Thursday, 6 October 2011

Jobs

I've never really liked Steve Jobs and I see no reason to start now.

However, I think the story of the rise and fall and rising again of Steve Jobs and Apple is amazing and deserves much telling. It's far more interesting than Facebook, so far.

I remember the dark days of Apple pretty well, when Guy Kawasaki leading a small band of crazy fans seemed to be all that was keeping Apple going. Those were the days of Copland, Cyberdog, OpenDoc, Dylan and Newton. I remember "The Apple engineer <unknown> has unexpectedly quit" T-shirts. I remember when Jobs returned and started shaking up Apple, scathing comments from ex-Apple employees at CMU describing him as "mentally ill". (Jim, I'm thinking of you :-).) I remember when the iPod was launched in 2001 and friends said "that'll never sell!"

I also remember when it was unthinkable that a platform vendor could dictate by fiat what applications they would and would not allow to run on their platform. I remember when the idea that a major company would wield bogus software patents to eliminate competitors was anathema.

How far we've come.

9 comments:

  1. Agreed for the most part. I do think that Steve was a fundamentally sane and visionary person though. I can't say the same for many of his fans.

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  2. I've never really liked Steve Jobs and I see no reason to start now.

    There's no account for bad taste.

    And lack of manners.

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  3. I also remember when it was unthinkable that a platform vendor could dictate by fiat what applications they would and would not allow to run on their platform.

    Really? When was that? The fifties? Because I clearly remember platforms from the Playstation and XBox to almost every mobile OS that the platform vendor dictated (and with much more draconian terms), what would run on them.

    Oh, and tons of phone platforms only run applications supplied by the vendor on the first place, i.e there was no provision for third party apps.

    (The exception being those that allowed those dreadful J2ME apps).

    I remember when the idea that a major company would wield bogus software patents to eliminate competitors was anathema.

    Bogus because you say so?

    Because I also remember that everyone copied the iPhone and then the iPad form factor and UI design AFTER it came out --and made a real profitable market for (a) apps, (b) tablets.

    But you also forgot that past when:

    1) Mobile smartphones had god awful interfaces and usability.

    2) Mobile internet browsing was useless and sub par

    3) The carriers dictated all the terms and sold awfully carrier-branded phones with useless junk on them

    4) There was no tablet market --except for 1% of weirdos buying Windows tablets with a Desktop oriented UI on them

    5) There were no full screen touch, no-stylus, gesture enabled smartphones

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  4. Right, everyone seems to want to grant him instant sainthood. For instance, CNET's reporter asked Woz if he'd compare Jobs to Einstein or Edison. Steve suppressed rolling his eyes and very diplomatically offered, "No, he was more like Disney. He wasn't a lab guy."

    Ultimately, he'll be remembered as the tenacious, aesthetic, a**hole who fought, not for form over function exactly, but tightly controlled function wrapped in even more carefully crafted, instantly intuitive form.

    I hope history paints a more balanced picture than the eulogies will, this week. Apple is Egypt. Its products are daring monuments, like the pyramids or the sphynx. However, while they were definitely inspired, in part, by its Pharaoh prince, Steve Jobs, history shouldn't forget the hoards of sweating engineers and artists that erected those monuments for us all to enjoy.

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  5. Rob, thanks for being a contrarian.

    That said, I shed some tears yesterday, because I am a huge fan of Steve Jobs, and furthermore, I owe many aspects of my life to him.

    Note that this does not mean that I agree with everything he did (or, by extension, Apple). Or that he was good at every little technical aspect of what he was involved in. But for me, he is the perfect example of someone who faced adversity and opposition, had his own ideas, and stubbornly stuck with them, failed repeatedly while bouncing back up.

    In the end, it is how he lived, as a human being, rather than any specifically technological or ideological contribution he made, that inspires me.

    I've never bought an iPod or iPhone, and scream at Apple's bad behavior all the time, so this isn't about my being a fanboy, and this isn't about Apple (remember, Jobs was not even part of Apple for a huge and important part of his life). My sadness is about Jobs the man, not Apple.

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  6. >I remember when the idea that a major company would wield bogus software patents to eliminate competitors was anathema.

    ...I remember things like Amazon's 1-Click buying patent in the late 90's...

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  7. People shouldn't confuse dislike for disrespect. I've met the man and I didn't like him either, but I respect what he's done and enabled me to do. I've been on the short end of the App Store terms & conditions and, regardless of how you feel about Steve Jobs, I think the Walled Garden is one of his lesser inventions.

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