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  1. 1

    A.J. Bobo

    Visionary design is great, assuming that the “visionary” person knows what they’re doing. Steve Jobs has a great understanding of design and that is reflected in Apple’s products. On the other hand, some people that I know don’t understand user experience, and so they wouldn’t be half as good as Steve.

  2. 2

    Alan Hope

    Okay, great. As long as Jobs is fit enough for the job. If he fails, what then?

    That’s the trouble with the rule of one. When the one is no longer there, the whole edifice falls apart.

    Whereas Google could last a millennium.

  3. 3


    Visionaries don’t scale.

    Also, the OODA loop (a military term Eric Raymond uses) is shorter with the crowd. Each quarter a new Android tablet or phone is released, better than all before, and for a window, better than the iOS device. There is a CROWD of Android devices – I wanted a removable battery so I have a Toshiba Thrive. The phones have different feature sets.

    The first iPhone wasn’t much – it didn’t even have (non-web) apps. The current one doesn’t have 4G. They are just getting android type notifications.

    Any color as long as it is black (as Henry Ford said), v.s. Any color you want.

    The Visionary might win one or more battles v.s. the Crowd, but over time the Crowd wins.

    The Visionary still has a miniscule share v.s. Windows.

  4. 4


    Here I thought the visionary’s job was to present her ideas to others so that the ideas can be refined, expanded upon, and developed over time.

    Would Jobs see himself as the ‘Decider’ or the ‘Shaper’ of things? Does anyone want to be referred to as the ‘Decider’ (other than George Bush, Jr.)?

    Great companies are made up of different people filling different roles, maybe even the same person being able to fill multiple roles at any given time.

    Perhaps what makes Steve Jobs truly great is that he understands the various aspects of bringing design to fruition, hence why he has been so successful.

  5. 5


    Wow, what an exercise in misrepresentation!
    1) I don’t think it should be assumed that the role of singular visionary is mutually exclusive from being inspired by the masses. As brilliant as Steve Jobs (or any creator may be), I doubt he would ever claim his vision isn’t somewhat informed and inspired by what he has learned from observing the whims and desires of society, culture, consumers, etc. C’mon that’s a bit overly polarized of a premise no?

    2) And conversely, any crowd that claims it’s acting organically on it’s own — with whims and biases that haven’t been partly (or greatly) shaped by the actions or legacy of specialized “influencers” or icons throughout time — is a dangerously deluded crowd.

    3) I love Google for all their tools and services, but I never make the mistake of attributing its success to some sort of basket of grass-roots-crowd-genius spawned golden eggs. They leverage the power of the masses for some useful and cool things. End of story. In the end, the truly genius stuff still needs a strong individual (or a couple of individuals in concert) to rise up and say “watch this!!”

  6. 7


    I don’t think Apple makes better products than Google.

  7. 8


    Addressing tz in particular:

    A removable battery or the choice of all the colours in the rainbow does not a visionary product make.

    You’re right though – the visionary model is harder to sustain. The iPhone 3G, 3GS and the iPad 2 have been incremental steps that probably would have benefited from committee-think and focus groups. For example, I’m pretty sure we would have had improved notifications much sooner had Apple been willing to be led by user feedback.

    I strongly doubt that any committee-let organisation could have created a product as fresh as the original iPhone, or iPad. It’s not like they weren’t trying.

  8. 9

    Robert Bigelow

    A few miss-steps of the single visionary include the Indigo/Flower Power/Blue Dalmatian Apple iMac G3 and the Dual-USB iBook G3.

    An Apple computer user since 1997, I’ve learned not to be an early adopter for any form factor of my preferred hardware vendor.

  9. 10

    daniel frazelle

    I agree with the sentiment that there seems to be a false premise here. While Jobs is definitely an arbiter, there’s nothing that indicates that he doesn’t listen to anybody or doesn’t hear ideas. Stross’s point is that one person is captaining the ship, not that the crew is completely silent and ignored.

    While it’s true that Apple doesn’t open themselves up to the “masses,” I fail to see how that’s been an issue for them. Ultimately, I’m not sure what credibility Tom Anderson has on this. MySpace was a case-study in being too loose with your platform and losing not just control, but the ability to control it.

  10. 11


    I think one of the flaws with the above is that when google speaks of “poorly-informed masses”, they and the people in the tech industry who love what google does, think that the masses are people like them.

    The masses are in fact non-technical users who don’t care about ‘open’ code, or command lines. The real masses want a device that works and does what it is suppose to. The masses buy and know how to drive a car, but don’t tinker. A few people are gear heads and love to get in under the hood and love being able to replace parts. Gina, Tom, and people like myself are not at all the masses.

    On a side note: Gina – I enjoy TWIG but really wish you and Jeff would be more objective with your take on Google. It’s really become a love fest with you both defending any perceived wrongs as honest mistakes by Google trying to do the ‘right’ thing, where everyone else must be “doing evil”. Maybe take the Google rose coloured glasses off once in a while and judge Google based on Google, instead of trying to show it as superior to Apple. I like Google products and I like Apple products – it doesn’t have to be a contest all the time. Otherwise, love the show, and your input into your view on technology.

  11. 12

    Robert Bigelow

    People in the information and technology professions who aren’t
    entrepreneurial might be sensitive to and wary of anything that
    reads or sounds to be “fan-boy” or “fan-girl.”

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