This little mini rant has been brewing for a while. What tipped it was watching the movie Jobs, which wasn’t very good, and took too many liberties. One in particular is a scene in which Steve Jobs, played by Ashton Kutcher, supposedly and suddenly discovers that Microsoft has a graphical interface. Jobs calls Bill Gates, screams bloody murder, calls Gates a thief, and tells Gates he’s going to sue him for every one of his billions of dollars.
I have a couple problems with this. First, if you read Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs, you know that Bill Gates was a frequent visitor at Apple headquarters, and the Windows GUI was no sudden surprise. The Windows unveiling to Apple happened at the hands of Gates himself, in an Apple conference room.
Did Jobs get mad and accuse Gates of stealing? Yes. “I trusted you, and now you’re stealing from us!” Gates replied coolly: “Well, Steve, I think there’s more than one way of looking at it. I think it’s more like both had this rich neighbor names Xerox and I broke into his house to steal the TV set and found out that you had already stolen it.”
Gates is referring to the actual stealing, at the hands of Steve Jobs and the Macintosh team, of the Xerox Alto GUI. Which brings me to my second problem: that fact is never touched upon in the the Jobs movie. We’re lead to believe Jobs is a lone genius, even though he couldn’t code a lick to save his life.
But the movie was just the tipper. If you’ve been following the Apple v. Samsung lawsuits over patent infringement concerning design, perhaps you’ve had the same sick feeling in the pit of your gut that I do. Samsung’s having to pay several hundreds of millions of dollars (although less than the $1 billion the jury awarded Apple).
It’s just mendacity, as Big Daddy of Cat On A Hot Tin Roof would proclaim. If I were Apple, I’d be ashamed. Not just because the growing popularity of Samsung products is making a big dent in Apple profits–which means that consumers don’t give a crap about Apple’s design patents–but because Apple is notorious for stealing. Not just the soft stuff, but the hard stuff too, from the designs of one Dieter Rams, industrial design genius of Braun fame.
Don’t believe me? Check out this comparison, courtesy of visual.ly, which has done a nice job of pulling the images together that have been all over the internet for the last half dozen years or so.
Note to Apple: maybe just follow Dieter Rams’s ten principles of good design, now several decades old, rather than just use what he’s designed. And if you can’t do that, at least admit that imitation is the highest form of flattery, and get on with it!
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