OK Steve Jobs, now Let's See Some Charity

02/09/2011 09:30 BST | Updated 31/10/2011 09:12 GMT


We all knew it was coming. And in the wake of last week's news about Steve Jobs' resignation, some commentators have talked about how Apple will be fine under the leadership of new CEO Tim Cook; others reckon Apple will be the next biggest gaming company - with or without him.

That's all well and good, but if you ask me, the big discussion point now is this: isn't it about time Steve Jobs got involved with some charitable activities?

Having created some superb products and built what was recently the most valuable company in the world, Jobs is now worth over $8 billion.

Yet despite pressure from extremely generous and inspiring philanthropists like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates (whose occasional portrayal as the "evil" one next to a Jesus-like Jobs is, in this context, nonsensical), it would seem that Jobs steadfastly refuses to donate any of his wealth to good causes, in a world where charitable opportunities are abundant.

As far as I'm aware, this fact is undisputed. As an article on AOL site Daily Finance puts it:

He doesn't give any money to charity. And when he became Apple's CEO he stopped all of its philanthropic programs. He said, "wait until we are profitable". Now Apple is profitable, and sitting on $40 billion in cash, and still no corporate philanthropy.

But the same author of this article - actually a chokingly biased, self-confessed Jobs admirer - argues that the great products he's given us over the years - and the jobs it has created - is in essence a cause for good.

That may be a fair comment, but only up to a point - only the most blinkered of technology users could not love some of Apple's recent innovations like iPhone, or at the very least appreciate the impact they have had on the technology world at large.

But it is obviously not charity.

Some choice comments from regular people in response to his argument:

"His avoidance of ANY charity, in this day when so many billionaires are pledging to give away their wealth to worthy causes, is... contemptible." - joeomar

"Giving people jobs is not charity....especially when you need their jobs to make you more rich. People in other parts of the world will never have a chance at this money or his jobs." - Sarah Kent

"I'm sure starving kids in Africa or any other suitable charity will care more about their next meal on the table than whether we have an ipod/iphone/ipad to play games on." - cmaxwell

Let's be clear, this is not about "do-goodery". This is about legacy. How do we want to be remembered after we die?

Gates may end up being remembered more for his charitable foundation than as the founder of Microsoft. Buffett, who I think pledged something like 99% of his wealth to Gates' foundation (pointing out that the remaining 1% is still more than he and his family would ever need for the rest of his life) and called for other billionaires to do the same, will be admired just as much for doing what's right as for being the world's smartest investor.

Much as I love my iPhone and can't wait upgrade from 3GS to iPhone 5 (supposedly being announced within a matter of days now), I am not a "die-hard" Apple fan - and I can't help thinking that too many people writing about Steve Jobs these days are.

It beggars belief that none of the recent coverage about him even mentions the issue of his and Apple's anti-charity policy. Nobody seems to want to talk about it, even though now seems like the ideal time to raise the question.

Of course, everybody's making the connection between Jobs' resignation and his unfortunate health concerns; ugly rumours about death lurking around the corner that were rife earlier this year are obviously very uncomfortable to talk about, but if you ask me it only increases the relevance of the philanthropy issue; you would think that Jobs, a victim of cancer, would want to do something to maybe help others suffering from the same thing in the future, or for any number of other good causes.

As my friend just said to me when I told her I was writing this piece: "Really? Is that actually true [about Jobs'/Apple's anti-charity position)? What is the reason? I just don't get it."

Neither do I.

Jobs has achieved something amazing with his life so far. His business empire, product and marketing genius and resulting vast wealth seem alien to most of us.

Now is the time for him to honour that achievement by showing that he is, in fact, human after all.