Sunday, June 23, 2013

Controlling the Whole Widget

Like Charlie Chaplin before him, Steve Jobs held total control of his product: The Whole Widget

“I’ve always wanted to own and control the primary technology in everything we do.”
—Steve Jobs

The launch of the iPhone in the summer of 2007 looked to many like Jobs was about to repeat the smash hit success of the iPod—except for one thing. Jobs locked software developers out of the iPhone, at least initially. In the weeks following the launch, there was a storm of protest from bloggers and pundits who were furious that the iPhone would be a closed platform. It wouldn’t run software from anyone but Apple. The iPhone was poised to be one of the hottest consumer electronics platforms in recent memory, but it was forbidden fruit to the software industry. Third-party applications were verboten, except Web applications running on the phone’s browser. Many critics said locking out developers this way was typical of Jobs’s controlling tendencies. He didn’t want grubby outside programmers wrecking the perfect Zen of his device.

“Jobs is a strong-willed, elitist artist who doesn’t want to see his creations mutated inauspiciously by unworthy programmers,” wrote Dan Farber, ZDNet’s editor in chief. “It would be as if someone off the street added some brush strokes to a Picasso painting or changed the lyrics to a Bob Dylan song.”[i]
Jobs is a control freak extraordinaire. He controls Apple’s software, hardware, and design. He controls Apple’s marketing and online services. He controls every aspect of the organization’s functioning, from the food the employees eat to how much they can tell their families about their work, which is pretty much nothing.

Jobs’s controlling tendencies go all the way back.

In 1984, Steve Jobs’s baby, the first Macintosh computer, shipped without an internal cooling fan. The sound of a fan drove Jobs nuts, so he insisted the Mac didn’t have one, even though his engineers strenuously objected (and even sneaked fans into later models without his knowledge). To prevent their machines from overheating, customers bought a “Mac chimney”—a cardboard stovepipe designed to be placed on top of the machine and draw heat up and out by convection. The chimney looked preposterous—it looked like a dunce’s cap—but it prevented the machines from melting down.

Jobs is a no-compromise perfectionist, a quality that has led him and the companies he’s founded to pursue the same unusual modus operandi: maintain tight control over hardware, software, and the services they access. From the get-go, Jobs has always closed down his machines. From the first Mac to the latest iPhone, Jobs’s systems have always been sealed shut to prevent consumers from meddling and modifying them. Even his software is difficult to adapt.

This approach is very unusual in an industry dominated by hackers and engineers who like to personalize their technology. In fact, it’s been widely regarded as a crippling liability in the Microsoft-dominated era of cut-price commodity hardware. But now consumers want well-made, easy-to-use devices for digital music, photography, and video. Jobs’s insistence on controlling “the whole widget” is the new mantra in the technology industry. Even Microsoft’s Bill Gates, who pioneered the commodity approach, is switching gears and emulating Jobs’s line of attack. Gates is starting to build hardware as well as software—with Zune and the Xbox at the heart of Microsoft’s own “digital hub.” Controlling the whole widget may have been the wrong model for the last thirty years, but it is the right model for the next thirty—the digital lifestyle age.

In this new era, Hollywood and the music industry are supplementing CDs and DVDs with Internet delivery of music and movies, and consumers want easy-to-use entertainment appliances like the iPod to play them on. It’s Steve Jobs’s model that will deliver them. Apple’s trump card is that it is able to make its own software, from the Mac operating system to applications such as iPhoto and iTunes.

Read more at 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please comment on what you see and read here. Tell me what you like, dislike or want to know about these three men.