It was a bit anti-climatic. Those of us who are familiar with the situation knew it was only a matter of time before the day would come. Major news publications were already waxing on endlessly about Steve Jobs’ legacy on the day he stepped down from the CEO position in Apple, as if the world was not going to see him for much longer. Indeed, Jobs’ passing last week did not come as a surprise to me. It has been known for a while now that despite the marvels of medicinal technology, Jobs’ battle with pancreatic cancer was going to end soon.
On the day of the announcement of Job’s resignation as CEO, I knew then that it meant bad news for his health (Jobs is a notorious hard worker, spending late nights at the Apple Campus regularly). Jobs has been losing weight and ghoulish looking for the past couple of years now, and pictures of him in the past month looked absolutely terrible. The consensus amongst Apple fans was that this was the look of a guy about to lose his battle with cancer. It was only time.
Of course, even though the element of surprise was lacking, the news of Jobs’ death still hit with much enormity. Avid fans of the Apple was just as devastated with the news as Beatle fans were upon hearing about the assassination of john Lennon. The news hit me harder than I thought it would, even though I was as big an Apple fan as they come. After all, it is just one man’s passing - and a man I have never met at that. In a weird and cliche sort of way, the death of Steve Jobs has become one of those events you will remember where you were and what you were doing when you heard the news.
Thanks to the wonder of Internet and social media, news travels faster than even proper news agency can report them. I had just came home from work and was busy doing the great American past time of checking my Facebook when a post from a friend said that Steve Jobs is dead. My auto reflex was to check the major new sites to substantiate the claim (you know, not like I do not trust my friends or anything). To my surprise, nothing of the news was to be found for another 15 minutes. After that, all hell figuratively broke loose. news outlets of all kinds was reporting it, Twitter was over run (there was ~4.5 million tweets trending #thankyousteve in just a few hours), and posts with rest in peace wishes to Jobs started flooding my Facebook timeline.
For the rest of that day and the day after, I soaked in all the tributes to Jobs, whether it be in pictures, the written word, or video. You have truly done something great when even the competitors of the company you created offers you respect at the time of your death. Clearly what Jobs has done with his short life has managed to touch just about everyone in a positive way, the world over.
ME, AND APPLE
I was relatively late to the party - I’ve only began being a fan of Apple products with the introduction of the iPod in the early 2000’s. It was during what was the early stage of the Apple renaissance, with Steve’s second go around with the company. Of course I have used Apple Mac products before, but that was only in the academic arena, as most educational institutions used prefer the Macintosh system over Windows PC. Back then I was still very much a PC user, as the gaming possibilities on that platform was many miles ahead of what Mac’s were capable of. Not to mention, you can build your own PC.
For many of my generation, the iPod changed everything. Not only in the way we listen to music, but our perception of Apple - it was no longer that funky computer you only use at school. For many, the iPod was the gateway drug for Apple products. Never before had I use something so technologically advanced (slogan or not, 1,000 songs in your pocket at that time was simply amazing), simple to use, and most importantly, beautiful. Before the current state of Apple, the leader in consumer electronics design in the late 90’s was Sony. Their line of computers, CD players, Televisions, and other products all had an additional design quality that no other competitor can match (there is a reason Chinese people, a culture very conscious about image, have preferred Sony products for the longest time.)
Attention to beautiful design and aesthetics in practically everything is the biggest attribute of Steve Jobs I admire. All the products he put out since his return to Apple in 1997 all looked as beautiful as they are simple and powerful. With him it was paying attention to all the details and a perfectionism attitude. Jobs was so meticulous with the overall presentation of everything that he even had a strong part in how Apple retail stores should look. His belief that just because something is a mere “tool’ or "appliance” does not mean that it should look terrible revolutionized an industry that was once filled with much beige and plastic. It was due to Apple’s design philosophies that other companies in the tech world follow suit, realizing that consumers want things that work but look good doing it as well.
As a person who always had a quirk for how things appeals to the eyes (I am a photographer, after all), Apple products was the natural fit. The first iPod (3rd generation) snowballed into a second iPod (5th generation), and eventually to my first Macintosh computer (2008 Macbook) when I started my collegiate undergrad career. I chose it because nothing in the PC world came close to the aesthetics of a Macbook laptop. The Macbook became my full time computer, and hence forth never looked back at the PC platform. From an everyday usage point of view, the Mac operating system is much more simple and intuitive. Not to mention, for photography and digital design work Mac it is the de-facto platform of choice.
In additional to the products looking great, Jobs also required them to perform its function in the most elegant and simplistic fashion. Keeping things to its absolute simplest form is something I also come to admire about him. Being once the minimalist hippy (there is a famous picture of him sitting on the wooden floor of his living room with nothing but a lamp), Jobs hated clutter and anything that is unnecessary. He also famously required things to “just work”. It made perfect sense: all consumers ever want from the products they buy is it functioning correctly in the least amount of time and hassle possible.
STEVE JOBS, AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP
It was not until I started the business entrepreneurship part of college that I took to Steve Jobs as role model figure. He and Apple together was so successful that it was something to be studied and emulated. Questions like “what would Jobs/Apple do?” came up frequently in the process applying Steve’s entrepreneurial philosophy into planning my own entrepreneurial exploits. For example, the Apple design language has been so well received and universally acclaimed that everybody and the mother in the design world wants to to copy the “Apple look” into everything they make. You really can’t study entrepreneurship without looking at what Steve has done so brilliantly with two companies (the other being Pixar)
A big part of any business is selling. While being the tech product genius that he was, Jobs also did one thing extremely well - the ability to sell. The so called “reality distortion field” and the keynote address Jobs is famous for was some of the finest examples on how to drive up demand and make consumers want a product so badly that they will line up by the droves at ungodly hours to get their hands on it. Having a beautiful product that can do the equivalent of a swiss army knife will do a company no good if they do zero marketing. As I have learn from business school, the mantra of “build it and they will come” is patently false. Jobs’ style of selling was very effective for the kind of products Apple was making; the company’s stock prices and record profits quarter after quarter reflect this.
One way to increase revenue and profits for any company is to introduce new products, and almost no one does it better than Jobs and his team at Apple. In a tech industry where product innovation was the inverse of the speed that computing power is progressing, Apple bucked the trend by coming out with one product revolution after another. The iPod, iPhone, iPad, and Macbook Air took a product segments that already existed and yet so completely changed the paradigm that it practically evolved into a new segment. There were mp3 players before the iPod, smartphones before the iPhone, tablets before the iPad, and ultra portable computers before the Macbook Air, but those product segments were forever changed after the introduction of those products by Apple.
It was Wayne Gretzky who famously said: “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.” Steve Jobs took this notion with him at Apple and made products that consumers did not even think they needed until it came out. The innovations that came from this kind of thinking has been astounding, and it is something that entrepreneurs and business should strive to do.
ME, AND STEVE JOBS
It is hard to predict what Apple and the rest of the computer tech industry will be like now that Jobs is gone. There is a bit of fear inside me that wonders if the kind of product innovation and pushing the bar will now be gone along with Jobs. Apple is supposedly in very good hands, and Steve even outline the product strategy for the next four years before he left. As a fan of Apple, I hope for nothing but the best in Apple continuing to its upward trend. It would do Jobs proud.
As for me, aside from the attention to detail, keeping things simple, and the entrepreneurial arts, the thing from Jobs’ legacy I will take with me is summed up in his 2005 Stanford Commencement speech:
“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart. … Stay hungry. Stay foolish.”