One of the many revelations in the biography of Steve Jobs from author Walter Isaacson is Jobs’ assertion that Android was a “stolen product.” According to Hayley Tsukayama’s report in The Washington Post, Jobs was furious about Android and vowed to spend all of Apple’s cash to destroy it. The problem is Jobs was wrong about Android. Or if he’s right, then the iPhone was also a stolen product.
The reason that Steve Jobs was wrong is fairly simple to see if you’ve watched technology product development over the years. Nearly every product grows on the work done before it and the iPhone (and iPod Touch) are no exception. Apple created a very nice design for the iPhone, a design that was innovative, included new ways of doing things and most of all was attractive. But the iPhone was a derivative of other products, and while it was an improvement over what came before it (as it should be), it still depended on the ideas developed in those earlier products.
You have to ask yourself what it was that Jobs thought made Android a stolen product. Was it the user interface of icons on a screen that launched applications when touched? Palm had that feature years before Apple ever had a phone. Was it the touch-screen? Palm had that, too, although it worked better if you used a stylus, but then, so does the iPhone. Was it the third-party applications? Several handheld devices had that long before the iPhone, including some Windows-driven phones as well as those from Palm. Was it the integration of email and the personal digital assistant? There were a lot of those out there, too, including the BlackBerry devices.
So what exactly is it that Jobs thinks Android took from Apple? The sleek look of the device? Can you patent that? The thin profile? The touch keyboard? Apple didn’t invent any of those things, although the company’s designers did a masterful job of integrating them into a single product. Perhaps, it was the ability to play music on your device? Nope, Apple wasn’t first with that, either.
So why is it that Steve Jobs was so willing to blow his company’s cash reserves on an endless marketing and legal campaign to destroy this product? Was it perhaps a statement of Steve Jobs’ famous temperament? Perhaps it was his belief that only Apple could have good ideas? It’s hard to tell now that Jobs is gone, but Jobs was famous for his temperament as related by Doug Hardy in Forbes.