Steve Jobs in Carbonite

Steve Wildstrom / May 29th, 2012

Photo of Steve Jobs with iPhonePart of Steve Jobs’s brilliance in life was his mercurial nature, sometimes fortified by duplicitousness. He thought an Apple phone was the stupidest idea on earth until the arrival of the iPhone. He made fun of Intel processors  until Apple abandoned PowerPC for x86. He was a man of firmly held opinions that could change as circumstances required.

Steve Jobs dead, however, is frozen in time. The opinions he expressed in the year or two before his passing last fall are his views forever. And anything Apple does counter to those views is treated in some quarters as a desecration of his memory. And that leads to silly pieces like Gizmodo’s 10 Changes That Must Have Steve Jobs Spinning in His Grave.

The sad truth is that we have no idea what Steve Jobs thinks, or will ever think, about anything. All we know is what he thought of certain things under the circumstances that prevailed at some point in the past.

For example, in October,  2010, Jobs said: “The reason we [won’t] make a 7-inch tablet isn’t because we don’t want to hit that price point, it’s because we think the screen is too small to express the software.” But improvements in screen technology have made it possible to do a 7″ iPad with the same 1024×768 resolution of the original iPad and the iPad 2 and a pixel density similar to the third-generation iPad. So if Apple does a 7″ iPad, will that be a repudiation of Jobs or a recognition that something important has changed?

One of Gizmodo’s 10 violations of the spirit of Jobs is that supply executives are now attending meetings once the exclusive province of engineers and designers. Maybe that reflects Tim Cook’s preferences as a supply chain guru. But it might also reflect the fact the Apple is nearly 60% bigger than it was when Jobs stepped away from active management a year or so ago and that it now a vast enterprise that necessarily has to be run in a considerably more bureaucratic way. This, by the way, is why I think Cook is actually the right CEO at the right time; some of use remember a  much smaller pre-Cook Apple that constantly struggled with supply chain and channel management issues.

Of course, it’s possible that Jesus Diz’s Gizmodo post was just Gawker link bait. In which case, I apologize for linking to it.

 

Steve Wildstrom

Steve Wildstrom is veteran technology reporter, writer, and analyst based in the Washington, D.C. area. He created and wrote BusinessWeek’s Technology & You column for 15 years. Since leaving BusinessWeek in the fall of 2009, he has written his own blog, Wildstrom on Tech and has contributed to corporate blogs, including those of Cisco and AMD and also consults for major technology companies.
  • FalKirk

    “it’s possible that Jesus Diz’s Gizmodo post was just Gawker link bait. In which case, I apologize for linking to it.”

    I think it was just link bait.

    “Part of Steve Jobs’s brilliance in life was his mercurial nature, sometimes fortified by duplicitousness.”

    I don’t think that “duplicitousness” is at all the proper word to use when describing Steve Jobs. Don’t get me wrong – he was capable of lying straight to your face if it obscured a truth that he wasn’t yet ready to reveal.

    But from all my reading on Steve Jobs, it sounds like he suffered from black and white syndrome. Everything was either great or it was manure. There was nothing in between. There was no gray, no levels of gradation.

    Oddly enough, Steve Jobs was also capable of changing his mind. This is a rare thing in people who think everything is black or white, good or bad, cold or hot. Recently it was revealed that Steve Jobs hated the name iMac and wanted to call it the new Mac the “MacMan”. Say what? Apparently the Ad agency kept pestering him and one day he said that he didn’t hate the name “iMac” as much as he had the day before. Eventually, of course, it became the name of the new Mac product and it was, of course, an insanely great name.

    Steve Jobs was extreme in everything he did. He used extreme language to describe his extreme likes and his extreme dislikes. But he was also able to change – though I doubt he did it readily or happily. Frankly, changing one’s opinion is a sign of character, not a sign of weakness. And its most certainly not a sign of “duplicitousness”

    “… improvements in screen technology have made it possible to do a 7″ iPad with the same 1024×768 resolution of the original iPad…”

    Hmm. Maybe. But I still think that Jobs’ original critique of the 7 inch form factor holds true. The only good reason to create a 7 inch tablet is to make a cheaper tablet, not a better tablet. And lowering price without adding value is something up with which Apple shall not put.

    • steve_wildstrom

      My charge of duplicitousness was aimed at Jobs continuing to deny Apple interest in a phone at a time when they were deep into development and everyone knew it.

      As for the 7″ tablet, I think the bet is that there is a market for a smaller tablet. Not necessarily a cheaper one, because it couldn’t be anywhere near as cheap as a Kindle Fire and meet Apple’s quality, feature, and margin standards. The smaller form factor has its fans, though, especially in Asia, where Samsung has done fairly well with the Galaxy Tab.

      • FalKirk

        “My charge of duplicitousness was aimed at Jobs continuing to deny Apple interest in a phone at a time when they were deep into development and everyone knew it.”

        Understood. I think all companies are occasionally in a position where they can’t speak about and may even need dissemble about upcoming products.

        Not directing this to you, but I think that many of Steve Jobs’s critics take his occasional purposeful lies and use them to taint everything else that he said. This is a mistake. Steve Jobs’ lies were a born of marketing necessity. When Jobs went out of his way to say something it was because it was something that he believed in and something that he wanted us to know.

        “As for the 7″ tablet, I think the bet is that there is a market for a smaller tablet.”

        A lot of very wise and very intelligent people agree with that. I’m just not one of them (wise or intelligent, I mean). 🙂

      • FalKirk

        “My charge of duplicitousness was aimed at Jobs continuing to deny Apple interest in a phone at a time when they were deep into development and everyone knew it.”

        Understood. I think all companies are occasionally in a position where they can’t speak about and may even need dissemble about upcoming products.

        Not directing this to you, but I think that many of Steve Jobs’s critics take his occasional purposeful lies and use them to taint everything else that he said. This is a mistake. Steve Jobs’ lies were a born of marketing necessity. When Jobs went out of his way to say something it was because it was something that he believed in and something that he wanted us to know.

        “As for the 7″ tablet, I think the bet is that there is a market for a smaller tablet.”

        A lot of very wise and very intelligent people agree with that. I’m just not one of them (wise or intelligent, I mean). 🙂

    • steve_wildstrom

      My charge of duplicitousness was aimed at Jobs continuing to deny Apple interest in a phone at a time when they were deep into development and everyone knew it.

      As for the 7″ tablet, I think the bet is that there is a market for a smaller tablet. Not necessarily a cheaper one, because it couldn’t be anywhere near as cheap as a Kindle Fire and meet Apple’s quality, feature, and margin standards. The smaller form factor has its fans, though, especially in Asia, where Samsung has done fairly well with the Galaxy Tab.

  • FalKirk

    Coincidentally, Tim Cook just made some remarks at the AllThingsD conference that totally backed up Steve’s theory on Jobs’ ability to reverse himself. The quotes are taken from a live blog so they may not be verbatim:

    Tim Cook: “And so does that mean that something will be different? Of course! But (Jobs) was the best person at the world at doing this. He would flip on something so fast that you would forget that he was the person taking the 180 polar position the day before. It was an art. He would never know that he thought the opposite.”

  • Rich

    As long as Apple continues the innovation they’ll be fine with Cook, and I’ve got my fingers crossed.

  • Rich

    As long as Apple continues the innovation they’ll be fine with Cook, and I’ve got my fingers crossed.

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