That is what I thought. Until I chanced upon an interview Jobs did with Playboy magazine about 26 years ago. Here's an excerpt about the Macintosh:
PLAYBOY: Was any of your decision not to become compatible with IBM based on the fact that you didn't want to knuckle under to IBM? One critic says that the reason Mac isn't IBM-compatible is mere arrogance—that "Steve Jobs was saying 'Fuck you' to IBM."
JOBS: The main thing is very simply that the technology we developed is superior. It could not be this good if we became compatible with IBM. Of course, it's true that we don't want IBM to dominate this industry. A lot of people thought we were nuts for not being IBM-compatible, for not living under IBM's umbrella. There were two key reasons we chose to bet our company on not doing that: The first was that we thought—and I think as history is unfolding, we're being proved correct—that IBM would fold its umbrella on the companies making compatible computers and absolutely crush them.
Second and more important, we did not go IBM-compatible because of the product vision that drives this company. We think that computers are the most remarkable tools that humankind has ever come up with, and we think that people are basically tool users. So if we can just get lots of computers to lots of people, it will make some qualitative difference in the world. What we want to do at Apple is make computers into appliances and get them to tens of millions of people. That's simply what we want to do. And we couldn't do that with the current IBM-generation type of technology. So we had to do something different. That's why we came up with the Macintosh.
It doesn't matter whether Jobs is/was right or wrong. The point is that the Flash decision was nothing personal against Adobe. It's just how Steve Jobs thinks. It's the way his mind worked back in 1984, and it still works that way today. He has high standards and if a technology doesn't measure up, then who cares if it's the market leader? In some sense he's the ideal capitalist - he believes with absolute sincerity that the market will ultimately choose the best product - his product.
The interview makes for great reading. It reveals the extent to which Jobs was a visionary. Here's Jobs describing a computer to a layman:
Computers are actually pretty simple. We're sitting here on a bench in this cafe. Let's assume that you understood only the most rudimentary of directions and you asked how to find the rest room. I would have to describe it to you in very specific and precise instructions. I might say, "Scoot sideways two meters off the bench. Stand erect. Lift left foot. Bend left knee until it is horizontal. Extend left foot and shift weight 300 centimeters forward ..." and on and on. If you could interpret all those instructions 100 times faster than any other person in this cafe, you would appear to be a magician: You could run over and grab a milk shake and bring it back and set it on the table and snap your fingers, and I'd think you made the milk shake appear, because it was so fast relative to my perception. That's exactly what a computer does. It takes these very, very simple-minded instructions—"Go fetch a number, add it to this number, put the result there, perceive if it's greater than this other number"—but executes them at a rate of, let's say, 1,000,000 per second. At 1,000,000 per second, the results appear to be magic.
That's a simple explanation, and the point is that people really don't have to understand how computers work. Most people have no concept of how an automatic transmission works, yet they know how to drive a car. You don't have to study physics to understand the laws of motion to drive a car.
(remember, computers were luxury toys back then).
He all but predicts the coming of the Internet age:
PLAYBOY: Those are arguments for computers in business and in schools, but what about the home?
JOBS: So far, that's more of a conceptual market than a real market. The primary reasons to buy a computer for your home now are that you want to do some business work at home or you want to run educational software for yourself or your children. If you can't justify buying a computer for one of those two reasons, the only other possible reason is that you just want to be computer literate. You know there's something going on, you don't exactly know what it is, so you want to learn. This will change: Computers will be essential in most homes.
PLAYBOY: What will change?
JOBS: The most compelling reason for most people to buy a computer for the home will be to link it into a nationwide communications network. We're just in the beginning stages of what will be a truly remarkable breakthrough for most people—as remarkable as the telephone.
You begin to get the idea of how far-reaching Steve's thinking was even at that age. And unlike most thinkers or dreamers, he's made his visions real. Over and over again. How do you not respect that?
A final quote about him and Apple:
I'll always stay connected with Apple. I hope that throughout my life I'll sort of have the thread of my life and the thread of Apple weave in and out of each other, like a tapestry. There may be a few years when I'm not there, but I'll always come back.