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Awards, Knighthoods, Doctor Hats

A manifesto. Those who are today protective of their fearless leader have abused him worse than anyone in the past. Time does not heal all wounds, nor does it necessarily forgive.

There are those who would protest at the relative irreverence of this site and others towards the Apple CEO Steve Jobs. As if there's nothing to respect in the man.

Let's go to Sweden.

Royal Institute

A few years ago Linus Torvalds was awarded an honorary PhD by the Royal Technical Institute in Stockholm (Kungliga Tekniska Högskolan) on Valhallavägen in the Capital City. Linus got the award because he deserved it.

This pissed Bill Gates off. Bill started commuting to Stockholm and lining the pockets of the hyper-bloated fat cats running the show there. It was therefore not surprising that 'KTH' as it's called decided to give the next year's doctor hat to Bill Gates.

The award was not well received to say the least. Radsoft wrote a scathing report about it in their rants section.

What was interesting to read was the motivation for giving Bill Gates the hat:

He'd brought computing to the broad masses.

Not quite. What Bill Gates brought to the broad masses are worms and trojans and filthy junky systems with crashes and hangs and the worst possible track record for quality, stability, reliability and performance of any corporation in any major industry in modern times.

What Bill Gates brought to the broad masses is price gouging. He brought a monopoly bullying the market; he settles billion dollar class action suits monthly; he's been convicted by the United States Department of Justice; he's been fined half a billion dollars by the European Union.

The doctor hat doesn't fit well.

Linus gave the world Linux, and for that he should be recognised. And should anyone need a replacement candidate for someone who brings computer things to the broad masses, one need look no further than Steve Jobs.

Tim and the Queen

Tim Berners-Lee was recently knighted by Queen Elizabeth. He was knighted because he gave the world the World Wide Web. He could have patented it but no: he released it into the public domain.

He deserved recognition and he got it.

This pissed Bill Gates off. Bill started commuting to England and lining the pockets of the hyper-bloated fat cats running the show there. It was therefore not surprising that Gordon Brown decided to give the convicted criminal a 'virtual knighthood'.

The award was not well received to say the least. Rixstep wrote a series of scathing reports about it in their Industry Watch section.

Shaking Hands with Handsome Bill

Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie put on suits in 1999 to travel to the White House and receive a special technology award out of the hands of US president Clinton as recognition of their giving the world Unix.

To date there is no evidence of Bill Gates successfully bribing the White House to receive a technology award of his own.

Perhaps the difficulty is in finding something technological Bill Gates has achieved.

This is Shit

Steve Jobs is no programmer. And he's no hardware guru. And he's not a graphics designer. He knows what he likes, he wants good OOTB experiences, and if something 'just works' and is 'insanely great' he's happy.

Steve's most worn-out phrase is 'this is shit' which is what he says when he's shown gobbledegook or schematics he can't understand. He says it because he wants his engineers to explain it to him.

Steve Jobs brought the Macintosh project into harbour. Apple did not invent the graphical user interface, but they brought it to the masses. That in itself is worthy of an award.

But after seeing the Macintosh arrive, Steve Jobs did precious little more for Apple before he was sent to Siberia and thereafter migrated to Redwood City.

It was in Redwood City Steve Jobs was to do the work of his lifetime.

Second Time Around

If MacOS and the Macintosh were the first foray into commercially spreading the computer of tomorrow to the masses - to 'the rest of us' - NeXTSTEP and the NeXTcube and the NeXTstation were its perfection - targeted instead for 'the best of us'.

MacOS had been a first attempt to support what Steve Jobs and his friends had seen in Alan Kay's laboratory at PARC. What they had seen was hierarchical: they saw computer users dropping icons into folders and dropping the folders into other folders. They knew they wanted to do this too but they didn't know how. The MacOS project is testimony enough to that.

And Steve Jobs admits he was so blinded by the Palo Alto GUI that he didn't notice the other good things going on there, including object orientation. When he now broke ground in Redwood City he wasn't to forget that again.

Top Gun

Steve Jobs believes the difference between the mediocre and the superlative in most industries is a factor of about 2 or 3 to 1: great engineers will outperform their more average colleagues by about that much.

Steve Jobs also believes the outperforming factor in computer science is closer to several hundred to one. All evidence points to him being right.

This 'Top Gun' 'best of the best' attitude applies not only to humans but to technologies as well: when organising his new company, Steve Jobs made sure he not only had the best people, but also the best possible tools for them to work with.

And he himself had the experience of having already led one similar project.

Now You See It, Now It's Gone

Fourteen years later Steve Jobs was back in Cupertino again, previewing the OS Apple paid 429 million dollars for to a 'select' group of Macintosh ISVs. One thing is certain: the plan wasn't to tell them 'hey OK so this is what we have but we already know you won't like it, so we wanted to show it to you before we threw it on the junk heap once and for all'.

No: Steve Jobs was reasonably proud of what NeXT had done and expected the 'select' group to share his enthusiasm.

Instead they booed. They booed Steve Jobs on stage.

The $1 Salary

Steve Jobs might be the chief executive officer of Apple, but he doesn't call all the shots and he knows it. He answers to the board of directors. A board that initially would only allow him to be 'temporary' CEO on his return and would only pay him one US dollar per annum for his efforts.

A chief executive officer is supposed to 'execute' the wishes of the board. There is a lot of freedom and flexibility but you don't go against the board. You don't do anything you suspect will not curry their favour.

Faced with the setback of the onstage booing incident, Steve Jobs and his NeXT team had to make a tactical retreat - the first of many.

Another tactical retreat came when the Macintosh ISVs made it clear they weren't going to learn the new operating system's API but would only work with the old one - which to any seasoned software engineer sounds strange indeed and certainly impossible, especially considering the NeXTSTEP API is so easy to assimilate.

The intransigence amongst Apple's third party vendors was to set the company back years and ruin countless marketing opportunities. While the NeXT engineers worked on making something the ISVs wouldn't stick their tongue out at, while they hard-wired the 'old' MacOS API into the no man's land between the glitter on top and the underbody, Apple released several successive versions of the old 'MacOS'.

It wasn't until 24 August 2002 - more than five years down the road - that OS X finally came of age.

During this time Apple lost more and more market share, especially in education, while Microsoft moved to a 32-bit platform and released Windows 98, Windows 98SE, Windows Me, Windows 2000, and Windows XP.

Hands of the Clock

The old Macintosh ISVs are still trying to hold back the hands of the clock. Many of them still refuse to learn the new NeXTSTEP API.

As long as Apple have to program for two operating systems at once things will not be good. The recalcitrant ISVs are not only holding back the hands of the clock - they're also holding back Apple and Steve Jobs himself.

Ultimately it's the shareholders and the board of directors who must decide. It is they who must do the hard math and decide if it's more profitable to remain a niche player with hard control of the OS and the hardware - or if it is better to go on marketing the best hardware in the market but with an OS that is freely licensed everywhere.

The board are responsible to their shareholders, and they must weigh the possible revenues from selling a $100 operating system to several hundred million users against the current situation. They must also decide if placating the marginal contingent amongst Apple's current fifteen million users is economically feasible.

No one is against Steve Jobs except the 'old guard' of Apple users and ISVs. Steve Jobs could have given the world Apple's next generation operating system eight years ago. He could have pre-empted Microsoft's five releases in the same period. Had he been allowed to, he surely would have.

But he was not allowed to. He was prevented from doing this by the same people who today pretend to be so protective of him.

It is the manifesto of this site and others that it is these people who must go.

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