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I agree wholeheartedly. To compare, as Gladwell does, Microsoft's "copying" of Mac to make Windows to Apple's "copying" of Xerox PARC's half-assed UI to make Mac is completely missing the point.

Jobs produced "copies" of things that transcended the things he copied (he "copied" an MP3 player with (a) a simpler but better MP3 player, (b) cross-platform software with automated ripping and an online store, (c) seamless integration, (d) negotiated rights with all the major labels that boggled the minds of rivals (see Gates's reaction in the Isaacson book) and also allowed indie artists direct access to their fans). And, in my opinion, the iPod is the least of Jobs's major accomplishments.

I don't want to downplay the genius of the guy who developed the automated cotton mule. The early 19th century didn't afford opportunities to effect sweeping technological revolutions that our era does.

The idea that Jobs got the idea of the iPad from the Microsoft engineer who boasted about the tablet version of Windows is laughable. Isaacson's book (and other sources) document that Jobs was trying to source working touch screens before the Mac shipped, and carrying around designs for laptops in his pockets.

If Gladwell has a valid point to make in the entire article, it's that Gates's desire to fight malaria with his billions is commendable and visionary. I won't argue with that. Everything else is rubbish. (Someone, I think the Economist, suggested at some point that Gates was the greatest Robin Hood in history, which nicely implied that his billions were largely acquired by theft.)




> Jobs produced "copies" of things that transcended the things he copied

Er, that's precisely what Gladwell is arguing.


Gladwell basically calls Jobs a tweaker. He didn't tweak products, he reinvented them. In fact, Jobs didn't have the skills to be a tweaker (the guys Gladwell compares Jobs to were essentially hardcore engineers).

Here's a simple example (from Isaacson's book):

When Jobs was working on the Apple II he wanted to build the power supply into the box but didn't want a fan, so he hired a guy to design a new kind of power supply that would meet his requirements. This guy _invented the switching power supply_ to meet those requirements.

This kind of thing occurs over and over in Jobs's story. (E.g. the mouse at Xerox -- which you'll recall Jobs "stole" from Xerox, but in fact was invented by Douglas Englebart -- had three buttons, cost a fortune, broke down frequently, and didn't scroll diagonally. The mouse on my mother's 128k Mac eventually failed after five years when its plastic feet were down flat.)


Have you ever used one of the Xerox PARC machines? I have, and I would hardly call it a "half-assed UI". In many ways, it was better than the Mac OS until OS X. The main problem with the Xerox PARC machines is that they couldn't/didn't get the cost below $20k. IIRC, the Apple Lisa also suffered a similar fate, and the 128K Mac was little more than a doorstop. The Xerox GUI instead was saved by Moore's Law, when the hardware could be made cheap and fast enough to make consumer products.


"The main problem with the Xerox PARC machines is that they couldn't/didn't get the cost below $20k."

They probably didn't really care too much, since they sold high-end office equipment, not consumer products. Even if they got the price down, it would have been sold by Xerox copier salesmen to businesses.


I have actually used one of the Xerox PARC machines. Three button mouse, you needed to know which button did what or it was useless. No diagonal scrolling...




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