Savant Idiot

Steve Jobs is an interesting combination of unrivaled genius and malingering incompetent. The problem with him is there is no way of telling what you’re going to get from moment to moment. Having recently acquired my non-iPod, I was intrigued when I ran across this article. The interview is classic Jobs: smart guy who is sometimes just hilariously wrong.

I have two parts that I love in the interview, both concerned with how wrong he can be. The first is the interoperability issue. Everyone knows you’re stuck with iTunes, Steve, but that doesn’t mean they don’t think it sucks. People learn to live with the failings of their technology. However, if they are offered a better alternative, they’ll take it. Sitting around and saying “they haven’t asked for it” is a fast track to obsolescence. You’d think Apple might have learned something by now, but they keep hiring Jobs back, so I guess not.

The other knee-slapping howler was the following passage:

I was very lucky to grow up in a time when music really mattered. It wasn't just something in the background; it really mattered to a generation of kids growing up. It really changed the world. I think that music faded in importance for a while, and the iPod has helped to bring music back into people's lives in a really meaningful way.

Jobs sounds just like every other boomer right about now. “Our music was important and changed the world! You kids these days listen to crap!” Umm, I guess that whole thing with portable music swept right by old Steve, huh? An iPod is, despite the fancy technology, nothing more than an updated version of a Walkman. But somehow, because we stamped the Apple logo on it, it’s magical and will change the world! Umm, I’ll bet not. It sure changed Apple’s bottom line, but that isn’t really the world, now is it? Unless your name is Jobs, I s’pose, in which case it just might be the whole world to you. Once again, the previous history of the world is irrelevant until Jobs has blessed it with his mighty intellect and logo. What crap, and nothing less than I have come to expect from Jobs

Let’s get one thing straight: I have no issues with the iPod other than the usual Mac problems. By that, I mean the cult that grows up around it and the way you’re locked into the platform. I went with FLAC for my compression algorithm of choice, which means my device needs to support FLAC without the extra work of doing something like loading Linux onto my device and rewriting the firmware. I don’t need to develop a life-long relationship with Apple and iTunes. J and I have roughly 700 CDs and continue to buy new ones. (YPS Manor is, if you haven’t noticed, a media intensive household.) I don’t need the DRM and other bullshit that comes with iTunes or Windows Media. I want to be able to rip my CDs to hard drive and use them around the house. I’m not trading with people and I’m not running a file sharing server. I paid for my media, now I want my fair use. Apple is not particularly interested in that approach, so I’m not particularly interested in any Apple product.

However, I will admit freely that Apple’s industrial design and user interface people are among the best in the business. Jobs may or may not be a great designer, I really don’t know. He does, however, understand the process and can recognize a quality result. You can do worse as a designer than to look at Apple’s stuff and figure out what they do right.


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