Monday, October 21, 2013

Apple's Steve Jobs was too quick to tie the knot with Microsoft, and Google

Around the 2nd anniversary of his death, and looking back at Steve Jobs’ tenure at Apple, it iss impossible to separate the role Microsoft and Bill Gates played in SJ's complex career. Microsoft and Apple helped pioneer the personal computing industry and defined not one, but two eras (PCs, and the post-PC mobile world). The two CEOs partnered at various times, competed all the time, and challenged one another in ways that helped shape the landscape of technology.

Early on, the strength of their relationship could be witnessed at an Internal Apple Event in Hawai where Steve Jobs introduced the Macintosh to a few Apple VIPs. Bill Gates sugarcoated the Mac and Steve Jobs loved every moment of it.

But with Bill Gates famously ripping off the Mac interface, a rift was formed.

This was somewhat healed, over time, when Steve returned to save Apple, and even, to the dismay of Apple loyalists, called on MS to help. In the new era of cooperation caused by intense competition from all corners of the Internet, Steve brought Google into the fold early. And this was a mistake as big as handing the Mac prototype to Bill Gates.

Rob Enderle, at Forbes, convenes a moot court to try and convict Google,
The fact that Google copies isn’t in dispute. They clearly have copied Microsoft and really there is nothing wrong with that other than trying to argue the efforts (other than price) are innovative. The sequence of events suggest that someone got the idea of doing a phone before Apple locked down on the iPhone, but after the ROKR, and were unsure as to what to create. That was until the iPhone emerged at Apple and then they created a very similar, though initially inferior product. So we have historical behavior that showcases Google copies, we have motive (to build a better phone), and with Schmidt on the board we have opportunity.

Broadly, Google (and Samsung and others) clearly did “steal” Apple’s technology. A number of key concepts, such as pinch-to-zoom, were first introduced on the iPhone and later incorporated into Android. The iPhone was an innovative product, and obviously Apple’s competitors are going to want to match it feature for feature. This is a good thing, for consumers. Better products all around, and more choice.

But Steve Jobs, for all his reputation as a tough leader, also followed his heart. Of the many qualities made Steve Jobs an innovator, one key aspect was his interest in Zen Buddhism. He relentlessly filtered out what he considered distractions (focusing the mind)and his passion for taking responsibility for every element of a product reflect a Zen approach. Not controlling, but responsibility, a core concept of the experience. Read more about the influence of this way of thought on Steve Jobs. Sometimes mistakes are opportunities for growth.

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