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Thread: Steve Jobs vs. Leo Fender

  1. #1
    Registered User sgrexa's Avatar
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    Default Steve Jobs vs. Leo Fender

    I am selling an inexpensive Fender Squier guitar on Ebay for my nephew and it has made me ponder things a bit. I hope you do not mind me sharing a little "rant" I decided to post in the description of the guitar after I decided to sell the guitar "as is" instead of set it up:

    "Unlike the iPod, where Steve Jobs or whomever gave the green light on the initial and numerous engineering schematics since, there actually ARE user serviceable parts inside this guitar! You see, Leo Fender thought a little differently than Mr. Jobs. Experience has unfortunately taught me that in order to simply replace a battery in an iPod, you need specialized tools, specialized training, a steady hand, a very strong will, extreme patience, and even then a WHOLE lot of luck and determination is required to perform what should be a ~1 minute task. With some simple hand tools found in almost every junk drawer around the globe, you can make this guitar play to your very own playing standards and have the satisfaction that comes from that accomplishment! You would be surprised how hard it is to actually break a Fender Stratocaster guitar. Even by blatant blunt force trauma it is pretty hard to do, just ask Pete Townshend. Even after suffering that level of injury, it is relatively easy to make the guitar work and play again in most cases. Sorry for this little rant, but I got back to thinking about when I was 11 or 12 years old in the twilight of the ubiquitous 80's and the experience of longing for my first guitar. Unlike today, where you can easily load millions of images of your "dream" guitar in a second, we were a little less satiated back then. I think I had a Sam Goody catalogue with a single picture of the actual Hondo Les Paul copy that I lusted after for months before that Christmas day finally arrived. Maybe a few guitar mags too, but they all had pictures of guitars that I could never dream of affording. OK, enough out of me, good luck and God speed!"

    Anyway, this may have come up before and might be better for an electric guitar builders forum, but it is interesting (at least to me) to ponder the different approaches of Mr. Jobs and Mr. Fender. I wonder if Steve Jobs really did think the decision to make a simple battery change such an ordeal would result in more sales in this "consumerism" based society. Did Mr. Jobs really think it through early on that rather than go through the trouble and expense of changing a simple battery, the typical consumer would also consider "upgrading" to a newer iPod and thereby generate more sales? Realizing that it would be difficult to monopolize the aftermarket iPod battery market, I believe that this was Mr. Job's intent from the start and that anyway you look at it, he was successful.

    Leo on the other hand, seemed to think that offering the guitarist relatively easy serviceability was a selling point that would appeal to more guitarists. The obvious defect, and one of the relatively few flaws as I see it, is having the truss rod adjustment under the pickguard instead of at the peghead. They eventually got around to changing this, but I would bet far many more Strats and Teles were and continue to be sold with the "traditional" 50's truss rod design, because that is the way "Leo" did things. Leo's approach was obviously successful too, but very different. Just food for thought

    Sean

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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Steve Jobs vs. Leo Fender

    I don't think they are comparable. Entirely different cultures. You recharge your electronics till you can't, then the average person takes it somewhere, hands it to someone and says "it doesn't do this or that" or "I think the battery is shot" or whatever and the counter person does magic or replaces it.

    Many many guitarists love to customize and optimize and otherwise fiddle with their instruments. So the guitars are and have been made to be worked on.

    In general folks that like to work on stuff are an endangered breed. There are certain niche markets, guitars perhaps, ham radio antennas, certain cars, but in general one would lose money making things fixable.


    Each is capitalizing on its culture.
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    Resonate globally Pete Jenner's Avatar
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    Default Re: Steve Jobs vs. Leo Fender

    Quote Originally Posted by sgrexa View Post
    I wonder if Steve Jobs really did think the decision to make a simple battery change such an ordeal would result in more sales in this "consumerism" based society. Did Mr. Jobs really think it through early on that rather than go through the trouble and expense of changing a simple battery, the typical consumer would also consider "upgrading" to a newer iPod and thereby generate more sales? Realizing that it would be difficult to monopolize the aftermarket iPod battery market, I believe that this was Mr. Job's intent from the start and that anyway you look at it, he was successful.
    Yes Sean it was a deliberate business strategy by Jobs and Apple. It's quite well known that obsolescence is a major part of the business model he created. Leads inside the iphone are designed to break when any attempt is made to change the battery. This also is quite well known. Screens on iPads are designed to crack quite easily and the cannot be replaced. Other operations that need to be performed on apple products must be done at your apple centre.

    The core of the apple is rotten.

    Jobs was a nasty man who had little time for his employees and less for the Chinese children who assembled his rubbish products.
    When it comes to worms like Jobs, I have no problem with speaking ill of the dead.
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    Default Re: Steve Jobs vs. Leo Fender

    Interesting comparison. And funny the way Steve Jobs got started was by following the 'Leo Fender' way - by making a personal PC that was infinitely customizable using very basic electronics-know-how and off-the-shelf components. Peter's point about different cultures are also spot on - different times, and different approach to material things in general. Things are made to be far more 'disposable' nowadays in general, from printers to computers to iPhones to... I wonder if Leo Fender were to start all over today, what would his Stratocaster look like, and would we even recognize it.

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    Registered User sgrexa's Avatar
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    Default Re: Steve Jobs vs. Leo Fender

    Quote Originally Posted by Pete Jenner View Post
    Yes Sean it was a deliberate business strategy by Jobs and Apple. It's quite well known that obsolescence is a major part of the business model he created. Leads inside the iphone are designed to break when any attempt is made to change the battery. This also is quite well known. Screens on iPads are designed to crack quite easily and the cannot be replaced. Other operations that need to be performed on apple products must be done at your apple centre.
    I really never got the fascination with Jobs and Apple, but the fact that they intentionally make products hard to service with the hope that they then become "obsolete" is readily apparent and irks me. I did finally get just get an iPhone and I must say I am impressed with it so far EXCEPT the battery life. Apple seems readily willing not to cave into consumer criticism very easily. Things like USB drives and memory card ports only seem to come along after extreme pressure if ever at all. I never really understood the importance of having a camera in an iPad but that is one change I am aware of that came only as the result of consumer demand.

    The scale of Apple is obviously not comparable to Leo's niche market and you are correct Jeff, very few people have the need or desire to tinker or work on things these days. I have always been interested in tinkering with things. A few years ago my parents bought my sister and I a relatively inexpensive "Vizio" brand plasma TV for Christmas. About a year later, they both started exhibiting almost identical problems. A quick internet search revealed that I was not alone. After taking about 75 screws off the back to access the inside, I was able to fairly easily identify a couple of bad capacitors, desoldered them, and took them to my local mom and pop electronics shop to find replacements. Sure enough, they had NOS USA made capacitors in stock and I think it cost about $10 in parts to fix both TVs. Haven't had a problem with either TV since. I wonder how many of those sets were thrown away when others had the same problem? I also am amazed that this mom and pop electronics shop is still in business and try to give them business whenever I can. It really is a different world now.

    Sean

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    Default Re: Steve Jobs vs. Leo Fender

    I tend to agree with you, Sean. The prevalence of planned obsolescence is one of the things that makes me want to build permanent things instead of short-term disposable products. (When I redesigned one of the best-selling baby products of all time a few years ago, I first saw it in Goodwill -- before I even knew they were shipped to retailers. Creepy.)
    Ultimately a planned obsolescence business model is not good for consumers, the environment, or the economy. Things being easy to service makes them cheaper to fix -- if something's harder to fix, you are paying for it somewhere. In Apple's case, the cost of maintaining those sparkling stores and occasionally-knowledgeable Genius staff is rolled into the cost of the products.

    Leo Fender's work way back when really was genius. The initial designs (Esquire, etc.) were such a complete and radical departure from what was available at the time, and it wasn't just a sculptural thing... every single form decision is rooted in reality and the need to make the instruments efficiently. An ES-150 cost $150, and the first Fenders cost, what? $35? (Sorry, I know that's not the best comparison, I'm not a real vintage guitar historian. But it was a big difference in price.)

    I tell my students at Georgia Tech in my lectures about manufacturing that without the manufacturing optimizations Leo made popular to electric guitars, rock music in the 60's and 70's would not have happened the way we know it.

    That's in an attempt to get them excited about designing products which are more elegant, easier to manufacture, and easier to service, instead of just throwing the design over the wall and expecting someone else to figure out how to build their ideas.

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    Default Re: Steve Jobs vs. Leo Fender

    Quote Originally Posted by Pete Jenner View Post
    Yes Sean it was a deliberate business strategy by Jobs and Apple. It's quite well known that obsolescence is a major part of the business model he created. Leads inside the iphone are designed to break when any attempt is made to change the battery. This also is quite well known. Screens on iPads are designed to crack quite easily and the cannot be replaced. Other operations that need to be performed on apple products must be done at your apple centre.

    The core of the apple is rotten.

    Jobs was a nasty man who had little time for his employees and less for the Chinese children who assembled his rubbish products.
    When it comes to worms like Jobs, I have no problem with speaking ill of the dead.
    You definitely have that right Peter! In fact Steve Jobs could probably not hold Leo Fender's "jock strap". Fender was an innovator -- he gave the world something new.

    Jobs was a hustler of known technology who repackaged things for mass sale. Here is some excerpts for a column written by Jesse Larner after Jobs passed on last year:

    "Contrary to popular understanding, Jobs was not an inventor. He did not invent the personal computer. He did not invent the mouse. He did not invent the Graphical User Interface, nor the MP3 player, nor the smartphone. What he did was to put these things into shiny packages that spoke of simplicity, quality workmanship, and the best materials. He expertly targeted consumers' aspirational sense of identity, and gave them something that expressed the good taste and durability of their souls. This is where he was truly brilliant: In discovering and exploiting the psychological links between object and desire, and using them to move tens of millions of units.

    Were his products really that good, though, as technology? The emphasis on design was actually a problem here, because in every case in which Jobs was forced to choose between form and function, form always won. Consider the DVD slot loader that all Macs now have. It sure looks cool. But it limits the user to a single physical size of disk, and it has no manual ejection mechanism. The arrogance of this last point is something any first-year engineering student would understand: "It will never jam, so we don't have to plan for that."

    Jobs once instructed his programmers to make the interface so attractive that users would want to "lick the buttons." Is this a positive or a negative for those who are actually concerned with the work output, rather than with the aesthetic experience of the tool?

    In the 1970s Jobs was a member of the Homebrew Computer Club, where he learned how to redesign stock circuit boards for his own purposes. None of that for Apple customers. Belying his famous "1984" and "Think Different" ad campaigns ("Here's to the rebels, the misfits...") Jobs' ideas on how people were to interact with his machines were entirely authoritarian. He was far more Frederick Taylor than Emma Goldman. Jobs was big on "forcing" user habits, which is why his first Mac had no cursor arrow keys -- he knew better than his customers that they should always use the mouse to navigate the screen. Apple products are totally locked down. You need a proprietary screwdriver to open the box.

    And that battery in the iPhone? It can't be changed by the phone's users. They have to bring their units to a professional when the battery runs low. This contempt for the customer, as much as any of the serious usability issues of the iPhone, is one reason that I will never own one.

    Jobs' need for control extended to his business practices, sometimes with disastrous results. One of the reasons that Apple lost out so badly to Microsoft in the battle for OS market share was Apple's refusal to license its OS to hardware manufacturers, the way Microsoft does. Apple did finally license it in 1995, a decade after Jobs had been forced out as CEO, but Jobs ended the program after he returned in 1996. The Apple OS' share is growing today, but is still only about 10% of the US market and much less worldwide. Business users run on Windows. In the business realm, Apple has yet to create a credible database or internet server..."

    The revelations in the article go on and on. I own nothing made Apple and never have, and never will for just those reasons.

    I don't have a Fender guitar but I have the greatest respect for them.
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    Registered User sgrexa's Avatar
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    Default Re: Steve Jobs vs. Leo Fender

    Good stuff everyone. One thing I will give Steve Jobs credit for is having some "brass ones" in designing the iPod this way, which as far as I know revolutionized Apple. I know by the time I got around to thinking about the battery in my first iPod, I had already invested A LOT of time converting thousands of CDs to AAC format in iTunes and had already made a lot of money selling off my CD collection on Ebay. Regretfully, as storage was still kind of expensive at the time, I converted almost all of these at a bit rate of 128 kbs AAC files (an Apple only iPod friendly codex at the time as I remember). I also recall reading somewhere that this was the bitrate whereby Apple researchers claimed studio engineers and other audio "experts" could not tell the difference between CD and the AAC file. Apple also clearly claimed that AAC was better than MP3 at the same bitrate while using less disc space (at least that is how I remember it at the time, maybe 2001?). I haven't looked into this in a long time but this thread has got me thinking. Do other MP3 player manufacturers have to pay Apple licensing to play AAC files now? Is AAC really better than MP3 at the same bit rate? I will look into it, but all of this was no doubt part of the "master plan" of Mr. Jobs IMO. I do wish I had all those files converted in some type of lossless codex now, with the cost of drive space way less expensive.

    Sean

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    Default Re: Steve Jobs vs. Leo Fender

    Steve Jobs changed the world. Not alone and not the only one, but he did. And to change the world you have to torque some people off. You cannot change the world without enflaming the ire of folks - those who don't want the world changed, those who don't want the world changed that way, those whose ideas for changing the world you haven't chosen, etc.

    I think one measure of how impactful your life has been is how many folks you have torqued off.

    Some things become obsolete quickly, either by design or by the changing fashions or by the next great thing. Other things last a lifetime, several lifetimes. One can chose the latter without disdaining the former. Or not.
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    Default Re: Steve Jobs vs. Leo Fender

    I personally don't have much time for Steve Jobs, but I think the approach was correct in the case of the iPod and its brethren. The reason is Moore's law, that processor speeds double approximately every 18 months. Which means that if you are building electronic devices the core part, the thing that makes it what it is, will be obsolete in a few years whether you want it to be or not. There's always a trade-off - making it easier to change the battery introduces more ports in the case, little hinges or clips that can fail, more things to go wrong. Given what we know about the nature of processors, it's pointless to make these devices serviceable, or to design them for the years of operation that one would expect from a guitar.

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    Default Re: Steve Jobs vs. Leo Fender

    I hate cel phones. left mine turned off all night and said if you need me the 2 way radio is on lol (at work). 20 some odd text messages when I turned on in morning when I got home... geez. did I mention I really hate cel phones?

    I have a squire and a real strat. I play both. the start is nicer sure but the squire is very playable. being a huge fender fan I am still disheartened by their crap mandolins

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    Default Re: Steve Jobs vs. Leo Fender

    Apple stuff is pretty locked down which can be annoying but it's also why so much of it lasts so long (iPhone batteries excluded). I have had a few Apple products and have been impressed with how long they've lasted. My last laptop running windows had a million problems with is after two and a half years including problems with Windows and the physical parts. Right now I'm contemplating replacing my 7 year old macbook because it can't run new software and it's pretty slow. Not bad in computer terms though.


    That said, I love Fender's guitar designs. A few people said something about him designing them for average guitar players but I read something where he was thinking more along the lines of fridges and toasters. He wanted electric guitars to be in every home and fixable by everyone. I have a MIM tele that has been torn apart a million times. I have a pbass that is still currently torn apart. I have a few instruments and the only ones I never even contemplate bringing to a pro are Fender designed.

    But maybe the comparison to Apple isnt quite fair. A set neck on a les paul should have fewer problems than a strat but if you do have problems it's harder to fix. Isn't that contrast a little more apples to apples?

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    Default Re: Steve Jobs vs. Leo Fender

    My main beef with Apple has always been their arrogance and attitude of "We know what you need better than you do. We'll tell you how to do this, and you MUST do it our way." They have succeeded in creating a cult-like following that buy into (and buy) everything they sell, but for some reason, I'm resistant to somebody telling me what I do and don't need.
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    Default Re: Steve Jobs vs. Leo Fender

    I have to agree with JeffD. I'm not one of the early Apple Adopters I don't have the latest iPhone or iPod but I sure do like them, while recognizing the limitations (especially the phone). My wife has had nothing but problems with her smart phone and I've not had one with my iPhone 4 over the course of 18 months. My 6 year old iPod is still going strong and I don't know of another music player that has software as good as iTunes for organizing your music (share with us if you do, please). Back in 1999, I was still bringing music to work or in the car by CD, maybe a handful at a time. Now, I can have my entire music library available in my car or in my pocket. That's revolutionary!

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    Default Re: Steve Jobs vs. Leo Fender

    Quote Originally Posted by OldSausage View Post
    The reason is Moore's law, that processor speeds double approximately every 18 months. Which means that if you are building electronic devices the core part, the thing that makes it what it is, will be obsolete in a few years whether you want it to be or not.
    David, that might be true, but we are just now getting to the point where storage space is becoming adequate enough so that even basic computers sold now have more than enough room to hold the average music enthusiasts collection in lossless compression or even non-compressed formats. As to processor speeds, yes things may have technically quadrupled or more in the last 5 years or so, but I haven't really noticed any truly revolutionary increases in day to day computer tasks since cable or fibre optics replaced the telephone line for connecting to the internet. Certainly my iPod has been looking up and finding an album or playlist at speeds more than adequate since the beginning. That being said, Apple has squeezed our wallets for far too long and the public should be demanding products where things like a simple battery change are easy to do.

    Sean

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    Default Re: Steve Jobs vs. Leo Fender

    I'm with JeffD and JEStanek on this one! Well said fellas.

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    Wood and Wire Perry Babasin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Steve Jobs vs. Leo Fender

    People, I am a Graphic Designer. I have been using Apple product professionally since 1990. Trust me, there are Tech-Geek ways to make Macs do pretty much anything you want. Something very similar to Linux/Unix is at the core. Out of necessity through the years I have acted as my own consultant at home, at my work, and have helped rescue many friends and keep their systems up and running.

    One of Apple's main problems has always been they make too good of a product. They have always used better components and their systems and devices just keep working and are fully loaded off the shelf. That's one of the reasons their product was always more expensive. I still have one of the original Mac-In-The-Box Macs and it still boots up and runs old school Pagemaker! I have an old 1st generation iPod that I use as an emergency boot disc for pre-Intel systems. The battery is long gone but plug it in (firewire), and it functions fine. In fact I still have several computer systems, long obsolete, that I just can't stand to throw away, so I keep them around for the Grandkids to mess around with.

    That said, I have seen in recent years a mad scramble to force obsolescence by limiting the upgrade path, and keep dramatically change the architecture. Releasing product so quickly to make your head swim. Creating new software and hardware that obsoletes earlier versions and make it seemingly necessary to buy new product. In short, they are doing their job as American capitalists, very well.

    For the record I always wait until they announce some fabulous new product that they proclaim you can't live without, and go and buy the top of the line previous product version (or even *gasp* refurb), at a tremendous discount.

    I forgot to say that Leo Fender was a child of the Great Depression, and Steve Jobs was a Boomer. Very different core value mindset I think...
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    Default Re: Steve Jobs vs. Leo Fender

    Perry, I've been involved in the tech industry for years and for years heard the "They use better parts" argument. Unfortunately, they use the same parts as everyone else. I Learned that through many years of upgrading Macs and PC's. I never bought Apple parts if I didn't have to. To say they are like Unix and Linux is very true. The Next OS was a Unix/Linux based OS that Steve Jobs brought with him on his second go around. Even the most ardent Apple Fanboy (my son) gasped when he found out the Apple OS was being developed on an Intel platform. They really aren't that different under the hood but they do get premium dollars for their products (I own several). Steve Jobs was a visionary but it was more in the vein of P.T. Barnum than in Leo Fender. Woz was more like Leo.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: Steve Jobs vs. Leo Fender

    Quote Originally Posted by JEStanek View Post
    ....My wife has had nothing but problems with her smart phone and I've not had one with my iPhone 4 over the course of 18 months. My 6 year old iPod is still going strong and I don't know of another music player that has software as good as iTunes for organizing your music (share with us if you do, please). Back in 1999, I was still bringing music to work or in the car by CD, maybe a handful at a time. Now, I can have my entire music library available in my car or in my pocket. That's revolutionary! Success brings out a lot in a person, some good - some bad.
    On cell phones -- I have an original Motorola Droid X (four years now or five?) -- nary a problem (hate saying things like that) and it will essentially do anything an I-phone will plus the open source software gives me options not so easily done on close Apple products. I certainly agree with your last statement!
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    Default Re: Steve Jobs vs. Leo Fender

    Yeah - since they ported OSX to intel architecture, people have been running hacked versions on PC.

    According to the reports I've seen it runs faster on a PC.

    Apple hate it - even more reason to do it.

    I'd better not get started on Motorola or this thread could go on forever.
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    Default Re: Steve Jobs vs. Leo Fender

    They didn't port it to Intel, it was developed there. They were porting it the other way until they simply decided to sell Intel based machines.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: Steve Jobs vs. Leo Fender

    I stand corrected.

    I sort of knew I was saying the wrong thing there as I typed.
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    Default Re: Steve Jobs vs. Leo Fender

    Hey, you and everyone else
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: Steve Jobs vs. Leo Fender

    Steve might have had some PT Barnum in him but fortunately Woz gave him something worth selling. I have a friend and coworker who fishes with Woz BTW.
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    Default Re: Steve Jobs vs. Leo Fender

    Can we please talk about mandolins? Ha,ha,ha
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