In an interview in Toronto, Gladwell claimed that one day people will forget Steve Jobs, but that “there will be statues of Bill Gates across the Third World.”
Now don’t get me wrong: I have a ton of respect for Bill Gates and the things he’s doing with his wealth and influence. This isn’t to knock him, but to remember appropriate respect for Jobs. (And side note: where are the statues of Alexander Fleming, discoverer of Penicillin?)
Gladwell mocked Jobs because “every single idea he ever had came from somebody else.” Even if that were 100% true, if Gladwell knew anything about starting a business he’d understand that ideas are practically worthless, and that execution of ideas is where most value is created. Just like other people have probably tried to cure Malaria in the developing world before Gates, it’s his successful execution that is actually saving lives.
Gladwell goes on: “To [Steve Jobs, using a poorly designed oxygen mask] was like making him send his final emails using Windows.” According to CNN that drew laughs from the crowd, which I think is just sad. Jobs’s strong design sense and high standards are a large part of what makes Apple’s elegant products. Why mock him for what makes him great? It’s like teasing Gladwell for wanting to write while on his deathbed.
I think he picks on Steve Jobs because his personality is an easy target. Was he hard to work with? Sure. Did he criticize people up unnecessarily? Absolutely. But I bet working for Henry Ford, Walt Disney, or Andrew Carnegie wasn’t ever easy, either. And they “only” changed one, maybe two industries a piece. Jobs? By my count he upended five while alive (computers, animated films, music, cell phones, and retail) with perhaps a sixth (television) in Apple’s target. And we’re still definitely talking about them.
Jobs may have focused on his business over philanthropy, but let’s respect him for his contributions to the world, and not mock his final days on his death bed.