Letter from a CEO: Steve Jobs responds to your email

Would Steve Jobs answer questions email from Cringesters? Yes -- but you really have to get under his skin

A few weeks ago I asked readers what they'd say to Steve Jobs, if they have the opportunity to email him. I promised to forward any emails onto Mr. Jobs himself.

As we've learned over the last few months, Steve will occasionally reply to questions from Apple customers and developers. Sometimes he'll even engage in a public flame war with a blogger, quoting Bob Dylan and questioning the blogger's purpose in life. I thought there was a reasonable chance he might write back, and he did -- once.

Also on InfoWorld: Can't get enough of the Apple epic? Review recent history -- through Cringely's eyes -- in "Dear Steve Jobs: Your iPad isn't 'revolutionary'" | "Psst, pass it on: Apple has no secrets" | "The feds may be on to Apple's bad behavior" | "Steve Jobs: Savior or tyrant?"

Here are excerpts from the emails I forwarded, along with Steve's lone response. I'll start with the best one, a thoughtful letter from Cringester M. W. It was long, so this is just a portion:

I am a dyed-in-the-wool Windows user who has worked in IT for thirty years. My family and I have owned a number of iPods and we use the iTunes service regularly. This is in no small part due to how well the iPod is integrated into the iTunes store.

All that said ...

I find your recent e-mail response to a young blogger to be totally inappropriate for someone in your position. You just shouldn't treat people disrespectfully. No matter how much you might disagree with them....

It has become clear to me, Steve, that you and Bill Gates are cut from the same cloth! ... Granted you are far more polished and can get your loyal customers to pay whatever you want so they can own your product. ...

At least be honest about what you are selling and don't pretend that there are not reasonable alternatives to your products. Enable your customers to do more, not just inside your ecosystem but outside of it as well. That's how you keep loyal customers -- not by berating the competition.

The response? [Crickets] I guess that Bill Gates comparison must have stung. Even if they are cut from the same cloth, Steve wears it much more stylishly.

Now comes a somewhat less thoughtful question for Jobs from reader G. P.:

Can you ask him why he acts like such a duck?

Personally, I have never noticed any affinities to water fowl in Jobs' movements, nor have I ever seen a duck wearing a black turtleneck (though I suppose Daffy Duck comes pretty close). But I'll keep an eye out for this in the future.

Here's a not very nice email from "Jay" in Tennessee about Jobs' liver transplant last year. (Background: Jobs purchased a house in the Memphis area in March 2009 where he recovered from a the transplant performed at Methodist University Hospital.) Here goes:

How does it feel to have a liver you bought and paid for when you came to nashville and jumped in line of some one else waiting for the liver you recieved? [sic] Money cant buy you happiness but it sure can let you rent apartment in nashville tn jump on the donor list and get a liver... Be arrogant all you want....you didnt live in my city and you cut in line.

This one actually did garner a response from Jobs:

Wow, I bet his mother is proud of him.

I'm with Jobs on this one. And probably so is Jay's mom. Yes, the man lives in California and got a transplant in Tennessee. I don't think anyone did anything illegal. When you have the money, you can get on as many state and hospital donor lists as you can afford. That's just how health care in this country works. Want to reform it? Good luck with that.

Finally, I heard from longtime reader CS, who feels I (and InfoWorld in general) come down too hard on Apple and Jobs:

Lately, you are sounding like damaged goods, like a bitter ex with regards to Apple... Steve Jobs particularly. This appears to be the InfoWorld party line lately....

As a developer of custom apps for small businesses, sure I would like the ability to code for the iPad without getting Apple's approval. The reality is it is Apple is the vision of Steve Jobs. It is not a computer, technology or manufacturing company like Microsoft, Dell, HP, IBM, Oracle, etc. Apple sells products that appeal to people... The others make office equipment.

Over the past year I have purchased an iPhone and iMac. My wife and daughter love the iPhone and iMac. Apple is doing a phenomenal job innovating. Apple is obsessed with design and perceived quality. Sure they are not perfect, but your articles make them sound like the bottom half of the class.

Let me correct any misconceptions. I don't think Apple products are in the bottom half of the class. I think they're in a class by themselves. But that doesn't make them any more "revolutionary" or less overhyped.

And it doesn't make Steve Jobs any less arrogant. To be fair, though, if you or I or anyone you know had done what Jobs managed to achieve with Apple, we'd be pretty darned arrogant too. At least he comes by it honestly.

Got a bone to pick with me, Jobs, Apple, InfoWorld, or the state of Tennessee? E-mail me: cringe@infoworld.com.

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Robert X. Cringely

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