Apple MobileMe Memo Shows Jobs Grown Soft - InformationWeek

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8/7/2008
11:18 AM
Alexander Wolfe
Alexander Wolfe
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Apple MobileMe Memo Shows Jobs Grown Soft

Props to Ars Technica for posting Steve Jobs's MobileMe mea culpa. (Hey, blogging = pointing + attitude + the occasional brilliant original post.) So here's my take: However bad Apple's MobileMe mess was -- and it was a disaster -- Apple at its worst is still far better than most companies at their b

Props to Ars Technica for posting Steve Jobs's MobileMe mea culpa. (Hey, blogging = pointing + attitude + the occasional brilliant original post.) So here's my take: However bad Apple's MobileMe mess was -- and it was a disaster -- Apple at its worst is still far better than most companies at their best.Sure, Apple's culture is secretive, self-congratulatory, and arrogant. (Its most loyal customers are only the last two.) But the company sure puts out killer products. More important, it keeps doing this; that is, it has second and third acts. The vast majority of companies are unable to repeat their first flower of success, and milk the single development which made them famous as they tilt toward ever-diminishing returns. I'm thinking here of companies like Digital Equipment Corp. with the minicomputer, or Kodak and film.

As well, in the modern consumer sphere, we see how companies get locked into a particular mindset -- think Ford with the SUV -- and are unable to engage in proactive thinking which anticipates where the market is headed. Not so with Apple, as seen from the MacBook, iPod, iPhone, and now from the upcoming iPod Touch Nano, which is reportedly in the works.

Which is why Steve Jobs's memo, manning up to the massive customer dissatisfaction surrounding MobileMe, constitutes a major breakthrough. It's the first sign I've ever seen that Apple might be knocking down the "arrogant" tine of its triad of cultural imperatives.

More than that -- because if Apple's attitude reinforces any cultural meme, it's the one that goes "it's all about me" -- I'm happy to see that Jobs essentially concurred with my analysis of the MobileMe situation. When I posted that a couple of weeks ago, I wrote that Apple should have done a staged roll out of the service, so that users weren't straining the capacity of its system at the same time that purchasers of new 3G iPhones also were straining the capacity of Apple's system.

In the Jobs e-mail posted by Ars Technica, he wrote: "It was a mistake to launch MobileMe at the same time as iPhone 3G, iPhone 2.0 software, and the App Store."

Jobs even issued a rare mea culpa, writing that "The launch of MobileMe was not our finest hour."

Which leads me ask whether Jobs is getting soft in his middle age. On the one hand, I'm glad that Apple finally seems willing to offer an olive branch to the MobileMe masses. At the same time, I'm not sure I can take a too-nice Steve Jobs. But hey, I got used to John McEnroe as a tennis elder statesman and Bill Gates as a world-class philanthropist, so I think I can handle it.

So, what's in your wallet? Please leave your comments below or e-mail them to me directly at [email protected].

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