Indian Computer Science (CS) & Information Technology (IT) Academic Reform Activism Consolidated Blog Document

Steve Jobs: Some Criticism and Some Defense

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Steve Jobs: Some Criticism and Some Defense

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Last Updated On 23rd October 2011

A friend sent a few links which were partly critical of Steve Jobs. I have given my views (extracted from email exchanges) below the links.

FOX Studio head on SJ:

Driven, wasn't he? Threatening to collar a business partner by flying down to Greece and interrupt his holiday!!!

My experience of industry was that it is these driven guys who can handle the heat of the top seats. Otherwise the competition just walks over you.

From a human point of view, such a driven life, completely mucks up family life. They call it 'sacrifice' - I don't know whether that is the right word. I think Steve Jobs' family life was not that great - towards his end he seemed to regret that he did not spend enough time with his kids. IMHO, that's a TERRIBLE PRICE to pay for FAME & SUCCESS.

New York Times article, "Against Nostalgia": 

Steve Jobs was a tough business nut but I really don't recall any top business tycoon who was not.

"Today there is no tech company that looks more like the Big Brother from Apple’s iconic 1984 commercial than Apple itself, a testament to how quickly power can corrupt. ". I disagree but then I am not closely following the business. IBM was HUGE. To get an idea the saying in the late 80's (when I got exposed to IBM's dominance) was that "You can't get fired for buying IBM". [Update: A friend argued that Apple had, at a particular point of time, near-monopoly (88%) in the US legal music download business. That market-share reduced later on.]

Apple may have tremendous net worth or whatever they use to judge a company's financial strength but even in the phone business you have Nokia, Samsung, Motorola, LG, Sony-Ericsson etc. Is the market share of Apple's iPhone anywhere close to the dominance that IBM had in the mainframe business in the 80's? I doubt, though I do not have the numbers, so I can't be sure. But I got some info. that half a million Android devices are being activated per day!! That will seriously worry me if I am an Apple management guy.

About the Apple lock-ins. Well, I think it is a fair deal. You don't like the lock-in - don't buy Apple. Buy Creative, Sony, Nokia .... You want Apple - accept the lock-in. That's the way he ensured Apple made enough money to be able to continue to build those fantastic products. It is like how Drug companies make huge money on successful products (like anti-cancer products) for a stipulated amount of time (till the copyright or whatever the equivalent is called in the pharma industry runs out). This pays for their R&D and takes care of the losses of many failed products.

I accept Apple lock-ins for both iPod Nano & iPod Touch. I do crib about it but the bottom line is that I am willing to pay the lock-in price for the fantastic value of these devices. And, if I get too bugged about it I can always shift to another vendor like Creative, for example. It is just nowhere close to a MONOPOLY like what IBM and AT&T enjoyed in the past. You could not turn to anybody else - REALLY. Like what BSNL was in the past in India.

About appalling labour conditions in China - [Update: My earlier comments on this were strongly contested by a friend. I feel it is not appropriate for this blog to get into sensitive labour conditions matters, so have deleted my earlier comments.]

"We would also see a man who in the end failed to “think different,” in the deepest way, about the human needs of both his users and his workers. " [Update: Watered down my original comment.] Maybe Steve Jobs drove his workers hard. Maybe he was a perfectionist who could not tolerate others who could not match up to his 'perfectionist' standards. Maybe he was unfair at times. But he was a business leader and not a spiritual master leading his followers to spiritual brotherhood and joy. I feel that is part of cutting-edge business life. If, as a worker, you cannot handle the heat you can move out and join a more easy-going organization.

And this one from ESR, "On Steve Jobs’s passing":

"Jobs created a myth that arrogated that innovation to himself". Well, I felt it was an acceptable marketing strategy. They commercialised the Mac & the iPhone. So his boasts can be read as arrogating the commercialization of the innovation to himself/Apple. I mean, Xerox failed to commercialize the Alto. Jobs succeeded in taking Alto ideas into the Mac and commercializing it. R&D alone is not everything - Commercializing it successfully is what delivers R&D to people and not prototypes or journal publications.

"The myth was freedom, but the reality was Jobs’s way or the highway." Well, the relatively cheap and beautiful Mac as compared to the huge cost & monopoly of IBM - that's the freedom that the 1984 ad seemed to imply to me. Not open source hardware and open source software.

[Update: Deleted Open Source vs. Proprietary comment as I realized that it is not an appropriate comment for this blog.]

[Update: Deleted comment on Steve Jobs' medical decision. Realized it was too sensitive a topic to be put up on this post.]


Eklavya Sai Maalik, October 23, 2011 at 5:54 PM

Interesting article on how Steve Jobs' cosy friendship with Google's Larry Page & Sergey Brin turned into a revengeful mindset after Android. 
Will Steve Jobs' Final Vendetta Haunt Google?

Eklavya Sai Maalik, October 26, 2011 at 2:12 PM

Steve Jobs on learning intuition in India
"The people in the Indian countryside don't use their intellect like we do, they use their intuition instead, and their intuition is far more developed than in the rest of the world. Intuition is a very powerful thing, more powerful than intellect, in my opinion. That's had a big impact on my work," Steve Jobs said to Walter Issacson, the biographer. Source:

He also said, "The main thing I've learned is intuition, that the people in India are not just pure rational thinkers, that the great spiritual ones also have an intuition." Source:

Spiritual Masters, IMHO, value intuition far, far more than the intellect. The feeling is far more vital than the thinking.

Eklavya Sai Maalik, October 31, 2011 at 2:45 PM

A friend passed on this link.

Steve Jobs' biographer, Walter Issacson, analyses the 'genius' of Jobs - NYTimes. 

Fascinating article giving the author's comparisons between Jobs & Gates, Einstein & Poincare+Hilbert, Benjamin Franklin & Jefferson.

The author feels that Jobs stood at the intersection of sciences and humanities. And that the future of innovation in technology like Apple's technology lies there.

Though I disagree with a part of the concluding remarks about Indians & Chinese not being as creative & imaginative as the West. Perhaps it is true in the technology space, as of now.

But in arts & religion & spirituality perhaps India is far more creative & imaginative than the West.

Dennis Ritchie

Discussion/Informative Posts Involving Others' Articles/Views, Media reports and Some Comments from me

Dennis Ritchie, a Truly Great Software Guy, December 2011  

Thursday, October 13, 2011

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