i’ll burn this whole city down

Ashley is not a fan of Apple products, so when she brought up to me on Friday the much ballyhooed statements Steve Jobs made w/r/t to Google and Android, she brought it up to make her point that Jobs was, well, kind of a dick.(1)

Believe it or not, she and I have actually gone a couple of rounds on the subject of Apple and, recently, of Jobs. Her hesitation with Apple’s products partially comes from an anti-populist perspective: everyone loves them, they’re all the rage, and she’s not going to buy into something just because that’s what everyone else is doing. I can appreciate that stance.(2)

But when it comes to Steve Jobs, she believes he was kind of a dick. I don’t entirely disagree.(3) Like I told her, I don’t think you get to be in that position of that kind of a company without being abrasive more than just occasionally. But I think the difference is that I’m a bit more willing to let certain things go. Context, as they say, is everything.

So let’s take some of Mr. Jobs’s statements w/r/t Android:

I’m going to destroy Android because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go to thermonuclear war over this.”

I recognize that Mr. Jobs is perhaps being a bit irrational in this statement. But I can appreciate someone who’s willing to go to any length – any – to stop a wrong.(4) Mr. Jobs perceives that Android/Google ripped off Apple’s iOS and, whether he’s right or wrong, he’s willing to challenge hell itself over this infraction. Many people these days are willing to stand up for what they think is right, but precious few are willing to stand against what they think is wrong.

This sort of extreme behavior and unfaltering conviction is something I can appreciate. Ashley’s stance is that his being willing to take down another company is evidence of him being a dick. Maybe, maybe not. But at least he’s willing to state and stick to his purpose.

The real problem here is that we wouldn’t have Apple if Jobs hadn’t ripped off Xerox. He visited the company back in 1982 and walked out with an idea for a graphic user interface. I’m not faulting the guy: he took something someone else was doing and simply did it better. That’s free enterprise. But to fault Android for (allegedly) doing the same is…well, a bit hypocritical.

Furthermore, the tech-world has piracy in its friggin’ DNA. I’m not really even a part of that world and I know enough to know that everything awesome that exists right now was at least partially built on something someone else saw or had a hand in:

  • Windows 7 looks a lot like OS X. What I’ve seen of Windows 8 does even more so.
  • iOS 5 has a notification system that works and looks a lot like Android’s.
  • Netscape gave way to IE which gave way to Firefox which gave way to Chrome.
  • Every smartphone ever.
  • Amazon Cloud Drive. Google Music. iTunes Match.
  • Kindle. Nook. Kobo.

For Mr. Jobs to go thermonuclear over tech-theft is, as I said, hypocritical. It’s ridiculous too in that, in its own way, the theft of ideas is what make the tech world spin. So yeah, that makes him kind of a dick…but not because he’s willing to destroy a company over it.

I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple’s $40 billion in the bank, to right this wrong.

Ah, but being willing to destroy his own company…that’s a different story.

Again, the lengths that he’s willing to go to are, to me, admirable. But that he’s willing to risk the livelihood of every Apple employee and their families – to say nothing of stockholders – it shows a certain unforgivable selfishness. Apple hasn’t belonged to just Steve Jobs in a long time. It’s not his to sacrifice.

This, of course, is the downside of that ‘at-all-costs’ mentality, that it doesn’t calculate the costs of the innocent. Apple’s employees have done a lot to help Apple get to where it is today, so to be willing to scuttle the whole thing simply to destroy a company that did what Mr. Jobs himself did way back in the day is, yes, a little dickish. Maybe even a whole lot dickish. But still. I appreciate the lengths he was willing to go to.

  1. Which I can further back up my interpretation by pointing out that she actually said he was kind of a dick.
  2. Though of course the argument is that not doing something just because it’s what everyone else is doing is just another way of letting the masses dictate your behavior.
  3. I’ll point out here that I haven’t yet read the biography that came out today.
  4. Note that I didn’t say ‘right a wrong.’ There’s a distinction.

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