Steve Jobs has died. The news is not entirely surprising considering his history of cancer, but still bears a certain edge of shock and pain to it. We at TechNorms sympathize greatly with his family and send them our deepest condolences. It is no easy thing to lose a family member to cancer at any age, let alone 56.
Although few people knew Jobs on a personal level, his actions and work quite literally changed the world. Every step he took, every announcement in that black turtleneck, every labor of love with his fingerprints changed the world, one piece at a time. One of my professors remarked his surprise at how many people attend Apple press conferences. It’s because when Steve Jobs took the stage, we all watched with baited breath for The Next Big Thing.
Over the coming days and weeks, you’ll see many tributes to Jobs, his life, and his work. This article is a history of the man and his work. Steve Jobs has one of the most impressive stories of anyone, really. Over the past few decades, his work and its effects have been nothing short of spectacular. Here’s why.
At his core, Steve Jobs was a nonconformist. Everybody knows the classic story: he dropped out of college to found Apple Computer from his garage to invent the personal computer. That much is true. He took a semester of college before dropping out. He became the epitome of the “unemployed college dropout,” living with friends and subsiding off charity.
After a short job at Atari, he and two friends founded Apple Computer. The company grew quite a bit over the next few years until the big breakthrough in 1984. At the 1984 Super Bowl, Apple aired a legendary commercial introducing the Macintosh. It was the first computer with a graphical interface, and people loved it.
Now… people like to describe Jobs as “driven” and “charismatic.” However, genius and madness are two sides of the same coin. Where some see charisma and a drive for perfection, others see prickliness and an unhealthy obsession over irrelevant flaws. In 1985, Steve Jobs was forced to leave Apple.
Starting New, Again
Apple may have thought itself well rid of Steve Jobs, but its fortunes quickly turned sour after the departure of their iconic leader. Apple products became oddities, niche hardware used by a tiny group of hardcore loyalists.
Jobs, on the other hand, wasn’t even phased by being fired. He moved on to found his own tech company NeXT and most importantly, the massively successful movie studio Pixar. Arguably the best movie studio of the past decade, Pixar still produces incredibly polished films that appeal to people of all ages.
After a decade of struggling without his unique brand of leadership, Apple finally gave in. They bought NeXT and put Steve Jobs back at the head of the company he founded. The prodigal son had returned.
Reinventing the Apple
When Steve Jobs returned to Apple, things really kicked into high gear. He immediately cancelled eighty percent of Apple’s projects because they were “crap.” The other projects received an intense reworking to bring them up to his standards.
Those standards may have been demanding, but they worked. Jobs turned the company around from producing oddball pieces of technology for their cult following into a company with more cash reserves than the United States government.
What caused the change? How did he change a floundering has been into one of the most successful companies of the past decade?
First of all, Steve Jobs reinvented Apple’s image. Instead of being fringe or bizarre, their advertising cast people who used Apple products as individualists, thinkers who didn’t follow the herd. That image persists today, as exemplified by the “I’m a Mac, and I’m a PC” commercials.
Next, he got Apple started on a project that would work- the first iPod. In its original form, the iPod was large, clunky, expensive, and worked only with Macs. But like any Apple product, a few generations later it had become slim, sexy, cheap, and compatible with PCs.
Anybody who lived through the past decade knows what I mean when I say that iPods were insanely popular. You either had one or you weren’t cool, and nothing was cooler than the newest iPod.
Then came the iPhone. I remember phones before 2007. Touch screens were an oddity that nobody really paid any attention to. If you wanted a serious phone, you got a Blackberry. Then the iPhone showed up out of the blue and made touch screens cool.
Same thing with the iPad. Tablets barely sold in the pre-iPad era. They were just another weird corner of the technology world. But once again, Apple made them into a market changing force. Now tablets are big business and people can’t get enough of them.
At the heart of all this change and innovation was the man behind the curtain, Steve Jobs. Where Microsoft and RIM failed, Apple succeeded because of Jobs. His attention to detail and focus on elegant design is evident in all Apple products. An Apple device doesn’t merely function; it seamlessly blends hardware and software into something beautiful.
That is perhaps the greatest contribution Steve Jobs ever made to Apple. The products he personally helped design will fade away and become obsolete, but his philosophy lives on. Above all, he wanted to make technology simple, easy to use, and cool. I’d say he did a hell of a job.
What Happens Now?
After hearing all this great stuff that Steve Jobs did during his reign, you might be tempted to think that Apple is in trouble. That would be mistaken for a number of reasons.
For one thing, they’re still in control. Even though Mac sales are microscopic compared to the PC, the iPhone and iPad still dominate their respective markets. In many ways, Android and Windows Phone are still playing catch-up to Apple.
In addition, it’s a mistake to credit Steve Jobs as the sole inventor of all Apple products. Sure, he certainly micromanaged all of them and had a hand, but let’s not forget everyone else at Apple. They haven’t died and are still working.
The bottom line is that Apple has the high ground and the talent to stay there. Granted, Android is making some pretty huge strides against them, so we’ll see what happens.
Regardless of how the business end turns out, we at TechNorms give our solemn respects to the Jobs family and everyone else who knew Steve. We as a world have lost a great inventor, the Da-Vinci of our times, but they have lost a loved one. He will be missed.