After death of Steve Jobs, Apple demonstrates only his worst qualities

It might be impossible to make a company charismatic, but Jobs could have left Apple less nasty

I asked in a blog a few months ago whether Apple could continue being the consistently creative force it has traditionally been if it were to lose Steve Jobs.

I wasn't trying to be morbid. Jobs was still out on medical leave for unstated but entirely public reasons and had returned before from similar episodes.

Looking at the impact Apple made with both the iPhone and iPad, I wondered whether Apple would have been able to produce either one, let alone make each one so disruptive an element it would put the rest of the PC industry on its ear.

Could Apple really be Apple without Steve jobs? Or would it just be another box manufacturer with a fading reputation for slick design?

I wasn't the only one asking the question. Since Jobs died, everyone with shred of geekery in the soul has had to re-evaluate Apple after its loss of a founder and CEO who was hated by half the geeks in the world as an arrogant jerk and worshipped by another half as the source of all creativity and grace in the computing universe.

Many, both fanbois and Mac-haters, often found themselves to be members of both halves at the same time.

Jobs was a creative genius. Even if you hate using either that term or Apple products, you have to admit he defined an aesthetic and built computers (and price tags) to match.

He was also a control-freaking, egomaniacal jerk who didn't suffer fools gladly. Or geniuses. Or sycophants or competitors or anyone else. His tirades made working for Apple hellish for many, especially in the early years.

Could jobs have infused Apple the company with that creative spirit to the point that those who came after could keep the Apple aesthetic, the Apple tradition alive.

It's far too soon to tell about that. Judging from its behavior since Jobs passed away, though, it looks like he did manage to turn Apple into the same kind of jerk he could be at his worst.

Apple channels Steve Jobs' pettiness, temper

The best example is one that's typical of some computer companies, but that Apple claimed to have overcome. It rushed the iPhone 5 to market without a few key features but with a few sloppy bits left in it. Apple did that for honorable reasons, I think. Its top execs wanted to let Steve do one last big-show rollout.

Still, Apple did no one any favors by trying to deny something as stupid as having built a phone with batteries that die faster and for sillier reasons than goodie-bag goldfish at a kindergarten birthday party.

Among other things, that kind of nonsense ticks off even your most-avid fans (who talk to each other, by the way; about you; a lot). They get justifiably annoyed with the public Apple-polishing of the Mac reputation-protection squads, especially after you eventually admit there was a problem all along, but don't promise to do enough to fix it.

And most especially, doing all that just a year after the previous version of the same phone shipped with a serious antenna problem that Jobs personally poo-pooed to the point of insulting those who experienced it.

So that may just be following in Stevie's footsteps.

But what would you call insecurity so intense that you kick someone out of your developer program despite having turned up more than a dozen major flaws in your OS and reporting them properly? Charlie Miller, principal research consultant at Accuvant Labs told Apple about the flaw then, when it wouldn't listen, he built a sample app that exploited the flaw and posted it on iTunes for proof?

It's not like he's a nobody Apple could get away with ignoring.

In 2009 Miller identified a flaw in the iPhone's SMS system that could let a maliciously written text "take over every iPhone in the world."

He also showed how to hack the "secure" Safari browser in less than 10 seconds.

When he came to Apple with news about a code-signing problem that would let malware disguise itself on iTunes, then execute after it was downloaded to an iPhone from iTunes run on an iPhone, download any malicious code it wants and run that, too.

Apple didn't want to hear about it. So they kicked him out of the iOS developer's program.

Even if you didn't want to know about the flaw, how good an idea is it to alienate this guy?

After being thrown under the bus, please move to the back to make room for the next person

How about your global security chief?

If you were a famously paranoid computer company who hired a security chief who'd been SCO at Pfizer, Inc. for more than 10 years and, before that, was a special agent in the FBI.

You put him in charge of the anti-counterfeit team and sic him on the "entrepreneurs" building "apple" manufacturing plants in rural China to bolster the trade in stolen software.

Then, in July, for the second time in a row, some idiot engineer brought into a bar a fully functioning prototype of an iPhone that wouldn't be released for three months, and left it there.

The last time it happened the prototype made it into the hands of the press, who Apple treated like refuseniks in Moscow circa 1978, when disagreement was equivalent to treason and jack-booted thugs could kick in your door at any time and drag you off to the Gulag.

Apple's security team (and some police) kicked in some doors and broke some laws to get the prototype back.

The second time around Apple didn't bother even pretending it needed to get the cops involved. Apple employees –some possibly dressed as San Francisco cops, although there were also real San Francisco cops there, invaded the house of the guy who found the phone and searched the place.

They questioned the perpetrator, bullied everyone in sight for days and, eventually got the prototype back.

Apple got such a black eye for the whole "jack-booted thug" thing that someone's head had to roll.

It couldn't be right away, because that would be admitting fault.

It waited until late last week, when Vice President of Global Security john Theriault left the company, or was shown the door.

It's not that he didn't deserve it. The whole situation was bungled from the first – clumsy, arrogant and brutally dismissive of the rights or concerns of everyone involved.

So maybe encouraging Theriault to go wasn't such a bad thing.

How about being hypocritical, and pointlessly mean?

But beating up a trio of French nutty-crunchy health-food types for the temerity to use a piece of fruit in the name of their tiny bistro?

Just a few weeks ago Apple, apparently fearing "consumers worldwide would be confused by a tiny restaurant in Luxembourg named AppleADay," according to ITWorld colleage James Gaskin, threatened to sue the tiny bistro if it didn't change its name.

The excuse was that "apple" has such a specific meaning and is used so little when people talk about anything but the birthplace of the MacOS.

The three people who run the place – dieticians and true believers in healthy food in a land where the sous chef is second only to the wine steward in contributions to any meal. Their place has 20 seats; MacOS has a lot more than that.

Apple let them live after they promised to keep making only sandwiches, not computers.

I haven't checked to see if there's any Apple surveillance on the little bistro. I wouldn't be surprised if there's often someone loitering a little too casually across the road, though. Someone conspicuously not smoking cigarettes in a country in which even babies light up, wearing a turtleneck and sneakers amidst a sea of Hermes scarves and Chanel suits.

Someone has to keep an eye on things.

Especially now that Steve's gone, someone has to keep his more fascist, paranoid, intolerant tendencies alive in the company that is his greatest creation.

It would be better, of course, if the part of Steve Jobs that Apple really embodied was the best of him – the enthusiasm for real innovation, the passion for elegant design, the drive for the perfect fulfillment of a vision.

In Jobs, at least, all those virtues came with an evil twin. Disdain for new things not created by Apple; disparagement of anything that fell a micron short of perfection; raging decompensation at the perception of failure, refusal to comply or the slightest hint of disloyalty.

Jobs hasn't been gone long, so it's obviously too soon to tell for sure.

So far, though, the only aspects of Jobs himself that Apple's behavior has demonstrated are the parts even most Apple employees often couldn't stand.

Read more of Kevin Fogarty's CoreIT blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Kevin on Twitter at @KevinFogarty. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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