Steve Jobs: Imitated, Never Duplicated (Updated)
• Wikipedia on Steve Jobs
STEVE JOBS: IMITATED, NEVER DUPLICATED
LARRY BRILLIANT RECALLS THE PERSONAL SIDE OF STEVE JOBS
STEVE JOBS, WORLD’S GREATEST PHILANTHROPIST
WHAT EVERYONE IS TOO POLITE TO SAY ABOUT STEVE JOBS
Steve Jobs: Imitated, Never Duplicated (Updated)Oct 18
• Wikipedia on Steve Jobs
• Steve Jobs: Imitated, Never Duplicated (David Pogue)
• Guy Kawasaki on Steve Jobs
• Larry Brilliant Recalls The Personal Side Of Steve Jobs (LA Times)
• Steve Jobs, World’s Greatest Philanthropist (Harvard Business Review)
• TidBits on Steve Jobs
• Steve Jobs Memorials Held At Apple Stores Around The World (Huffington Post)
• Dying Apple Boss Left Plans For Four Years Of New Products (Daily Mail)
• The Man Who Invented Our World (Slate)
• What Everyone Is Too Polite to Say About Steve Jobs (Gawker)
Apple – Remembering Steve Website
“Over a million people from all over the world have shared their memories, thoughts, and feelings about Steve. One thing they all have in common — from personal friends to colleagues to owners of Apple products — is how they’ve been touched by his passion and creativity. You can view some of these messages here. And share your own by emailing them to email@example.com ”
STEVE JOBS: IMITATED, NEVER DUPLICATED
By David Pogue
New York Times
October 6, 2011
Wednesday evening, Apple broke the news that Steve Jobs had died.
Since that moment, tributes, eulogies and retrospectives have poured over the world like rain. He changed industries, redefined business models, fused technology and art. People are comparing him to Thomas Edison, Walt Disney, Leonardo da Vinci. And they’re saying that it will be a very long time before the world sees the likes of Steve Jobs again.
Probably true. But why not, do you suppose?
After all, there are other brilliant marketers, designers and business executives. They’re all over Silicon Valley — all over the world. Many of them, maybe most of them, have studied Steve Jobs, tried to absorb his methods and his philosophy. Surely if they pore over the Steve Jobs playbook long enough, they can re-create some of his success.
But nobody ever does, even when they copy Mr. Jobs’s moves down to the last eyebrow twitch. Why not?
Here’s a guy who never finished college, never went to business school, never worked for anyone else a day in his adult life. So how did he become the visionary who changed every business he touched? Actually, he’s given us clues all along. Remember the “Think Different” ad campaign he introduced upon his return to Apple in 1997?
“Here’s to the crazy ones. The rebels. The troublemakers. The ones who see things differently. While some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius.”
In other words, the story of Steve Jobs boils down to this: Don’t go with the flow.
Steve Jobs refused to go with the flow. If he saw something that could be made better, smarter or more beautiful, nothing else mattered. Not internal politics, not economic convention, not social graces.
Apple has attained its current astonishing levels of influence and success because it’s nimble. It’s incredibly focused. It’s had stunningly few flops.
And that’s because Mr. Jobs didn’t buy into focus groups, groupthink or decision by committee. At its core, Apple existed to execute the visions in his brain. He oversaw every button, every corner, every chime. He lost sleep over the fonts in the menus, the cardboard of the packaging, the color of the power cord.
That’s just not how things are done.
Often, his laser focus flew in the face of screamingly obvious common sense. He wanted to open a chain of retail stores — after the failure of Gateway’s chain had clearly demonstrated that the concept was doomed.
He wanted to sell a smartphone that had no keyboard, when physical keys were precisely what had made the BlackBerry the most popular smartphone at the time.
Over and over again, he took away our comfy blankets. He took away our floppy drives, our dial-up modems, our camcorder jacks, our non-glossy screens, our Flash, our DVD drives, our removable laptop batteries.
How could he do that? You’re supposed to add features, not take them away, Steve! That’s just not done!
(Often, I was one of the bellyachers. And often, I’d hear from Mr. Jobs. He’d call me at home, or when I was out to dinner, or when I was vacationing with my family. And he’d berate me for not seeing his bigger picture. On the other hand, sometimes he’d call to praise me for appreciating what he was going for. A C.E.O. calling a reviewer at home? That’s just not done.)
Eventually, of course, most people realized that he was just doing that Steve Jobs thing again: being ahead of his time.
Eventually, in fact, society adopted a cycle of reaction to Apple that became so predictable, it could have been a “Saturday Night Live” skit.
Phase 1: Steve Jobs takes the stage to introduce a new product.
Phase 2: The tech bloggers savage it. (“The iPad has no mouse, no keyboard, no GPS, no USB, no card slot, no camera, no Flash!? It’s dead on arrival!”)
Phase 3: The product comes out, the public goes nuts for it, the naysayers seem to disappear into the earth.
Phase 4: The rest of the industry leaps into high gear trying to do just what Apple did.
And so yes, there are other geniuses. There are other brilliant marketers, designers and business executives. Maybe, once or twice in a million, those skills even coincide in the same person.
But will that person also have the vision? The name “Steve Jobs” may appear on 300 patents, but his gift wasn’t invention. It was seeing the promise in some early, clunky technology — and polishing it, refining it and simplifying it until it becomes a standard component. Like the mouse, menus, windows, the CD-ROM or Wi-Fi.
Even at Apple, is there anyone with the imagination to pluck brilliant, previously unthinkable visions out of the air — and the conviction to see them through with monomaniacal attention to detail?
Suppose there were. Suppose, by some miracle, that some kid in a garage somewhere at this moment possesses the marketing, invention, business and design skills of a Steve Jobs. What are the odds that that same person will be comfortable enough — or maybe uncomfortable enough — to swim upstream, against the currents of social, economic and technological norms, all in pursuit of an unshakable vision?
Zero. The odds are zero.
Mr. Jobs is gone. Everyone who knew him feels that sorrow. But the ripples of that loss will widen in the days, weeks and years to come: to the people in the industries he changed. To his hundreds of millions of customers. And to the billions of people touched more indirectly by the greater changes that Steve Jobs brought about, even if they’re unaware of it.
In 2005, Steve Jobs gave the commencement address to the graduating students at Stanford. He told them the secret that defined him in every action, every decision, every creation of his tragically unfinished life:
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
Steve Jobs delivering his commencement speech to the graduates of Stanford University in 2005.
“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart…. Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.”
I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world. I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I’ve ever gotten to a college graduation. Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That’s it. No big deal. Just three stories.
The first story is about connecting the dots.
I dropped out of Reed College after the first 6 months, but then stayed around as a drop-in for another 18 months or so before I really quit. So why did I drop out?
It started before I was born. My biological mother was a young, unwed college graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She felt very strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates, so everything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his wife. Except that when I popped out they decided at the last minute that they really wanted a girl. So my parents, who were on a waiting list, got a call in the middle of the night asking: “We have an unexpected baby boy; do you want him?” They said: “Of course.” My biological mother later found out that my mother had never graduated from college and that my father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the final adoption papers. She only relented a few months later when my parents promised that I would someday go to college.
And 17 years later I did go to college. But I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents’ savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months, I couldn’t see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn’t interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.
It wasn’t all romantic. I didn’t have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends’ rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on. Let me give you one example:
Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn’t have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can’t capture, and I found it fascinating.
None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it’s likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later.
Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.
My second story is about love and loss.
I was lucky — I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I started Apple in my parents garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4000 employees. We had just released our finest creation — the Macintosh — a year earlier, and I had just turned 30. And then I got fired. How can you get fired from a company you started? Well, as Apple grew we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company with me, and for the first year or so things went well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge and eventually we had a falling out. When we did, our Board of Directors sided with him. So at 30 I was out. And very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating.
I really didn’t know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down — that I had dropped the baton as it was being passed to me. I met with David Packard and Bob Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly. I was a very public failure, and I even thought about running away from the valley. But something slowly began to dawn on me — I still loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over.
I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.
During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the worlds first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I returned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple’s current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family together.
I’m pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn’t been fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith. I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.
My third story is about death.
When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.
Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.
About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn’t even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor’s code for prepare to die. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you’d have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes.
I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and I’m fine now.
This was the closest I’ve been to facing death, and I hope it’s the closest I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept:
No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.
Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.
When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960’s, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.
Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.” It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.
Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.
Thank you all very much.
This is a story about the death of Steve Jobs… Yesterday, ten minutes before Guy Kawasaki was to keynote Facebook Success Summit 2011, Guy said “Mike, we have a problem…”
I said, “Guy, what??” My heart started pumping hard.
He said, “Steve Jobs died…” I was shocked, and didn’t believe him at first! He said, “Go to CNN.com”
Knowing that Guy was the former evangelist for Apple and that Guy had a very strong connection to Steve many things started going through my head “What do I do…”
Guy said, “Do you think it is appropriate that I talk about Facebook marketing or my life experience with Steve Jobs.” After some discussion, I decided it was best to let Guy share what was on his mind and heart.
What follows is Guy talking about how Steve Jobs was his hero and how Steve has forever changed business.
LARRY BRILLIANT RECALLS THE PERSONAL SIDE OF STEVE JOBS
By Jessica Guynn
Los Angeles Times
October 6, 2011
Over the course of 35 years of friendship, Larry Brilliant never gave an interview about Steve Jobs.
Jobs shielded himself and his family from the media, and his friends respected his privacy. But over the summer, Jobs told Brilliant that he would be “happy to have people talk about him,” Brilliant recalled Thursday.
So Brilliant, an epidemiologist who was the director of Google’s philanthropic arm Google.org, broke his silence Thursday. He recalled first meeting Jobs when Jobs was 19. Brilliant was in India working to eradicate smallpox.
Jobs had dropped out of college and traveled to India to meet Brilliant’s guru, Neem Karoli Baba. Baba died before Jobs reached the Kainchi Ashram with a Reed College friend –- and later, Apple’s first employee — Daniel Kottke.
“We met when he, like all of us, were spiritual seekers in India. It was that quality in him that people feel even though these are physical instruments, iPhones, iPods, iPads. People can feel that he was continuing that quest,” Brilliant said. “He had this idea back in the 1970s, that cliche of giving power to the people. He really believed it. When he made the first Apple II, he thought he was giving power to the people by putting a computer on everyone’s desk so they would not have to be dependent on the priesthood with mainframes. This was giving power to the people in a very real way, not a theoretical way. What he has done is democratize access to information and access to beauty.”
Because his private life was so little known, few outside of Jobs’ inner circle experienced the caring side of Jobs, Brilliant said.
In 2006 when Brilliant joined Google, both his wife and son were diagnosed with cancer. He was distraught. He says Jobs supported him by creating spreadsheets that ranked cancer surgeons based on a number of criteria including post-surgery infection rate, follow-up care and approval ratings.
“That’s the part that people couldn’t possibly know — the love and the care that he put into everything he did. He just loved his family, Laurene (Powell) and the kids. He loved them more than anyone could articulate. And he loved Apple,” Brilliant said.
“The defining character of Steve Jobs isn’t his genius, it isn’t his talent, it isn’t his success. It’s his love. That’s why crowds came to see him. You could feel that. It sounds ridiculous to talk about love when you are making a gadget. But Steve loved his work, he loved the products he produced, and it was palpable. He communicated that love through bits of steel and plastic.”
STEVE JOBS, WORLD’S GREATEST PHILANTHROPIST
By Dan Pallotta
Harvard Business Review
September 2, 2011
This post was written in early September, after Steve Jobs retired. Upon the news of his death, we think it’s worth another read.
A student at one of my talks on the nonprofit sector asked if I could name a for-profit company that was making a difference on the scale that nonprofits do. I said I’d be hard-pressed to name one that wasn’t.
Our youth are growing up with the strange notion that the only way to make a big difference in this world, or to be of service, is to work for a nonprofit organization, or become the next Bill Gates and establish a private foundation, or to start some kind of “social enterprise,” often without any understanding of what that means.
The word philanthropy comes from the Greek philanthropos which comes from philein for “to love” and anthropos for “human being.” Philanthropy means love of humanity.
Which brings me to Steve Jobs.
Shortly after he returned to Apple in 1997 Jobs allegedly ended all of the company’s corporate philanthropy programs to cut expenses until the nearly bankrupt enterprise regained its footing. Some have claimed the programs were never reinstated.
A 2006 Wired article on Jobs, “Great Wealth Does Not Make a Great Man,” reported that even though his wealth was estimated at $3.3 billion, Jobs’s name did not appear on Giving USA’s list of gifts of $5 million or more for the previous four years, nor on another that list showing gifts of $1 million or more. (The article acknowledged that he could have been giving anonymously.)
The article took a cheap shot: “Jobs can’t even get behind causes that would seem to carry deep personal meaning…he is a cancer survivor. But unlike [Lance] Armstrong, Jobs has so far done little publicly to raise money or awareness for the disease.” It went on, “…he’s nothing more than a greedy capitalist who’s amassed an obscene fortune. It’s shameful…[Bill] Gates is much more deserving of Jobs’ rock star exaltation. In the same way, I admire Bono over Mick Jagger, and John Lennon over Elvis, because they spoke up about things bigger than their own celebrity.” Yes, but in part their own celebrity was connected to the things they spoke up about.
In a 1985 Playboy interview, Jobs acknowledged that it takes enormous time to give money away, and stated that, “in order to learn how to do something well, you have to fail sometimes…the problem with most philanthropy-there’s no measurement system.. you can really never measure whether you failed or succeeded…So…it’s really hard to get better.” He added that, “When I have some time, I’m going to start a public foundation.”
In 1986, he did, but closed it after 15 months. According to the man he hired to run it, “He clearly didn’t have the time.” Jobs’s friends told one reporter, “he figures he can do more good by expanding Apple.” And thank God for that.
What a loss to humanity it would have been if Jobs had dedicated the last 25 years of his life to figuring out how to give his billions away, instead of doing what he does best.
We’d still be waiting for a cell phone on which we could actually read e-mail and surf the web. “We” includes students, doctors, nurses, aid workers, charity leaders, social workers, and so on. It helps the blind read text and identify currency. It helps physicians improve their performance and surgeons improve their practice. It even helps charities raise money.
We’d be a decade or more away from the iPad, which has ushered in an era of reading electronically that promises to save a Sherwood Forest worth of trees and all of the energy associated with trucking them around. That’s just the beginning. Doctors are using the iPad to improve healthcare. It’s being used to lessen the symptoms of autism, to improve kids’ creativity, and to revolutionize medical training.
And you can’t say someone else would have developed these things. No one until Jobs did, and the competitive devices that have come since have taken the entirety of their inspiration from his creation.
Without Steve Jobs we’d be years away from a user-friendly mechanism for getting digital music without stealing it, which means we’d still be producing hundreds of millions of CDs with plastic cases.
We would be without Pixar. There’s a sentence with an import inversely correlated to its length.
We would be without the 34,000 full-time jobs Apple has created, just within Apple, not to mention all of the manufacturing jobs it has created for those who would otherwise live in poverty.
We would be without the wealth it has created for millions of Americans who have invested in the company.
We would be without video conferencing for the masses that actually works. Computers that don’t keep crashing. Who can estimate the value of the wasted time that didn’t get wasted?
We would be without a whole new way of thinking. About computers. Leadership. Business. Our very potential.
Last year Change.org wrote of Steve Jobs, “It’s high time the minimalist CEO became a magnanimous philanthropist.”
I’ve got news for you. He has been. What’s important is how we use our time on this earth, not how conspicuously we give our money away. What’s important is the energy and courage we are willing to expend reversing entropy, battling cynicism, suffering and challenging mediocre minds, staring down those who would trample our dreams, taking a stand for magic, and advancing the potential of the human race.
On these scores, the world has no greater philanthropist than Steve Jobs. If ever a man contributed to humanity, here he is. And he has done it while battling cancer.
In a statement Bono defended Jobs, noting that Apple has been Product (RED’s) “largest contributor to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria — giving tens of millions.” More important, Bono stated that, “Just because he’s been extremely busy, that doesn’t mean that he [has] not been thinking about these things.” Steve Jobs has traded his time for human progress. Not for personal pleasures. This is not a man who spent his time building homes or custom yachts or who otherwise obsessed with how to spend his billions on himself. And no one would say of him that he ever seemed to have a lot of spare time on his hands.
Werner Erhard used to say that he wanted his gravestone to say, “Burned out.” By all appearances, Jobs has burned out just about every ounce of fuel he was given trying to bring new possibilities into this world. God willing, he has more fuel in reserve. If so, he should expend a little of it on himself. To do more than he has done for humanity already, no human could ever be asked.
WHAT EVERYONE IS TOO POLITE TO SAY ABOUT STEVE JOBS
October 7, 2011
In the days after Steve Jobs’ death, friends and colleagues have, in customary fashion, been sharing their fondest memories of the Apple co-founder. He’s been hailed as “a genius” and “the greatest CEO of his generation” by pundits and tech journalists. But a great man’s reputation can withstand a full accounting. And, truth be told, Jobs could be terrible to people, and his impact on the world was not uniformly positive.
We mentioned much of the good Jobs did during his career earlier. His accomplishments were far-reaching and impossible to easily summarize. But here’s one way of looking at the scope of his achievement: It’s the dream of any entrepreneur to effect change in one industry. Jobs transformed half a dozen of them forever, from personal computers to phones to animation to music to publishing to video games. He was a polymath, a skilled motivator, a decisive judge, a farsighted tastemaker, an excellent showman, and a gifted strategist.
One thing he wasn’t, though, was perfect. Indeed there were things Jobs did while at Apple that were deeply disturbing. Rude, dismissive, hostile, spiteful: Apple employees—the ones not bound by confidentiality agreements—have had a different story to tell over the years about Jobs and the bullying, manipulation and fear that followed him around Apple. Jobs contributed to global problems, too. Apple’s success has been built literally on the backs of Chinese workers, many of them children and all of them enduring long shifts and the specter of brutal penalties for mistakes. And, for all his talk of enabling individual expression, Jobs imposed paranoid rules that centralized control of who could say what on his devices and in his company.
It’s particularly important to take stock of Jobs’ flaws right now. His successor, Tim Cook, has the opportunity to set a new course for the company, and to establish his own style of leadership. And, thanks to Apple’s success, students of Jobs’ approach to leadership have never been so numerous in Silicon Valley. He was worshipped and emulated plenty when he was alive; in death, Jobs will be even more of an icon.
After celebrating Jobs’ achievements, we should talk freely about the dark side of Jobs and the company he co-founded. Here, then, is a catalog of lowlights:
Censorship and Authoritarianism
The internet allowed people around the world to express themselves more freely and more easily. With the App Store, Apple reversed that progress. The iPhone and iPad constitute the most popular platform for handheld computerizing in America, key venues for media and software. But to put anything on the devices, you need Apple’s permission. And the company wields its power aggressively.
In the name of protecting children from the evils of erotica — “freedom from porn” — and adults from one another, Jobs has banned from being installed on his devices gay art, gay travel guides, political cartoons, sexy pictures, Congressional candidate pamphlets, political caricature, Vogue fashion spreads, systems invented by the opposition, and other things considered morally suspect.
Apple’s devices have connected us to a world of information. But they don’t permit a full expression of ideas. Indeed, the people Apple supposedly serves — “the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers” — have been particularly put out by Jobs’ lockdown. That America’s most admired company has followed such an un-American path, and imposed centralized restrictions typical of the companies it once mocked, is deeply disturbing.
But then Jobs never seemed comfortable with the idea of fully empowered workers or a truly free press. Inside Apple, there is a culture of fear and control around communication; Apple’s “Worldwide Loyalty Team” specializes in hunting down leakers, confiscating mobile phones and searching computers.
Apple applies coercive tactics to the press, as well. Its first response to stories it doesn’t like is typically manipulation and badgering, for example, threatening to withhold access to events and executives. Next, it might leak a contradictory story.
But Apple doesn’t stop there. It has a fearsome legal team that is not above annihilating smaller prey. In 2005, for example, the company sued 19-year-old blogger Nick Ciarelli for correctly reporting, prior to launch, the existence of the Mac Mini. The company did not back down until Ciarelli agreed to close his blog ThinkSecret forever. Last year, after our sister blog Gizmodo ran a video of a prototype iPhone 4, Apple complained to law enforcement, who promptly raided an editor’s home.
And just last month, in the creepiest example of Apple’s fascist tendencies, two of Apple’s private security agents searched the home of a San Francisco man and threatened him and his family with immigration trouble as part of an scramble for a missing iPhone prototype. The man said the security agents were accompanied by plainclothes police and did not identify themselves as private citizens, lending the impression they were law enforcement officers.
Sweatshops, Child Labor and Human Rights
Apple’s factories in China have regularly employed young teenagers and people below the legal work age of 16, made people work grueling hours, and have tried to cover all this up. That’s according to Apple’s own 2010 report about its factories in China. In 2011, Apple reported that its child labor problem had worsened.
In 2010, the Daily Mail managed to get a reporter inside a facility in China that manufactures products for Apple and the paper shared a bit about what life is like:
“With the complex at peak production, operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week to meet the global demand for Apple phones and computers, a typical day begins with the Chinese national anthem being played over loudspeakers, with the words: ‘Arise, arise, arise, millions of hearts with one mind.’
“As part of this Orwellian control, the public address system constantly relays propaganda, such as how many products have been made; how a new basketball court has been built for the workers; and why workers should ‘value efficiency every minute, every second’.
“With other company slogans painted on workshop walls – including exhortations to ‘achieve goals unless the sun no longer rises’ and to ‘gather all of the elite and Foxconn will get stronger and stronger’ – the employees work up to 15-hour shifts.
“Down narrow, prison-like corridors, they sleep in cramped rooms in triple-decked bunk beds to save space, with simple bamboo mats for mattresses.
“Despite summer temperatures hitting 35 degrees, with 90 per cent humidity, there is no air-conditioning. Workers say some dormitories house more than 40 people and are infested with ants and cockroaches, with the noise and stench making it difficult to sleep.”
A company can be judged by how it treats its lowliest workers. It sets an example for the rest of the company or in Apple’s case, the world.
In Person and At Home
Before he was deposed from Apple the first time around, Jobs already had a reputation internally for acting like a tyrant. Jobs regularly belittled people, swore at them, and pressured them until they reached their breaking point. In the pursuit of greatness he cast aside politeness and empathy. His verbal abuse never stopped. Just last month Fortune reported about a half-hour “public humiliation” Jobs doled out to one Apple team:
“Can anyone tell me what MobileMe is supposed to do?” Having received a satisfactory answer, he continued, “So why the fuck doesn’t it do that?”
“You’ve tarnished Apple’s reputation,” he told them. “You should hate each other for having let each other down.”
Jobs ended by replacing the head of the group, on the spot.
In his book about Jobs’ time at NeXT and return to Apple, The Second Coming of Steve Jobs, Alan Deutschman described Jobs’ rough treatment of underlings:
He would praise and inspire them, often in very creative ways, but he would also resort to intimidating, goading, berating, belittling, and even humiliating them… When he was Bad Steve, he didn’t seem to care about the severe damage he caused to egos or emotions… suddenly and unexpectedly, he would look at something they were working on say that it “sucked,” it was “shit.”
Jobs had his share of personal shortcomings, too. He has no public record of giving to charity over the years, despite the fact he became wealthy after Apple’s 1980 IPO and had accumulated an estimated $7 billion net worth by the time of his death. After closing Apple’s philanthropic programs on his return to Apple in 1997, he never reinstated them, despite the company’s gusher of profits.
It’s possible Jobs has given to charity anonymously, or that he will posthumously, but he has hardly embraced or encouraged philanthropy in the manner of, say, Bill Gates, who pledged $60 billion to charity and who joined with Warren Buffet to push fellow billionaires to give even more.
“He clearly didn’t have the time,” is what the director of Jobs’ short-lived charitable foundation told the New York Times. That sounds about right. Jobs did not lead a balanced life. He was professionally relentless. He worked long hours, and remained CEO of Apple through his illness until six weeks before he died. The result was amazing products the world appreciates. But that doesn’t mean Jobs’ workaholic regimen is one to emulate.
There was a time when Jobs actively fought the idea of becoming a family man. He had his daughter Lisa out of wedlock at age 23 and, according to Fortune, spent two years denying paternity, even declaring in court papers “that he couldn’t be Lisa’s father because he was ‘sterile and infertile, and as a result thereof, did not have the physical capacity to procreate a child.'” Jobs eventually acknowledged paternity, met and married his wife, now widow, Laurene Powell, and had three more children. Lisa went to Harvard and is now a writer.
Steve Jobs created many beautiful objects. He made digital devices more elegant and easier to use. He made a lot of money for Apple Inc. after people wrote it off for dead. He will undoubtedly serve as a role model for generations of entrepreneurs and business leaders. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing depends on how honestly his life is appraised.