Friday, November 18, 2011

Steve Jobs.

In Japan, internet aside I have limited access to English press. Everything I do have access to here, is about Steve Jobs. Somebody I would pay close to no attention to in Australia. In fact, I never did except when it was unavoidable. Much like I imagine a sports-hating-hater must have done when the news reported on 'What Michael Jordan Did Today' both before and after the weather when he took over the world in the 90's.

So I now have the choice of reading about Steve Jobs, or trying to read Japanese menus, and there's only so many times I eat a day (5 times) so reluctantly I read about the late, great Steve Jobs.

I feel the first, last and only word on the significance of his passing is summed up the Onion piece 'Last American Who Knew What the Fuck He Was Doing Dies.'

But to me, while I am moved at how loved the man is, it puts me in mind of the precarious nature of technology. That is, I sat at a dinner party where somebody said 'Just invest everything in Google, nothing is ever going to beat Google.' which has not yet turned into one of those laughable time travel jokes, is still an illustration of how precarious technological innovation is.

The notion that Google, Apple or Facebook are unnassailable market leaders is no different from assuming Yahoo, Sony or Myspace are unnassailable market leaders. The problem is, that with technology, if you can imagine what will actually compete with the dominant technology of the day then you are 99% of the way to already having it.

Steve Jobs was probably the only person that could imagine what would beat out the Sony Walkman/Discman. Zuckerberg was probably at one point the first person to concieve of what would beat out Myspace.

Steve Jobs, is perhaps cooler, but no less remarkable than Bill Gates. The two are different enough to not really hold up to comparison, but similar enough to often be compared. They both simply persued different strategies (customisation vs. standardisation) in a world that contrary to popular belief had room for both.

Will people erect shrines to Bill Gates when he dies of old age? Maybe. Should they? Definitely. The Bill and Melinda Gates foundation is one of the greatest forces for good in the world, an argument by accident FOR Capatalism.

Mac used sweatshop labor and toxic chemicals to adhere apple stickers to laptops and other products in China. Things are never clear. Gates exploited anticompetitive strategy to ensure his dominance. Jobs found a way to sell us music we used to obtain for free.

There is something short sighted in our faith in Jobs, around the same time the news was covering Michael Jordan every day, you couldn't have a conversation without it inevitably steering towards how much Bill Gates earns per second.

But who gives a shit about Bill Gates now? Windows is probably the worlds highest selling OS, just as I'm sure Brand Jordan's shoes are still number one. We've just stopped talking about them.

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