Once I a while a great man comes around and changes things in such a profound way without you even realising it. Early Thursday morning I woke up earlier than normal and as I opened my eyes my phones screen lit up with a notification, the words simply read 'Steve Jobs has passed away'. A little selfishly my 1st thought was I hate it when i'm right :o(.
The writing had been on the wall that this day might come sooner than anyone wouldn't wish for, the biggest clue was when Steve stepped down as the CEO of Apple just a few weeks ago. My thoughts at the time were sad. Sad that the inspiration for all my favourite tech would no longer be at the helm of the company that produces them. But more than that, I was sad for Steve himself because I think anyone who knew anything about the type of man he was knew that he would only step back when he absolutely had to. Putting the clues together didn't take a genius. I remember thinking it must be hard when your life has been building a company from which you can create not only amazing products but products that change the world in countless ways and now you have to simply step back he clearly lived and breathed Apple to the point where Steve and Apple were one in the same. Against my better judgement i'm going to be more honest than I probably should at the risk as sounding like a sad act to some people. When I read those words I went straight to the laptop to check if this claim was legitimate, I didn't want this to be true but it was. As I looked through the various posts reporting this tragic news on just about every news sources and blog I realised they were not ony reporting but they all were morning the loss. It was then I realised it hit me harder than I would have ever expected. I was truly upset about the passing of a man who I didn't even meet? Never before have I ever really felt the passing of a public figure.
I've been trying to put my finger on why and the answer is lots of reasons. Without even realising it Steve has been one of the most influential people in my life in subtle and not so subtle ways. The man's life is an inspirational story he created the Apple computer in his garage, from there he re-invented the computer by creating the 1st small computer thus creating the PC for the home. Of course you now know almost no home is without. Famously Steve enticed, the then head of Pepsi Cola, John Scully with the most quoted phase of Steve's life "Do you want to carry on making sugared water or do you want to come with me and change the world?" Steve's tenacious approach and unyielding needed to follow his vision saw him ousted out of his own company! At this point some of us might call it a day there but Steve didn't stop. He went on to found his own computer company NeXt, creating a machine on which the program we now know as the world Wide Web was written on. Steve was brought back into a now struggling Apple, but not before making Pixar the leader in film animation. Back where he belonged he not only re-invented how we listen to music through the invention of the ipod but the music industry as a whole through iTunes. It would take a little time to catch on but downloading music was the way forward. Not done there Steve then showed the world something that will again effect the lives of everyone whether you buy it or not... The iphone. Look around at the phone market today, then market leaders Nokia, Blackberry and Motorola are not the names on peoples lips as they skip to the phone shop. Any new popular phone follows the same model laid out by the iphone, high contrast touch screen, good quality camera on the back, VGA camera on the front, capable of surfing the web in all its glory and a very intuitive UI. Surely Steve can rest easy now? Nope, changing the computing world once is not enough, Steve brought to the world his final legacy the ipad. People didn't get it at 1st, they thought it was just a gimmick, then they got there hands on it. Now, whether they realise it or not, this way of computing is the future, large desktop PC's will become, to use Steve's analogy, the trucks of the computing world doing the heavy work of industry like rendering movies or graphic design. Smaller devices like the ipad will be used by the majority, no keyboard or mouse just one screen and a finger easy peasy.
Steve has clearly been preparing for a time when he would no longer be around. Over the past couple of years he's been molding the senior management team into something that will continue to deliver what he started. They've been tested on the stage as well to see if they bring the magic that Steve does in his product announcements, an essential part to the Apple marketing strategy. Ramping up his efforts he hired the dean of Yale School of Management Joel Podolny to oversee his internal project Apple university. This will ensure all new Apple employee's understand the culture and value Steve used to create his company and live his life. Steve took to the stage one last time earlier this year at WWDC to announce IOS 5.0, that same day he showed the world his last gift to Apple computer it's self, the new Apple campus affectionately know as the spaceship. This will be a place that will define Steve's vision and inspire all that see and work within it's curved glass walls to design and build something magnificent. Even though we know Steve has done everything he can to leave us and his company in the best possible hands to make his visions live on, I can't help thinking that in future products to come, that little extra bit of attention to detail that has made Steve a part of each of his products, will be missing. It's often something we can't put our finger on but what sets any other product apart from an Apple product. I truly hope I'm wrong, there's both something sad and impressive in that thought.
Steve has influenced me not only in my personal life with his various cool tech and gadgets but in my professional life too. He's a testament to the idea that it's not about going to university and towing the line and fitting in, it's about having faith in yourself and your vision no matter how crazy it may seem to people. The video above of Steve giving a speech at Stanford University puts across far more poetically and simply that life is about doing what you love. A philosophy I believe in whole heartedly though i'm sad to say not one I follow perhaps as much as I should. And lets not forget there's much to learn in how to run a business regardless of what that business may be. For example thanks to his shrewd marketing, carefully planned out product releases and an ability to have people on the edge for their seats for a product announcement Steve can/could create wild speculation, mass hype and desperation without realising a single detail before an Apple event day. I've asked the question once and i'll ask it again, name another phone release that has people camping outside of stores for weeks and queues for miles on launch day just for a phone? Genius in every sense of the word.
I'm frustrated writing this blog post because I know no matter what words I write they wont do justice to Steve's accomplishments but before I sign off I just want to say to Steve if you can see me typing into my macbook with a heavy heart..
The world before you came and the world you left are completely two different things. It's perhaps the finest honor that the way I like most people learned of your passing was using a device you created. You left us with a new way of living and left me and countless other inspired to go out into the world and do what you love. The world really is a better place having had you in it. Hopefully I can be half the man you were. The people you have influenced and the things they do are all your 'one more thing.'
Without even realising it Steve Jobs to me was a real living hero that I've sady lost before I could fully appreciate that fact.
Thanks for reading, hopefully whether your an Apple fan or not you can appreciate the man who will now become a legend.