October 05, 2011

Steve Jobs is dead - long live the myth of Steve Jobs!



It's official Steve Jobs is dead; see Apple's homepage. And, Wikipedia wasted no time either.

And, while this isn't a joke, any eulogy, if you will, must give an houest ranking of Jobs as a businessman.

As a newspaper editor, until my current gig, I've always used Macs. So, the graphic user interface and other things during Jobs' first run? He deserves definite credit as an innovator/creator. He continued to show that at NeXT and in the Pixar work. No doubt about that.

After his return?

I'll be honest that the man is a marketing genius. He was already some degree of that during his first stint. The products? Good but not earth-shattering. I will give Jobs credit for the whole idea of "apps," which is software creativity as well as marketing.

Ahh, there's that word.

For me, the bottom line with Jobs is "marketing genius." Already with XP, Windows narrowed many of the PC differences/shortcomings. And, Windows 7, I think, narrowed them further.

Phones? Android, overall, stacks up decently against iPhone. IPods? There's other MP3 players.

And, his decision to cut off cloning of Macs? Maybe it was right, maybe it wasn't. I think the verdict is against it, and that, if Jobs hadn't come up with the iPod, and the branding thereof, we wouldn't be putting him on an altar today.

But, it IS about marketing. The Mac vs. PC commercials. The iPod silhouette commercials. Marketing genius running circles around Windows in particular. And, that marketing genius carried over to the iPhone, even though, in terms of price, functionality, and .... openness, Android phones are better.

What's the word around the wires? Wired calls Jobs "mercurial and mysterious." Sounds about right; surely that was the source of his intimidation power. The BBC notes he was a lifelong Buddhist as an adult. Too bad that didn't help Foxcomm workers. Indeed, the Beeb's obit goes into that in other ways;

Unlike his contemporary, Microsoft's Bill Gates, Steve Jobs showed little inclination to use his personal wealth for philanthropic purposes.
And, strangely for a self-professed Buddhist, he did not embrace environmental concerns, with Apple coming under fire from Greenpeace for its reluctance to produce easily recyclable products.
 Well put.

Beyond that, the labor cost on an iPhone is only $8; there's simply no excuse for outsourcing these jobs. Period. Mike Daisey notes:
"My job is to shine a light on and through something," he says. "My job isn't actually to stop people from buying devices. My job is to ensure that these circumstances are part of the conversation."
Then adds:
"I have to say, all the mourning for my hobby aside, there's a real joy to being freed from the infantilism of the tech world. There's a real infantilism in being obsessed with just how fast you can render a web page," he says. "I never really appreciated how imbedded I was until I stepped out of it."
Wowsa.

A Yahoo column has another good take on Jobs. Throw out the marketing guru, and he's above average, but not great, as a businessman.

Macworld gushes, as you'd expect.

That, then, leads to the "cult of Steve Jobs" critique. Look at Facebook and Google+. It's like a virus. And, why? If Steve Jobs' death is the worst day of your life, that probably says more about your life and about Steve Jobs' cult-like marketing skills than it does anything else.

Will "OccupyWallStreet" take a day of mourning? That would be ironic, as between outsourcing to China and overcharging for crap, Jobs is an epitome of modern hypercapitalism, complete to "branding." And, beyond and behind the myth of Steve Jobs' genius is that myth of Steve Jobs as liberal icon. Of course, behind THAT is the myth of Silicon Valley as "liberal." As long as you confuse "liberal" and "social libertarian," it might be true. But, if liberal for you includes not just fighting against job outsourcing, but protecting workplace safety, employee rights, and the position of unions here in the U.S., Silicon Valley in general is far from being liberal.

And, I said "no Steve Jobs jokes," but, for those of you who do worship at the shrine, I have no doubt people are already Photoshopping the silver Apple logo onto the lids of black walnut Mac AirBook caskets, Photoshopping Apple aficionados crying silver Apple logo tears and more.

And, that said, probably because it was hashtagged and this post wasn't, my "top Steve Jobs jokes" post has gone viral.

No comments: