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Clever marketeer, certainly, but Jobs was no genius


Tim Rutherford
Thursday 13 October 2011 00:00 BST

The writer is studying Mechanical Engineering at Coventry University.

The news that Bert Jansch had died filtered through to me early in the afternoon and I was listening to his eponymous debut album when I heard that Jobs, sadly, had passed away too. But, Steve Jobs was not a genius. There, I said it, someone had to. He was clearly an intelligent man, with an absolute attention to detail; a remarkable businessman with a telepathic vision for the mass market, but not a genius. The mass deification of Jobs is based on a range of products from the last decade: the iPod, iPhone and MacBook Pro that were not original concepts. The world's first smartphone preceded the iPhone by six years. All these products were well-crafted - in some cases by child labour - user-friendly and extremely well-marketed, but not innovative. In fact, some have argued that the sheer commercial might of Apple was a betrayal of the early creative ethos of the internet. Apple's legions of fans can be likened to those fanatics who follow their local football team. Many will buy the iPhone4S not because they need it, but because they are indoctrinated into believing that they should have it, like those who will buy the home and away kit every year regardless, even if the only change is a stripe across the sleeve. These Apple fans won't want you to note that Jobs, right, was a fortunate product of a lucky environment. As Malcolm Gladwell pointed out in Outliers (2008), four out of the seven richest men in the history of the world were born within five years of each other in the 1830s, so the pioneers of our information age went to American colleges two to three years apart. No, they will try to persuade you that Jobs should be posthumously canonised; that he was a tech genius who was light years apart from everyone else in his field. But he was not - he was just marketed as such. This is where Jobs excelled: marketing. He even marketed himself; his laid-back black sweater and jeans combination became the epitome of a "cool" CEO; the only "cool" CEO the world has ever known was Jobs. This is why I cannot deem Jobs a genius because, like Bill Hicks, I cannot agree that the words "marketing" and "genius" can go together. However, Bert Jansch, on the other hand…

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