Steve Jobs did not Change the World, but Bill Gates Might

A great deal has been written this week about the sad death of Steve Jobs at the age of 56. There is no doubt about it, he was a remarkable man who had a huge impact on the electronics industry. From the Apple 2 home computer, through the original Mac and up to the iPod, iPhone and iPad, Jobs pioneered technological innovation that was beautiful to look at, easy to use and very functional. It often took years for the Windows world to catch up with stuff that the Macintosh could do straight out of the box. Perhaps the most obvious demonstration of the quality of Apple products was the sheer devotion which they attracted among their users. I can’t think offhand of any other organisation where a video of the CEO announcing a new product launch would attract as much attention as Jobs’ presentation of the latest iPhone/Pad/Pod.

But did he change the world? A lot of commentators of have that he did, but to . be honest that’s either hyperbole or just ignorance.

The majority of the world’s population are far too busy making a living and putting food on the table to afford the high-end consumer goods that Apple produces. Those who can afford mobile phones or computers will generally go for cheaper, less-fashionable brands. Viewed from the perspective of the whole world, Apple design and produce wonderful, expensive toys for rich people. They have changed the way that some people work, they’ve brought new words to the English vocabulary (podcasting) and they have pioneered a catch up race in phone design, they may have brightened up your life, but they didn’t change the world.

So what about Bill Gates? Conventional wisdom pits him against Jobs as the opposite pole of the computer industry; Microsoft versus Apple, Windows versus Mac, Gates versus Jobs.

No, I don’t think that Windows changed the world even if I do use it every day; personal computing was always going to take off , with or without Bill Gates. The advances of the last thirty years did not depend on any one individual.

But there is one way in which Gates might truly change the world; he is giving his money away. For years, he was the richest man on the planet, but through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation he is donating the vast bulk of his fortune to good causes around the world and encouraging other gazillionaires to do so, too. One thing they are investing in is malaria vaccines. If a cure for malaria can be found, this will change the world in a way which no shiny white telephone could ever do! Take a look at this.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not criticising Steve Jobs, he was a great man and his greatness went far beyond his contribution to technology (take a look at this video for an example of his broader insight). However, I am criticising those who give a prominence to technological play-things that they simply do not deserve. In a world where people are dying through hunger, warfare and preventable diseases the choice of an iPhone or Android, Mac or Windows, just doesn’t matter.

 

17 thoughts on “Steve Jobs did not Change the World, but Bill Gates Might

  1. I have to disagree with your statement, ‘he is donating the vast bulk of his fortune to good causes’ – because I have read otherwise, in terms of the percentage of his wealth. (Sorry – wish I had a link to back that up, but I don’t.)

    However, he has lent something worth far more than his money since he retired from Microsoft – his voice. That has perhaps yielded far more impact than if he had given twice what he has, in terms of dollars.

  2. You forgot to mention that the money Bill gives away deduct from the tax.
    And also, why is Microsoft software so expensive even on the long run. Why did Bill so many things to get rich, catch so much money even when it was not fair? Kill companies, people lost there job because he want to be the greatest.

    Because he now gives his money away, he is a good guy. Are you a christian? Something like: In the past you were evil (for example kill people) but now you have seen God and changed your life – Please, enter heaven.

    That’s stupid, keep ity real please.

    Off-Topic, the submit captcha function sucks ass, when it is not correct altered you must go back to the form and end up with an empty form!

      1. When you think it is silly, can you tell me what is silly about it. Saying something that is silly without telling what is silly about it is just silly. Right? Need arguments.

        1. The reason yours was a silly comment, and why I disagree with @Trent below is that neither of you are adressing the content of my post. I wasn’t writing about the business ethics of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. If I had been, I may well have mentioned the issues you raised, as well as the horrendous conditions in the factories where Apple products are made.

          My post was about the fact that the west’s fascination for shiny toys is not a significant issue when it is stacked up against the real issues that people are facing around the world. If you want to read blog posts on business ethics, then the best thing to do is write your own, not criticise mine for not mentioning something I wasn’t even talking about in the first place.

          The second silliness is your bit about Christianity. You ask, ‘are you Christian?’. This is a blog about Bible translation and Christian mission (with the odd digression into issues like aid and poverty). Yes I am a christian, though I don’t recognise your description of it.

          I certainly never suggested that Bill Gates is will get to heaven because he is giving money away or even that this would exorcise any negative business practices.

          The last reason I think that your comment was silly was that you used an oscenity when there was no need whatsoever to do so. There may well be a place for strong language, but I’m afraid that describing a captcha system is not that place. There are far worse things than bad blog comment systems in the world. (That being said, thanks for pointing out the problem. I’ve been trying a number of comment spam filters of late.)

          1. The blog ‘failure’ has nothing to do with the ‘mood’ of my message. That is why ‘off-topic’ was mentioned there. Right now, just one checkbox to tell the system that i am a human is a bad decision for security but is a pleasure to me because i don’t have to type the letters into the box ;-).

            Anyway, believing in some god is stupid, it always cause problems about something not exists. The example i gave about somebody that was evil in the past is how it works. Always try to see goodness, it is too easy to turn even when you where evil in the past, too simple. “He doesn’t mean it that way but now he is following the right direction, he is a good guy, believe me!”.

            Stop believing, stop to compare that is somebody bad or evil (to the rules of god) it doesn’t have something to do with heaven or with hell (heaven exist (look up at the sky) but hell i dunno but i ‘believe’ you can drink bier up there).

            Not even Jobs and Gates are the best persons on this world, got there own evil sides. When you are a brave person you don’t get up everything right because you got not that strength. In some ways it is beautiful but in other ways it don’t. Too brave is not good enough to reach something big like this.

          2. Thanks for the comment on the ‘checkbox’ system. I’m not sure how it is supposed to work, but according to the wordpress forums, this is one of the safest anti-spam systems. Time will tell, but after a few days it does seem more effective than the captcha was (and it is easier to use).

            I’d be interested to know a bit more about this God that you say doesn’t exist. Your description of how he works doesn’t fit anything I’m aware of.

            Stop believing, stop to compare that is somebody bad or evil (to the rules of god) it doesn’t have something to do with heaven or with hell (heaven exist (look up at the sky) but hell i dunno but i ‘believe’ you can drink bier up there).

            Once again, I’m not sure what you are referring to here. I certainly didn’t compare anyone to God’s rules in the post you commented on. You are the only one who has mentioned heaven (which has the best beer!) and hell, not me.

            I actually don’t know anything more about Jobs and Gates than I have read in the media and I don’t suppose that all of that is true. I have no opinion about whether they are good people or bad people and it is not my place to do so. However, I do think that finding a cure for malaria will change the world immeasurably whereas iPhones only impact rich people in the West. The point of my post was to compare the fascination with technology in this part of the world with the reality of povery and illness in the majority world. I used Gates and Jobs as a hook to make that one point and that one point alone. If you choose to read that as me saying one of them is good and one of them is bad, that is your choice. Me, I’ve never met either of them and just don’t know.

  3. I think it’s a valid comment. Does Bill giving away, say, six billion dollars, offset the destruction and evils that acquiring six billion dollars incurred. And remember that “health food plan” Bill was involved in, marketting junk food to Third World nations under the guise that it’s “fortified”. This was just an attempt to con local governments into lowering taxes, tariffs and lending governmental support to foreign companies, desperate to get their hooks in new, emerging markets.

    1. Does Bill giving away, say, six billion dollars, offset the destruction and evils that acquiring six billion dollars incurred.

      Where did I ever say that it did? That would be an interesting subject for a blog post and I’d encourage you to write something on it. Let me have a link and I’ll add it at the foot of my article. It doesn’t really fall into the sort of area I write about, however.

      1. “Does” can be translated as “let say and does”. He doesn’t say that you said that, it an assumption or an example. Interpretation is important, you read what you want that’s the problem (your problem) with text-only. It is not that he want to attacks you.Do i have to say more?

        1. I don’t think he’s attacking me, but like your original comment, his comment is, at best, tangential to my blog post.

  4. Steve Jobs did change the world.
    1. False Advertising. OS lion, The most advanced operating system. (Ngiyay!!)….. iPhone 4 has a super antenna(ngiyaaaaaay!!!)… Most innovative Company? How could they be? Apple acquired Final Cut Pro, Logic Pro, DVD Studio Pro, Siri, Retina Display, C3, Xerox(GUI of Mac OS) etc. and claiming they invented it.
    2. A CEO of a known company telling people how to use their product.
    3. Never admit mistakes but blame competitors. (Antennagate)
    4. The only Company that is paying Techblogs like Engadget to exaggerate reviews how good their products are. If someone gave bad comment, they will delete and ban you.

    1. I’m not sure that any of these count as world changing. But thanks for illustrating my point about the way that we fixate on technology at the expense of real problems!

Comments are closed.