Thursday, 6 October 2011

Apples and Oranges

I’m waiting for the article that decries Jobs as a working class hero.. a middleclass megastar who did nothing for most people but cause excessive drooling.

Yea… waiting for that one.

Well here it is.

I woke up to #SteveJobsLegacy and was stunned- there’s just been too many deaths this year of prominent people with whom I have some connection- Maathai, Tiger, and now "the death of Jobs".. as if we weren't already hearing that one on a daily basis.

Why is Jobs a working class hero?

Its because he gave the middle class an ambition. Apart from being a techie, he was also a keen businessman, and this multifaceted role he played seems to give everyone an aspiration- if you can't invent, then market. If you can’t market, then own the company. And if neither of these high heeled things are possible, then at least own an iPod. Owning an iPod is a huge middleclass ambition, the kind that many people work hard and save up for. This is an ambition worth its weight in part. But whether the Apple itself is really worth its weight in comparison to other open source ideas, is another discussion and quite debatable. The rationalization is that people with money are allowed to aspire to waste it, #LaTomatina style.

So how many people will flock to Gates' death and how many to Jobs'?

Well, as many as there are dollars in their bank accounts. Ironically, their funerals will be captured and shared on the very legacies that these men have left us, and they will live forever.

Jobs' funeral is a simple one to attend. Owners of Apple products can easily drive down/ fly down/ stream it online. Gates' funeral is more tricky- there will be those in corners of Africa and Asia who don't have the money for an air ticket, but who do have a life now, a real living breathing one, not a virtual one, thanks to 'Bill and Melinda'. These survivors, as well as thousands of NGOs and individuals who have received grants from the B&M Foundation, will want to attend it in person, and not just over Facebook- because Gates actually gave. Healthcare, education, poverty alleviation, research and disaster relief, have been some of the things that the Foundation has worked on. In contrast, when Jobs resumed control over Apple in 1997, he cut off all of their philanthropic ventures. He dabbled with a foundation that was to work on food sustainability, something vague like that, but shut it down after a year.

Will we mourn the death of Gates as much as Jobs?

Probably not. I blame Microsoft's marketing- MS has made itself so commonplace that no one regards it with awe anymore. It is easy to download, patch and use. Not that we have too many alternative operating systems going around to choose from- its MS for the non geek, most of us, or Apple if you can afford it, or open source if you have a good geek friend to guide you. But in the case of Apple, we actually do have a number of alternatives. They are not the only ones with mp3s- remember, the iPod is still an mp3, it only provides you with a snazzy interface. And I hear the most wonderful things about the Android from Android users. So instead, note how Apple's work ethics are monopolistic. Most of their products are stubbornly incompatible with other technologies, and this is in an effort to ensure that they remain exclusive, unique… and soon, alone. Which will mean cutting off access to millions. This may be acceptable in today's business practise, but should not be acceptable by consumers, for whom choice should be king. Choicelessness is not a working class dream. So before you eulogize how this man's ideas 'changed the world,' consider HOW he changed it.

What Jobs did right, was innovation in design, or rather innovation by design. White was a hard colour to sell, but they did it and it made them stand out, even in the dark. The slow ebbing glow of the bitten apple on the screen of the Macbook has grown to be as comforting as fairy lights in December. Jobs is more charming than Gates. He's younger, and he created a technology that just looks and feels so good, its almost Megan Fox. Besides, having a life threatening illness makes the wiring in humanity's heart melt (I remember how people waited with bated breath when Jade Goody was going to have her very public death).

Yet Apple's strength lies in their cunning success at creating needs in us and making themselves the sole satisfier. Why, even the musicians who are bitter about not making all the money they could have, because of illegal downloading, because mp3s made it so easy to carry around a 1000 songs… also love their iPods! I won’t be surprised if Gates agrees to let iPhone and Macbook into MS Word’s spell check (‘iPod’ is already in, so I see as I write this).

People are spinning philosophies around Jobs that don't really exist. The only one that can truly be credited to him is the old cliché, "Work hard and achieve success" and "Rags to riches is possible."

What is happening instead, is that people have actually had the audacity (and here I get really upset) to compare the death of Jobs with the death of Lennon. The lady I am referring to said that she felt emptiness and a sensation of loss similar to when Lennon died. Another lady said she lost a "magic sparkle," and "Someone (who) filed me with so much awesomeness! <3" "He helped us realise that less is truly more," says yet another Tweeter. You mean in terms of the minimalistic design? Or you mean the money you spent on the product? "He brought together heart of tech, people, community in ways we didn't know we needed, but couldn't live without," says another person. Dear friend, the internet is bringing people together, Apple is no prerequisite for this, and you can just as well "Come Together" with another brand. Others are charting their lives around their Apples. "I can remember stages of my life based on the different Macs and Apple products I've had since my first Apple. That's #stevejobslegacy" says one. Another mom, serial posting on Jobs said, "I can remember my kids excitement w/each hand me down iPod, iPhone they got as we spoiled ourselves w/new one!" Hurrah for you… lucky you.. Teach your kids to want expensive things, and teach them that only expensive things are good things. And finally, one lady said, "I live for my iPhone and Mac Book…".. At which point I have to end.

When Jobs' supporters talk about changing the world, I believe they are referring to "How touch is better than push" as one person said online, claiming this to be the #SteveJobsLegacy. It’s a very different type of "change" that I usually associate with "the world". The Jobs-change and the Gates-change, are as different as apples from oranges, and I'm inclined to the latter. How did you guess. Here's hoping you remember to shed an extra tear next time.

PS- Just a little note on Lennon, if you didn’t notice I am going to direct you to it- Read the embedded links on ‘Working Class Hero’ and ‘Come Together’, all right?


People, said...

As goes ye olde saying, we only pay through our noses for Apple because we all love Steve Jobs so much. We do so for these reasons and the fact that he was the wonderful marketing strategist he was, as you have wonderfully put.

“Owning an iPod is a huge middleclass ambition, the kind that many people
work hard and save up for. This is an ambition
worth its weight in part. But whether the Apple itself is really worth its weight in comparison to other open source ideas, is another discussion and quite debatable.”

I remember when I got my first Ipod. 7000 bucks for 2 GB at the time. It was my first proper cool possession. Now it lies unused though. I listen to music on impulse, or sing to myself :) Mostly I just write down the songs in my head. Is this a lot also about IPod loss btw? :) And you're blogging again. Yaay :P

kicking.and.screaming said...

True no, we need to always have a face to things.
Though in my case, I crushed on several Radio Jockeys growing up. Im still thinking of 'The Boat that Rocked' :P
Blaaging again!

People, said...

Must watch that. Will watch that. And I hope you find your iPod :)

Vincentvikram said...

Actually, Steve Jobs ain't an example of "rags to riches". The book 'Outlier' has pretty good examples and reasoning.

Ta'fxkz said...

hi Mickyess - listen Job may have had some great ideas but he did ride an evil tide of American corporatism.

Heard about the slave driver behaviors of the companies that Apple?
outsourced it's production to?
Heard about the employee that was beaten and harassed to the point of suicide?
What about the taxable income of $20,000,000 that he did not report?
and that Apple overstated its earnings (like Sathyam, except they did not get broke or caught)?

See today the media helps people create public personas and myths to sell just about anything - i don't scoff at you enthusiasm i only wish it were a bit more informed.

kicking.and.screaming said...

Hi Ta'fxkz'ess,

Not sure I fully understand you or you fully understand me. Id say we're on the same page, in the same boat.. saying the same thing?

Which enthusiasm are you referring to?

kicking.and.screaming said...

@ Vincent- I shall check on that, thanks!

People, said...

We had a Mac by the way when we were in Bangalore way back them. Somewhere between '88 and '95.

People, said...

We had the Mac of the time at home way back them in Bangalore. Somewhere between '88 to '95.

Captain Grim said...

Bill Gates dominated my childhood with the tag of 'richest man in the world'... Steve Jobs came in my teenage when everything popular was a cliche, including him. I will mourn Gate's death more than Job's.