Sunday, August 05, 2007

Fake Steve Jobs is Daniel Lyons ... and still awesome

Awww, man. The New York Times has discovered the true identity of the blogger known as Fake Steve Jobs (Tagline: Dude, I invented the friggin' iPhone. Have you heard of it?).

Here's the short story:

1) Anonymous blogger adopts persona of Steve Jobs, founder of Apple

2) Fake Steve does not hold back. Writes hilarious, bitter posts mocking, well, everyone.

3) Remainder of bloggers split two ways: a) The true identity of Fake Steve is our Holy Grail! We must find it and share its bounty! or b) Don't unmask him! You'll ruin the fun!

4) Almost a year later, Times reporter Brad Stone takes a week or so to figure it out. Here's the evidence, a combination of writing tics, location, and other slips that led to the unmasking.

5) Fake Steve owns up to being Daniel Lyons, an editor at Forbes magazine. Of course, he takes a stab at the blogosphere while he's at it:

One bright side is that at least I was busted by the Times and not Valleywag. I really, really enjoyed seeing those guys keep guessing wrong. For six months Dr. Evil and Mr. Bigglesworth put their big brains together and couldn't come up with the answer. Guy from the Times did it in a week. So much for the trope about smarty-pants bloggers disrupting old media.

I'm kind of sad, but it gives me an excuse to dump all the links I've been hoarding of Fake Steve's best posts since I started reading a few months ago:

There's the one where he shows how the iPhone can charm even the Amish.

There's the one where he explains why Apple is cutting back on iPhone production; it's to make you feel special:

[This is] a product that makes you smarter and, well, better than other people. Can't do that if everyone has one, right?

We figured we could keep things under control using our usual overpricing strategy. Who in their right mind was going to shell out 600 bucks for a friggin phone, right? Especially if it lacks all sorts of features that people really want. Just to be doubly sure we put it on the AT&T network and gave it an unbearably slow wireless connection so that Web browsing is practically impossible. Well, much to our amazement, it turns out there are just loads and loads of people willing to spend 600 bucks on a feature-lite phone as long as it has one crucial feature, which is our Apple logo on the outside. Who knew?

My personal favorite, there's the one where he tears the music industry a new one after they whined about iTunes dominating the MP3 market:

Here's the thing. These guys could have done what we did. In the early days of the Internet, everyone figured the majors would build digital distribution arms. But they didn't do it, because they didn't understand technology, and they didn't want to invest in building this expertise, and they were freaked out about piracy and paralyzed with fear. So we stepped in. We made the big investment. We hired programmers. We developed software that's easy to use and works flawlessly. (If you think that's trivial, think again. It's huge.) We ran the system. We promoted it, we marketed it, we haggled with all the majors and struck deals. We took all the risk, which was considerable. Now we're reaping the reward. And the majors want a bigger slice. Um, for what? We did all the work. Ain't gonna happen, slick.

Here's the back story. The music companies are in a dying business, and they know it. Sure, they act all cool because they hang around with rock stars. But beneath all the glamour these guys are actually operating two very low-tech businesses. One is a form of loan-sharking: they put up money to make records, then force recording artists to pay the money back with exorbitant interest. The other business is distribution. They’ve got big warehouses and they control the shipment of little plastic boxes that happen to have music in them.

The guys running the labels are pretty stupid -- most are just dirtbags who started out as band managers or promoters -- but now at long last they are kinda sorta finally vaguely getting clued in to the fact that both parts of their business model are fucked. Their loan-sharking business is being eliminated by low-cost digital recording technology that lets people make an album for very little money. And by letting us build the online music store they've taken themselves out of the distribution business. In the days of vinyl and then CDs, the labels managed to control the value chain by having loads of retailers in a highly fragmented market, and playing them off each other. In the digital world they've got us. And that's it.

Pretty brilliant, if you ask me. I hope Mr. Lyons stays this insightful post-unmasking.

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