Tribute to Steve Jobs, and why he meant so much to us all

I can’t think of a man on this planet that has had more of a profound effect on the way we live our lives than Steve Jobs.

Go on, call me an Apple fanboy. Go on. The fact that I heard about the passing away of Steve Jobs last night on a device he invented, pretty much says it all… and I am not the only one.

In fact, I would bet that the vast majority of people who really cared about his death read the sad news on their shiny “i” product or Mac.

I’m sure you have heard all this before – but the man was a visionary. Not often does a man die and gets reactions from Barack Obama, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerburg, Steven Spielberg, Rupert Murdoch, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the founders of Google among others. The very way we live our lives today was effected by his decisions at the company he loved working at.

You remember the iPod? It was a revolution. The very notion of wearing white earphones now completely embodies it’s own meaning. The whole success of the iPod was based around the simplistic nature that “things just work”. The way that iTunes, the iTunes store, and the culture of it all was part of one genius plan to build up the brand of the “i” and Apple.

There are some remarkable things that aren’t even Apple-made but still had a profound impact on us. Take iTunes – which was said to be the “greatest bit of software available on Windows” – which has changed and dominated the landscape of the music industry like no other. The fact that iTunes and it’s success merely existed was seen to actually save music in general, from the fears in the early millennium about mass-music piracy.

Even elements of the Windows came from Jobs. Typefaces and fonts were first introduced on the Mac, so was the point-and-click mouse. Even the very nature of looking at a screen with a graphical user interface was put into place by Steve.

Jobs always went by the methodology that Apple doesn’t sell ‘junk’. See this video, where he explains exactly what Apple’s goals are – to make products that they are proud to sell, and happy to recommend onto their friends and family. It is remarkable for a company goal to not have any financial incentive at all – it simply wasn’t at the front of Job’s approach to Apple.

The fact that the company genuinely cared about the products they were selling showed. No other company was about passion, quality and care as much as Apple, rather than hardcore nitty-gritty financial stuff.

Similarly, Jobs’ attitude was that innovation had nothing to do with how much money you had for R&D. When Apple first came up with the Mac, IBM was spending at least 100 times more on R&D. “It’s not about money. It’s about the people you have, how you’re led, and how much you get it.”

I believe that it was this approach that made Apple so successful today.

When Jobs came back to Apple in 1997, when the company was on the brink of collapse, a new Apple age begun. Steve was not a man to worry about competition or defeat. You may have seen this rather awkward address back in the day when it was Bill Gates that came to Apple’s help. Notice too the boos from the audience. They were right to feel the competition, but wrong to underestimate how incredible the deal was and how it would literally save Apple – something that Steve could predict, and something he had to do no matter the corporate opinion.

It was because Steve thought differently. In this famous Apple ad (above), the quote “the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are usually the ones that do”. I don’t think that at the time, anyone could have envisioned where Apple would be in 14 years time.

But yet, there was still something about Steve and Apple that made us all want to buy. Unlike any other company in the world, Apple is like a faith. We believe in the products. There are some folks out there who buy Apple gadgets on the basis that they know their life will change if they buy the product – and if I may say so, fair play to them.

To that ‘following’ – Steve was their leader. The showman. Every keynote performance was genuinely something to get excited about, and Jobs knew this.

So his obituary on BBC News concludes, Jobs was a man who had total belief in his own abilities and a shortage of patience for anyone who failed to agree with him. His great gifts were an ability to second guess the market and an eye for well designed and innovative products that everyone would buy.

His commencement speech at Stanford University in 2005 makes a great read and shows the personal side to Jobs’ life. One particular quote stays in my head “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today? And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.” Think about that – just imagine how productive the world would be if we all stuck to that ideology!

I’ve owned many Apple products over the years. Mainly of course is my MacBook Pro – supplemented with a couple of iPod’s, and iPhone and even an iPad. Does this make me a fanboy? I have these products because by following Apple’s own ethos, I would be happy to recommend them to friends as they genuinely are fantastic products. I love Apple because of the genius of the company and the products they deliver… something that Jobs was part responsible for, I’m sure. Is there anything wrong with that?

Of course, debate goes on about Apple’s future minus it’s figurehead. Nothing will change on a day to day basis – but frankly the company will never be the same. I fear that there simply won’t be the same ‘spark’ in coming up product launches, but there again we can only but learn from Steve’s unique way of doing things.

I don’t usually admit to things I did wrong, however there is one memory I wish to forget for ever. Before my older sister got her first iPod – so this must have around when I was 11 – I took the attitude “Apple sucks.” It was a car journey, and the argument broke out between my sister and mum about Apple. A company that I had no knowledge of, and a judgement based on nothing.

Since then, my attitude to brands (not just Apple!) have changed entirely. No longer will I ever say that something sucks before I have a go.

I don’t think we will ever see another inventor, creative, genius or businessman like Steve Jobs. And through all this, the man had continuing health problems – even a liver transplant. He was also behind Pixar, creators of some of my all time favourite childhood movies, like Toy Story.

More so, he could have thrown in the towel ages ago. He made millions in his life – and many were shocked he didn’t just retire after his first health scare in 2005 – yet he continued on fighting and working for the company he loved right up until the last few months of his life. For this, I have the most respect for. My money is on the fact one of the last things he watched was the keynote coverage of the iPhone 4S product launch.

So it was tweeted to me this morning:

Steve Jobs was born out of wedlock, put up for adoption at birth, dropped out of college, then changed the world. Now, what’s your excuse?

Rest in peace, Steve. 1955-2011.

6 responses

  1. bit naive to think that the financial aspect wasn't at the forefront of his innovations. I'm pretty sure that all's he saw was $$$$$$$$$$$$$ especially for the 'i' products.

    • I'd disagree. Apple as a company made the money. It was never something that Steve would have put down at an ideas meeting with a blank canvas, i.e. he never said "right, lets make a brand new product that will make us money". Instead, it was conversations like "right, let's make a brand and a range of products that we think consumers will love. By building up the brand and making our products the finest in the industry, then we can make money".

  2. well yeah that's true of course, but by the end I think they started to well and truly milk the 'i' franchise. The products are no better than cheaper alternatives yet people still bought Apple devices because of extremely clever marketing.

  3. I probably will just keep to refreshes of the iPod touch, as I think there are better alternatives to my personal situation and capitalist values. 😛

    However, Apple as a company with Steve at the helm was one of the most potent combinations of it's time in both the 80s and from 1997 onwards. Saying that the money incentive was there is a fair enough point to make because Apple are the most valuable technology company in the world (and even without Jobs, they are in better hands than Steve Ballmer will ever have on Microsoft), but, as a Bhuddist, it wasn't imperative to Jobs to make money, but it was a secondary objective.

    Why do i say this? take the example of Lisa. it was a disaster, but modifying the hardware to be smaller and cheaper, but still run a similar GUI OS, we wouldn't be where we were today. If Jobs had been entirely commercially driven, would the Macintosh have been produced ? I may not be a fan of 'the way of Apple' like some people are, but I'd be inclined to say "no", because Lisa being a failure and Steve being thrown out of the team was most likely a requirement to the system being produced for a lower cost, maing it successful.

    With hindsight, Apple and MS's PC market shares the other way around because Steve was fired. I thinkt he world would be a VERY different place if he'd found a way to stay and produce NeXT internally. Conversely, Apple's iDevices are doing better than MS's products in the tablet/mobile space because Gates and Ballmer were (and still are) missing opportunities and playing catchup (just look at Windows 8's Metro interface to see what i mean).

    tl;dr verson: I agree with you Moggy.

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