Commentary: Who is Silicon Valley's greatest innovator?
NEW YORK (MarketWatch) — What do you suppose Apple chief Steve Jobs will write in his memoirs about the 26-year-old Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg?
Wouldn't it be delicious fun if Jobs's memoir tried to take some of the air out of the Zuckerberg balloon? Early next year, Simon & Schuster plans to publish an authorized biography of Jobs, "iSteve: The Book of Jobs," by the acclaimed author Walter Isaacson. Jobs is currently away from Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL - News) on a sick leave.
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If Jobs, 56, just happened, by some chance, to be feeling a little insecure about Zuckerberg's ascent, could you blame him? After all, journalists have anointed Zuckerberg the poster boy of Silicon Valley.
What's at stake here in a possible rivalry between two enormously accomplished and famous entrepreneurs. You could call it a battle for bragging rights. As historians write the story of the technology revolution, it's fascinating to ponder who will be remembered as the leading trailblazer. In a way, this is also the story of the history of American commerce in the digital age.
Throughout history, famous people have had to contend with the accomplishments of those who followed them.In pop music, Elvis Presley watched as the Beatles eclipsed him. Hank Aaron saw Barry Bonds break his career home-run record.
Lately, the media have become so infatuated by Facebook that they've all but told Jobs, "Take your iPad and shove it, pops. There is a new sheriff in town, and his name is Zuck."
Recent history has shown us that hell hath no fury like a technology icon-turned-scribe. Look at the wrath of billionaire Paul Allen, in his new Penguin-published life story, "Idea Man."
In his book, Allen took the opportunity to open old wounds and accuse his long-time friend, business partner and Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT - News) co-founder Bill Gates, who has gone on to become one of the world's most admired philanthropists, of possibly ripping him off.
I don't quite know what Jobs's relationship is with Zuckerberg. Has Jobs been a role model, perhaps? A mentor, maybe?
I can imagine this fictional scene taking place at some point as Jobs and his co-author Walter Isaacson ponder the strategy for Jobs to tell his version of history.
"Walter," Jobs declares while pacing the floor, "what are we going to do about this geeky Zuckerberg?"
"Well, Steve, what do you want to say about him?"
"What are our options?"
"We can take the high road and — "
"Wait a doggone minute. I want to show everyone that I am the true innovator. I mean, I had the iPod before Zuckerberg was even going on panty raids in college!"
"Steve, I don't think they had those at Harvard — and besides, I kind of doubt that Zuckerberg ever went on one. Besides, we have to be careful here. After all, he was designated as Time's Person of the Year in 2010, you know, and — "
Isaacson nods warily.
"What does Time want, anyway?" Jobs demands. "I invented the iPhone! I devised the iPod! I created the iPad — millions and millions were sold in the first year alone, you know! Don't I personify innovation like no one else! I enrich people's lives. All Facebook does is take away everyone's privacy. Man, Time gave the award to Andy Grove and Jeff Bezos.That lucky stiff Bill Gates was shrewd enough to hang out with Bono, so he got one, too. Why haven't I ever been named as Time's Person of the Year?"
"Steve, Steve," Isaacson says, attempting to mollify Jobs. "Look, you were cited, too, last year. You were one of Time's 'People Who Matter.' That's pretty darned cool."
"Cool? You bet I'm cool, Walter. My company has a market cap of over $300 billion. We may yet hit $1 trillion. What does Zuckerberg — Zuckerberg — have that I don't have? Did he do business with the Beatles? I did. I brought their songs to iTunes. What did Zuckerberg do to enhance popular culture, anyway?"
"Well," Isaacson says cautiously, "Hollywood made a major motion picture about Zuckerberg and Facebook. 'The Social Network' was nominated for an Oscar, and so was Jesse Eisenberg, the young actor who portrayed Mark in the film."
Jobs becomes animated. "That's another thing. Where's my biopic! I gave Pixar to Hollywood. All Hollywood ever gave me in return was that second-rate movie, 'Pirates of Silicon Valley!' And they could only get that Noah Wyle to play me. He didn't get nominated for an Oscar, now did he?"
"Steve, Noah Wyle was, too, hot. He used to be on 'ER,' remember? And the movie couldn't possibly have gotten an Oscar nomination. It was a made-for-TV flick."
"Made for TV, made for TV," Jobs mutters derisively.
MEDIA WEB QUESTION OF THE DAY: Who has done more to personify innovation in our time, Jobs or Zuckerberg?
Jon Friedman is a senior columnist for MarketWatch in New York.___
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- Steve Jobs
- Mark Zuckerberg
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