Barney's Rubble

Jobs Satisfaction

Doug's latest column focuses on the legacy of Steve Jobs.

Unless you've been stuck in Bio-Dome 3 with no cell or Wi-Fi, you know Steve Jobs resigned as CEO of Apple.

Mr. Jobs is not the man he used to be. Health issues have physically transformed his appearance and made him give up what must be the true love of his life -- Apple.

He's still engaged as chairman, much like Bill Gates, who maintains a gentle grip on the Microsoft helm. But while Gates fights disease and hunger (and much more) through his foundation, Jobs has a more intimate battle, for his very life and vitality. Both geniuses in their own way are trying to cure disease -- Jobs' fight is just more personal.

We've all been through these struggles, either with our own health or that of friends or family. Man is, after all, a fragile being. Steve Jobs' illness is no more or less important than yours, or that of your friends or family members.

I'm not sure what makes me think I have anything new to say about Steve Jobs -- or why on earth anyone would waste a page in a Microsoft-focused magazine on such a purely Apple-committed man.

Jobs is important because he is a master innovator and the perfect foil for Microsoft: Jobs makes Microsoft a better company. There are many areas where Microsoft has decided (or has been forced) to follow Mr. Jobs: the GUI (yeah, Xerox PARC invented it but Apple made it work), music players, phones and tablets. Windows 8 looks more like it came out of Cupertino labs than the Redmond salt mines.

The old saying used to be "Never trust anyone over 30." Like with Robert De Niro and Johnny Cash, the younger generation always thought and still thinks Steve Jobs is cool. My 18-year-old son David is one of many young Jobs enthusiasts. "Jobs, after his return, changed the face of Apple," David says. "That so many diehard Apple fanboys exist is a testament to how Jobs made Apple into an alternative to Windows."

Jobs almost missed his chance at this cult status. After getting booted from Apple in 1985 (does anyone remember John Sculley?), Jobs was begged back more than a decade later. In 1996 things were dire indeed. Anything that wasn't PC-compatible went out of business -- the Atari ST, Amiga, Tandy 2000, even Jobs' own $10,000 Next machine. The Mac was barely hanging on.

In a 1997 move that may have saved both companies, Microsoft -- in a decision crafted by Jobs and Gates -- invested $150 million in Apple. This float loan gave Apple the dough to move forward and helped keep the antitrust cops off Redmond's butt. Microsoft later sold its 18-million-plus shares at a tidy profit, but if Redmond had kept them, they'd be worth more than $4 billion.

Am I overly kind to Mr. Jobs or not kind enough?

Your thoughts are welcome at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

About the Author

Doug Barney is editor in chief of Redmond magazine and the VP, editorial director of Redmond Media Group.

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