Steve Jobs no Gandhi but plaudits deserved

There are few things more compelling than the cult of personality. And there was no chief executive with a greater following than Steve Jobs, writes Rupert Wright.

There are few things more compelling than the cult of personality. And there was no chief executive with a greater following than Steve Jobs.

With his trademark jeans and black roll-neck sweater, little round glasses and cropped hair, he was the very archetype, the personification of the company.

His every word and action was closely watched by his followers, who absorbed the signs and interpreted them almost like Kremlinologists. In a similar fashion to the Moscow watchers, when the big news broke that he was finally stepping down as chief executive, they missed it.

His life story reads like a penny thriller: the adopted son of a Syrian father and an American mother, he toyed with Buddhism before discovering computers.

He founded a company in his garage, became a millionaire in his 20s, hired the head of Pepsi to run it, and was then sacked by him.

He built up another company, NeXT, returned to Apple, and made it the largest company in the world, with a cult following stretching from China to Chile.

He deserves the plaudits and the accolades, even though some of them suggest that he is the Gandhi or Mandela of our times, rather than just a fellow who made computers and phones that ordinary people could use. Even though stock-market pickers are saying it will remain business as usual, clearly his influence will be sorely missed.

Tim Cook, his likely successor, may be hand-picked and carefully groomed, but about the nicest thing one can say about him is he is "very good with logistics". That may be a handy attribute, but it hardly sets the pulse racing.

Once Stalin fell there were a succession of faceless wonders until Gorbachev realised the game was up and the Soviet Union's empire was no longer sustainable.

We wish Mr Cook well, but don't envy him his new responsibility.

rwright@thenational.ae

Published: August 26, 2011 04:00 AM

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