[there’s an Apple for that]
Before we get started I have to tell you something.
There is no such person as Santa Claus.
Okay? I did it. The second most cruel truth you can expose someone to.
What is the most cruel truth?
Steve Jobs wasn’t a tech prophet, he was only a tech profit. A Buddhist who convinced large numbers of people to indulge in premium-priced and short-product-life materialism.
Now there is nothing wrong with being a tech profit. You can make a lot of money that way. But the media is currently pushing the idea that Steve Jobs wanted everyone to be creative.
Truth is that Jobs was a brilliant marketer. (Actually, Guy Kawasaki was, but let’s slay just one myth at a time.) And the main marketing from Apple was that you were a creative savant – if you used an Apple product. Steve Jobs was anything except a guy who brought technology to the masses. In fact, Apple’s entire image is based on just the opposite: snob appeal. If you use an Apple product, you are unique, you are an individual – just like every other Apple consumer. Apple ads are designed to appeal to your inner narcissist.
In case you’ve been living under a teletype machine, here is one of Apple’s most brilliant ad campaigns that wanted you to “think different” in the biggest grammatical faux pas this side of “to boldly go where no man has gone before”:
If it hasn’t already been posted ad nauseam on your Facebook news feed, take a look at the text of this ad:
Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules, and they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify and vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as crazy, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.
Now think about Apple products. They are the most locked-down, “don’t touch this” tech gadgets known to humans. If Apple made automobiles, they would sell you the car with the hood welded shut.
In a 1985 Playboy Interview, Jobs said:
“If, for some reason, we make some giant mistakes and IBM wins, my personal feeling is that we are going to enter sort of a computer Dark Ages for about 20 years… Once IBM gains control of a market sector, they almost always stop innovation. They prevent innovation from happening.”
That’s an interesting use of the word “innovation.” Fact is Apple lost the personal computer war almost immediately because no one was allowed to innovate on their platform except Apple itself. As a result, despite their high-quality hardware, their software titles were lacking. I don’t care how brilliant your engineers are, when you end up competing against all the other programmers in the world, you just aren’t going to keep up.
And that lack of versatility in Apple’s software allowed this to happen:
So, let’s be clear: Steve Jobs didn’t bring computers to the masses. Not by a long shot. In fact, it was his rigid control of everything that impeded Apple’s sales except in a few niche markets. (And it’s because these niche markets are so media-heavy that you have all the Steve Jobs stories out this week.)
Apple’s big innovation was, of course, to make the user interface palatable to those intimidated by technology. And, indeed, this was a great idea… but one hard to protect. When Microsoft came out with their own graphical user interface, Apple tried to slap them with a lawsuit for copying. The irony is that Apple was then slapped with a similar lawsuit for having copied their user interface from Xerox (which originally developed the concept but didn’t see fit to market it).
Apple lost the lawsuit.
So, Apple had a locked-down computer system where its greatest innovation couldn’t be deemed protected intellectual property. Not surprisingly, Apple almost ended up out of the computer business. Things turned around when Steve Jobs applied the same user interface trick to the electronic media player. Thus the iPod was begat and Apple was back on the road to recovery. (It also didn’t hurt that Jobs was able to convince the music industry to license their music. Here, perhaps is one way that Jobs changed the world: by getting behemoth corporations to move to the digital age… but only after Napster and peer-to-peer networking had already destroyed their business models.)
And then… the iPhone was born. Apple developed a smart phone with a really nice, but not protectable, user interface.
But did Jobs “think different” from the last time? Nope! Again the iPhone was in a locked-down mode. And I mean literally locked down: you couldn’t even replace the battery in the original version and still can’t conveniently do it in the later ones (so much for the hip, creative Apple customers being green) .
And that’s not all: The iPhone had all kind of wonderfulness that was intentionally not available. An example of this was that the original iPhone couldn’t take video. Except you could, if you hacked it. You see, the hardware perfectly supported such a function…
… but Steve didn’t want you to have it.
Why? I don’t know. I do know that with each iteration of the iPhone operating system, Apple purposely tried to prevent people from unlocking these features… and fouling those ill-begotten features if a person already jail broke their phone.
“Think different”? More like “My way or the highway.”
Early versions of the iPhone operating system didn’t even have a cut-and-paste feature. Kind of a basic function when you think about it – and already available on other smart phones. When I complained about it, people actually told me that Steve didn’t think it would enhance the experience. Seriously. They actually spoke as if they knew dear leader personally. I was supposed to accept what Steve allowed me to have and if he thought I would cut myself on virtual scissors, I was supposed to accept that. (Maybe if I promised never to run and hold my iPhone at the same time…)
To stem and control the tide of all this (warranty-voiding!) user development, Apple set up their “app store”. There, developers could write programs for iOS – and even sell them, after giving Apple 30% of the take. Only problem is that no one knows why a particular app is approved or disapproved by Apple. And you could only find out after you developed the app and submitted it. So much for promoting innovation. Reminds me of the days when Apple rigidly controlled everything that went on their computers. Stifling innovation.
Apple as the new IBM. Or the old one.
So, in the end, I had to “think different”. I tossed my iPhone. Today, I use an Android.
It seems like a lot of people are thinking different just like me. I’m not sure Steve Jobs would be happy about that.
Update (March 29, 2012): BusinessWeek discusses the obsession that Jobs had with defeating Android. Meanwhile: “While Apple remains the world’s most valuable business, as measured by market capitalization, and its iPad dominates rival tablets, Android has blown past Apple’s share of the phone operating-system business. Phones with Android software accounted for nearly 51.6 percent of smartphone shipments worldwide in the final quarter of 2011, according to research firm Canalys. The iPhone had 23.4 percent.”
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