Steve Jobs: Visionary or what?

Posted 1/28/96
This was mailed to Wired Magazine for their Rants & Raves section on 1/28/96.

To the Editors of Wired:

While reading the interview with Steve Jobs in Wired (4.02, Feb 96), I was surprised and amused by many of his statements. I realize that as the founder of Apple, and the creator of the Macintosh, he would have no lost love for Microsoft or Mr. Bill, but the attitude he presents sounds almost like insane paranoia. The idea that "we" must do everything with respect to enhancing the environment of the Web with a constant goal of denying Microsoft's "ownership of the Web" exemplifies that assessment. Yet he continually reinforces the notion that the future of the Web is "giving people what they want." I hold no stock in Microsoft, yet I will come to their defense in this case: Gates & Co. are merely doing just that. The huge number of personal computers running operating systems sold by "Big M" speaks something about this. Truly, choicesg about this. Truly, choices for the PC have been and continue to be available, in the form of OS/2, Linux, SCO Unix, and others. Once away from the Intel-based machinery, Apple products and now clones are one shelf over at CompUSA. And yet Jobs feels that Microsoft is the Evil Empire, since more people buy machines which run and are loaded with MS operating systems. Clearly Microsoft is giving people what they want.

Jobs made some very bad decisions before he realized that successful companies deliver what the market desires. One of the biggest was creating the NeXT machine and then not letting the public choose it. The money was not in selling machines to educational institutions, but in delivering machines to the masses. Doh! I don't personally know how responsible he was for the decision to keep the Mac platform proprietary, but Apple has paid in spades for following IBM down that dead end (anybody got an MCA machine handy?) Is he just bitter, or does he truly feel that the internet and the WWW are the last bastions of hope for curbing the Redmond Tide? We hear the same mantra chanted by the consortium pushing the "WebPC" concept, that is that "anything we do which leaves out Microsoft (no matter how unmarketable) is great." I feel that this "target fixation" will prove to suck up too many cycles from the people creating advanced applications for the Web. Cycles which would be better used to c better used to create applications and languages which are useful to the greatest number of users. Even those clueless bastards like myself who choose to use Microsoft products because they do what we want and do it pretty well. Jobs talks about keeping the Web ubiquitous, and this is how it's done. Any Web app which ignores the preponderance of Windows PCs accessing the Web will be relegated to obscurity. Besides, Microsoft is way behind everyone when it comes to internet use. Even in the scary old Windows 95, the built in networking although better than ever for MS, is nothing compared with what is built into any flavor of Unix. Gates has a long way to go to catch up.

Mr. Jobs brags that he doesn't need local storage, that he sends himself e-mail as reminders. So what? I don't think the majority of people feel like they want their software stored only on some remote machine. This whole backlash toward the old mainframe-dumb terminal paradigm confuses me. When I use applications on my local machine, I get good response, I'm not waiting on data to load and unload. When I use the Web, however, I am constantly waiting for even simple graphics. I am lucky enough to have a 28.8 modem when most people have a 14.4k or less. And almost no one has ISDN or CATV modems yet. The infrastructure either isn't there to support those technologies, or they are cost prohibitive. My connection at work is through a 10Mbit/s ethernet,10Mbit/s ethernet, through a fiber backbone directly to the internet. And I can't imagine running all my apps over the network, It's just too slow. Before these advocates of the WebPC can think about deploying them, they need to work on ways to increase the bandwidth to the wall jack. The trend toward the distribution of computing, with powerful nodes connected by fast networks will continue because it makes sense to most users, not because Microsoft and Intel benefit.

Jobs doesn't think that big corporations will be the center of the net, yet he insists that server-side computing horsepower will be the norm. As it stands, big entities with their own servers are the only ones who are presenting real Web apps. This is because they can develop and run CGI scripts to access databases, etc. They own the machines. But the majority of us, who buy their internet access from someone else, don't have that option. Most ISP's don't allow users to run scripts for security reasons. But they don't have a problem with client-side image maps, client pull animation, or Java apps. That is how we privateers can deliver more than just static pages of text and graphics. As Java and other client side languages mature, more people down here in the trenches will be able to do the kind of things Steve wants to keep away from Microsoft. It is really the Shareware model as applied to the Web. That model works, doesn't involve Gates, and empoweGates, and empowers the masses. A long way from "fracturing the Web," it will pass power downward to the proletariat. If everyone has power, no one does. That in itself will ensure that the Web, and personal computing will remain ubiquitous.

Take a Haldol, Steve. The Web will work out OK without you. Apple did.

Wired Magazine is hereby granted exclusive permission to edit and publish this material.

Copyright 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998 by John M. Meyer. All rights reserved. The Alien Mind is not associated with any earthly company or its products.

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