Putting 'A Brain In A Beaker'

Steve jobs took time from his product-launch preparations in Cupertino, Calif., to talk with Steven Levy of NEWSWEEK about Apple's future--and his own. Excerpts:

NEWSWEEK: Last January you dropped the "interim" from your CEO title. Has this had any impact?
No, even when I first came and wasn't sure how long I'd be here, I made decisions for the long term. The reason I finally changed the title was that it was becoming sort of a joke. And I don't want anything at Apple to become a joke.

You've surprised a lot of people by successfully innovating in hardware.
There's a lot of people predicting the fading of the PC in importance. We believe quite the opposite. We believe a lot of the industry's been in a coma the last several years. Apple was in a coma, too, a few years ago, but we're back to innovating again.

So why aren't others innovating with new PCs?
Most of the people running the companies don't love PCs. Does Steve Ballmer love PCs? Does [Intel CEO] Craig Barrett love PCs? Does Michael Dell love PCs? If he wasn't selling PCs he'd be selling something else! We have this incredible, unshakable belief that if we make the coolest computers, make them more affordable, more powerful, that we're going to be successful.

The G4 Cube reminds a lot of people that your previous company, Next, also made a cube-shaped machine.
Yeah, we did one before. Cubes are very efficient spaces. What makes this one [special] for me is not the fact that it's a cube but it's like a brain in a beaker. It's just hanging from this perfectly clear, pristine crystal enclosure. That's what's so drop dead about it. It's incredibly functional. The whole thing is perfect.

Now that the dot-com craze is fading, is Apple again the best place to work in the Valley?
Oh yeah. In the industry and in the Valley. I'm not going to criticize anyone for starting a company, but the sad thing to me is business plans where right away the exit strategy is to sell out to another company. I look at that and go, "Yeah, you can make some money but what have you created at the end of the day that's lasting?" That's made me sad. And I think that's coming to an end.

In talking about your new products, you seem as intense as you've ever been.
I love this stuff! I've been doing this almost my whole life. We're total fanatics about this stuff! Just like BMW and Mercedes, and Porsche, we're like that! Each thing we do, we ask, "How can we do this again?" There are things on the horizon [at Apple] that are exactly in this league.

Rumors have recirculated about you becoming CEO of Disney. Is there anything about running a media giant that appeals to you?
I was thinking of giving you a witty answer like, "Isn't that what I'm doing now?" But no, it doesn't appeal to me at all. I'm a product person. I believe it's possible to express your feelings and your caring about things from your products, whether that product is a computer system or "Toy Story II." It's wonderful to make a pure expression of something and then make a million copies. Like the G4 Cube. There will be a million copies of this out there.