Friday, April 17, 2009

The good and the not-so-good

I came across this interesting piece today. When I was browsing for more titbits of Steve, I found this article written more than three years ago. I know its more against Steve but I somehow liked it and its kind of true. Check it out.

Jobs vs. Gates: Who's the Star?
Leander Kahney 01.25.06

Until recently, Bill Gates has been viewed as the villain of the tech world, while his archrival, Steve Jobs, enjoys an almost saintly reputation.
Gates is the cutthroat capitalist. A genius maybe, but one more interested in maximizing profits than perfecting technology. He's the ultimate vengeful nerd. Ostracized at school, he gets the last laugh by bleeding us all dry.
On the other hand, Jobs has never seemed much concerned with business, though he's been very successful at it of late. Instead, Jobs has been portrayed as a man of art and culture. He's an aesthete, an artist; driven to make a dent in the universe.
But these perceptions are wrong. In fact, the reality is reversed. It's Gates who's making a dent in the universe, and Jobs who's taking on the role of single-minded capitalist, seemingly oblivious to the broader needs of society.
Gates is giving away his fortune with the same gusto he spent acquiring it, throwing billions of dollars at solving global health problems. He has also spoken out on major policy issues, for example, by opposing proposals to cut back the inheritance tax.
In contrast, Jobs does not appear on any charitable contribution lists of note. And Jobs has said nary a word on behalf of important social issues, reserving his talents of persuasion for selling Apple products.
According to Forbes, Jobs was recently worth $3.3 billion which puts him among the 194th richest in the world, and makes him the 67th richest American. But the standings were shuffled on Tuesday with Disney's $7.4 billion acquisition of Pixar Animation -- a deal that makes Jobs' Pixar holdings alone worth some $3.7 billion.
But great wealth does not make a great man.
Giving USA Foundation, a philanthropy research group which publishes an annual charity survey, said Jobs does not appear on lists of gifts of $5 million or more over the last four years. Nor is his name on a list of gifts of $1 million or more compiled by Indiana University's Center on Philanthropy.
Jobs' wife is also absent from these philanthropic lists, although she has made dozens of political donations totaling tens of thousands of dollars to the Democrats, according to the Open Secrets database.
Of course, Jobs and his wife may be giving enormous sums of money to charity anonymously. If they are funneling cash to various causes in private, their names wouldn't show up on any lists, regardless of the size of their gifts.
For a person as private as Jobs, who shuns any publicity about his family life, this seems credible. If so, however, this would make Jobs virtually unique among moguls. Richard Jolly, chairman of Giving USA Foundation, said not all billionaires give their money away, but a lot do, and most do not do it quietly.
"We see it over and over again," he said. "Very wealthy individuals do support the organizations and institutions they believe in."
That's certainly true of Gates, who not only gives vast sums away, but also speaks up in support of the organizations and institutions he believes in.
This is not the case for Jobs. To the best of my knowledge, in the last decade or more, Jobs has not spoken up on any social or political issue he believes in -- with the exception of admitting he's a big Bob Dylan fan.
Rather, he uses social issues to support his own selfish business goals. In the Think Different campaign, Jobs used cultural figures he admired to sell computers -- figures who stuck their necks out to fight racism, poverty, inequality or war.
Jobs once offered to be an advisor to Sen. John Kerry during the 2004 presidential election, and he invited President Clinton over for dinner when Bubba visited Silicon Valley in 1996 -- hardly evidence of deep political convictions.
Jobs can't even get behind causes that would seem to carry deep personal meaning, let alone lasting social importance. Like Lance Armstrong, he is a cancer survivor. But unlike Armstrong, Jobs has so far done little publicly to raise money or awareness for the disease.
Given Jobs' social detachment, I'm confused by the adulation he enjoys. Yes, he has great charisma and his presentations are good theater. But his absence from public discourse makes him a cipher. People project their values onto him, and he skates away from the responsibilities that come with great wealth and power.
On the evidence, he's nothing more than a greedy capitalist who's amassed an obscene fortune. It's shameful. In almost every way, Gates is much more deserving of Jobs' rock star exaltation.
In the same way, I admire Bono over Mick Jagger, and John Lennon over Elvis, because they spoke up about things bigger than their own celebrity.
It's time for Jobs to do the same.
Rings a bell somewhere, doesn't it? So, despite all this, why is it that Steve is worshiped whereas Bill is seen as the evil force? Keeping business, money and technology aside, when you strip the both of them to their bare themselves, Steve and Bill are more similar than what they appear to be. Both of them are restless, crazy, extremely-focused, ruthless and eccentric. The most important thing in the world for them is, well, themselves. To satisfy their quest for higher truth and perfection, they push those people around them to the borders of human possibility. But the way they approach what they do is radically different. Bill doesn't care about portraying himself nor does he care about what people think of him. For him, it is very important to wake up every morning and prove to the world that he is second to no one. That is his paranoia. Steve, on the other hand, is more focused on the way he wants people to think of him, more inclined to the art of it and is philosophically, seeking perfection. He is a showman. His confidence is boosted everytime people are intrigued by him. And that is why Steve appears as the arty, philosophical, courageous adventurer who's experimented with life and whose one-liners are brilliant. Bill, to the common man, looks like the nerd whose sole motive in life is to sell Windows and earn money.

But you can't deny the effect of these two guys on the world. They indeed have made a dent in the universe.

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