Check out the line that’s forming outside our store in San Francisco as of this morning. And yes, I’m freaking out a little bit and maybe even worried that we’ve raised expectations a little too high. I mean, yes, I did say recently that “This will be the most important thing I’ve ever done.” But was I talking about the slate? Or about the fact that I’m about to bone AT&T in the rump with extreme prejudice? Because honestly this AT&T thing has become ridiculous. The calls are dropping faster than Chuck Phillips’ reputation. It’s so bad that last Friday I finally gave up and sent Phil Schiller out to buy me an extra phone that I can use for making phone calls. (It’s a Samsung Smooth, runs on the Verizon network, and it’s not bad, in case you’re wondering, and I know you are.)
Anyway, I hate you, AT&T. I hate you almost as much as I hate Eric Schmidt. And that’s saying something.
But I digress. Let’s talk about this new device.
Yes, it will transform the media business, and by “transform” I mean it will put me in charge of it, the way the iPod put me in charge of the music industry. Yes, it will destroy cable TV and utterly transform the 60-year-old television industry, and again, by “transform,” I mean I’ll be in charge, because I’ll be the guy from whom you buy your shows — I’ll be the guy with whom the consumer forms a relationship. I’ll be the guy who has your credit card on file. So the cable carriers are dead.
As for the broadcast networks? Well, um, for now we make deals with them to get their content into our store. But eventually we just hollow them out from the inside, until everyone figures out that there’s no reason for them to exist anymore. Because really, what purpose does NBC serve, except to be, in and of itself, a form of entertainment — a comedy of errors, like some movie where the Three Stooges get put in charge of a corporation.
But seriously, what does a broadcast network do? One part of their business is distribution. Okay, that’s gone. Another part is selling ads. Check that one off the list. So what’s left? What’s left is they’re taste-makers and they’re bankers. If you want to make a show you go pitch your idea to a bunch of assheads from the network who sit there and decide whether to loan you money. Then the same assheads watch your pilot and decide whether to make it a series. But seriously, these people are assheads! The whole Conan thing is proof enough. Yet they remain the gate-keepers. Why is this? Right now there’s only one reason and it’s because they have money. But come on. How hard is it to get money? And they’ve still got an audience. But that’s going away quickly. The whole model is going to fragment into a million tiny pieces — all of them sold by me.
See, what I figured out back in the 1970s was that all media would become digital. This seems obvious now but it wasn’t then, unless, like me, you happened to be (a) a genius; and (b) using psychedelic drugs. What happened was that one night Randy Wigginton got hold of some blotter acid that he said was made at this lab run by the Hells Angels in San Bernardino. We each ate a blotter and sat down to play chess and wait to get off. About an hour later we were lifting off like crazy, I mean it felt like someone had hold of you by the back of your collar and was just pulling you forward, and these guys we knew came over and they were about five hours into a trip on the same acid, and they asked us how much we’d done and we told them we each took a tab and they were like, Dude, that shit is four-way acid, you’re supposed to tear it in half and then in half again and take just a quarter of a blotter, because we all took just a quarter tab and we’re higher than shit right now and holy shit man you guys are either gonna see God or you’re gonna end up in a fucking mental institution or both.
Well, we tripped for seventy-two hours. And we saw God. Or I did, anyway. Randy spent most of the next two days hiding under his bed. But that’s when I could see it. We were already making a personal computer. And yes, it was primitive. Like, super primitive. But you could see where things were going. It was just there, the next 50 years, laid out in front of me. Digital music. Digital phone calls. Movies, TV, magazines, newspapers. Everything just melts from analog forms into streams of digital bits, and the bits go squirting down a wire and get reconstituted at the other end back into their analog form. And if everything becomes a digital bitstream, then every device becomes a computer. Your phone, your TV, your record player, your newspaper. I mean I could just see it. Whoever is making computers is going to just branch out and start making everything in your home. It was just obvious. I mean it was crazy silly obvious. It was so obvious that I figured maybe everybody knew this and I was just so high on acid that I thought I’d invented something new when really it was old. (It happens, trust me. Like one time I wrote down all these ideas when I was doing mushrooms and next day when I read my notebook it turned out I’d “invented” the pay phone.)
But by the end of the week when the Hells Angels acid had worn off I thought some more about this “everything becomes a computer, a computer becomes everything” idea and I realized it was right on, and that for whatever reason, like mass hypnosis or something, nobody else was seeing this. So then it was just a matter of hanging around, building a company, and keeping it alive long enough for the underlying technologies to evolve and make the vision possible.
And now here we are. If I don’t win the Nobel Prize this year, I’ll be stunned. Honestly. It’s that big.