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“I’m coming to Paros.” Hearing those words was much scarier than you’d think.
During the spring and summer of 2006, Steve Jobs was negotiating with Fox and other studios to expand iTunes from selling digital music and TV shows to selling feature films. I had known Steve for several years, and as usual, he had very strong views — in this instance, about how movies on iTunes should be priced, marketed and presented to his growing base of devoted followers.
Unfortunately, many of those views were inconsistent with existing media, and as was often the case, he thought the studio guys were Luddites (if not idiots). I was one of them.
We spent many hours on the phone and in person hashing out ways to reconcile the new offering with our concerns about it. We were very eager to make it work — but nowhere near as eager as Steve, who wanted to corral all the studios and make one of his bold and exciting announcements, which he’d scheduled for September. We wanted to change things; he wanted to change them now.
We argued and debated back and forth into the summer, and as August arrived, we remained a fair distance apart. So, as a respite from Relentless Steve, I sneaked off to my annual retreat on the tiny island of Antiparos, near Paros in Greece.
I thought I was safe. But not from Steve. He stalked me, eventually sending this e-mail:
From: Steve Jobs
Date: Sat, 26 Aug 2006 16:51:12 -0700
To: Jim Gianopulos
Cc: Steve Jobs
Subject: I’m coming to Paros
We need to talk and if that’s not possible over the phone or via e-mail, then I need to come to Paros and go for a walk on the beach with you and resolve this. The time is now to begin creating a new online distribution vehicle for movies, and Apple is the company to do it. I need your help.
How do I find you once I get to the airport on Paros?
He never made it to Paros, but we eventually made a deal, and it evolved into a great friendship, one that I will always cherish.
A couple of years later, Steve invited me to join him at MacWorld to announce the launch of VOD on iTunes, which we had also worked on together. It was a serious badge of honor for a civilian, but it petrified me. In the green room, before Steve went onstage to present to the 6,000 people hanging on his every word, I told him, “I don’t know how you do it, walking back and forth out there for an hour with no notes or teleprompter in front of all those people.” He said, “It’s easy, you just imagine you have a few friends sitting around your living room and you’re telling them what’s new.”
I used that advice that day, and in every public speech since. But no one did it like Steve, because he knew what those 6,000 people and millions more wanted, even before they did.
Steve really loved music, and he knew it well. After he recovered from his liver transplant in Memphis, he told me that his first outing from the hospital was to visit Sun Records, which he thought was awesome because it was the birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll.
Months later, I found an original Sun Records recording of Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On” and gave it to Steve for his birthday. My friend Steve Bing had it autographed to him by Jerry Lee, and he was thrilled. That really captured the Steve Jobs I knew: The guy who revolutionized the way we enjoy music in the 21st century thought having a vintage 45 from the mid-’50s was the coolest thing ever.
I last spoke to Steve a few weeks ago when he called a couple of days after he had resigned from Apple. I had sent him an e-mail congratulating him for finally quitting his day job. He sounded frail but was still energetic and had lots of new ideas and plans. We talked for a while about politics, music, our families and, of course, business. At one point, he said: “Hey, do me a favor, will you? Don’t let what happened to the music business happen to yours — keep coming up with better ways to provide people with your content.”
I couldn’t tell whether it was more “Think Different” advice I’d gotten so often in the past or a legacy request from someone who had spent decades giving people better ways to work, play, live and, of course, enjoy entertainment. But it doesn’t matter.
We all owe it to Steve to do that. We’ll just miss him telling us how.
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