From saint to sinner?

Home / design / From saint to sinner?

Steve Jobs’ death, as one might not unreasonably expect, elicited a lot of eulogising. A very great deal of eulogising. Verging on hysteria kind of eulogising. Y’know, the Princess Di kind of eulogising. Irrational. Barmy.

Now, for Mr. Jobs’ family and friends his death is nothing short of a tragedy in the fullest, starkest sense of the word and for them the world will never be the same again. The pain may dim with time, but I doubt very much that it will ever fade away and no normally functioning human – even me – could not feel empathy for the recently bereaved family and close ones. For the rest of us, and by that I mean everyone who didn’t actually know him, I can confidently say, without meaning to appear callous, the world will return to normal somewhat quicker. Life goes on, hey ho.

Now, I didn’t know Mr. Jobs and I’ve never been a fan of Apple [which doesn’t make me a Windows PC fanatic either – I simply can’t stand those tiresome Apple v Microsoft turf wars] so at a personal level I just haven’t felt the need to wail and bemoan his loss quite so vociferously as some. As it happens, much as I admire what he did to promote an appreciation of and an appetite for expensive, high quality product design among mass consumers, it seems to me that with a cooler reflection on what Apple did actually achieve and has come to mean at a wider level, it’s possible that history won’t look upon Jobs’legacy as kindly as it does at the moment.

Where once Apple sought to paint itself as a sassy, fun-loving individualistic and ‘different-thinking’ counter-culture, it has now become the very monster of the type it used to rail against; bullying, ruthless in its suppression of competition by litigious muscle, driven by a determination to cream off a hefty percent of all content that passes through the digital entrails of its products and seemingly desperate to crush the movement for open standards – or perhaps more accurately, anything that isn’t Apple standard. And not least, there’s the exercise of an iron grip over what the purchasers of its products are permitted to do with them.

Imagine that you bought a TV and the makers of the TV charged you for viewing content as well taking a 30% cut from the actual makers of that same content (while perhaps even telling them that they could only make content using the TV maker’s proprietary systems). Suppose you then want to record a programme and transfer it to your own computer – but the TV makers say you can’t. Insane? Well, that’s pretty much the Apple paradigm in a nutshell.

You can do what you like on an exquisitely designed Apple product. As long as it’s what Apple decides you can do. And for which, of course, you will pay. And not just in monetary terms.

Some legacy.