Tuesday, December 18, 2007


Of course Steve Jobs is a genius. I only questioned that in the last post to see if anybody was paying attention. When the history of the twentieth century is finally tallied up, Steve Jobs will rightfully be assigned a place next to Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, and Henry Ford.

He isn't infallible. He's made some mistakes. His big mistake was doubting his own abilities and being unsure of his own judgment. In other words, in the moment where he failed to be sufficiently arrogant, he faltered.

He thought he needed a "marketing guy." He hired John Sculley away from Pepsi. Apple never needed a "marketing guy." Apple needed to continue to push the boundaries of technology. When I bought my shiny new SE in the spring of 1987, it was the bitchingest, coolest computer I'd ever seen. His Steveness had been out of the picture at Apple for a little over a year. Apple managed to stay in business for twelve Steveless years by producing incremental improvements to Mac.

That survival wasn't because the company did anything right. It was because the Mac started out so far ahead of everything else; because nobody saw any reason to compete with Apple's pathetic market share and lousy marketing. Apple was no more of a threat to Microsoft than Commodore or Atari were. Apple took some of the punditbots' advice and licensed the OS, allowed clones, all the idiotic crap they're being called upon by morons to do again now. It almost killed the company. I'll bet half a can of Deluxe Mixed Nuts (I haven't eaten all of the cashews yet) that El Jobso won't make those mistakes again.

Mr. Steve came back in '97 and put the kibosh on all that horseshit. He brought everything back in house and kicked the innovation machine back into gear. He killed the hapless Newton with its ginchy handwriting recognition. He commissioned the original iMac. He brought Unix and NextStep. He commissioned the iPod.

Steve Jobs did things that made the entire rest of the tech industry go, "Huh?." He discontinued the most successful product in the company's lineup, the iPod mini, and replaced it with an unknown quantity, the Nano. The Nano kicked ass.

He replaced the original iMac with a desk lamp mounted on half a basketball. It rocked. Then he discontinued that to replace it with the next generation of iMac, and the next.

He decided to make the jump from Power PC processors to Intel chips. Everybody said the announcement would cannibalize PPC computer sales. It didn't. Everybody said the Intel jump would cause problems for the company trying to support two versions of its OS. They were wrong.

Everybody still says Macs are more secure from malware because they represent a small percentage of the installed base. That isn't just kinda wrong; it's ninety-nine and forty-four one hundredths percent pure bullshit. It floats. OS X is more secure than Windows for the same reason that a locked door is more secure than a man picking a scab on his shin in a prison shower.

Steve Jobs created from nothing the fastest growing business in American business history in the late seventies and early eighties. He left. Apple foundered. He came back, Apple is once again a juggernaut. Coincidence?

Yeah, you could believe that. But if I were you, I'd just leave that scab alone and let it heal on its own.