02.19.13 8:53 PM ET
Steve Jobs, Philosopher-King CEO
Tim Wu describes how Apple managed to overcome the "open-beats-closed" rule of technology companies. When we examine the major players of the past 20 years, companies like Microsoft rose to power because their software and operating systems were open to a wide variety of hardware and devices. AOL, on the other hand, failed because its model was not open the same way the Web is. Apple's products, though, are severely closed, yet it managed to rise to the top in the aughts.
For about twelve years, Apple successfully beat the rule. But that’s because it had the best of all possible systems; namely, a dictator with absolute control who was also a genius. Steve Jobs was the corporate version of Plato’s ideal: the philosopher-king more effective than any democracy. The firm was dependent on one centralized mind, but he made very few mistakes. In a world without errors, closed beats open. Consequently, for a while, Apple bested its rivals.