Nov 1, 2011

Jobs, Gates and Android

The recently published bio of Steve Jobs (which I have not read) is all over the least interesting snippets of it.

They provide not only a fascinating insight into the mind of a genius but also a clue about his (by extension) and Apple's tactics, strategy and approach to business..

Jobs' thermo-nuclear anti Android tirade and the lawsuits it has spawned is of course, famous by now.

Jobs is also quoted as criticising Microsoft for having 'stolen' Apple's ideas and work in creating the original Microsoft Windows. Precisely the sort of anger that Jobs also expresses against Google's Android. Gates is smart. His counter point is brilliant - and perhaps more correct. Expressed crudely, what he said back then was that if he is a thief, then so is Apple, because the ideas originated at Xerox Corporation's famous PARC lab. Even assuming Apple compensated Xerox for that (I am sure about that), it still does not make Apple an 'inventor'.

Obviously Microsoft did it 'better' at least in the marketplace and not until IPODs, Iphones and later IPAD were selling like hot cakes could Apple recover from the financial blow Microsoft delivered to Apple. To this day, Apple computer, for all its user friendly features and cool design, is a also-ran and would have gone the OS/2 way had Apple failed with its other products.

To that extent, Jobs' sentiments and motives are understandable.

But if this is the sort of crude anger that Jobs can direct at Microsoft, can it also be presumed that he was being irrational and driven more by personal emotions than solid logic and reason vis-a-vis Android?

His comment, this time personal, not business, against Gates provides a clue.

He is quoted as saying Gates cannot invent anything and that is why he is more comfortable being a philanthropist. 

Now, that is as good as saying a philanthropist is one that cannot invent anything, an insult not just to Gates but to all wealthy donors who have made life better for millions through their actions. It also provides a clue as to why Jobs never (at least publicly) donated meaningfully to any cause for a man of such fabulous wealth. Obviously he holds philanthrophers in contempt.

If this is the sort of attitude and thinking he brought to business decisions about Android, one can only hope his successor, Tim Cook will not be of the same mould but would see things more dispassionately, logically and reasonably. Not the 'Oh! It is rectangular and has a screen, so it is stolen' approach that seems to be typical of Apple.

It is not a world of saints out there...Many features of the Iphone (including the famous slide-to-unlock feature for which a dubious patent has been granted in the US, despite proof of prior art shown in European courts) and Apple computers have their origins elsewhere. Palm had touch-screens and many solid features years before Apple thought of making phones.

After all, Apple is paying Nokia for IP, that too after Nokia sued or threatened to sue. What does that say?

Live and let live...

Update 1: (2 Nov 11): 

Just remembered - Creative (a Singaporean company famous for sound cards and MP3 players before IPods conquered the market) founder Sim Wong Hoo paid a 'tribute' to Jobs by taking out a full page ad in the local papers after his death. But that ad was also seen by many as a left handed compliment and a mild rebuke or perhaps a reminder of past victory - because Creative felt Apple had infringed on its own technology and sued, collecting $100 million in the process.

This is what Sim said - "Thank you for bringing a bit of us to the whole world" - clever, subtle but nevertheless easy to interpret..if you know the past history..

Update 2: (2 Nov 11):

Florian at fosspatents reports that Apple not only dared to file a criminal lawsuit against a small Spanish vendor over a design issue (the same sort it is doing against Samsung, though not abusing criminal law) - it LOST! It may end up paying compensation to the little company!. Bravo!

This sad fact shows how big companies, with billions in their bank accounts and an army of lawyers behave in society. It is up to the democratic governments all over the world to stack the chips in favor of the small ones that otherwise get crushed, destroying competition and innovation.