SAN FRANCISCO — Apple CEO Steve Jobs was the subject of some gentle ribbing here at Macworld Expo, the same show at which he and Apple launched numerous products over the years.
Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) made shockwaves among Mac fans last year when the company announced it would not participate in the iconic Apple-oriented event anymore.
Still, Jobs and company remained firmly in focus here today, as New York Times tech columnist, satirist and Apple fan David Pogue headlined a keynote session replete with inside jokes and even a few shots at archrival Microsoft.
For instance, Pogue — who’s been criticized at times as being too much of an Apple fanboy — bounded on stage, screaming and jumping up and down in an homage to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and the executive’s famous “monkey dance” performed years ago at a Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) sales event.
Pogue was later joined by the team behind Auto-Tune the News, which uses Auto-Tune and Apple’s Final Cut software to change news footage of commentators, politicians and celebrities to make it appear as if they’re singing, among other comical edits. A brief remix clip of Steve Jobs at the iPad unveiling made it look like he was dancing as he repeated the phrase “up, down, sideways” while holding the iPad.
Pogue also did a funny bit made up of entries he solicited from readers for fake iPhone apps.
One was iRumor, a kind of Magic 8-Ball app that provides answers to various rumors about Apple that will be familiar to anyone who follows the Apple rumor sites. Shake the iPhone and one of several answers will appear: Yes, No, Maybe, Never, Third Quarter and “Shake, but not so hard.”
iPhone user Scott Squires submitted two apps for people stuck at the DMV or waiting to get through airport security. Grass Grow shows a bunch of grass growing in real time, while the other, Paint Dry — well you get the idea.
The faux iPreg includes a USB urine probe as part of its pregnancy testing.
Nuance, the company behind the DragonDictate speech recognition line of software, had some fun with Dragon Mind Dictation which starts with a screen that reads “Tap here and think.” A Twilight Zone-esque swirl appears while the program reads your mind and then displays the results: “Oh, I have to pee really bad. I hope no one notices,” it read as Pogue registered mock astonishment.
The presentation finished with a surprise appearance by LeVar Burton of Star Trek fame, who said he’s a geek and Mac fan and hadn’t been paid to participate. Burton said he’d just launched a new media production company, Burton/Wolfe, which is working on movies, TV shows and other productions designed to appear “wherever there is a screen.”
Asked about the iPad, however, Burton said it’s the first new thing from Apple he doesn’t feel compelled to run out and buy. “I just don’t think I need it. I have an iPhone and an eReader already,” he said.
Next page: Geordi La Forge plays Steve Jobs?
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Geordi La Forge plays Steve Jobs?
Burton joined Pogue, the AutoTune the News group and a few others on stage in a production of a satirical play Pogue wrote based on It’s a Wonderful Life. The premise was what would happen if Steve Jobs gave up on Apple back in 1997 when the company was failing and Microsoft won?
Jobs, played by Levar Burton, copied the original story line by trying to commit suicide after being challenged by Mr. Potter-Gates to shut down his company.
“I’ve always wanted to play Steve Jobs,” Burton said to laughs.
A mock flyer for the production showed Steve Jobs face, in place of Jimmy Stewart’s, hugging the original co-star Donna Reed.
“I run everything in this town but Apple computer. I’ve been trying to get control of it or kill it but haven’t been able to,” says Potter-Gates.
Meanwhile Jobs finds out Uncle Gilly (former Apple CEO Gil Amelio) has lost $1.7 billion and he runs out in a panic, almost knocking over a woman who screams: “Watch where you’re going you creepy, vegan maniac.”
An angry mob outside Apple confronts Jobs saying they want to buy PCs that sell for $400 and have all the cool games instead of more expensive Macs.
One Apple fan pleads with Jobs, “No , if Potter-Gates wins, you’ll have to pay for his crappy upgrades forever.”
But Jobs follows the script and tries to commit suicide by hurling himself off a bridge, only to be saved by a guardian angel named Claris who shows him what life would be like without Apple.
Entering Martini’s bar, he sees two people “that look like math professors” using computers running DOS.
“Oh yes, it’s DOS, version, 25.01, the latest version,” says Claris. “There’s no such thing as Windows because there was never a Mac interface for Microsoft to copy.”
Instead of 78 percent of the country using computers “only 9 percent do because the graphical user interface, computers are too complicated to be popular.” And the concepts spun off or inspired by the GUI, like the World Wide Web, never happen.
Marc Andreesen, who created the Netscape browser? He’s working at Burger King in Cincinnati, goes the script.
In the end, Jobs sees he needs to keep Apple going and history plays out the way it was meant to, or as the narrator said:
“People are lining up for days to buy Apple products, they don’t ask questions they just buy and say ‘count me in’.”
The crowd ate it all up as Microsoft is often a favorite whipping boy among the Mac faithful. But the script plays a bit fast and loose with history. Apple itself was actually inspired to employ a graphical user interface replacing text by Xerox after Jobs saw the first GUI on a workstation there. Microsoft has also said it was inspired by Xerox in developing Windows and some of its key early designers worked at Xerox where the GUI was created. But Apple, under then CEO John Sculley, did try unsuccessfully to sue Microsoft over claims it illegally borrowed from the Mac interface.