How Did Steve Jobs feel About Monopolies, Competition and Big Tech?

Steve Jobs Unveiling iPhone 4 Credit: Matthew Yohe / Wikimedia Commons
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Recently, Presidential Candidate, Elizabeth Warren said she wants to break up many of the big tech companies because they are monopolies – Apple, Facebook, Google, Amazon and more would be on the chopping block. However, monopolies in the tech industry aren’t new. When Steve Job’s returned to Apple in 1997, he commented on monopolies, healthy competition and ingenuity after being asked a question from an audience member at the WWDC Fireside Chat.

Jobs started by saying that when he and Woz started Apple, he didn’t even know what the Wall Street Journal was and that they benefitted from not understanding the market. At the time, many tech companies, like IBM, were more powerful than Apple. “I should have just nudged Woz ‘Hey forget it. We don’t have a chance.’ But we were too stupid to know that” he said. “If the big company made the product that was right. Then most of these things wouldn’t have happened. If Woz and I could have went out and plunked down $2,000 and bought an Apple II, why would we have built one? We weren’t trying to start a company. We were trying to get a computer.”

Steve also explained that many of the innovations that Apple came up with were because of the quality of other companies’ products. He realized Apple could be more productive just by changing the app they used for email or by dropping Excel for spreadsheets. His goal was never to be a monopoly, and he accepted competition with open arms. “Microsoft is a fact of life. They are like the air we breathe.” He added, “Apple can win without having to have Microsoft lose.”

Talk of regulation, anti-trust laws and company breakups have been seen in the news a lot lately. Many CEOs have been called to testify before congress, but we still haven’t seen any significant changes. Who knows what will happen in the future, but maybe Steve Jobs had insight as to why nothing has changed. “I don’t expect the Federal Government to break up Microsoft. For a lot of reasons, the least is that the Federal Government is a monopoly, they’re buddies.” To hear more of Jobs’ thoughts, check out the full WWDC Fireside Chat here. (This topic starts at 28:11.)

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