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Apple: Emails show how merciless Steve Jobs really was


Steve Jobs has many adjectives: innovative, forward-looking, charismatic. Another word on this list is merciless. That impression is at least given by the former Apple CEO’s email histories, which were released Wednesday this week.

Jobs, who founded Apple, died in October 2011. In the emails that have now come to light, he instructs his employees to exclude a developer who publicly criticized the company, forcing developers of subscription-based apps to use Apple’s payment service, and preventing any other company from offering a digital bookstore on Apple’s iPhones and iPads — unless Apple receives a share of its revenue.

Antitrust concerns against Apple and other major tech companies

“I think it’s all pretty simple,” Jobs wrote in an email dated February 6, 2011, about the issue of bookretail. “[Apples] iBooks will be the only bookstore for iOS devices. We have to act with our heads held high. You can read books that have been bought elsewhere but cannot be bought/borrowed/subscribed to on iOS without paying us, which we acknowledge is unaffordable for many.”


Jobs’ emails are part of a slew of internal messages released by the Subcommittee on Antitrust, Trade and Administrative Law of the U.S. Congressional Judiciary Committee. The subcommittee made the documents public after its hearing on antitrust concerns against Apple and other major tech companies. The hearing focused on the testimony of the current bosses of Apple, Google’s parent company Alphabet, Amazon and Facebook.

Much of the concern about Apple revolves around how the company manages the App Store for iPhones and iPads. The only native apps that users of these devices can typically install are those offered in the App Store. Apple sets all the rules for these apps. Also, which applications can be listed in the App Store at all, which services they have to pay Apple for, and what amount it will be. Some regulators and market insiders have expressed concern that the company could use its control over the App Store to favor its own apps, slow down competition or charge developers unreasonable fees.

Apple was aware of concerns from booksellers

The old e-mail messages, especially those of Jobs, are likely to reinforce this impression. The 2011 email pictured above is just a snippet of a more detailed exchange between Jobs and high-ranking company representatives. It was about whether and what Apple should require developers offering digital content and subscriptions through Apple apps. The bosses agreed to require developers to pay a 30 percent commission on the sale of such products.

Company officials said in the discussion that digital booksellers would certainly be opposed to paying Apple such a commission. After all, they would already pay a comparable fee to book publishers. “The bookstores will claim that this model is not working,” Eddy Cue, who oversaw the App Store, said in a response to Jobs’ email.

Jobs also showed his mercilessness towards Amazon

But Jobs hasn’t even shied away from confronting other tech giants with the same ruthlessness. In a similar email exchange in 2010, he and Phil Schiller, Apple’s marketing vice president, discussed Amazon’s Kindle eBook app. At the time, Apple had admitted to Amazon that it would not have to pay commission when customers bought digital books on their iPhones and iPads. Schiller was annoyed that Amazon had run an advertisement showing customers buying Kindle eBooks on an iPhone and then reading them on an Android-based phone.

“While the primary message is that Kindle apps exist on many different mobile devices. But the secondary message that shouldn’t be overlooked here is that it’s easy to switch from iPhone to Android,” Schiller wrote in a message to Jobs. “It’s really not fun to watch that.”


In a later message, Schiller Suggested jobs should force Amazon to sell books on iPhones and iPads to use Apple’s payment system to pay a commission. He noted that Amazon could refuse to do so. In that case, Apple could weigh whether to ban the app from the App Store for non-compliance with corporate rules.

Jobs’ response suggests that he would not shy away from a possible dispute. “It’s time for them to choose to use or exit our payment mechanism,” he said.

Jobs instructed employees to exclude a developer

Jobs was arguably his most unsentimental when he hired employees to slow down a developer who was critical of the company. In the summer of 2010, Apple introduced new rules requiring developers to write apps for the iPhone and iPad in their own programming language of these devices. Until now, it has been possible to write the apps in a different language and use a software tool to translate them.


A developer named Joe Hewitt criticized the request for classifying apple’s demand as “moderate.” Hewitt also spoke to the press. But Jobs showed no interest in having a dialogue with Hewitt. Instead, he wrote in an email, “I suggest that we exclude Joe from now on.”

This text has been translated and adapted from English. You can find the original article Here.

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