Tag Archives: steve jobs

Where would I be without Steve Jobs?

It is no secret that I have not been a fan of the walled garden that Steve Jobs created around Apple in recent years.

While I can appreciate that the tight control helps ensure a consistent (and I have to say – beautifully designed) user experience, my geeky tendencies fight against it.

But with his recent passing I started musing about how it all began.  How did I get started in the tech industry in the first place?  The results surprised me and, when I really think about it, Steve Jobs was a big part of my life and my career – so here’s the story…

I grew up in East London which, for those not in the know, is the poor part.  Even compared to our neighbors we didn’t have much, and money for education was a luxury we couldn’t afford.

Since my chances of going to university were slim to none (and calling it slim is pushing it) I found myself leaving school at the tender age of 16.

No worries though, I had a plan to become a plasterer.  Yup.  Me.  I even prepared for that by getting an “O level” in plastering (sic).

Reality dealt me a swift slap in the face on that plan when I found out that I had left it too late to apply to the local vocational college and all the spots were gone.

With very few options and, with the winds of fate blowing  strongly, I found myself in a very small company that was working to promote the nascent micro-computer industry (as they were called back then).

I liked that job, even though the pay was awful and I spent 50% of my pay on commuting.  The people were nice, the receptionist taught me to type, and sometimes they had left over goodies from meetings!  The only problem was…I was bored.  I had far too much time on my hands and needed something to do.

Sitting in the middle of the office gathering dust was an Apple IIe – Steve Jobs original masterpiece.  It had a manual, some floppy disks, and a color screen.  Awesome.

With nothing else to do I sat down and started teaching myself to program.  It was easy to use – if a little shy on help when I got things wrong (Syntax error being about the most it would give me).  But before I knew it I had various programs running, fancy graphical shapes whizzing around, and I was looking for a new challenge.

Seeing what I had done one of the consultants in the office signed me up for a government-funded college program that he found in the paper.  I managed to get in and the rest, as they say is history.

Without that Apple IIe I doubt that I would have started in the tech industry, and that would have changed everything.

I may not have known Steve Jobs personally, but he affected my life in ways that I cannot begin to fathom, and I’m sure many other people feel the same.  His creations have democratized technology and, with it, created a whole new world.

So, since life has been good to me, I have to swallow my pride and say a belated “Thanks” Steve.  And if I have fought against some of your later creations well…it’s your own fault…you created me.

Rest in peace.

Steve Jobs - 1955 - 2011


Filed under Career, Life - or something like it, Technology, The Human Condition

iPad Misses the Mark for Business

Let me start by saying that I think Apple makes some very cool products.  I’ve owned various iPods and graduated to an iPhone earlier this year – I needed a new phone and, since I already had an iTouch, upgrading was a snap:   Buy the phone, plug it in and, voila!  Instantly I had all of my contacts and music on the phone, and my email worked immediately.

But lately I have found myself getting just a little bit irritated with Mr. Jobs.  His steadfast refusal to allow Flash on his products cannot, in my mind, be seen as anything other than vindictive.  I read his tediously long open letter to the world on the subject and, for those that can’t be bothered to read it, here is my summary (heavily paraphrased, of course):  “Don’t use Flash because it is a closed system, use my closed system instead.

He also claims Flash drains battery life – which is probably true.  But the simple answer to that would be to have it disabled by default and give the users a button to turn it on – along with a suitable warning such as “Warning: Enabling Flash will cause your battery die in milliseconds.” just so that people know what they are getting in to.  It’s unfortunate for Jobs really – perhaps if he had enabled Flash he could have blamed the recent iPhone4 problems on Adobe!

I could put up with the lack of Flash when it was just a phone because, well, I was never really going to do any serious browsing on it anyway.  But when the iPad came out, I found myself thinking that Jobs had made a serious error.

As usual, Apple has done a fantastic job of producing a product that you just want to touch and hold – it is  pure sex with a glass front.  But it lures you in with seductive promises, and then rolls over and gives you the cold shoulder as soon as you want to slip in your favorite application.

This is because Apple forces all apps to be delivered via the iTunes app store – a veritable fortress for anything that Jobs doesn’t like.  There is so much fantastic free software around these days that, as a self confessed geek, I am like a kid in a candy store (you can see a short list of my favorite free software here). But most of this lovely software will never feel the brush of a finger on any iApple devices.  I have already seen from the iPhone that any free software that competes with Apple’s money making apps (e.g. ringtone generators) will never make it into the iTunes store and is therefore Software-non-grata to the iPad.

By locking the doors on the iTunes store, Apple is not paying attention to corporate customers.

Apple has an opportunity to tie in companies for a long time, if they would just give corporations the ability to create and install applications directly, or at least through a less closed system.

Imagine this scenario.  Company A builds an iPad app for a specific need in their organization (not cheap) and submits it to Apple, who then have the right to say “Nah…I’m just not feeling it.”  That corporation is then out of luck!  And what about bug fixing? Are you seriously saying that a company has to wait until Apple feels like pushing a new version if its latest release has a major flaw?  That just doesn’t make sense!

In the mean time Google is making application development for Android so easy it can be done by cat lovers that have never seen a line of code.  And…oh…did I mention that their OS is actually open?

No, the iPad could have been something awesome and game changing in the business world, but Apple now runs a serious risk of letting the tablet PC makers catch up and, just possibly, take control in a segment with a lot of buying power.

Cool consumer device – absolutely!  But it could have been so much more…


Filed under Technology