Steve Jobs: An appreciation

Tributes to Steve JobsAP

By now just about everybody will have heard of the untimely death of Apple visionary, former CEO and chairman Steve Jobs. A lot of heartfelt words have been written and a lot of deserved tributes paid. There has inevitably been a bit of exaggeration - I'd like to pay a little tribute to stuff he actually did.
There are a number of things people are attributing to him that he simply didn't do. Invent the iPod, iPad, iPhone - the innards maybe, but the design that attracted so many people to the products was the work of Jonathan Ives, still very much with us and at Apple.

He also gets credit for coming back to Apple after it had sacked him and turning its fortunes around completely. He deserves praise for the turnaround but let's not forget Gil Amelio - you know, the executive board member who was brave enough to say the company needed Jobs back. That could have been career-threatening; it paid more than handsomely.

What Steve did
For me, as I said on AOL site DailyFinance when he stepped down as chief executive all too recently, Jobs' main achievement was to turn technology from a niche into something people use every day in their lives. This is no mean step forward.
It was he who spotted that although there were computers in people's homes, they needed to look loads more desirable if they were actually going to fit in anywhere except some sort of technology closet. Under his auspices the industry went from producing beige boxes to things of beauty, and I do mean the whole industry. Everybody followed.

He did the same with music players. The iPod is no more the first MP3 player than the iPhone is the first music phone. Both dominated very quickly first because of the design and ease of use - you could imagine people wanting people in their lives rather than just accepting they needed one - and because of Jobs' second massive quality that was on display in public so often.

Steve Jobs was gifted with a remarkable on-stage charisma. People who never met him felt they could connect with his presentations. OK, when introducing the first iPod or iPad he was bound to be interesting and enthusiastic but he could make "this one works a bit faster" seem exciting too.

This sort of razmatazz was and is rare in the technology industry. People criticised it and they may have had a point; do we need to get whipped up into a frenzy because a touch screen on an iPod is slightly sharper?

That wasn't Jobs' concern. His role was to re-grow Apple, which was foundering as he returned after a period running NeXT in the 1980s and 1990s. He did so spectacularly and it's been the most valuable technology company in the world for a while now.

He did change lives. Portable technology is easier to use than it was before, it's designed so it doesn't look clunky with a nice suit, you can configure it as you wish. None of this happened before Steve Jobs had the vision to realise it could be this way and the clout to make stuff happen.

I never met Steve Jobs so I'm not going to insult his memory by paying a tribute to the personal stuff. He was far too young to die at 56 and my thoughts are of course with his family and friends. But if you're going to live only 56 years you might as well make them count. I'm writing this on something Jobs' company built, having seen the news breaking on a phone from the same company. He did great stuff and directly or otherwise he touched many of our lives.

Bye Steve. There's no 'one more thing' this time, but the things you enabled were pretty damned amazing.
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