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07 Oct 11 Time to rethink the Steve Jobs iShrines?

steve jobs ishrineIsn’t the recent outpouring of emotion over the passing of Steve Jobs taking things just a little too far?  Midnight vigils at Apple stores?  Shrines? Millions of tweets, blogs, articles conferring almost saint like status on the ex Apple CEO?  Steve jobs certainly was a visionary.  Yes, he had some wonderful ideas but contrary to popular belief products such as the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad, while they may have transformed the consumer electronics market are not likely to solve world hunger, the energy crisis, the GFC, climate change or terrorism and wars.

Steve Jobs the man was apparently arrogant, selfish and inconsiderate.   While these attributes may well have helped him to find his path to success they would have been hardly likely to be endearing  to those that knew Jobs personally.  Apparently Jobs approached working relationships with a similar attitude, setting very high standards and regularly reducing to tears those who fell short of his vision.

Steve Jobs is commonly lauded as a visionary and innovator, but he is famously known for bragging about stealing others’ ideas. Possibly the most famous would be his visit to Xerox PARC in 1979. There he got his first glimpse of the mouse-driven GUI interface of the Xerox Alto, which was eventually to be implemented in the Apple Lisa and the Apple Mac.  Jobs has said that being forced out of Apple in 1985 was the best thing that ever happened to him, but it was as much his abrasive nature and his erratic and temperamental relationship with his team rather than his visionary nature that caused his downfall.  Source: Zednet

Considering this, it is rather strange that Steve Jobs will be remembered as a great visionary and innovator while Bill gates will almost certainly be remembered as the great borrower of ideas.  Steve Jobs did not write software or design chips and hardware; he employed others to do it for him.  The  highly restrictive model Jobs insisted on almost caused Apple to fade into irrelevance in the late 90s.  Apple computers are still expensive and very restricted in available software.  The limited nature of the new devices which have saved Apple from obscurity are in a way the key to their success.  An iPad is much more restricted in terms of software and user options than a windows PC but also less likely to crash.  Much less like a computer and much more like other consumer electronics.  iPhones and iPads may boast snazzy functions and elegant designs features but the restrictions mean they have been essentially dumbed down, making them more appealing to a mass market.  Your iPhone/iPad/iPod may be beautiful but it is essentially an intelligent fashion accessory.  Perhaps this is Steve Jobs’ true legacy.

So when you are holding your midnight vigil outside the Apple store or lighting candles in front of your iPhone shrine, just remember it is really your iPhone/iPad/iPod that you really love.  Had you known Steve Jobs personally  it’s unlikely you would have liked him very much at all.

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Reader's Comments

  1. |

    I think your assesment of the candle light vigils is right on.The outpouring of grief, shrines, and public expressions of loss for Mr. Jobs reminded me of media reports that came out of the DPRK after the death of Kim Jung-Il. Jobs exerted ruthless dictatorial control over the companies he ran utilizing mass media and propaganda to craft a heroic image, developing a similar cult of personality.
    The resurgence of Apple is almost completely the result of their leading the evolution of computers into consumer electronic devices. The first computer I was exposed to in grade school required much specific knowledge to employ and had a severely limited scope of use. A decade later with my first PC I found the uses expanded and the skill needed to operate it reduced. I appreciate the dumbing down of the iPad: the less time spent learning how to use it, the more I have to expand my knowledge in other arenas. I don’t want to be Mr. Scott- stuck in a Jeffries Tube (G.N.D.N.); I want to boldly go!

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