasons, they failed to do so. And where did the American people turn during this time, when they wanted to find out what was really going on? To the blogosphere, many of them. (Oh yeah, and to external sites like the Guardian and the Beeb).

    Sure, we in Blighty may comfort ourselves that such a thing could “never happen here”. And while the likes of the BBC and the Guardian, at least, don’t have to answer to proprietors or shareholders, then maybe it never can. All the same, I feel more comfortable knowing that the blogosphere, for all its failings, would still be around… just in case.

  33. Thanks for the best piece of common sense that I’ve read on this extraordinary kerfuffle. I too think Gruber’s great but on this he’s just wrong.

    What many of the angry bloggers don’t seem to understand is that the obvious, broad or even dumb question can sometimes yield a more useful and interesting answer than the query from the supremely well-informed specialist. You don’t know until you ask it.

    Bob Keefe should be applauded for trying to broaden the scope of what Apple wanted to talk about. From my experience, Apple is very good at conditioning journalists to ask only about what it wishes to discuss – only iMac questions at an iMac event, iPhone questions at an iPhone conference etc, etc. No other company is so restrictive in what it is willing to discuss. One reason why it is hard to identify the “best” questions to ask Steve Jobs is because, most of the time, he straight-bats them with answers that are devoid of information.

    Added to which, the interest in Apple is so broad, people will inevitably come at it with widely different levels of knowledge. It’s only a tiny minority that is fascinated by the prospects of an iPhone API – or, indeed, the trial of Bob Keefe in the court of the blogosphere.

    Rather than attacking him for asking about Intel Inside, a better question is why no-one asked about the options business. No, of course Jobs wouldn’t have given a detailed answer, and would have referred people back to the company’s statements on the matter. But I don’t think I’ve seen Jobs pressed to fill in the gaps left by Apple’s lawyers. The options issue is also an old story – but not necessarily a dead one:

  34. @Mike Brown

    What, you mean like this one?

    Q One question for you both. Do you believe that there is a link between Saddam Hussein, a direct link, and the men who attacked on September the 11th?

    THE PRESIDENT: I can’t make that claim.

    January 31, 2003 – Bush/Blair press conference

    Or this one:

    Q What has he done in the last 12 years? And why do you keep subliminally linking up 9/11 with the Iraqi thing? Do you have an actual link? Can you really prove it?

    MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the point the President makes about 9/11 is that prior to 9/11 it was much easier for the American people to sit back and think that terrorism was something that affected maybe our embassies abroad or people in other countries in faraway lands. After 9/11 it became very clear that there are people who have a clear desire, and they will do it again if they can, to attack the United States.

    February 25, 2003. Press briefing with Ari Fleischer

  35. @Chris

    Granted, there were honourable exceptions. But you have to admit that, for the most part, the US press was “embedded”.


    – Mike

  36. First of all Charles, you can stand on your head to justify that question all you want, even in ways that make no sense at all. I still think it was a stupid question. First, if he meant to ask about “Intel Inside” vis a vis profit margins, why not ask that? Why not reference it in that context? If he wanted a direct answer to “Why don’t you participate in the “Intel Inside” program?”, why didn’t he just ask that? Why bring up the distraction of stickers at all?

    Go read the entire response to his question, and show me the insight to what O’Keefe insists was his “real” question. There’s, at most, one sentence that deals with that, from Steve Jobs. The rest of it is *all* about the stickers. They didn’t answer the “real” question, because *it was asked so poorly*. It’s communications 101: Ask the question you want answered, don’t create noise. The stickers part created so much noise, that O’Keefe couldn’t see past it to realize that his question hadn’t been answered. I’m not even being cynical and saying it was deliberate. I think Jobs was so surprised at the stickers part, that he forgot the first part of the question. There was almost nothing useful in either his, or Schiller’s reply that talks about why they aren’t a part of that program, just on and on about friggin’ stickers.

    Instead of some magical “insightful” answer O’Keefe is *still* convinced he got, those of us listening had our time wasted by stickers. If you can’t be bothered to ask the question right, then be quiet about the fallout. That question that O’Keefe asked was, is, and shall forever be stupid.

  37. Just curious, but weren’t the…

    …Nike-iPod promo selling a Nike product; Adsense selling a Google service; Google Maps selling a Google service?

    Maybe Apple gets a few bucks? Whatever. Who cares.

    Co-branding here barely helps Apple. But, more importantly it doesn’t hurt Apple. Apple seems to think that promoting ‘Intel Inside’ would.

    In case any of you’ve forgotten — and how could that ever be possible — 5% of the computers sold are Macs, and 95% are Wintel. You remember Win/tel don’t you?

    Even if Intel promoted Mactels AND Wintels, would people just ASSume that all ‘Intel Inside’ ‘PCs’ are in fact, just ‘Windows’ ‘PCs’?

    If you were to buy an AC Cobra, would you be buying a ‘sports car’ or a ‘Ford motor’?

    Would the Cobra still be a Cobra with a Chevy V8? [Yeah, it would.]

    Is the Mac still a Mac, with an Intel CPU? [Yeah, it is.]

    So, for the appropriate conclusion to this discussion: should Apple promote their car — or the maker of the engine?

  38. Charles

    Wednesday 15 August 2007 at 8:18 am

    @36 – John, you’re as much as saying that Jobs answered the wrong part of the question – or avoided answering the part about the money. (Often happens.) That’s hard to make out as a flaw in the question unless you’re saying it has to be a total laser-aimed missile of an enquiry. And Keefe was interested in the stickers, which are part of the campaign, for PC manufacturers at least. My point remains though: nobody *knew* the precise answer before. There are no stupid questions, though there are obvious yet unasked questions. This is one.

    @38 – no, the discussion isn’t about what Apple “should” do. It’s about what it *does* do, and what its reasons – as explained by its directors – are. And how you find out, and whether asking questions nobody has explicitly asked is worth doing.

    As an afterthought, Keefe won’t have just strolled into that Q+A. Apple controls who gets into them very, very tightly. Its PR people must have known he wanted to ask that question. They clearly didn’t think it would reflect badly on them, the PR folk; that Jobs wouldn’t think the guy a complete idiot. Some of the people around here do know what they’re doing – which doesn’t I’m afraid include the people who thhink Keefe’s question was “dumb”.

  39. Well I’ve been in a few Apple Q+A (asked a few questions too) and nothing said here has convinced me that his question wasn’t dumb so I clearly don’t know what I’m doing. Apologies, but I still think the question was a dumb waste of time.

  40. Charles- Did you notice that the Dynamic Duo at Two a Day deleted our last two posts?

  41. Charles- Could you e-mail me that link to the PDF? It disappeared before I clicked on it.

  42. Charles

    Thursday 16 August 2007 at 9:46 pm

    @Bob – has a GIF of the last page of the PDF of the page where I’d commented.

    For other readers – the guys at have been rowing (upstream) against BobM and I, who insist the question was not “idiotic”. And they deleted a published comment of mine, and Bob says of his. And they’re denying it. Except I got a PDF of the page *before* they deleted the stuff.

    Ah, karma. Ya gotta love it.

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