Let’s start with this: I wasn’t always an Apple person.
I was a devout pc user until about 5 years ago when I got sick of my seemingly constant training to become tech support for Windows. However, I couldn’t see myself spending so much for a Mac. This left me with linux…and I was in…that is, until I got an iPhone. The simplicity of design and use…the elegance…hooked me and it wasn’t long before I made the next step: the MacBook Pro with which I am writing this ode to Steve Jobs.
If you’ve never owned a Mac, I feel for you. Are they expensive? It’s all relative. I’ll never buy antivirus, antispam, and anti-everything else software subscriptions; I’ll never have to buy more RAM to make up for how much the operating system takes up; I’ll never spend a ridiculous amount of money for the system upgrade or the office products which make the computer useful to me in the first place (Lion was $29.99 through the app store and iWork is only $79.99); I’ll never spend hours trying to make the computer work again, failing, and having to reformat and reload the operating system; I’ll never have to worry about downloading a program that destroys my battery; AND I’ll have the computer for 5-7 years (it’ll still be worth a considerable % of purchase value). Taking these into account, a MacBook is a great deal!
When I made the move to Mac I wanted to read about the man responsible for these products. There weren’t many profiles of Steve Jobs, but I did find one, The Steve Jobs Way, by Jay Elliot. This is an awesome read for someone passionate about products, leadership, design, and about being passionate.
I obviously knew about Steve Jobs and Apple, but I didn’t know that Apple wasn’t his whole story. Those years without him, if you didn’t know any better, you would think that Steve Jobs was lost. If you know the whole story, Steve Jobs was fine. Apple was lost.
What was Steve doing? Immediately following his departure he founded NeXT and purchased the digital graphics animation unit of Lucasfilm. In the following decade his digital graphics company made a movie for Disney called Toy Story. Heard of it? He sold that business, Pixar (heard of it?), to Disney, became a member of their board and the largest individual owner of Disney stock. His software company’s operating system, NeXTStep, and the company, was purchased by Apple and would become the base technology for OS X. In fact, my iPhone runs from some of the technology…20 years later! Regarding the purchase, Jay Elliot records that Winston Hendrickson, the Apple software engineer responsible for the positive reports of NeXTStep, stated that it was said at the time “‘no doubt whatsoever that NeXT had really bought Apple’ rather than the other way around.” It wasn’t long before he was at the reigns again. Then came the iMac and another computing revolution.
The rest of it is pretty quick: the iPod in its various incarnations, the iPhone, and the iPad. These are each special and revolutionary on their own.
The iPod saved the music industry. I’ll write that again: the iPod saved the music industry. How? The iTunes Music Store. If you recall, the industry was getting slaughtered by file sharing. As Elliot writes,”music profits were plummeting, dipping an alarming 8.2% in 2002 alone. The five major record companies and their trade organization, RIAA, blamed the decline on the piracy made possible by Napster and its kin.” The record companies tried their hand at online distribution systems, but not holistically. They wouldn’t sell another company’s music on their sites. Cancelling your subscription meant losing all of your music. They also frowned upon consumers downloading music to portable MP3 players. In comes Steve and a meeting with the RIAA. Jay Elliot writes, “When the dust had settled, Steve had managed what the leaders of the industry had been unable to do among themselves: He had convinced all five major record companies to come to a single arrangement that they were all in accord with: Steve would be allowed to offer all of their music through Apple’s new iTunes music store.” ‘Nuff said.
“We’re going to make some history today.” -Steve Job’s in January 2007 leading-in to introducing the iPhone
Steve hated the buttons, the mandatory instruction manual, their klutzy designs, the counter-intuitive interface. He wanted to design a cell phone he’d want to use. He wanted a computer in the palm of his hand and the ability to control it with that one hand. Many of the criticisms from people without an iPhone is the statement,”I don’t know what I’d do with one.” I tell them that it is the same with all Mac products,”When you buy one, you’ll recognize how much you’ve needed it your entire life.” This is one of Steve Jobs’ gifts: he knows what you want before you do. That is what makes a person a visionary, isn’t it?
The iPad was actually conceived before the iPhone was in development. It is a handheld media center with an app store. What I have learned most about the iPad is its use in education. Stories become interactive; learning becomes interactive. Kids love it…and not because of the games. They’re allowed to touch the screen, and it responds. I can actually run my business with an iPad. Its capabilities, when compared to many pc’s, are amazing.
So let’s think about this: In a little over thirty years Steve Jobs orchestrated the first revolution, democratizing the computer; the iMac and its operating system revolutionized it again; Pixar revolutionized entertainment; the iPod and iTunes revolutionized and reinvigorated the music industry; iPhones revolutionized communications; the iPad created a new category. For iPhone and iPad, just look at all of the imitators.
I have become a fan of Steve Jobs. For him the product is more important than profits. Focusing on profits instead of product is what happened to Apple when he left. As Elliot writes,”His obsession is a passion for the product…a passion for product perfection.” He believes that Steve was also the world’s greatest consumer. Just today I tweeted an article about Google executives who don’t even use Google+. Apple’s philosophy is to create products that they want to have. How can you evangelize a product you don’t use? Contrary to bureaucratic companies structured to maintain old systems and products, Steve Jobs said that Apple is structured like a start-up. At the 2010 All Things Digital Conference he said, “We’re the biggest start-up on the planet. What I do all day is meet with teams of people and work on ideas and new problems to come up with new products.”
Yes, you did what you set out to do: you made a dent in the universe. For my generation, born in the seventies, we’ve been transitional. We’re old enough to remember when we didn’t have, and young enough to actively enjoy having these products. Thank you for making them simple; thank you for making them elegant; thank you, Steve Jobs, for getting it right.
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