Decades ago I read a business book by Robert Ringer called "Winning Through Intimidation." Ringer is a political kook (he's gotten much worse over the years) and more than a bit paranoid, but he sounded a warning that should be the first rule of commerce for every consumer and every businessperson: Everybody else at the table is out to take your chips.
Apple fanbois need to understand this. Apple is not your friend. Google fanbois need to understand this: Google is not your friend. Microsoft is not your friend. And so on.
But it's not just the fanbois. When you hear that Apple is working on a new service to "revolutionize" newspapers, the right response is to check your wallet and make sure the doors are locked, not break out the champagne. Journalists and publishers, Apple is not your friend.
We all make this mistake. Life is like a big card game. They're after your chips.
Steve Jobs may be a megalomaniac, but don't blame it on him, because this isn't his fault. This is how corporations work. It's fundamental.
A corporation is a legal "person" with many of the rights that you and I have, but having no conscience and operating only for its own benefit. If a human being acted like a corporation, we'd lock him or her up in a prison or mental institution as a psychopath. It has no care for others. Its only imperative is self-interest (to deliver profits to shareholders) and it will destroy others in its path in its relentless drive to get bigger and richer.
This is why we have laws that regulate corporations -- the laws that are constantly under attack by political forces that are funded by the corporations and billionaire investors through lobbyists, Washington "think tanks" and astroturf political movements.
This should not be new to us. Edward, first baron of Thurlow and lord chancellor of England from 1731 to 1806, had corporations pegged from the start. "Did you ever expect a corporation to have a conscience, when it has no soul to be damned, and no body to be kicked?" he asked (as quoted by H.L. Mencken).
Did you see Newsday's wonderfully funny commercial for its iPad app? It gushes about how "the new Newsday app is better than the newspaper in all kinds of ways" ... except for one, as the dad in the video smashes the iPad by trying to swat a fly.
It was all over the Internet for a day or so. Then, according to Network World, Newsday received a letter from Apple's lawyers threatening to pull "all of our apps" from the iTunes marketplace.
Fun's over. Abuse of power? Evil corporation? It's in their nature. Doesn't make any difference whether the corporation is Apple, Google, the cellphone companies, or even BP. They are not your friend.
I called Robert Ringer a political kook and a bit paranoid. You can check that out in a few minutes with Google and form your own opinion. But never forget: Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get you.