Just How Awesome Is Steve Jobs?

His many accomplishments are well known. But is it time to give the Jobs-worship a rest?

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December has been a flattering month for Steve Jobs. MarketWatch gave him its CEO of the Decade award, the Financial Times named him 2010's man of the year and, on Wednesday, President Obama called him the embodiment of the American dream. "We celebrate somebody like a Steve Jobs, who has created two or three different revolutionary products," Obama said during a year-end press briefing. "We expect that person to be rich, and that's a good thing. We want that incentive. That's part of the free market."

Add it all up and it's hard not to become fatigued by the endless stream of Jobs-worship. Sure he brought us the iPod and the iPad--but is the King of Cupertino really worth all the fanfare?

  • Yes, says Silicon Valley investor Roger McNamee, speaking to the Financial Times: "Steve's the last of the great builders ... What makes him different is that he’s creating jobs and economic activity out of thin air while just about every other CEO in America is working out ways to cut costs and lay people off." He adds of Apple: "I think they could bring out a dishwasher and people would buy it." Autodesk CEO Carl Basse agrees. "Other companies might try to stretch out the life of [the iPod], but they were willing to say, ‘No there's better technology,' ... I don't often think about CEOs being brave and courageous, but Steve is."
  • No, protests Nick Farrell at Fudzilla, reacting negatively to Obama's remarks: "So basically what the American dream is to be someone who repackages cheap components in foreign parts using cut price labour and flog it at greatly inflated prices back home." He accuses Jobs of hawking products "with a limited shelf life" and making his workers' lives a "nightmare with low wages."
  • Obama Should've Used Bill Gates as an Examples, writes Jeffrey Van Camp at Digital Trends:
While Jobs has definitely changed the tech space a few times, he's an odd pick to represent of the American dream. While Microsoft alumni Bill Gates has changed tech several times, he also is spending the billions he's earned giving back to communities and science through the Gates Foundation. Jobs is only worth $6.1 billion, far less than Gates, but hasn’' publicly donated even a million dollars to any organization or cause. It is possible that he is throwing billions at causes anonymously, but most individuals make their donations public.
It's hard not to be impressed by the turnaround Jobs has led over there, transforming it from an also-ran computer company to arguably the most influential player in mobile, if not all consumer electronics--while himself coping with his own turnaround issues (which, significantly, included recovering from a liver transplant).
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.