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Steve Jobs' legacy in danger

Now's terrible time to quit, Steve

Now is the worst time for Steve Jobs to quit his job as Apple CEO.

If Steve could have better picked the timing of his resignation, yesterday would not have the moment. That suggests, sadly, that ill health has suddenly forced his hand.

Jobs admits that he can no longer meet his “duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO”. And Steve is not one of life’s quitters. He’s a fighter, but his fight this week is not a pretty one.

Apple is currently mired in ugly, messy legal cases in Germany and the Netherlands – which don’t put the company or its leader in the best of lights.

Apple appears to be unnecessarily running scared of the Android competition to its iPhone smartphone and iPad tablet.

In Germany Apple is attempting to stop Samsung selling or marketing its Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet, a direct rival to the iPad – but hardly one with the market dominance of the Apple tablet.

Apple might well have a point that many Android tablets closely resemble the iPad, but does it really need to crush one of its own partners to prove the point?

In the Netherlands Apple has achieved a preliminary injunction against Samsung’s Galaxy smartphones – again a small but growing threat to its iPhone.

Apple has even been accused of manipulating photos in its claims that Samsung has copied its technology and designs – claims thrown out by the Dutch judge yesterday. At least it suggests that Apple is happy with some of Adobe's software...

These legal cases make Apple look like Microsoft in the 1980s and 1990s, acting like a vast, evil monopolist. And they help the cause of other tech rivals such as Google, itself the subject of EU antitrust investigation.

Surely Steve Jobs would prefer to step down and be remembered at the end as an industry visionary rather than a monopolist. Instead his legacy is in danger of mirroring that of his old arch nemesis Bill Gates, who rescued his reputation only by dedicating himself to charitable works, smiling more, and not being photographed with Steve Ballmer.

Jobs has always portrayed himself as a rebel and a pirate, not a man hiding behind an army of lawyers.

Apple is in danger of being seen as a company of litigation rather than innovation.

The company has been in court many times before – but under Steve that has mostly been as defendant rather than aggressor.

Maybe Steve thinks he has taken Apple and products such as the Mac, iPhone and iPad as far as they can go – and the only way forward is to entrench and fight to protect Apple’s market dominance – hence the move from R&D lab to courtroom.

Under Steve that seems most unlikely, so it appears that either acting and now new Apple CEO Tim Cook has commanded these actions, with Jobs too unwell to intervene, or Steve thought he had time to win these ugly battles and step down later in a better light more befitting the man, the company and its products.

Get well, Steve. You’ve done it before.

I hope the new man at Apple’s helm follows your example, rather than that of your old enemies. You vanquished those enemies in the end, through amazing products, brilliant marketing and tactical surprise rather than hiding behind a team of global lawyers fighting dirty in the pit.

Cook should end these ugly battles now before Steve and Apple's legacy is forever stained.

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