Where Steve Jobs was wrong; often great, but stubbornly wrong

Mourning the loss of Steve Jobs' potential for greatness more than the man himself

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Jobs saw it all as more than just making hardware smarter. He saw personal computers – or at least promoted them – as a way to become more than what he was, to reach places he would otherwise not be able to go.

Against the naysaying of anyone who knew anything about computers at the time, he convinced other people that, with some help from a smart machine to handle the complicated bits, anyone could do great things, or at least things far greater than they could do on their own.

That was the power of Steve Jobs. He seemed to really believe what would have been just an advertising slogan in the mouth of other proto-moguls in the growing PC business, all of whom – Jobs included – wanted the revolution they were launching to make them rich and powerful, not just free the untutored masses.

Great, but not good?

I never got that connection with the actual Jobs.

I could see, historically, how important he had been and how consistently he was able to force great ideas, great design and real, actual inventive creativity into objects that are chained to the mundane in both appearance and operation by the laws of physics, size of components, battery power and ability to hold or use information.

Jobs was no stellar engineer; he did little of the real inventing. But there is no question he was great at creating great technology – or at least getting others to do it which, in many ways is much more difficult.

His perfectionism, his obsession with making his creations work exactly the way he wanted them to produced contradictory tidal forces that could have – should have – broken up Apple and its fan culture.

That need for control directly contradicted every principle of freedom, unrestricted thinking and creativity he preached as his core principles – which, to all appearances, they were.

"Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life," he told graduating seniors at Stanford in 2005. "Don't be trapped by dogma, which is [what it means to live] with the result of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your inner voice."

That's great advice for living your life, but Jobs used the opposite approach when it came to technology.

Apple fell irretrievably behind clunkier rival Microsoft early in the PC era because Jobs refused to license his much-superior operating system to run on machines built by other companies.

The result wasn't up to his standards.

Perfectionism isn't always a virtue

His high standards caused the creation of dozens of top-flight products and a few that were truly great.

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