Wrong premise equals wrong conclusion

Story: Steve Jobs: a reality checkTotal Replies: 13
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Aug 27, 2011
10:43 PM EDT
Sam Varghese starts off on the wrong foot here and heads way down the wrong path in this article. He says, "Hard-core journalists appear to have put all their scepticism aside and wallowed in trying to outdo each other in superlatives." Without examples, forgive me if I'm a bit skeptical.

He goes on to say that, "While people continue to paint him as some kind of technical genius, the truth is that Jobs is nothing of the sort." From what I read so far, no one in the tech press has done that; the mainstream press, perhaps, but again from what I've read in non-tech papers, this hasn't been the case. In fact, they go out of their way to state the case that Jobs was a trend-setter in the tech industry.

In fact, Jobs NOT being a technical genius is clearly not news -- it never has been. People who have followed Apple since the early days know Steve Wozniak was always the tech guy at the top of Apple, and Jobs the marketeer.

Like him or not, agree with him or not, respect him or not, Jobs was at his best in formulating a vision of what people would want in consumer computing, and assembled the people to make it happen. So when Sam takes Jobs to task because he was not a "technical wizard" and says that Apple was built on the backs of Woz, Hertzfeld, Raskin, et al., he's not being fair to the man who brought all these people together, let alone to a man who is responsible, for better or worse, for conceiving much of the trend-setting electronics coming from Cupertino.

True, Jonathan Ive designed the iMac, but Mr. Ive didn't wake up one morning and say, while shaving, "Hmmm, I think I'll design a computer today, an all-in-one, but instead of beige, I'm going to make it Bondi Blue." He was given the task of translating Jobs' vision of the iMac. Same with the Jon Rubenstein and the iPod, as well as Ive again with the iPad -- they took the boss' vision and instruction and executed them both until they became the product you see at your favorite electronics store.

[Sam also says that Rubenstein and Ive don't get credit for producing these machines, and that's complete nonsense. The fact of the matter is that the press is full of stories about these two and their creating the iPod and iPad respectively.]

So, Sam is right that Steve Jobs didn't contribute on a technical level to the success of Apple, but what Jobs did do was far more historic and his contributions to tech were fairly unsurpassed: For better or worse, the direction that consumer digital electronics have taken has been led, especially in the '90s and oughts, by what has come out of Cupertino thanks to Jobs' vision of how things should be. Regardless of whether he was right or wrong, they set the trends that were followed.

[The only thing Steve Jobs was wrong about -- other than clamping down so hard on closing Apple software, hardware and services that he makes Steve Ballmer look like Richard Stallman -- is that he was wrong to dump the Newton. That was a great platform, axed in large part because it wasn't Jobs' concept. It was solid and I still have one. Besides, Steven Segal used one in a couple of his movies, and he could have never -- never -- saved the world with a Palm Pilot.]

Also, Steve Jobs would not step down unless he was really ill, and talking to folks who know pancreatic cancer well, they seem to think that Jobs may not make it past Halloween. So Sam setting up Steve Jobs and swinging away at him like a pinata lacks a certain something . . . what's it called? Oh yeah: Class.


Aug 28, 2011
8:59 AM EDT
An almost perfect summation, lcafiero . Steve Jobs provided the most essential thing a company needs from its CEO, leadership. And he did it in a manner which made it look easy. Only the best can do that.

Aug 28, 2011
9:39 AM EDT
Steve Jobs is the one who benefitted most from being kicked out of Apple by John Scully and his cabal.

It provided him with perspective, in addition to his vision.

This was obvious when he returned and provided both vision and focus. No more mere exercises in technology, like the Lisa and Next.

For the same reason that excellent authors still require brutal editors who will tell them "Sorry, get rid of two or three chapters, this drags", to provide perspective. Otherwise one ends up with "The Witches of Mayfair" where somewhere in the middle I skipped 80 or so pages and didn't miss a thing.

Aug 28, 2011
12:28 PM EDT
Varghese is right about one thing-- the press coverage has been nauseating. They're running eulogies while he is still alive, and portraying him as an oversized saint who saved humanity. He is brilliant, maybe even a genius, and nobody should have to suffer the kind of health problems he's dealing with. But he's still just another sociopathic robber baron who wants he wants regardless of the cost to others. And not even the kind that polishes his legacy with philanthropy, because he does not believe in philanthropy.

This charming little worship piece originally ran in February on Business Insider, so naturally HuffPo recycled it for the occasion:

10 Unusual Things You Didn't Know About Steve Jobs http://www.huffingtonpost.com/james-altucher/steve-jobs-resi...

Quoting: 4) He denied paternity on his first child, claiming he was sterile. The other had to initially raise the kid using welfare checks. I have no judgment on this at all. Raising kids is hard...

6) He doesn't give any money to charity. And when he became Apple's CEO he stopped all of their philanthropic programs. He said, "wait until we are profitable". Now they are profitable, and sitting on $40b cash, and still not corporate philanthropy. I actually think Jobs is probably the most charitable guy on the planet. Rather than focus on which mosquitoes to kill in Africa (Bill Gates is already focusing on that), Jobs has put his energy into massively improving quality of life with all of his inventions...

That's the worst one I've seen, though the rest are not far behind. Abuses at the overseas Apple manufacturing plants, how he and Gates back in their early days used to brag about the numbers of divorces they caused by working people too hard, turning Apple into a paranoid litigious control freak...do be real, plz people.


Aug 28, 2011
1:12 PM EDT
[The link above needs to be fixed -- I think it's missing an "n" in huffingtonpost-dot-com -- at least that's how I got to the story]

Well, I've only read what was in the business sections of newspapers -- not Business Insider, but the New York Times and Wall Street Journal -- and found them fairly informative, and they didn't brand him a saint. I am certainly not claiming that he is, either. While I was not aware of the philanthropy thing (though aware of most of the others on the list), the abuses in manufacturing plants is certainly out there in the mainstream press.

My original point, way too verbosely put above (and I promise not to blog about this one), is that Sam Varghese stressed in his article that Jobs didn't invent anything on a technical level (though the link above says he made "Breakout," which is interesting), so he's not deserving of accolades given to him. That's fundamentally incorrect. Raskin, Hertzfield, Ive and Rubenstein wouldn't have made the products that came out of Cupertino on their own -- Jobs was the catalyst behind these products, again for better or worse.

Let's be real indeed, but let's not focus on minutiae at the expense of the bigger picture.

Aug 28, 2011
1:28 PM EDT
You're right Larry, Varghese went too far in portraying Jobs as nothing special. He is very special. Most of the coverage has been slobberingly worshipful, maybe you need to read more lowbrow rags like I do :)

Link fixed.

Aug 28, 2011
2:00 PM EDT
No more special than any other captain of industry, warts and all. I will widen my circle of news reading to include lowbrow rags (like maybe the one for which I work?) :-)

Thanks for fixing the link.

Aug 28, 2011
4:54 PM EDT
To a degree seldom achieved in real life, Steve Jobs=Thomas Edison: same extraordinary success in monetizing the works of others (and the same reluctance to acknowledge the debt), not to mention the same ruthless bullying of the opposition.

Aug 28, 2011
7:09 PM EDT
That's an excellent comparison, albinard.

Aug 28, 2011
7:22 PM EDT
> That's an excellent comparison, albinard.

Agreed. It's a quite apt comparison.

Aug 29, 2011
3:14 PM EDT
I concur. The comparison is very fitting.

Aug 29, 2011
5:41 PM EDT
Y'all are completely welcome to disagree from here to Sunday.

Personally, I have tremendous respect for Steve Jobs. Not only did he kick in the proceeds from selling his personal VW microbus to get Apple off the ground, he brought the company back from the dead years later.

Hell, it took quite a pair to ink the deal with the Redmond devil that gave his company the breathing room it needed.

Say what you will about Jobs, Apple's hit a lot of home runs with him at the helm. Seems to me some other companies have thrown lots of cash and resources into the pile to give us Zunes and Pontiac Azteks and New Coke.

If all he did was get out of the way when good stuff was a brewin', he would stand head and shoulders above a lot of head honchos.


Aug 29, 2011
6:00 PM EDT
We're whining about the over-the-top adulation from the lamestream media, dino, not arguing that Jobs is just a Joe the Plumber who got lucky.


Aug 29, 2011
7:34 PM EDT
@tc -

I don't mind the adulation. From Apple to Pixar to Next, Jobs has been associated with an awful lot of insanely great stuff. That ain't no accident.

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