Will Steve “jump the shark?”

For those that aren’t familiar with the term “jump the shark,” click here. For everyone else, read on.

I have to admit, one of my fears as a Mac guy is Apple’s success getting to a point where it collectively starts to believe its own hype. Boy, back in the late 90’s I couldn’t even imagine worrying about such a thing. But I’m starting to see signs that concern me.

For example, the iPod. When iPod v1.0 came out, I remember walking around town with my white ear buds. Pretty much no one had them. Seeing a pair if white ear cords then was kind of like a secret ID that a fellow progressive, passionate person about computing was passing by. Now, you can’t walk down a block without seeing half a dozen people listening to the “soundtrack of their life.” The iPod has become the next Walkman. Now it’s boring and ubiquitous. The latest iPod offerings from Apple reenforce this. You could argue the iPod Touch is awesome. What would be awesome is a Touch with 160GB hard drive. What would be awesome is a mail app, Google maps app, Stocks, Weather, Notes and Camera. Why cripple the device? Could it be that it would cut into iPhone sales perhaps? Daring Fireball has an interesting take on WiFi here:

Clever bit of Jobs keynote jujitsu during the iPod Touch segment of the event: He does a whole big run-up to revealing that Safari is included, by emphasizing all the Wi-Fi networks that require a web page sign-in before letting you on. So the pitch is that you need Safari. It was a sleight of hand to draw attention away from the question of what do you do when there are no available Wi-Fi networks at all? What a browser needs is a network, but Jobs pitched it as the network needing the browser.

It’s silly if you think about it: if it weren’t for Safari, the only thing you’d be able to do on the iPod Touch with Wi-Fi is watch YouTube and buy songs from iTunes. Plus, presenting the inclusion of Safari as a sort of “boy, isn’t it cool that we did this” feature draws attention away from the exclusion of Mail. There’s been a lot less bitching about the Touch not including Mail than I expected — I think that’s at least partly attributable to the way Jobs presented the inclusion of Safari.

For those that watched Steve’s recent keynote for the latest iPod launch, you would have been treated to a smarmy jab at NBC. While I’m no lover of the media conglomerates, from everything I’ve read, NBC isn’t necessarily the bad guy here. It’s more about two mega corps disagreeing about monetization. Wonder if either asked the question, what’s best for customers?

What triggered this blog post was a great post from Wil Shipley, the developer of Delicious Monster. He’s a very outspoken chap–sometimes annoyingly so. Though, this post confirms some of my recent concerns about Apple jumping the shark. Wil writes:

But recently, well… the generous view would be that Apple’s screwing up, and the non-generous view would be that they are just plain getting greedy.

…why is the iPhone locked to a single carrier, so I can’t travel internationally with it? There’s really only one viable reason: Apple wanted a share of the carrier’s profits, which meant giving AT&T an exclusive deal. Which meant, we get screwed so Apple can make more money. It’s that simple.

And the iPhone is a closed system, like the iPods before it, so third parties can only develop software for it if they are EXTREMELY close to Apple. This is an incredibly frightening trend. As Apple gets more and more of its revenue from non-Mac devices, they are also getting more and more of their revenue from devices that simply exclude third parties.

I know Steve Jobs; he’s actually amazingly like my old business partner Mike Matas. They both love closed systems, for a simple reason — they both know they’re smarter than anyone else on the planet, and they don’t need anyone else mucking up their systems.

He goes on to make many more interesting points including opening up DRM (which I recently posted about too).

I love Google’s “don’t be evil” motto. It just hits the nail on the head in terms of orienting a huge organization to stay true to early more humble ideals. What I especially like about it, the motto comes not from Page or Brin, but from the trenches–an early Google software developer by the name of Paul Buchheit (developer of Gmail). It’s even more meaningful coming from the rank-and-file IMO.
I think Apple could use a good dose of Don’t be Evil.

Steve, please don’t jump the shark!

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One Comment on “Will Steve “jump the shark?””

  1. dunsany says:

    Funny, I was an MP3 player user before the iPod was released. I felt cool cuz I had a usable piece of technology and hated CD players. When the iPod came out, I was like “okay, it’s a pretty MP3 player and the interface sucks.” Then they made the interface worse (I can’t adjust settings without having to look at the iPod, making useless for jogging or driving)
    I’m interested in the iPhone but at the same time, I am battling it at work since it’s a security nightmare. Most of the execs who want one, want it for the “cool factor”, not the useful or technlogical factor. Which puts them in the category as the art-dorks we tech-geeks used to make fun of.
    The pieces of Apple technology that have most impressed me of late have been their old-fashioned computer ones. Typing this comment on my Powerbook. Going to give my first talk today using Keynote.
    And hey, I remember when the Lisa was new. Heck, I remember when the Apple II was new. I remember when Steve went to Next (I had a Next at work briefly) Every half dozen years, Apple jumps the shark. Every few years after that, they redeem themselves for me.
    If not, there’s always plenty new toys around the corner.


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