A couple days ago, I read Paul Carr’s thoughts on the growing number of complaints against Jobs, Zuckerberg, and Wales, CEOs of three of the most prominent tech companies. As I sat there reading his article, I was uncomfortably nodding my head. I was nodding because most of what he was saying (which, in case you don’t read my mouse-overs [you should], was essentially “Shut the hell up, and stop whining.") was absolutely spot on. It was uncomfortable because I really, really wanted to hate Jobs.
I’ve hated Jobs for a while now. I find his entire style of running a company and producing a product to be unmanageable, unscalable, and unwieldy. Yes, it produces pretty stuff, but we all know to beware the pretty-faced girl. But you know what? I don’t have a Mac, for that very reason. I have an iPhone, and am dumping it instead of upgrading. I’m voting with my dollar, and that’s where my voice ends. Or so Paul says.
And up until that point, I’d agree with him. I have no business telling Steve Jobs how to run his company. None whatsoever. Lord knows I couldn’t do his job better, or even half as well. I’m a big enough boy to admit that; I have my strengths, and running Apple is not one of them. And yet, that doesn’t mean I should sit down and shut the hell up. It just means I shouldn’t expect Steve to change for me.
Let’s talk about how friendship, trust, and recommendations work. My friends know me as the most tech-savvy thing they’re likely to know personally until they leave college. Which is kind of cool, but kind of a heavy responsibility. Every time a friend wants new speakers, a new laptop, a new monitor, a new computer, a new anything that has circuits, they ask me what they should get. They tend to trust my opinions, and so I put a lot of thought into what I tell them. Because they trust me to know what I’m talking about and trust our friendship to ensure I act in their best interest, they’re likely to follow my recommendations. See how that works?
Because of this, I’m acutely aware of something: Apple products are not for everyone. Just like Windows isn’t the best thing for everyone, or Linux, or any other single product. People are complex beasts, and there is no one-size-fits-all product out there. My mother would have no idea how to use a Mac. My R.A. prefers one. It all comes down to how they feel comfortable interacting with computers.
So rather than trusting Apple to know what’s best for all of these people, I need to know what’s best for them. And to know that, I need to know what there is. And how do I know that?
I know that because people complain. Because people complain, I get a feel for the downsides of every product. Not all complaints are reliable and hold water, but you learn to wade through and get a feel for what’s on the money and what’s bullshit. I don’t have the time to run a Mac and a PC as my main computers, and work a lot in both. I’ve dabbled with Macs, know how to get around in them, have logged some hours on one, but I’m nowhere near as familiar with them as I am with PCs. So I rely on the reports other people make, I rely on their complaints, to fill in the gaps in my knowledge.
The bottom line is, no, Steve Jobs should not bend to the demands of Apple haters, trying to make a product that makes everyone happy. There’s no such thing. But that’s not to say people should stop complaining; it’s just saying he should continue to not care.
Which I’m sure he’s quite good at, as he checks his bank account balance.