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What Steve Jobs got wrong

October 6, 2011 2 comments

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.

[FSF Associate Member] (Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and has just started developing software in his new home office. Watch this space.)

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Categories: Apple, Newton, Steve Jobs Tags: , ,

Take a tablet, call me in the morning

August 2, 2011 4 comments

Yes, I know LinuxCon is next, and that’s in mid-August, but I think they’ve got the publicity thing covered, especially with the 20-year thing and with Linus being there and all. But if you’re going to the next show, make it the Ohio LinuxFest in September. Bradley Kuhn and Cathy Malmrose are keynoting, so you’ll not want to miss that (especially Cathy — Go ZaReason!)

Regular readers of this blog know that I’m not a big fan of tablets. Sure “they’re hip, they’re here, they’re now,” but for the most part, they’re too big for a pocket and too small to do anything meaningful in a way that I would do anything meaningful (for example, write this blog, which I am most comfortable doing on a laptop or a desktop, among other things). Frankly, I’m waiting for the tablet fad to pass, but I’m probably in the minority here.

I share the same opinion as Jeff Hoogland, whose blog item yesterday entitled “Why the tablet craze?” mentions that tablets “are great novelty items. If you have an extra few hundred dollars laying around and want a new toy _ go ahead and pick one up. Just don’t expect it to magically change your life or make it easier like many commercials would have you think.”

But I’m talking tablets today because despite the fact that I’m not a tablet user, I’m about to give a huge slap on the back of the head to Apple; unprecedented here for the most part because a.) I used to be an Apple guy in the late ’80s and ’90s, and b.) the one of the reasons I converted to Linux was that MacOS X outpaced the longevity of some of the G3-based iMacs I had — a textbook case of planned obsolescence — and it annoyed me greatly; so much so that I left what has now become, for all practical purposes, “a cult.”

There. I said it. Despite the fact I’m no longer a “defender of the faith” (see MacMarines in the 1990s, of which I was a member), and despite I think they still make great hardware with a few exceptions — iMac G5: What a dog! — it’s clear that Apple should be taken to task for acting less like an innovator and more like, well, Microsoft.

Apple legal seems to be working overtime, and a case in point is this: An item in the Sydney Morning Herald in Australia has Apple suing Samsung to take their new Galaxy series off the shelves — they want ‘em destroyed, actually — because Apple accused Samsung of copying the iPad 2 and infringing its patents.

Let’s concentrate on what “copying the iPad 2″ means. An Apple drone, er rep, in Australia is quoted in the article as saying, “It’s no coincidence that Samsung’s latest products look a lot like the iPhone and iPad, from the shape of the hardware to the user interface and even the packaging.”

So let me ask this: How is a tablet supposed to be shaped to not look like an iPad? And the user interface? How radically different does that have to be to not look like the iPad?

More importantly, when you find the competition is getting to close in the marketplace, do you take the game to the courts? Is that how tech business gauges its success now — not on the merits of its hardware, but on the legal abilities of its attorneys? Apparently, that’s the modus operandi for Apple, and many other companies, these days.

If Apple is supposed to be the world’s coolest uber-company that can do no wrong — as their advocates love to tout ad nauseum — it should be less forgetful about its past when looking toward the future. Arguably, the Macintosh could have gone the way of the Osborne in the ’90s if not for some lucky twists and turns, not the least of which was a cash infusion from Microsoft. I remember because I was there, wishing I had a sledgehammer to throw at the screen after running down the center aisle at Macworld when Bill Gates appeared on it. Also, I’m not saying that Apple shouldn’t guard against copying, but looking like an iPad? Is that the best you’ve got, Apple legal? This is your “A” game?

This is not to say that I’m defending “poor, defenseless Samsung.” On the contrary: While it’s great they’ve chosen to run the Galaxy on Android, it appears that this legal battle stems more from their heated competition in the marketplace than anything else.

This is what gives me headaches and has me reaching for a couple of tablets — of the pharmaceutical variety.

So if I were Etch-a-Sketch, I’d definitely get an attorney and look at Apple’s iPad and the Samsung Galaxy. Yep, some definite similarities there between the product I grew up with and those two, and some that a judge might find interesting.

Time for a walk in the redwoods.

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.

[FSF Associate Member] (Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and has just started developing software in his new home office. Watch this space.)
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My last Macworld

January 15, 2008 Leave a comment

Registration for Macworld (in November): $10
Downtown parking in San Francisco: $9
Attending the most disorganized and disjointed Macworld ever: Worthless.

Those of you outside my family who read this blog know that I have an, um, history with Macs. I’m a Mac owner since 1992, a former Mac Marine during the mid-’90s when Apple was circling the wagons, and I am a firm and solid advocate for the PowerPC platform (want to hear my PowerPC speech about how distros are booting a routine grounder by not developing for it? I thought not. But suffice it to say, Thank God for Debian, which has the smarts to keep developing for the PowerPC).

And those who have been keeping score at home know my conversion to GNU/Linux comes at the hands of Apple’s myopic philosophy at the turn of the century in making perfectly good, well-built hardware — and Apple does have the best built, most beautiful hardware — obsolete with its menagerie of predatory cats which are not exactly backwards compatible.

I have been attending Macworlds — whether in San Francisco or in Tokyo — since 1994, which is 14 by my count, and today’s opening was a complete clusterfsck. I don’t know who’s to blame — IDG, the expo’s organizers; or Apple, or the city of San Francisco — but after taking over two hours to get my pass, I had to choose between two different venues. Historically, Macworld took place in the North and South auditoriums of the Moscone Center. This one took place in the South auditorium and something on 4th Street called the West auditorium. Hence, your traffic tie-up in downtown San Francisco comes courtesy of Steve Jobs.

This is not to say that the keynote wasn’t interesting: a wafer-think notebook of which the Apple technician in line in front of me said, “I’m not touching these things — if one comes to my shop, I have the option of putting it in a box and shipping it to Cupertino. If I open something this small, I’ll break it;” as well as now you can get a ton of movies that you can watch on your Mac via streaming video, and a couple of other iPod related niceties.

However, there was nothing extremely compelling this year on the software or accessory side. There was nothing terribly thrilling in the way of hardware — save for the MacBook Sliver (or whatever it’s called — Air, I think) — and peripherals; in fact, most of what was there seemed to be the same hardware/peripherals as last year.

Swag? Fuggedaboudit. Non-existent.

So this is it: The final Macworld for me. From now on, I’m marking August as the month when I go back to Moscone for LinuxWorld.

(Larry Cafiero, editor/publisher of Open Source and Free Software Reporter, is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation.)

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