Steve Jobs: Does he deserve all the adulation?

Tributes from all over the world are assessing Jobs's legacy and character.

At Apple stores throughout the country, crowds of grieving fans gathered to share their sadness, leaving behind makeshift shrines of flowers, candles, and photos. Lengthy tributes to a man “who changed the world” filled newspapers, magazines, and websites, with some pundits comparing him to Edison, Ford, Einstein, and even Gandhi. When the world learned last week that Steve Jobs, the 56-year-old founder and guru of Apple had lost his long battle with cancer, said William Welch in USA Today, it triggered an outpouring of sadness and reverence more befitting a “rock star than a corporate executive.” People reacted as if Elvis had died, or John Lennon. That’s because Jobs was no ordinary executive, said Farhad Manjoo in Until he came along, personal computers were wonky devices that users operated by typing in clunky commands, portable music players were large and ungainly and stored too few songs, and smartphones were “perfectly serviceable” but nothing that anyone lined up to buy. Jobs revolutionized them all, replacing them with iMacs and iPods and iPhones and iPads that were both beautiful and an incredible joy to use. “Thanks to him, the world is a much different, much better place.”

Steve Jobs was clearly a genius, said Vito Pilieci in The Ottawa Citizen, but his genius was for marketing, not for invention. He wasn’t a true programmer or engineer, and as sleek and elegant as Apple products may be, the truth is, “they just aren’t all that original.” There were smartphones long before the iPhone and MP3 players before the iPod, and both the computer mouse and the graphical user interface of the Macintosh operating system were invented by Xerox. Jobs’s gift was seeing the potential in these inventions, and making everyone else see it, too. Jobs was more “P.T. Barnum than Thomas Edison,” said Jim Picht in He certainly changed the way technology looks, and had an uncanny gift for selling the public things that the public didn’t yet know it wanted. But he didn’t fundamentally “change the way things work.”

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