Today on Forum, guest host Rachael Myrow had a provocative exchange with Mitch Altman about Steve Jobs and Apple. Altman co-founded the hacker space Noisebridge in San Francisco — he’s an inventor, author and teacher. A listener named Adam in Berkeley kicked off the back-and-forth when he asked whether Steve Jobs influenced Altman’s idea of hacking at all? To which Altman replied:

Mitch Altman: Only in a negative way. Cause, I’m actually not a fan of Mr. Jobs. He was a brilliant marketing person, and I’m not a fan of brilliant marketing. Advertising has its place if you’re making something really cool and you want to let people know about it, let people know about it. That’s advertising, that’s fantastic. But when you manipulate people into buying what they don’t want or need, I don’t think that serves society well.

Rachael Myrow: Although, I’m going to stand in here and challenge you on this on. I have an iPhone and I love it. And I love the forum it’s given. And I know Apple is making a hefty profit. But I love the forum it provides, you consider apps — anybody with a brilliant idea can toss it up on that app marketplace and suddenly we’re all, I don’t know, lobbing birds at pigs. Or doing something really helpful like finding a parking space or checking out when the next BART train is coming. I mean, there’s so much creativity happening.

Mitch Altman: Sure, sure. I have nothing against all of that or the profit that Apple is making. They’re just charging a lot more for their hardware and a lot of their hardware is actually inferior. But they market so well that people get defensive when you say things like that, which is why I like saying it. So anyways, Steve Jobs didn’t come up with any of these ideas on his own and he actually killed a lot of innovation. because of his top-down approach of control freakedness.

Rachael Myrow: This is also the nature of companies. You know, they’re looking for that … what will make profit, and the rest gets shoved to the sides. It’s kinda the way that form of capitalism works.

Mitch Altman: Yeah, and we can chose to be a part of it as much as we like, or not. So make your choices.

You can listen to the excerpt here:

[audio:|titles=Myrow Altman]

What do you think? Was Steve Jobs a great innovator? A great marketer? Both?


Kelly Wilkinson

Kelly Wilkinson is a radio journalist living in San Francisco. You can hear her reporting frequently on KQED FM and The California Report. In addition to covering California and Bay Area news, Kelly writes the (mostly) crafty blog Make Grow Gather. There she chronicles her love of making things like lemon curd from foraged fruit, spray-painted lampshades and cut felt placemats. The projects she creates are regularly picked up by national websites and magazines. Kelly grew up in a renovated barn in Virginia and is constantly trying to bring a little bit of her rural upbringing to her now-urban life. By day, she catches the N-Judah out the front door. By weekend, she tends bees and grows vegetables in the backyard.

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