You are either cool, or you are not. You either buy Apple or you don’t.
That is how many people see Apple and its products. You either hate it or you love it.
By the time Steve Paul Jobs died in 2011, Apple — a company he bought on the verge of bankruptcy — was the largest company in the world, with more cash reserves than the US government. His time at Apple is an incredible story of a revival of a company that he co-founded and was then forced to leave. And the products that he helped design and visualise, more often than not, demarcated cool from uncool.
But this is not just a story of business genius, creative excellence or even financial success. It is a story of love.
Let me tell you upfront that I am a fan of Steve Jobs. I am also a fan of Apple, the company as well as Apple products. I thought I would clear this up at the start just so that no one can accuse me of any bias later on. But I am telling you that I really am biased and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I am being honest.
In many ways Steve Jobs was like that. He was a passionate, focused and driven individual who changed so many things in so many ways. He changed our lives on micro as well as macro levels. But he was not a nice person. In fact, some say that he often took great pleasure in making sure people knew that they were inferior to him. He was no angel, and no hero. He was also just as responsible for Apple’s failure in his first stint there, as he was responsible for Apple’s resounding success in his second stint at the company. The movie Jobs, which has just hit cinemas in Pakistan, unfortunately ignores the first part of his journey.
And that is why this movie falls flat trying to do justice to one of the greatest geniuses of our time. It focuses far too much on Apple products and the company and ignores the man. And where it does focus on the man, it portrays him in a light that is patronising in the least and idolatrous at the worst.
For example, people often call Jobs an inventor. He was not. If at all, Steve Wozniak was much more of an inventor. But the reason Jobs was able to turn Apple into a financial success is because he never missed out on the money-making opportunity in every invention and innovation. He was a marketing genius, a brilliant seller.
Basically anything Steve Wozniak could come up with, and see as a gadget, Jobs was able to mould into a marketable product. That was pretty much the essence of the man’s genius.
But having said that, Jobs was a complex man and the movie fails to capture this.
It focuses on the fact that Apple makes glamorous products but fails to see that this glamour does not transcend the company itself. It is sad that the movie’s plot failed it, because Ashton Kutcher actually did a pretty good job of portraying Steve Jobs.
One stand-out feature of the movie is the use of Steve Jobs quotes. For a budding entrepreneur, many of these sayings are pure gold. For example, Jobs once said, “The greatest artists like Dylan, Picasso and Newton risked failure. And if we want to be great, we’ve got to risk it too.”
This quote is quintessentially Steve Jobs who didn’t hesitate to take risks. If he wanted something, he would just go for it. When he was twelve years old he called up HP co-founder Bill Hewlett to ask for spare parts. Hewlett gave Jobs the parts and a summer job as well. No surprise then, when Jobs also said: “Most people never pick up the phone and call. Most people never ask, and that’s what separates the people who do things from the people who just dream about them.”
In another instance, in the movie, Jobs says, “How does somebody know what they want if they haven’t even seen it?” Indeed, Steve Jobs believed in building great products that he would want to use himself. To a large extent he had a point. For example, in 2010 how many of us would have asked for a third device in between a laptop and a smartphone? Most people would never have asked for an iPad, but once millions of consumers saw it, they couldn’t live without it.
I point out these quotes to highlight the fact that I already mentioned above. Apple made amazing products and Jobs was an amazing man. This is why the company should not have been the focus of the movie.
Steve Jobs once said that what made the Macintosh great was the fact that the people he chose to work on the system were “musicians, and poets, and artists, and zoologists, and historians who also happened to be computer scientists.” I think this says so much about how to build creative teams and also points at the sad fact that today so many companies overlook creative individuals because they don’t fit in a hiring box.
So if you want to know more about who this man was, what made him tick, then save your money and skip the film. Because I really think this feel-good tragedy of the century isn’t worth your money. This movie did not really need to be made. Instead, go watch Pirates of Silicon Valley, a much better and much more accurate story of Steve Jobs and Apple’s beginnings.
At the same time I feel this movie provides a sobering example of how critics and audiences can reach different conclusions. I admit that a lot of my criticism is based on the disappointment that certain events from the Jobs life story were not covered in the movie. I am, of course, completely aware that it is difficult to expect a single movie to do justice to a larger-than-life character such as Steve Jobs.
You would be better off waiting for Sony Corporation’s movie on Jobs even though no release date has been given yet. This cinematic effort is based on Walter Isaacson’s best-selling biography and is directed by Academy Award-winner Aaron Sorkin of The Social Network fame. I hope this one manages to take a risk to try and achieve greatness as its subject did in his lifetime.
Fun facts about Apple
Apple rejected Pakistan as a potential market for its products, as a low-end market with not enough demand for “quality”
Apple rejected an app for tracking US drone strikes because it was not “useful or entertaining enough”
Before co-founding Apple, Steve Jobs worked for Atari
Steve Jobs was a Buddhist and his birth father was a Syrian Muslim, Abdulfattah Jandali
Time magazine considered naming Steve Jobs ‘Man of the Year’ in 1982, even sending a reporter for interviews multiple times, but instead, the magazine named “the computer” the machine of the year
Steve Jobs was dyslexic
Apple’s original logo in 1976 featured Isaac Newton sitting under an apple tree
Apple wasn’t started in a garage, it was started in a bedroom at 11161 Crist Drive in Los Altos
Apple didn’t have two founders. It had three: Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ronald Wayne
In 1985, Jobs lost a power struggle with the board of directors at Apple and left the company. He founded a computer platform, NeXT, that same year. In 1996, a floundering Apple bought NeXT and brought Jobs back to the company. Much of the OS X operating system is built on NeXT technology. Once Jobs returned, he pulled Apple from the brink of bankruptcy, tripled annual sales, doubled Mac’s market share, and increased Apple’s stock 1,300%
Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, September 1st, 2013.
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