The two faces of Steve (Jobs and Ballmer)

Write about Steve Ballmer's or Steve Jobs' arrogance, and you're bound to tick somebody off -- as Cringely discovered

Writing about Steve Ballmer and Steve Jobs always seems to get a rise out of my readers. Case in point: three letters I've received lately, two of which basically telling me I'm too stupid (and/or cheap) to live. Here are some choice excerpts.

In a recent column, I ragged on Steve Ballmer as the true cause of Microsoft's current ills. Cringester C. H. responded by offering a 12-step plan for Microsoft's comeback, most of which involves dramatically increasing its stake in Facebook. To wit:

Bring Zuckerberg in as the Chief Technology Architect. Make him an offer he can't refuse. Position FB as the next social network, web 3.0, "OS" powered by Windows. Announce Zuckerberg as CEO. Integrate Facebook with Office Live with Windows Phone with Xbox Live, Bing search, etc...

[ Want to cash in on your IT experiences? InfoWorld is looking for stories of an amazing or amusing IT adventure, lesson learned, or war tale from the trenches. Send your story to offtherecord@infoworld.com. If we publish it, we'll keep you anonymous and send you a $50 American Express gift cheque. ]

I gotta say, if there's anyone who can match Ballmer for sheer perspiration, it's Zuckerberg. Not sure about the rest, though. He really doesn't look strong enough to hurl a chair. I think that's part of Ballmer's job description.

In "Microsoft is dead, long live GoogApple," I went on an extended rant about my hellish experience trying to get a Windows Vista machine to let me delete a backup folder and how that example epitomizes everything about what's wrong with Microsoft.

Reader D. T. takes me to task for, essentially, not buying my laptop though a VAR who could have given me the support I needed to help me through that nightmare. (Need I add that, judging by his email sig, he appears to own such an enterprise?) Here's just a snippet from a rather long email he sent me:

Mr. Cringely you need to take a long look at yourself, your purchasing habits and expectations..... There really is a "channel" and there are a lot of people involved in making your notebook work, or as you pointed out not-work. ...

Perhaps you should have established a personal relationship with a vendor that actually likes to deal with people using technology products. Perhaps you even know such a vendor you could personally visit face-to face. Of course, personal attention is worth something. Yes, people other than you need to pay their bills. Why else would all these people charge for service?

Good idea, D. T. And if I had a hot tub time machine and could go back 2.5 years to when I first obtained that execrable Vista PC, I'd do just that. It still doesn't change who invented that insane process for establishing "permissions" (that would be Microsoft); it would merely change the person tasked with the ugly chore of executing it.

That was my larger point: Any company that could create a process so arcane and maddening -- or, for that matter, requires the technical expertise of a VAR in order to delete a folder -- has absolutely no understanding of what people want.

Finally, in a recent post about Steve Jobs, I pointed out St. Steven's off-the-chart arrogance, but balanced it by saying how if you or I had achieved what he has, we'd be arrogant too. This apparently did not sit well with Apple fan C. O., who writes (via his iPad):

Firstly, you condemn Steve for being arrogant which I do have a slight problem with (but let's not get into that), then proceed to justify him and contradict the entire post you made! To be quite frank, you sir are an idiot! You tell us that he is wrong to be arrogant, then produce a perfectly good response on Steve's behalf which implies that your argument holds no grounds what so ever! Please do tell as to why you would produce such an outlandish post which contradicts itself! And maybe wise up a bit before you respond!

First, the word you want isn't "firstly," it's "first." Secondly, I think the exclamation point on your keyboard is stuck. Thirdish, understanding why someone is arrogant isn't the same as endorsing arrogance as a way of life. A woman can be both beautiful and stuck up; you understand why she's stuck up (and why you put up with it), but that doesn't make it any less annoying.

Is that wise enough for you?

Got issues with any Steves (Ballmer, Jobs, "Stone Cold" Austin)? E-mail me: cringe@infoworld.com. You might end up quoted here.

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Robert X. Cringely

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