What's Jobs's end game?
In 1994, Steve Jobs told Rolling Stone:
I’m a tool builder. That’s how I think of myself. I want to build really good tools that I know in my gut and my heart will be valuable. And then whatever happens is… you can’t really predict exactly what will happen, but you can feel the direction that we’re going. And that’s about as close as you can get. Then you just stand back and get out of the way, and these things take on a life of their own.
But something changed. It started with the iPhone (some will argue it started with iPod and iTunes but I think those were a bit different) and Apple has since consistently chosen closed over open – the App Store, iPad, and now section 3.3.1 (with an interesting implication). What happened to getting out of the way to let things take a life of their own?
This begs the question: What’s Jobs’s end game? I doubt he’s changed his mind about money:
If you say, well, how do you feel about Bill Gates getting rich off some of the ideas that we had … well, you know, the goal is not to be the richest man in the cemetery. It’s not my goal anyway.
Is it about power? Impact? Maybe. My guess is that it’s about perfecting the user-experience, as misguided as I think that is. By locking things down, experiments are discouraged, only preconceived usage patterns (broad as they may be) are allowed, and anything off the beaten path is killed. We get trapped on a locally optimal hill in the user-experience landscape; lovely as that may seem now, we’re at Apple’s mercy to lead us to higher peaks. Apple differs from Microsoft in being good at what they do, but the similarities are nevertheless unsettling. For the first time since I got a Mac in 2002 I feel uneasy about Apple.