"Evil Steve" Drives Apple's Problems

Decades of resentment against Apple's high-handedness and condescension seem to be coming to the surface, as media outlets pile on the company with a fury never seen before. Apple may have no choice but to change its ways.

iPhone customers are in revolt. Investors have reason for concern with governance. Hackers seem be to rising up. Regulators seem restive. Previously enamored media figures are jumping ship.

For a company that has lived its life being fashionable and hip, this is almost a perfect storm of real-world problems. As its cool-factor comes unraveled, Apple seems unable to respond.

Steve Jobs is to blame. For, behind the genius, is the ruthlessness and single-mindedness that has gotten to company into this mess. But, if "Evil Steve" caused the problem, "Nice Steve" can solve them. People want to love Steve Jobs, he just needs to make it easier.

Its been said for many years--and not in a good way--that Apple is the company Microsoft wishes it could be. For while Microsoft only made a try for total domination, in its key markets--music players, music, smartphones, and applications for them--Apple seems to be achieving it. And doing so with a level of control-freak attention that harkens back to when IBM was computing, period.

Truth is, Apple has had this Jekyll-and-Hyde thing going for years, and it seems to be a reflection of Steve Jobs' personality, as it mostly disappeared (along with profits) when he was exiled to NeXT.

Apple puts out the most friendly and people-pleasing products technology imaginable, but runs its business in a take-no-prisoners manner that seems almost Stalinist. Apple, basically, seems to feel that as long as its products sell it need answer to no one.

Again, when you are small, you can get away with it. However, a company that dominates the online music, music player, smartphone, and smartphone apps markets draws a lot of attention, particularly when it is so publicly screwing-up so very often.

People--like evil hackers and regulators--who have not given the company much thought in the past are now sizing it up. Well-heeled customers, who have been in love with Apple throughout its history, are seeing how its business practices hurt their interests. Competitors are learning how to build products that are more competitive.

During his absence, much was written about "Apple without Steve Jobs." Maybe that needs to become "Apple beyond Steve Jobs" as the company grows beyond what Jobs' management style can support.

Jobs' illness and return shows the company can live without him, but certainly does better with. Maybe it is time for Steve to concentrate more on products and less on upsetting customers and regulators. Maybe its finally time for Apple to grow-up and learn to get along with people.

Apple needs to drop its vastly superior attitude and start behaving as though what customers think really matters. The company needs to become as user-friendly as its products.

"Nice Steve" needs to emerge.

Industry veteran David Coursey tweets as @techinciter and can be contacted via his Web site.

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