“Steve Jobs would never do that!”

 . . . except he did, over and over.

By Michael Grothaus

“No one hates Apple like Apple fans.” That’s what I think whenever I
spend time reading the message boards at Apple enthusiast sites like
MacRumors, whose forums may house the largest Apple community on the
internet. I feel the same way when browsing social media after a new
Apple product is announced–or a new complaint about a product goes
viral. A subset of Apple fans, the type who post online, seem to
criticize the company’s current leadership and choices more harshly than
anyone else.

In particular, after every product announcement you’ll find dozens of
posts from Apple fans alleging that “Steve Jobs would never have done
that!” “Steve Jobs would never have approved the notch.” “Steve Jobs
would never have let Bendgate happen.” “Steve Jobs would never have
eliminated regular USB ports on the MacBook.”

The perpetrators of these proclamations then usually go on to blame
current CEO Tim Cook, saying he will be the downfall of Apple because he
has made choices that a subset of hardcore Apple fans are unhappy with.
Given that Apple, under Cook’s leadership, has become the first
trillion-dollar public company in U.S. history, it’s hard to see how
he’ll also be its downfall.

These “Steve Jobs would never have done that!” claims are, of course,
ludicrous: No one can say for sure what he would or would not do. As a
matter of fact, Jobs himself told Cook not to try to guess what he would
have done. As Cook recalled during a talk at Apple HQ the month after
Jobs’s death, “Among his last advice he had for me, and for all of you,
was to never ask what he would do. ‘Just do what’s right,’ he said.”

But the main reason these claims don’t hold water is that the people
making them seem to have deified Jobs, treating him as if every decision
he made, and every product Apple launched under his tenure, was a
solid-gold hit. While Jobs revolutionized multiple industries with the
Mac, iTunes Music Store, iPod, and iPhone, he also oversaw plenty of
duds during his tenure at Apple. Here are just some examples of things
Steve Jobs did that were questionable at best and flops at worst.

Rokr E1, the first “iTunes phone”

People think that the original iPhone was the first phone built to work
with iTunes–but Jobs actually had another, horrible idea for
transitioning people’s music from the iPod to a mobile phone: the Rokr
E1. An ordinary cell phone of the era rather than a smartphone, it was a
collaboration between Motorola and Apple and was unveiled in September
2005 by Jobs himself onstage during Apple’s annual iPod event.

How bad was this phone that Jobs blessed? The Rokr E1 didn’t even have
an official iTunes app, opting instead for a generic Java-based music
player. PC World named it one of the 25 worst tech products of all time.
Thanks, Steve.

The ugly, blue HP iPod

For some reason, Jobs once also made the bizarre decision to actually
license the iPod to another company. Known as the iPod+HP, the product
was Apple’s iPod, but sold by computer giant Hewlett Packard. It was
announced in 2004 at CES by then-HP CEO Carly Fiorina. With the iPod+HP,
Jobs literally gave another company permission to make an Apple
product. The iPod+HP even featured an HP logo on the back, not an Apple

Jobs agreed to these iPods being treated as HP products to such a degree
that Apple Store Genius Bars were not allowed to service or provide
help for them. In return for handing its core product over to HP, Jobs
“won” the concession from Fiorina to install iTunes on all HP computers
sold. Thankfully, HP and Apple terminated this deal in 2005. Not a good
move, Steve.

Ping, Apple’s failed social network

Tim Cook often points out that Apple would never be in the privacy mess
Facebook is in because Apple doesn’t rely on the business model that
social media networks use: selling user data to advertisers. But if one
Steve Jobs-era idea had been, well, good, Apple might well be in the
same trouble today as Facebook.

In September 2010, Jobs introduced “iTunes Ping,” Apple’s own social
network. It failed big time–and thank god for that. Upon unveiling Ping,
Jobs said, “This is a social network all about music. It’s Facebook
meets Twitter meets iTunes. With Ping, you can follow your favorite
artists and friends and join a worldwide conversation with music’s most
passionate fans.”

Ping was terrible, and within 24 hours of its launch, it was plagued by
spam. It lasted only two years before Apple, under Cook, shuttered it
less than a year after Jobs’s death.

iPod Hi-Fi

Back in the mid-aughties, everyone and their brother made speaker docks
and other accessories for the iPod. Jobs saw just how many speaker docks
companies like Bose were selling and decided to enter the market
itself. The result was the dismal iPod Hi-Fi.

Why was it so bad? For starters, the price was $349–much higher than
similar speaker docks with better sound quality. Further, only some
iPods could connect directly with the Hi-Fi while others could not
without an adapter. And we know how much people love adapters. And
speaking of connecting, the iPod was only held in place on the Hi-Fi by
its connection with the dock port, leading many owners to accidentally
snap the dock connector off when removing their iPod.

When Jobs unveiled the iPod Hi-Fi in 2006, he announced that he had
actually replaced his expensive home audio system with it. Not many
people followed in his footsteps, and Apple killed the product just 18
months after it was released.

iPod Socks

Speaking of iPod accessories, in 2004 Jobs unveiled Apple’s newest,
cutting-edge product: the sock. Well, the iPod sock, anyway. These
brightly colored knit creations came in a six-pack for $29. Users were
to choose one to slip their iPod into to keep it safe (from shoes?). And
each sock innovated the iPod case industry by being a sock with an
Apple tag attached to it.

Revolutionary? Groundbreaking? Nope. Thanks, Steve.

Visionaries make mistakes, too

The examples above aren’t the only flops Jobs oversaw at Apple. Who can
forget the Antennagate “you’re holding it wrong” fiasco? Or the
hockey-puck mouse no one liked that was included with the first iMacs?
Or what about the G4 Cube, a Mac that was gorgeous but so impractical
that low sales led to Apple discontinuing it after less than a year?

The point is, while Jobs was a visionary and his story is arguably the
best comeback story of anyone in American business history, Apple under
his leadership produced questionable products, too. Had any of the
products on this list been introduced today, die-hard fans would be
screaming, “Steve Jobs would never have done that!”

But as history shows, Jobs did, often, do things “he never would have done.”


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