The Arrogance and Cynicism of Steve Jobs

Its often been said about Steve Jobs that you either love him or hate him, nothing in between. Well, I don’t loathe him exactly, and you have to give him credit for being, in a much overused phrase, a “genius visionary”. So while I’m not an Apple worshipper like good friend Butch Dalisay, and many others I know, who presumably had a “nerdgasm” when Jobs unfolded his latest baby, the ultralight MacBook Air, neither do I see him as the anti-Christ.

Jobs’ keynote presentation at the Macworld Expo in San Francisco opens the annual Apple marketing push for the company’s latest products and services. Its classic American hucksterism at its best. With his usual hyperbole, he described the three-pound aluminum laptop as the world’s thinnest and lightest computer, theatrically taking it out of a plain brown envelope, and calling it one the best things his company has ever designed. He was quoted as saying:

“I’m going to be the first one in line to buy one of these. I’ve been lusting after these.”

It’s a nice slick doodad, but is it practical ? Consider: no CD/DVD, no FireWire port, one USB port, no expandable memory and a small hard drive. To top it all, the MacBook Air’s battery is not removable. You need to bring the whole unit to the shop for a replacement. This is progress ? Adoring members of the Apple cult would snap it up, but for us joe shmoes a less than full-featured laptop would be unworkable. If you had the extra cash (US$ 1,800) and moved around a lot, why not ? Otherwise, owning one makes no sense. For me, this is just another example of Jobs’ cynical manipulation of the Apple market of rich geeks and status-seekers who must have the latest sexy gadgets.

But what really got my goat was Jobs’ statement that “people don’t read anymore”, which would supposedly spell the demise of Amazon’s Kindle book reader. In his words:

“It doesn’t matter how good or bad the product is, the fact is that people don’t read anymore. Forty percent of the people in the U.S. read one book or less last year. The whole conception is flawed at the top because people don’t read anymore. “

Huh ? Where did he get those numbers ? This is just pure arrogance and shows how little he thinks of Americans as informed, intelligent people. And if he thinks that of his countrymen, what does he think of us third-world readers ? The implication is that he can provide the machines to replace books in a lazy, ignorant, dumbed-down world.

His observation about reading may hold true for him, but not for the rest of us.

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