I have no problem with Apple products. I have an Mac in my kitchen. I am an agnostic in the computer wars. Well, close enough. If I’m feeling generous, I think people who are partisans of Windows, Mac, or Linux are just silly. Otherwise, I think they are idiots. I can and do use all of the computers and I don’t much care which one you put in front of me. In all cases, I’ll install vi and be happy as a clam. But there is one thing that I do hate: the Apple culture.
I can hardly believe that I still have to hear people tell me that Macs are easy to use. So are Windows machines. So are Linux machines. People who think that Macs are so much better than other systems are still living in 1990. They remind me of supposed Japanese soldiers who were fighting World War II long after it was over. Hey everybody: stick you head up and look around! A lot has happened in the last 25 years! But isn’t the iPhone great?! Didn’t Apple single-handedly invent everything that is good and true in the high tech?! They are the most slappable people in the world.
But even if you did think that Apple products were particularly super-keen, how does Steve Jobs fit into it all? I see him as effectively no different from Bill Gates — except that Gates at least was a programmer. But they were both successful because they were ruthless CEOs — the reincarnation of the robber barons. They weren’t successful because they were visionary or even competent. They were — as the best CEOs are — people capable of taking a particular market advantage and milking it for all it is worth. If you had switched Jobs and Gates in 1980, there would be no change in the history of computing.
So I’m not interesting in seeing the film Steve Jobs. Who is he that he deserves a biopic? I really don’t know. A film about Steve Wozniak might be interesting, because someone who actually knows something about technology having to live in the shadow of the Steve Jobs myth might be interesting. But from what I’ve read, this film is all about what a terrible person Jobs is. But why then are are we interested? Well, I think Bob Mondello on NPR sums up the feelings of most of the critics who are fawning over the film, “The film feels so electric while you’re watching, it’s hard to believe that after two hours, it doesn’t even get to the iPod, let alone the iPhone.”
In case you missed that, he’s saying that Steve Jobs is such an amazing genius that we should care. Oh. My. God! The iPhone! Can you imagine?! The iPhone?! Why it’s just the greatest thing in the world! Steve Jobs is responsible for our whole way of life! You get the impression that Mondello is sad Jobs didn’t leave stool samples so we could literally get the bottom of his genius. And this is just what you should expect, because among the people I read, this kind of witless joy over Apple products is common.
So I’m not going to see this movie because it is predicated on the idea that Apple is something more than just another company selling just another product. Certainly if Steve Jobs had never been born, we would live in a different world. It might be worse, but it is just as likely that it would be better. Steve Jobs’ greatest trick was convincing the world that he was a genius. He wasn’t a genius. He was just another robber baron of the later 20th century.