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Insightful and highly accurate characterization of Issacson's Biography. I often wondered whether people like Jobs have any ability to see themselves (and others) objectively, and whether that lack of ability, that narcissism, is essential to their ability to ensure their vision comes out with the purity that we saw in the iPhone, iPad, Macbook Air, etc...

I also appreciate this characterization's of Jobs' rant on Gates' supposed lack of imagination:

"Philanthropy on the scale that Gates practices it represents imagination at its grandest. In contrast, Jobs’s vision, brilliant and perfect as it was, was narrow. He was a tweaker to the last, endlessly refining the same territory he had claimed as a young man."




With due credit to Gates' intent behind the philanthropy he's undertaken, the relationship between good intent and good outcomes is by no means straightforward.

In the book "the logic of failure" by Dietrich Dorner, he presents simulation experiments with some disturbing results. In his simulations, people were tasked to better the lives of nomads with high mortality rates and tsetse fly infested cattle. This who first saw their mission as a humanitarian one - i.e. about fixing the health problems of nomads and their cattle - end up causing famines instead. Those who succeed manage to achieve a slow improvement in standard metrics.

I recommend that book to anyone who thinks solving the problems of a setup with many interdependent parts is a well understood thing or automatically apply thumb rules like "one problem at a time".


>I often wondered whether people like Jobs have any ability to see themselves (and others) objectively, and whether that lack of ability [...]

Couldn't it be the other way around? That he saw, as through looking at the Earth from space, his devices being shipped all the way around the world, knowing that any small imperfection or minor annoyance would be replicated millions of times over. In this perspective, a little sweat and tears and even going through dozens of iterations on the part of the inventor seems small compared to millions of man-hours of frustration around the globe.


  > of Jobs' rant on Gates' supposed lack of imagination
Where can I read this rant? Or do you have in mind Jobs' rant about __Microsoft__ having no taste which is completely different thing.


No, he means _Gates_

google: Jobs on Gate no imagination

"Bill basically has no imagination and never find anything, that’s why I think he’s more comfortable this time on philanthropy rather than technological. He’s just shamelessly take others’ ideas,"

There's also another much older quote, which I think is an awesome one for Bill Gates:

"You're ripping us off!", Steve shouted, raising his voice even higher. "I trusted you, and now you're stealing from us!"

But Bill Gates just stood there coolly, looking Steve directly in the eye, before starting to speak in his squeaky voice.

"Well, Steve, I think there's more than one way of looking at it. I think it's more like we both had this rich neighbor named Xerox and I broke into his house to steal the TV set and found out that you had already stolen it."


> "I think it's more like we both had this rich neighbor named Xerox and I broke into his house to steal the TV set and found out that you had already stolen it."

The main problem with that analogy is that Jobs bought that TV set from Xerox. Xerox freely let Apple see what they were working on with the understanding that Apple would use some of these ideas. In exchange for this, Xerox got to profit from the resulting increase in the stock price - they got a bunch of early Apple stock. The bulk of this transaction was aboveboard and mutually beneficial.

Microsoft didn't pay for Apple's info; they got access to it under a pretext and did not in return put Apple in a position to profit from what was used.


Actually this isn't quite true either. In fact Xerox would later sue Apple (which was dismissed for legal reasons -- largely because they waited too long to sue):

http://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=3538913398421433...

Here's what Andy Hertzfeld says about it: Well, we had no formal relationship with PARC while we were developing the Mac. We got a single demo before the Mac project got off the ground, when the LISA project, that sort of cousin or bigger brother of the Mac, was in development. And so from that one demo we were already pointed in that direction but I would say that Xerox PARC demo galvanized and reinforced our strong opinion that the graphic user-interface was the way to go. And then the influence of PARC was strong in the project, but not through a formal relationship with PARC; more through PARC people getting wind of what we were doing and coming to work at Apple.

http://www.mac-history.net/the-history-of-the-apple-macintos...

And note that Gates also visited Xerox PARC in the same time frame. And speaking of people leaving PARC to work at Apple -- Simonyi applied to Microsoft in 1981. Clearly he was fairly familiar with the work at PARC.

All this is to say that claiming that Apple had exlusive rights to the Xerox technology and everything Microsoft learned about it came from Apple is an absurd claim. Bill's quote is pretty accurate.


The white man bought all the land from the natives too, when they first arrived in North America. For peanuts. The natives had no concept of what they were doing because they didn't understand the importance of what they were giving away (and economic transactions of the sort were a newfangled thing for them). High school history classes. As my teacher said, "And you might think that these guys got ripped off. Well, they did."

A legal transaction can still be considered stealing, and I think it's very easy to say that Xerox didn't realize what they were giving away. Now the thing is, when transacting with an entity like Xerox, it probably can't be considered criminal. :)


Xerox wasn't using any of that stuff to its potential; the million bucks they made off it by way of their Apple investment was the best they were going to get. And unlike the Indians they didn't even have to get "kicked off the land" to get it! When Xerox shared their ideas, they still had those ideas and could continue to use them much as before.

No, if you want to redeem the claim that Apple "stole" from Xerox you can't really do it based on the ideas that came out of those meetings.

The one thing Apple did that was vaguely disreputable is: they then hired away many of the key Xerox people. You can't say they "stole" the ideas but they did "steal" the employees. Not in the sense that it was illegal - employees have free will and freedom of contract and there was no non-compete clause - but that this went beyond what Xerox reasonably expected to come out of the transaction, so you can see how Xerox might have been miffed.


No, the analogy is perfect for what happened, and a killer comeback on Gate's part. I don't think Steve appreciated competition and tried to kill it with a shotgun instead of a better product, this is very evident with the attack on Android, and with the absolutely absurd patents that have been filed by Apple.

Short term Steve Job's model of doing things has worked out really well, but if it was allowed to continue (and grow) at the rate it was, it would have created a stagnant world where having a screen on a phone would be patented by Apple.

Tim Cook is an excellent choice for the next CEO and he will probably do very nicely at Apple; his changes are very welcome in my mind.


> I don't think Steve appreciated competition and tried to kill it with a shotgun instead of a better product

In fairness, I think he did both.


Whether they (MS/Apple) paid for the idea is irrelevant when one is bashing the other for no imagination. In the Xerox scenario they both took what they saw from someone else and built on it. In that context Gates is right.


"In that context Gates is right"

I disagree because Jobs/Apple looked at the xerox stuff and improved on it, drop down menus, overlapping windows etc. Whereas Microsoft just copied what Apple had done, bringing no new ideas to the table.


How did they improve on it, those first Mac didn't have everything those Smalltalk 80 images had, and Smalltalk already had overlapping windows and drop down menus. If anything, those first macs were a poor copy, not a better one.


The Xerox star did not have overlapping windows at the time the mac group got to see it. I believe it had popup menus but no concept of a common menubar with pulldown menus the way mac had (and still has). Some of the features it lacked then were added later - overlapping windows was among them.

One account of the differences is here: http://www.folklore.org/StoryView.py?story=On_Xerox,_Apple_a...

According to Bruce Horn:

"There is a significant difference between using the Mac and Smalltalk. [Xerox PARC Alto Workstation] Smalltalk has no Finder, and no need for one, really. Drag-and- drop file manipulation came from the Mac group, along with many other unique concepts: resources and dual-fork files for storing layout and international information apart from code; definition procedures; drag-and-drop system extension and configuration; types and creators for files; direct manipulation editing of document, disk, and application names; redundant typed data for the clipboard; multiple views of the file system; desk accessories; and control panels, among others.

The [Apple] Lisa group invented some fundamental concepts as well: pull down menus, the imaging and windowing models based on QuickDraw, the clipboard, and cleanly internationalizable software. The Mac and Lisa designers had to invent their own architectures."


In some ways that's true, but the original Mac was far more user-friendly and, importantly, hugely cheaper in a way that seems very unlikely to have been doable with Smalltalk in the first half of the 1980s.


Oh, thanks. I fail, however, to see how Gates philanthropy relates to imagination. As for the second quote, it is nice but in reality things were much more complicated.


What Jobs probably meant (not that I agree with it necessarily): Philanthropy is using money to enable others to innovate, in contrast to being an innovator.


I think the article, although biased, maintains the basic assumptions really well. They are: Steve Jobs is a genius, at tweaking not inventing. Whether the reader agrees to this or not, is a different case. But this sections highlights the difference quite notably.

To think of it, the article talks about the scale of Philanthropy of Gates in fields like Malaria eradication. This is a grande project, in it's entirety. There are no existing systems that work and Gates imagination of a possible solution cannot be ignored as is done by Jobs. This does make Jobs narrow minded in the way that he is considering only Technicalities and Design as imaginative and completely denying the imagination that might go into believing in a better (and in this case malaria free) future.


I agree that he meant something along those lines. Not being a philanthroper, I probably shouldn't comment, but I think says a lot about the man (essentially the point that the OP made, that he was a narrow genius)



Now that I've had time to read the article, I see that both quotes are actually in there.


RTFA




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