So Long, Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs stepped down as head of Apple last week. An era in technology has ended. Some might say that the dumbest thing Apple did was to force Jobs out in the late 1980’s. I disagree. If Jobs had not spent the next decade in the wilderness, he would not have discovered what made both Apple and himself great.

We all see what Jobs has done after his second coming in the late 1990’s. Jobs was hailed as a savior and a breath of fresh air after the self-important reign of Doctor Gil Amelio. (Gil had a nasty habit of insisting on the doctor part often when it was not appropriate. Micho Kaku is a Ph. D., and everyone already knows he’s smart.) Since then, Apple has had the iMac, the MacBook Air, the iPod, the iPhone, the iPad, and iTunes. What Microsoft was to the 1990’s, Apple was to the 2000’s.

But all that was made possible during Jobs’ exile. During that time, he founded Pixar, which rules the computer animation roost. Pixar practically invented modern animation. He also founded NeXt, a computer company that ran a slicker-than-Macintosh OS based on Free BSD, the original open-source Unix variant that predates Linux by years. It was at Pixar and NeXt that Jobs discovered he was lousy at business. Oh, Jobs is a brilliant businessman. Even rivals hang onto his every word at Apple events. But it’s the consumer where Jobs found his business nirvana. And if you’ve ever seen a NeXt machine, you know they were pretty impressive, light years ahead of Windows 95 and the various Mac systems out in the 90’s. This became OS X, the operating system that runs every Macintosh today.

So Steve Jobs left Apple unsure of how to run a company and returned knowing better than anyone, certainly Bill Gates, or even better than Oracle’s Larry Ellison, how to connect with the consumer. Of course, this has made for some of the most obnoxious devotees of a product line ever. As an Apple shareholder, I’m pleased Jobs has cultivated his own cult. It funds my retirement. As a consumer of computer goods and services, I don’t see the justification in Apple users’ smugness. How do I deal with it?

I crank up my iPod and drown them out.

So what will happen to Apple now that Jobs is stepping away?

Jobs spent the last fourteen years recreating the company in his own image. Those who run the company day to day already know what goes into the Apple experience, what to look for when designing the next device, and how that device or service should look to the end user. Microsoft, whose product line has improved over the years, needs to find someone to similarly carry on after Gates completely steps aside. Steve Ballmer ain’t cutting it.

Eventually, someone will need to reinvent Apple, but that’s not likely to happen in the near future. Instead of resting on their laurels, Apple learned from Jobs how to keep going.

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Why I Love My iPod

Is it because I have everything I own that’s not still trapped on tape on a little device that fits in my pocket?

Well, that is cool and why I bought my original MP3 player, but no.

Is it because it’s Apple?

Please.  I may like their products, but I refuse to join the cult.

Is it because I can download pretty much anything from classic rock to jazz to eighties pop and nineties alt?

Well, that does give me a jamgasm, but no.

I love my iPod because, knowing that, whenever the president is on the air any given night, I can slip on my headphones the next day, crank Led Zeppelin up to ear-splitting volumes without disturbing the water-cooler pundits around me as they yack away stupidly about new world orders and the Federal Reserve being a Cylon plot to end humanity and any number of things that don’t really require all three IQ digits (or sometimes even 2 of them) to form an opinion.

And that, my friends, is why I love my iPod.

Now if you’ll excuse me…

Waaaaaaay doooooowwwwn inside!  Woman!   Youuuuuuuuuu neeeeeeeeeed…

LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVE!!!!!!

The Smug Factor

I’ve been accused of being a Mac Hater.  Usually, I just smile, pop on my earphones, and turn the volume waaaaay up on my iPod.  You know, the iPod some moron didn’t know enough not to play loud, then sued Apple over it?  (Some people deserve everything bad that happens to them.  I think Moses and Darwin both said that, and for the same reasons.)

It is not the Macintosh that I hate.  In fact, if I didn’t have so much money out right now, like the money I’m about to spend on an iPhone, I’d probably get a KVM switch and a Mini Mac.

“But Jim, why the loyalty to Windows?”

Since advent of Windows XP and Apple’s embrace of Intel, I’ve not been convinced the bump in price for switching to Mac would be worth it.  For starters, Mac, despite having a two-button option, still clings to the single-button mouse as it’s default.  I have always hated it, and hated it more when you had to hold your finger down on it to use the menu bar.  Sorry, but that’s not quirky and different; it’s antiquated and useless.  At least now they have “sticky” menus.

Yes, the interface is easier to use than Windows.  And a Sad Mac face is better than a Blue Screen o’ Death.  No argument there.  But are all those features worth the higher price?

No.

And I say that in the waning days of the Vista era.  (Different rant.  Vista is a classic example of why Microsoft needs to stop being a slave to deadlines.)

Oh, given the money, I’d love a Mac.  In fact, I plan to buy a Mac book with my first sizable advance – a little present for me for making an editor see how awesome I am.

But when the Dell laptop dies and the Compaq tower is relegated to non-Internet facing word processor status, I’ll probably shell out $500 for a netbook and another $600 for a new Dell tower.  Less, since I get discounts from BigHugeCo.  The Mac is a someday piece of tech.  The Windows box is for now.

But what drives me up a tree is the Apple user’s smugness, an elitist attitude that says, “I can afford to do without the Start button and you can’t.”  They also own iPods (as do I) and iPhones (as will I) and have the earbuds to prove it.

Which always leaves me scratching my head.  Earbuds dig into your ears, so why are they popular?  Are they a fashion statement?  I prefer clip-on headphones.  “Ooooh, but that’s sooooo 1990’s, Jim.  Whenever are you going to come out of the Eisenhower Administration.”

My response, before kicking that person off my lawn, is usually, “Grow up.”

I suppose Steve Jobs is to blame for some of this, but who can fault him?  The man got screwed out of his own company in the mid-1980’s, went off to develop the framework for OS X, and came back to save it just before the Y2K.  And none too soon.  Apple’s previous CEO was Doctor Gil Amelio, who famously said anything Microsoft sells you will be obsolete.  You mean like System 7 and the Newton and the Apple IIe?  Hey, Gil, anything anyone sells you will eventually be obsolete.  Think about that while you’re driving your Packard around.

Yes, Apple makes cool and very well-designed products.  Yes, they’re great to own.

No, they’re not a license to be smug.  Unless you’re Steve Jobs.  Who has every reason to be smug.

You are not Steve Jobs.  Think different.  Don’t be smug.