What Steve Jobs got wrong
First things first: I’ve been using Apple hardware since mid-’80s — that’s right, the mid-’80s. When I worked at Spillis Candela and Partners in Coral Gables, Fla., I did document production for the architectural firm on a Lisa, a $7,000 computer at the time (as an aside, this architectural firm spent $2 million around the same time on a room-sized computer to render 3-D architectural drawings, so it’s no surprise that we had a Lisa in the documentation department).
My first exposure to Linux was Debian on an indigo iMac, which until recently I still had and used, until moving into a smaller space made keeping personal anthropological keepsakes a luxury. We still have an eMac, circa early aughts, in the house as well.
I’ve sung the praises multiple times in this blog about the quality of Apple hardware, especially when it outlived the version of MacOS named for the predatory cat du jour, after which the hardware could be given new life with Linux and FOSS. I’ve converted many Mac users, both PowerPC and Intel, on the basis of their quality hardware matched with the free/open source software paradigm.
As a former MacMarine who circled the wagons in the ’80s and ’90s before Apple made $150 million pact with the devil in Redmond (which, arguably, saved Apple), I understand what Steve Jobs brought to the proverbial table and how significant it is in the march of computer history. Many others are far more eloquently making this point in other writings in the ether of the Internet. It bears repeating that Jobs was a visionary who, through the creations under his leadership in Cupertino, changed the face of consumer electronics.
I get all that.
Despite the fact he locked down Apple hardware and software harder than anyone in history, I think his contributions to the computer world far outweigh his proprietary downside.
But . . .
. . . Steve Jobs blew it when he killed the Newton.
Admittedly, in the annals computer history, this is roughly the equivalent of shortstop legend Ozzie Smith booting a routine grounder in a regular season Cardinals game — rare, but it happened. As the story goes, because the Newton wasn’t his invention or his concept, it was given the heave-ho when Jobs returned to the helm of Apple.
At the time this was a big mistake, and as I watched with my MessagePad 120 in hand, every Palm Pilot that came after the demise of the Newton should have been a Newton. But it wasn’t, because the Newton wasn’t Steve’s baby.
Steve Jobs definitely had done what he had set out to do — put a dent in the universe — and for this reason, he is deserving of all the praise he is getting in obituaries. I’ll go one further: Despite overseeing a technological lockdown of historic and diabolical proportions, Apple — under Jobs leadership — set the bar for hardware development that everyone shoots to match or surpass.
But he should have kept the Newton.
So long, Steve, and thanks for all the Apples.
This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software Guy and Larry Cafiero, are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND license. In short, this license allows others to download this work and share it with others as long as they credit me as the author, but others can’t change it in any way or use it commercially.