With the passing announced yesterday (05/10/2011) of Steve Jobs we have lost one of the true inspirations of the technological age.
There will be many obituaries, memorial articles, tributes all over the web in the next week. As with other luminaries the speed at which these will appear will indicate either the perceived impact the man has had on our lives or the sheer greed of the journo’s to be out there first.
I am sure they can describe Steve Job’s life story a whole lot better than I. So I won’t try.
The Apple company he co-founded with Steve Wozniak had this simple tribute.
Firstly, it is hard for me as an outsider to separate Jobs from Apple. The designs they are famous for are from the pen and mind of Jonathan Ive. But he was given his senior role by Jobs, who saw the talent. The leadership of Jobs is where to focus then. And focus appears to be an excellent word for Jobs. His focus seemed to always be for easy of use combined with elegance. In all products.
So I’ll not separate Apple from Jobs. This my views and rememberances of the impact of the products.
Apple had very little impact on most people’s lives until relatively recently but the history dates back to the late ’70s and more importantly mid ’80s. I was too young to really care about these early, expensive kits. Sticking to my VIC20 or Amstrad 464 rather than PCs or the like but as I got older I became aware that a high end of users, nearly all working in publishing or graphical design in someway, were using very different kit; Apple.
The cost point though meant that I didn’t even come into contact with these until I was employed in a college some ten years later. During those years I would of course repeatedly hear how Microsoft Windows was a clone or mimic of the Macintosh OS GUI and the David and Goliath struggle rebounded around for some years. Apple always seemed to be in court or trying to defend some patent or design. A trend that continues today.
In the mid ’90s I started to find Apples in my work. Little old LCs no less. All I can really remember is the little sad face “oops” message, the very different design and the infuriating token ring network. I can’t say they were my favourite computer to work with in the labs. But they were my responsibility so I was very happy to find nearly everything was fixed with a magic floppy. Apple were not a stand out success compared to the rest of the PC industry over this period and Jobs himself had been fired from the company he helped setup (1985).
The rudderless Apple bought up one of Jobs’ two major companies, NeXT and again Jobs was back at the top of Apple. NeXT worked on high end desktops, expensive but impressive. Harsh decisions on which Apple project to drop or run with then followed and the company slowly spooned out a niche from which to push and grow. All under Jobs’ leadership.
To Infinity and beyond:
Another of Jobs’ massively inspirational moves is the creation of Pixar. Now part of Disney (Jobs received 7% of the entertainment giant in the process and a place on the board), the output from the animation studio is known to all. Note that a dedication to design and perfection is at the heart of another Jobs project. Probably helps when you get Tom Hanks involved in your first major project too.
Apple of my Eye:
For the past ten years Apple have been leading the technology age, arguably along with explosions in Search, Web and Social media.
What Jobs managed was to former a new emerging market; digital music. Apple weren’t the first to produce a digital music player but the design of the iPod left others standing. Jobs’ own performances at the Apple events was quickly becoming legend, a marketing teams dream. They even became known as SteveNotes. The flurry of iMac, iPod, MacBook, etc. took the world and ran with it. But still the equipment remained out of the grasp of most, simply too expensive. That’s all without the iPhone too.
Getting it Right:
Apple’s move into the mobile phone market was inspired but more importantly they have continued to put pressure on that market. The iPhone 3GS still just about holds it’s own and the new iOS 5 will keep that going, some 2 1/2 years after release. For a mobile phone that simply means they got it right. The iPhone 4 improved the range again, not enough necessarily to drop a 3GS but still impressive. With Jobs at the helm the company was constantly able to be ahead of the curve, or at least he was able, with a single speech, to convince everyone they were. He is, in many people’s eyes, the original Jedi – “this is the product you’ve been waiting for.”
By this point I cannot ignore that the devices are things of beauty. I still would not have bought any as they were so darn expensive but I had a stroke of luck. Or two.
I bought two raffle tickets at work for two different raffles. Some people had bought dozens and dozens. Lots of nice prizes but amongst them in the first raffle an iPod shuffle. Bizarrely my single ticket won.
I was pretty chuffed, have to say.
The next raffle,with many bigger prizes and many more entries and again my single ticket won! This time an iPod Touch.
And playing with that, combined with the subsequent improvements in iOS, quite simple changed my opinion.
I signed up to an expensive contract in order to get a 3GS and am looking to upgrade soon to the 4S.
I even found the money – eventually for an iPad. Which I am using now, on the train.
So if Steve Jobs had a hand in making these the fantastic products they are, thank you. I am converted.
Alas with the passing of Jobs it is hard to see where Apple will go. Already the gloss has been lost. Many people had the announcement (CookNote?) earlier this week slated in as the “iPhone 5 Event“. Alas some busy rewrites were evident as the announcement went on.
The iPhone 4S and iOS 5 are good additions to the brand but they lack the killer punch of other Apple products.
Perhaps, just two days before his passing, Apple was already subdued and mournful. But the next year needs to be avoid one for Apple.
My prediction is that they do have a dramatic iPhone 5 in the pipeline and they have, probably with Jobs’ blessing, held it back for next summer, possibly improved further.
The light that burns twice as bright burns half as long, and you have burned to very very brightly…
My condolence to all Steve Jobs family and friends. Though we’ll miss your vision and product lines they have the enormous task of getting on without the man.
Rest in peace.
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