Monday, December 17, 2007

Setting the Record Straight

Dogdammit, I'm tired of this. Apple is a corporation. Like Exxon and frigging General Electric and all the rest of them. It's a company. It's goal is to make money. Period. Would everybody please stop hand-wringing every time Apple fails to be the Salvation Army?

Steve Jobs does not operate a reality distortion field. Here's what happens. Steve thinks. He thinks about what he would like technology to allow him to do. Then he asks smart people who work for him to make that happen. When they do, he asks other smart people to make it work in a way that is easy. "Why do I have to press three buttons to do that? Could it be two buttons? One? Why do I have to wait so long? Make it quicker."

Steve Jobs is the Henry Ford of the Computer Era, maybe even of the Digital Eon. All he does is push for an increasingly simple human interface on an increasingly complex system of information and entertainment. Is he a genius? Probably not in any measurable way. He has learned a narrow band in which he flourishes. That band is computer technology.

When history writes the final chapter on SJ, in a few years, probably after I'm dead, Steve Jobs will have a glorious place in the annals of the computer age.

The personal computer was invented in a garage by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. The Apple I was a bunch of printed circuit boards in a wooden box. The next iteration – the Apple II – was the most popular personal computer in the world until the Macintosh was introduced in 1984.

Steve Jobs in those days was young and tough and full of his vision. He was also gullible. He believed that someone who was well paid by him would be true to his vision. He paid John Sculley well enough to ensure his loyalty, he thought. There isn't a "well enough" to someone who sees a higher pile to attack. Sculley failed. Steve lost. Got his ass booted out of the company he founded.

His Steveness wanted to incorporate Unix into Macs. He incorporated Unix, and PostScript for Display into NeXT computers. If you want to see the sweetest display this side of a Cinema Display, go play with a NeXT. Awesome. Microsoft still hasn't deployed anything even close, graphically, to the coolness of a NeXT box, and they haven't been running for eons.

Sculley was supposed to be a marketing guy. Sculley oversaw the licensing of Macintosh's unique features to Microsoft. Sculley turned the helm over to other who tried to license away everything that made Apple Apple. Sculley marketed the soul of the company. He and his successors nearly killed it. In 1997, Steve came back. He has tried to pull back in what was given away while creating something new that hasn't been given away. Now, he has a formidable pile of technological advances under the umbrella.

There is stuff in Apple's basement that is so cool it'd scare you that they aren't even working on this week because there are cooler things going on; things that would make you say, "Wow. They can do that?" Apple can't introduce all the cool things they have going on in the labs. Nobody would believe it.

His Steveness doesn't milk current technology for a paycheck. He sees tomorrow, easy to use. And now he has $15B cash to work the magic with.

Apple will continue to eat the technology industry like Megatron in a used car lot until the rest of the companies learn to focus on the most important aspect of technology.

Here are not the most important parts of technology:

Slashdot nerds think it's cool.
IT managers are okay with it.
The code is elegant.
Interplatform compatibility.
Microsoft certified.
Windows compliant.

Here is the most important aspect of a given piece of technology:

Joe Policelieutenant can use it easily, and it does what he needs it to do.

As long as Steve Jobs gets that, Apple's stock is going up.

Full disclosure. I bought all my Apple stock in 1999 for less than a mortgage payment. In 2010 I'll be able to sell it for enough to pay off my mortgage.

Neener. Neener. Neener.

P.S. The real reality distortion field is operated in Redmond. It's called FUD. Ignore it. They lost their technological edge a long time ago.