Thursday, October 6, 2011

Steve Jobs and the world he left us

Like a lot of people, I heard the news about Steve Jobs dying via my Apple computer – in my case, my iPhone.

There’s been quite the reaction to the death of Steve Jobs, at 56, too young, and many of these comments talk about how much he “changed the world.” Despite my distaste for hyperbole, I’d have to agree. He’s one of the few business leaders you can say that about. Steve Jobs didn’t single-handedly create the home computer, the iPod or the iMac or the iPad, but he was a driving force in getting his vision across to talented others, and even more than Bill Gates, he was the face of the ongoing technological revolution. And unlike Bill Gates, Steve Jobs managed to be bloody cool.

An article I quite liked today noted how Apple “stood in the intersection of utility and desire.” That to me really sums up the instinctive appeal to the Apple line, which more than any other computer system has taken us into the future. We may not have rocket jetpacks and laser guns, but I have a computer the size of a sheet of paper and I can do video live conferencing with my parents on the other side of the world at a moment’s notice.

Apples were the first computers I liked, and the only computers I’ve ever really owned. A friend of mine in junior high had some of the first Apple IIs in the mid-1980s, which dazzled me with their ease and intuitive use, even with the poky black-and-white games. I was too danged poor in the 1990s to own anything but hand-me-down PCs but when I finally achieved fiscal stability, one of those beautiful blueberry 1998 iMacs had to be mine. Since then it’s been MacBooks, iPhones, iPods galore – and just last week, I bought an iPad 2. I’ve used PCs when I’ve had to, but I have never felt as at home, as comfortable on them as I have on my Macs.

I don’t know much about Steve Jobs the human being, who apparently could be a bit arrogant, but I do know that whatever his flaws, he drove a creative, engaging business sense that made Apple what it is today. His management style drove the innovation that kept Apple rising from the dead, again and again. Oh, and during that brief period Jobs was “fired” from Apple? He went and helped create Pixar, the home of some of the biggest computer animated movies of all time.

Sure, Apple’s business practices aren’t perfect, and the “hip” factor might put some off. But there’s a reason every other tech company scrambled to come up with their own mp3 players, their own tablets and their own smartphones that aped Apple as much as possible. It’s because somehow, Steve Jobs knew what people want. He’s gone, but he left behind a world that’s very much shaped in his image.

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