Open ... And Shut In all the eulogies dedicated to the remarkable Steve Jobs, people seem to be overlooking his legacy: the push to "think different". Rather than buying into his declaration that we should not "waste [our lives] living someone else's life" – namely, his – we see far too many products that seek to ape Apple, not beat it.
In his Stanford commencement speech, Apple CEO Steve Jobs warned students, "Don't settle." He further declared, "Don't be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people's thinking."
Great advice. Now if only the Apple faithful would follow it.
Take Gizmodo's implication that 3.5 inches is exactly the right size for a smartphone screen. ("That 3.5-inch screen will be the ideal size until all humans are 7-feet tall and have hands the size of frying pans.") So there you have it: settle. Apple magically got the smartphone screen size dead on, and on its first try.
But it's not just smartphones. My friend and Funambol CEO, Fabrizio Capobianco, pooh-poohed my suggestion that the Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 offers a better form factor than Apple's iPad. ("[A]t a price close to the iPad, there is no other choice than the iPad.") Again, the suggestion is to settle, because Apple got everything right (except, perhaps, the price) ... on its first try.
It's not even just that Apple's hardware is irreproachable: some pundits, like TechCrunch's MG Siegler, believe that Apple's native iOS development can't be touched by alternatives like HTML5, either. One wonders why everyone doesn't just give up and wait for Apple to feed us another device, so we can hastily, thoughtlessly hit the "buy" button.
I'm as big a fan of Apple as anyone. We have six Macs sitting around our front room, five iPhones, and two iPads. We've paid our dues to the Apple Fan Club.
But the suggestion that Apple somehow figured out tablets, smartphones, etc, once and for all, and that no one can surpass Apple's vision, is not only ridiculous, but a slap in the face to Jobs' thinking. In fact, the whole deification of Jobs is a slur on Jobs, as The Register's Andrew Orlowski forcefully argues.
Had the industry hit the pause button the first time around, we never would have seen Microsoft Windows, and the overwhelmingly positive influence it has had on the industry. I'm not a fan of Windows as a technology, being a longtime Mac user, but the personal computer industry (and later servers) is founded upon the strength of Windows and Microsoft's inclusive partner vision. We can correctly argue that Jobs helped to shape the technology industry, but it was Microsoft that actually built it, and in a way that Apple never could have supported.
Bill Gates didn't "settle". Thankfully.
Neither should today's entrepreneurs. It's right and proper to show respect for Jobs in his death, but it actually shows more respect for his vision to beat him. Jobs wouldn't respect an industry filled with sycophantic Apple fanbois. Someone, somewhere is going to out-Apple Steve Jobs, but not by slavishly conceding perfection to Apple. Maybe you. ®
Matt Asay is senior vice president of business development at Strobe, a startup that offers an open source framework for building mobile apps. He was formerly chief operating officer of Ubuntu commercial operation Canonical. With more than a decade spent in open source, Asay served as Alfresco's general manager for the Americas and vice president of business development, and he helped put Novell on its open source track. Asay is an emeritus board member of the Open Source Initiative (OSI). His column, Open...and Shut, appears twice a week on The Register.