Why #iDontLike Steve Jobs

October 31st, 2011

You tend to take people for granted as long as they are alive: be it your parents or, as it turned out to be, Steve Jobs. At least that’s what I gleaned looking at the outpouring of grief on social networking websites. #iSad was a top Twitter trend and that gloomy emoticon all I could see on my Facebook timeline. Once the brouhaha subsided I asked my friend, who is an avid Apple fan, what he loved about Steve Jobs. He said that his products were otherworldly, compact and any gadget freak’s dream.

He was one of those mule-headed people into whom I couldn’t instill any sense of this madness and this is what I would have told him. Steve Jobs is not a visionary like Thomas Edison as those fawning newspaper obituaries would have you believe. Edison created electricity. In comparison, Jobs only had to offer digital knick-knacks like iPod, iPhone and iPad.

Have they made any profound difference to anyone’s life is a million-dollar question. Electricity, for sure, did. Jobs is at best a terrific salesman. Like any astute salesman he made us believe that we needed these products that we didn’t even know we needed at all. He commodified music through his ginormous devices to the extent that the current generation doesn’t even know what it like is to listen to an original lossless track. He combined his sense of calligraphy and fine arts to create these sleek devices that are good but I doubt if they are ground breaking. The current fad for size zero figures has its roots in the way Jobs made us believe that sleek is the new cool.

New York Times columnist Ross Douthat wasn’t terribly impressed with Jobs either, “The iPhone and the iPad may be aesthetically perfect, but in an otherwise stagnant society their charms can be an invitation to solipsism — holding up mirrors to our vanity, instead of opening windows to breakthroughs more impressive than the latest app.” Here was a man who ensured that the sweatshops like Foxconn in China met his unreasonable demands. So excruciating were his demands that workers of Foxconn killed themselves. Why didn’t he generate jobs in the USA where the unemployment rate has for long been plateaud at the ten per cent mark? Why generate more jobs in downtrodden countries like Philippines where there are more Apple employees than government employees?

So as you see he was just another businessman who doesn’t deserve to be lionised as the poster child of modern-day technology. He never propagated open source software. It took lot of chivvying from his cohorts before he deigned to release iTunes for Windows users. Don’t get me wrong here, I have nothing against this man and the eight-billion-dollar fortune that he amassed. No one can deny the fact that his products are incredibly good.

It’s just that we need to realise that there’s a fine line between fandom and naivety.

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