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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Steve Jobs: Inside the Inbox of Apple's CEO

Posted By on Wed, Nov 23, 2011 at 7:55 AM

click to enlarge Steve Jobs also had a way with words
  • Steve Jobs also had a way with words

Mark Milian, a tech writer for CNN.com, released his e-book yesterday titled Letters to Steve: Inside the E-mail Inbox of Apple's Steve Jobs, which chronicles -- among many things -- the prickly side of Jobs that we all found so endearing.

In an interview with SF Weekly, Milian tells us how he reviewed more than 100 e-mail exchanges between Jobs and customers, some of whom were fans, and others who wrote to tell Jobs where he could shove his latest piece of technology. Regardless of the content, the fact that a CEO who was about as famous as Thomas Edison would take the time to respond to any kind of customer e-mails was fascinating in itself, Milian tells us.

"He was this high-powered rock star executive who would take the time to directly respond to e-mails from people he didn't know -- from

fans, customers, and people who would write combative messages, and he took the

time to sit down and write his own snarky comment back, " Milian says. "He would always end with a little jab -- and that's what made reading those so funny."

You will find a good example of Jobs' jabs in this e-mail exchange below dated Nov. 30, 2010 -- a year before Jobs died. 

To: Steve Jobs

Steve,
Why no airplay support for 1st gen. apple TV? I payed good money for this device.

To: Nate
From: Steve Jobs
Date: November 30, 2010 9:39:59 PM CST

It's different technology. It does everything it did when you bought it.
Sent from my iPhone

Here's another zinger:

From: Tristan
To: Steve Jobs

Subject: FWD: I inadvertently purchased this application, Follow up: 125884990
Date: November 12, 2010 9:49 AM
What a sham. I downloaded the wrong version (there are 3 different versions of this game in the app store) and don't want this one. Where in your terms does it say a customer must pay for an item they don't want, downloaded by mistake and was confused about which version it was?

Sigh.

Tristan

From: Steve Jobs
To: Tristan
Subject: Re: I inadvertently purchased this application, Follow up: 125884990
Date: November 12, 2010 9:51 AM

9 refunds already....  Who's the sham now?
Sent from my iPad

So the obvious question at this point is how did the average Apple user even have Jobs' personal e-mail? Even after months of research, Milian couldn't say for sure.

"I

don't know how it started, maybe someone guessed it, but people have been messaging him at sjobs@apple.com since 1997," Milian explains. "Maybe someone found it out, or took a shot in the dark, but it got out there, and it became more available over the years."

He would also reply from other addresses, including sjobs@pixar.com, steve@mac.com, and theceo@apple.com.

While Apple insiders and tech geeks might have already known that Jobs was an interactive CEO, Milian says he is sure many people will be surprised to learn just how accessible Jobs really was. Apple officials wouldn't tell Milian how many e-mails Jobs received per day or how many he actually responded to, but the number of e-mails he received over the "antennaegate" iPhone 4 episode alone was telling; Milian guessed that Jobs' inbox must have been crammed with hundreds of e-mails daily.

"Over the years, people published [the e-mails they sent to Jobs] online -- and it was a race to see who could get an e-mail from Steve, who would he

respond to first?" Milian says.

After writing a short article about this Apple subculture for the LA Times a few years ago, Milian became fascinated by Jobs' unusual availability and his pithy messages. So he began researching, poring though hundreds of the most interesting e-mails he could find. He also interviewed experts who talked about whether Jobs hurt or helped his cause by being so available to customers.

"[The book] is a mix of the history of Steve Jobs over the last 14 years -- 

it starts at his return to Apple because there was no e-mail before then," Milian says. "Then it chronicles how Steve responded directly to people and his thinking in

the moment straight from his inbox."

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About The Author

Erin Sherbert

Erin Sherbert

Bio:
Erin Sherbert has been Online News Editor for SF Weekly since 2010. She's a Texas native and has a closet full of cowboy boots to prove it.

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