Monday, September 05, 2011

There Isn't an App for Steve

In these weekly columns I try to keep from editorializing and make sure the content is centered on all things digital. “Things” in this context have always been hardware, software or services. This week I am going to depart from that format and reflect on the recent announcement by Steve Jobs that he is stepping down as the CEO of Apple.

Anyone who knows me well will attest to the fact that I have very strong opinions about Steve Jobs and Apple. My biggest complaint is the high degree of control he and the company maintain over every aspect of any product or service they develop. Unlike many other high tech companies who manufacture hardware or develop software that can be used on many different digital platforms, Apple has always tried to either own or control all aspects of their product. There is no doubt that this control has sometimes resulted in superior products and legendary high quality customer support and loyalty. Some of this control is understandable, but some of it seems to smack of arrogance and a way to keep the customer tethered to the Apple cult.

For example, the battery in the iPhone can’t be replaced by anyone but the authorized Apple dealer. If you should replace it yourself, you void the warranty. Another control issue relates to Mr. Jobs and his refusal to accommodate “Flash” software in any of his new products. Oblivious to the fact that Adobe Flash is the format used by millions of video producers on the Internet, Jobs forces those with an iPad or iPhone to forego viewing Flash encoded videos or face violating one of the Apple commandments by installing the forbidden “jail break” software, again resulting in a non–supported warranty.

History is replete with people who have made significant positive contributions to society but were really not easy people to like. It is reported that Edison was a less then congenial fellow. It may be apocryphal, but Mussolini was said to have the trains running on time in Italy. (“Jobophiles” may find the last reference hard to take.)

Seriously, Jobs is sure to go down in history as one of the most significant persons in the Digital Age. Almost single handedly he developed products that have become the very standard in listening to music, making phone calls and interacting with the Internet. His products not only are well designed and well made, they are also intuitive to use. It is for the latter that he and Apple may be most appreciated. At a time when some high tech companies require the user to read incomprehensible manuals to operate simple devices like TV sets and phones, Apple products require little instruction. They work the way most non-geeks think they will.

It remains to be seen how a company that was so controlled by one person will fare when that leader is no longer at the helm. One thing is for sure, if Apple never introduces another new product, it will still remain a 21st Century icon.

Labels: , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home