What Apple Means to Me

On Wednesday, as I trudged out of Oracle Open World after Larry Ellison’s keynote, I learnt that Steve Jobs had passed away. It threw a pall of gloom over me and most of the attendees.

The world is poorer without Steve Jobs.

On Thursday I was talking to my 15 year old son about the significance of Steve Jobs and how he was being compared to Thomas Edison. He was curious. “Was Steve Jobs an inventor like Edison?”. No he wasn’t but in Edison’s days, a single invention like the light bulb could directly become a product. Today, there are hundreds of patented inventions that go into a new product. They come from different companies that have scientists in many different streams like material science, semiconductors, manufacturing technology and software.

No Steve Jobs wasn’t an inventing genius. But he was a creative genius like Edison. And they were both great businessmen. Apple at the height of its market power (today?) is as awe inspiring as General Electric ever was. Probably more.

In 2008 I switched from a Windows laptop to a MacBook. Before that the only Apple product I ever owned was an iPod. My experience with my MacBook was so superlative that I became a fan. In the short time since my first MacBook I acquired an iMac for my son, an iPad, an iPhone, Airport Express, AppleTV and Time Capsule.

To me, Apple is exceptional in two ways. First, it melds, like no other company, these often conflicting objectives – functional design and visual design, usability and feature/function, software and hardware, engineering and beauty.

Two, it seeks to excel, to set the standard in whatever it does. Look at the way it reinvented retailing in Apple Stores. And in a field that it entered in the last decade. Today retailers around the world look to Apple stores as their role model.

Steve Jobs was essential to both these things. When conflicting objectives collide and trade offs had to be made, he made the important ones. And when a product was not up to snuff, it went back to the drawing board, again and again until Steve thought they had it right.

Apple may still have all the same creative geniuses that they had last week. But how do you replace this dynamic of a “Chief Designer & Chief Executive Officer”?

In 1994 when I came to the US my great regret was that I had not been able to see Michael Jordan play. That was soon remedied as he came back to the NBA. But this time, there are no comebacks. I can only wish I had gone to an Apple conference to see Steve Jobs on stage in his element.

R.I.P. Steve Jobs. This Macolyte mourns you.

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6 Responses to What Apple Means to Me

  1. Anurag says:

    Basab, I was lucky enough to witness Steve Jobs last WWDC keynote this year in SF, and I am so glad I did!

    Here are my thoughts on his demise http://newgenapps.com/blog/10/remembering-steve-jobs/

    Like

  2. giri Rao says:

    Basab

    A contextualizing companion-piece to this post: Why Jobs Is No Edison by Vaclav Smil.

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    • Giri, I think the writer misses the point of how different science is today compared to in Edison’s times. The Edison’s out there today cannot take what the writer calls a “holistic” approach to invention. They must focus on the crevices that modern science still does not already illuminate. They can’t take a systems based approach. Edison could.

      Steve Jobs was no scientist, but he took a systems based approach, as the writer credits Edison with. iTunes + iPod is an example of that. In these times, designers and engineers and not scientists, do that. And in that respect Steve made an impact as a designer of products and systems, quite comparable to Edison the inventor of systems.

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  3. True. I felt an inexplicable void that evening. Can’t say why in particular, coz I’m neither a tech buff nor an avid Apple products fan. But yes, I did view the famous speech he made at Stafford and the sincerity and depth of experience in it certainly resonated with me. Steve Jobs, in my opinion, was an inspiration not only because he was successful, but because he became astoundingly so, after less successful attempts that were perceived failures. RIP Steve Jobs.

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  4. macfan says:

    It would be great if your company adopted Mac’s at least in customer facing roles.

    Like

  5. Mr Jobs impact from 1999 to 2011 has been tremendous.

    Will Apple products still be relevant in 2015? I understand that will depend on how Apple innovates, but will the STEVE JOBS legacy be as potent in 2015?

    Like

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