Saturday, August 27, 2011

Forgiving the Cool Guys

From all the outpouring of praise for Steve Jobs, you would never know that he is a Grade-A jerk. This article is one of the few that says anything bad about him and it forgives him everything.

Want some examples? He denied paternity for his first child. He even swore that he was sterile and couldn't have fathered a child. He cheated his partner, Steve Wozniak back in the 1970s. They created the game Breakout and were to split the profits. Jobs got $5,000 but told Wozniak that it was $700. He does not give to charity and, because of him, neither does Apple.

How about some decisions that affect customers? Apples first computer with a GUI, the Lisa, was a flop. In order to try to save it, developers for the original Mac had to buy a Lisa. The Apple mouse only had one button for decades because Jobs insisted that two buttons was confusing. The original Mac could not have an internal hard drive because hard drives need an internal fan and Jobs forbid the design team from putting one in. Apple's control over the Mac was so tight that you violated your warranty if you attached a non-Apple printer.

Jobs was originally fired from Apple because he was doing a poor job as CEO. From there he founded two companies - Pixar and Next. Pixar prospered but Next flopped. Their original computer was only supposed to be sold to students but cost far too much for them. It also featured an optical drive that never worked. By the time Apple bought Next, it was down to selling an operating system tat no one seemed to want (except Apple which needed an upgraded operating system).

Jobs has been rumored to wander the offices after hours looking for people working late. When he found one he would demand to see what the programmer was working on. If it was not sufficiently awesome, Jobs would berate the programmer.

Jobs created a corporate culture of secrecy and control. If a leak is traced to a section, the conduct a lock-down. Everyone's phone is confiscated and searched for evidence of a leak. If it is found or a worker refuses to submit he is fired on the spot. Even low-level Genius Bar employees can be fired simply for speculating on new products.

There are no set guidelines for what is and is not allowed in the app store. Some classes of app have been removed because Jobs threw a temper tantrum. While Jobs insists that the IPhone and IPad will not play Flash because it is flawed, most outsiders think it is to block off alternate sources of content like Hulu. The IPad does not accept external memory for the same reason - control.

The IPhone and IPad are made in China in a factory with a high suicide rate. These products generate very few jobs in the US.

Given all of this, why are people saying such wonderful things about Jobs? Because he is cool. You don't run down cool people it makes you seem uncool. They could forgive Jobs nearly anything as long as he kept giving them awesome products.

That is also how Barack Obama got elected. People overlooked his partisan voting record, his racist preacher, and his complete lack of resume. It was more important to have a cool president than a competent one.

Compare Jobs with Bill Gates. Gates pulled his share of strong-arm tactics but he also built an ecosystem that allowed others to profit alongside him. Then he decided that he had enough and retired to fight malaria. Gates was never cool the way that Jobs is but he is more likeable.

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