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At first I did not understand Steve’s needs

Yes, because he didn't bother to explain them. He could have been the one to explain the need for the magic 50% - just think how that could have made their meeting productive and useful - but he didn't. It was only through her contact that this was discovered. Basically, Steve Jobs was being an asshole.

I don't generally defend Jobs (he was apparently a world-class asshole in general), but the implication in the story seems to be that part of the reason he acted the way he did is because he knew other people in the company—possibly including the two people he had promised 50% to—were potentially listening to the conversation (remember, it was in a cubicle).

In other words, Steve's behavior was at least in part a performance intended to to demonstrate that he was holding up his end of the deal he had made with the developers.

[Of course, the manner he did it in was obviously still pretty obnoxious—he could easily have been much more gracious while still insisting on that number. I'm just saying there did seem to be a concrete reason underlying his actions, it wasn't just him being a jerk... ^^; ]

Seems like he could have easily had the meeting in a private conference room, where no one would be eavesdropping. Then he could have quickly and calmly explained the situation to her.

They might have been in it together. If he got fifty percent gross, that was great for him. If she almost got away, then the other guy goes after her and gets the face-saving fall-back position.

Indeed, Steve may have sent him to deliver the message that it needed to "look" like 50%. However, If you read Panic's experience with Steve, you'll see he was generally an asshole when it came to negotiation.

Problem is, that's exactly what Apple needed to deal with the music industry and exactly what it needed to deal with the wireless industry and exactly what it needs now to deal with the cable industry.

Except... he's not here to fight the good fight against the cable industry, and based on the rumors I've heard Apple is having troubles nailing down good terms with the content providers.

Good cop bad cop?

By doing things Steve's way there was a chance that he actually would get 50%. It would certainly be within Steve's personality to not care whether or not the deal actually went through.

Explaining that he wanted a fake 50% would not cast the impression that he had on people (Reality Distortion Field, they called it). That as far as we know, might very well be a key factor in his success.

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