Open and Shut, Revisited

Back in 2013, Tim Wu wrote a piece for The New Yorker titled “Does a Company Like Apple Need a Genius Like Steve Jobs?” In it, he tried to make the case that in technology, the “open beats closed” adage was true, and that Apple’s success with a “closed” strategy was due solely to the genius of Steve Jobs, and that in 2013 they’d already entered a state of decline.

I wrote a rebuttal titled “Open and Shut”, and it’s one of my favorite pieces in the DF archive. It encapsulates many of the themes I’ve written about regarding Apple from the beginning. Five years seems like a good time to revisit it, and I have to say my argument holds up pretty well.

To pick just one example, Wu’s theory involved a cockamamie ranking system he invented in which he assigned companies an “openness” score, and he alleged that these scores roughly tracked the market caps of Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and post-Jobs Apple. I called nonsense on the whole premise that market cap correlates to openness (I called nonsense on just about every point Wu made, really), and pointed out that while Apple indeed suffered a stock price dip in 2013 (that was around the time when there was a popular theory that Samsung was eating Apple’s lunch in the phone market), Apple’s stock price at the beginning of March 2013 was still higher than it was when Steve Jobs died.

Today, five years to the day after I wrote that, Apple’s stock price is up 185 percent — it’s trading at nearly 3× the price from March 2013.

Anyway, I think it’s well worth a re-read.