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Stallman: Jobs exerted 'malign influence' on computing

Misfiring bearded firebrand should stick to software

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No fightback from the open-source community

When some have articulated an answer predicted on Linux and open-source, they've been pulled down. Canonical and Shuttleworth were shot down when they tried to rally the open-source community against closed-source desktops such OS X. Canonical and Shuttleworth were then taken to task for appearing to be trying to make money off its back, something Google, Cisco Systems, IBM and many other big names are already doing.

Ubuntu's music service, meanwhile, has not made a dent on iTunes while efforts to build a community of open-source apps are still barely off the drawing board.

Today, Linux and open source in the cloud are talked about at an infrastructure level, through projects like OpenStack. We have yet to see what tie-ins companies delivering OpenStack-based clouds will throw up to hold on to their customers. It is also looking like OpenStack services will target business and enterprise customers, not the consumer in hock to Apple.

Jobs was no saint, he wasn't an artist in the romantic sense and it's arguable whether he was an idealist. Jobs – from "hippie" San Francisco, California – was the chief executive of a listed company. And like the chief of any other such company, he used the products his company produced plus a healthy does of hardball to give consumers what he thought they wanted, to create new markets, and to generate the kinds of profits that made his relatively small operation at times the most valuable company in American capitalism.

His business model was built on closed hardware and software, and when Jobs championed the open web, he did so in a way that reinforced Apple's control over its share of the internet – as was done during Jobs' boosting of HTML5 over Adobe's Flash.

The media has created the myth of the saintly genius and that has helped obscure the kinds of details people in technology like to dissect. Some now think Jobs created the tablet, but it was Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates in November 2002 who talked of a new era of mobile computing with the Windows XP Tablet PC Edition.

Gates slipped because his company targeted the enterprise instead of the consumer. Microsoft tried to protect its established Windows PC business, and his company ceded control over the hardware design and manufacture to the unimaginative and conservative OEMs, which also had markets to protect.

In summing up Jobs, few have done it better or more succinctly than DB Grady's "In Praise of Bad Steve".

"There are a lot of geniuses in the world, and a lot of aesthetes. But that's not enough. Sometimes it takes Bad Steve to bring products to market. Real artists ship," Grady wrote.

Stallman's comments are raw and the timing off, but like it or not, Bad Steve changed the web to such an extent that his company is now squatting on a large and important section of the planet's virtual space. This is helping Apple's shareholders now and will pay off long into the future, now Apple has placed people's data behind a closed wall in a way it can monetise.

The open-source movement can only challenge this by coming up with compelling ideas that count rather than polemics. ®

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