Apple: Emails Show How Merciless Steve Jobs Really Was

Former Apple CEO Steve Jobs.

REUTERS / Robert Galbraith

Many adjectives apply to Steve Jobs: innovative, future-oriented, charismatic. Another word on this list is merciless. At least this is the impression given by the former Apple boss’s email histories, which were published in August 2020.

Jobs, who founded Apple, passed away in October 2011. In the emails that came to light, he instructs his employees to expel a developer who publicly criticized the company for forcing subscription-based app developers to use Apple’s payment service, and anyone else Prevent companies from offering a digital bookstore on Apple’s iPhones and iPads – unless Apple gets a share of their revenue.

Antitrust concerns against Apple and other major tech companies

“I think it’s all pretty simple,” Jobs wrote in an email dated February 6, 2011 about the book trade. “[Apples] iBooks will be the only bookstore for iOS devices. We must stand with our heads held high. One can read books bought elsewhere but not buy / borrow / subscribe on iOS without paying us, which we acknowledge is unaffordable for many. “

House Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law

Jobs ’emails are part of a series of internal messages released by the Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law Subcommittee of the US Congress’ Judiciary Committee. The subcommittee made the documents public after hearing antitrust concerns against Apple and other major technology companies. The focus of the hearing was on the statements of the current bosses of Apple, Google’s parent company Alphabet, Amazon and Facebook.

Much of the concerns about Apple revolves around how the company manages the App Store for iPhones and iPads. The only native apps that users of these devices can usually install are those offered in the App Store. Apple sets all the rules for these apps. Also, which applications can even be listed in the App Store, for which services they have to pay Apple and how high this amount is. Some regulators and market insiders have voiced concerns that the company could use its control over the App Store to favor its own apps, slow down competition, or charge developers unreasonable fees.

Apple was aware of concerns from booksellers

The old e-mail messages – especially those from Jobs – should certainly reinforce this impression. The above email from 2011 is only a part of a more detailed exchange between Jobs and high-ranking company representatives. This was about whether and what Apple should ask developers who offer digital content and subscriptions via Apple apps. The bosses agreed to charge the developers a commission of 30 percent on the sale of such products.

In the discussion, the company representatives stated that digital booksellers would certainly be against paying Apple such a commission. After all, they would already be paying a comparable fee to the book publishers. “Bookstores will claim this model doesn’t work,” said Eddy Cue, who oversaw the App Store, in response to Jobs’ email.

Jobs also showed his mercilessness to Amazon

But Jobs didn’t even shrink from treating other tech giants with the same ruthlessness. In a similar email exchange from 2010, he and Phil Schiller, Apple’s vice president of marketing, discussed Amazon’s Kindle e-book app. Back then, Apple had agreed to Amazon not having to pay any commission when customers bought digital books on their iPhones and iPads. Schiller was annoyed that Amazon had placed an advertisement showing customers buying Kindle eBooks on an iPhone and then reading them on an Android-based cell phone.

“The primary message is that Kindle apps are available on many different mobile devices. The secondary message that should not be overlooked here, however, is that it is easy to switch from the iPhone to an Android, ”Schiller wrote in a message to Jobs. “It’s really no fun to look at.”

House Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law

In a later written message, Schiller Jobs suggested that Apple should force Amazon to use Apple’s payment system when selling books on iPhones and iPads and thus pay a commission. He noted that Amazon may refuse to do so. In this case, Apple could consider whether to ban the app from the app store for non-compliance with company rules.

From Jobs’ response it is clear that he would not shy away from a possible argument. “It is time they choose to use our payment mechanism or get out,” he said.

Jobs directed employees to expel a developer

Jobs was arguably his most unsentimental side when he tried to put employees on the back burner who was critical of the company. In the summer of 2010, Apple introduced new rules that required developers to write apps for the iPhone and iPad in the devices’ own programming language. Up until now, it was possible to write the apps in a different language and use a software tool to translate them.

House Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law

A developer by the name of Joe Hewitt expressed criticism of this requirement because he classified the language required by Apple as “mediocre”. Hewitt also gave his opinion to the press. But Jobs showed no interest in having a dialogue with Hewitt. Instead, he wrote in an email: “I suggest that we exclude Joe from now on.”

This article was published by in August 2020. It has now been reviewed and updated.


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