I don’t really know Kevin Lynch of Adobe, now Apple, very well. We met a couple of times more than a decade ago, back when he and Jeremy Allaire were at Macromedia and Jeremy was someone I talked to a bit. What I do know of Kevin is that he’s a great technologist who’s made a very significant impact on the evolution of the web. I’ve never met Gruber personally, I know what I read by him and what I read I often don’t like. I use Apple products right now because they’re the best, I’ve stopped using them when they were not the best, and there was a long swath of time when they exceptionally bad on many dimensions, and this wasn’t just while Steve wasn’t there either. Gruber, to the best of my knowledge, has never abandoned Apple, so there might be just a few issues with objectivity on his part.
What I do know about is working in technology and the culture we live in as part of the technology industry. I do know a bit about what it means when you have a product leadership role at a company and what your responsibility is. And that responsibility is that when it comes to the product decisions, you have to own it. So, the Apple/Adobe/Kevin situation is a great case study for thinking about this, with the caveats that I do so purely from a distance and all respect to all involved.
Looking at the situation, there are only three possible ways of considering it:
- Flash wasn’t all that bad, and he’s proud of his work
- It was really that bad, and he takes responsibility
- He was just following orders and a manager in a chain of command
Now, #1 and #2 are actually perfectly reasonable and Apple should still hire him in that case. Most defenders seem to be saying it was case #3. That’s actually the worst choice and if that was the situation, I’d be on the Gruber bandwagon. Now, based on what I’ve read in the past, I think he’s taken position #1, but it may put Apple in a bind, not that I think they’d worry about it too much or feel a need to comment, but it will piss of the “Apple is always right” camp.