Steve Jobs surveyed the market for portable music players in 2001 and quickly declared that it "truly sucked." Within months the iPod was born.
President Obama now has his own crummy bit of technology for which he's scrambling for a fix. The websites, or healthcare exchanges, through which millions of Americans are to buy health insurance are severely broken, keeping many uninsured people from acquiring affordable health care.
"The website that's supposed to make it easy to apply for and purchase the insurance is not working the way it should for everybody," Obama said today, adding "nobody is madder about it than me."
The administration has hired an army of engineers to fix the flawed healthcare.gov website, but few are convinced that an overhaul will be completed by the president's unofficial Nov. 1 deadline.
With a product desperately in need of improving, it's no wonder that Obama has Steve Jobs on the brain. Jobs, the founder of Apple and the man behind the iPod and iPhone, was known to be a brilliant innovator, not because he invented new things, but because he improved on existing technologies.
"Consider that just a couple of weeks ago, Apple rolled out a new mobile operating system. And within days, they found a glitch, so they fixed it. I don't remember anybody suggesting Apple should stop selling iPhones or iPads -- or threatening to shut down the company if they didn't," Obama recently told reporters. "That's not how we do things in America. We don't actively root for failure. We get to work, we make things happen, we make them better, we keep going."
Obama's not the only one evoking Apple and Jobs to make a point about Obamacare. Conservatives have also used Jobs, who died in 2011 after a lengthy bout with prostate cancer, as evidence that the government should never have gotten involved in selling insurance and building websites.
Is it superficial "to say that if only Steve Jobs or Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos were in charge of these enterprises they'd work better?" asked conservative scholar Steven Hayward in Forbes.
Obviously, Obama can't consult with Jobs about fixing healthcare.com. But Jobs gave Obama some advice in the past that the president might consider now.
In 2010, Jobs met with Obama after insisting that the president personally invite him for a meeting. A famously prickly Jobs told the president that given his lack of support for big business "you're headed for a one-term presidency."
Jobs was wrong about that, but he might have been right about something else. The president needed to invest in innovation and cut "unnecessary costs," both pieces of advice Obama could easily apply to fixing his ailing website.