Born in 1955, Steve Jobs died on October 5, 2011 'having put a computer in a phone and that phone into 120 million pockets'; and retransforming the slate into a tablet changing the way people read books and magazines. If there is a single 'i' to define iSteve, it's intuition. There are others who are both innovative and intelligent, but seeing beyond that almost invisible line is what makes a great mortal an iCon.
Steve Jobs had a profound ability to touch the hearts and souls of his customers in the millions and across all boundaries. A virtual and real iCon made him one of the few business leaders who were loved alongside being worshipped by loyalists and feared by competitors. The music industry can be divided into two periods- pre iTunes and post iTunes with the iPod. Smart phones is pre iPhone and post iPhone. If historical trends suggest anything there will be another classification- pre iPad and post iPad that may change the way we read books and magazines. Jobs never claimed that he invented the iProducts. They were always there. He merely connected the dots to make the whole visible to those who could not see. It did require something extraordinarily special to connect those dots that transformed Apple into a $350 billion empire in what will remain as one of the greatest business comebacks in modern history.
California in the 1970s with Silicon Valley was what Detroit was with Ford and General Motors at the beginning of the 20th Century. It was one of the greatest and lasting American hubs that have shaped and re-shaped the world. Computers had been around for ages, but they were mainly confined to the use of 'whiz kids' and 'nerds'. Jobs co-founded Apple Computers in 1976 with Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne. Later Wayne left the company. In April of that year they launched Apple I- their first personal computer. Apple II was launched in 1977. Apple II was different. It had that personal 'touch'- something that would become a buzzword years later for the iTouch and all the other iProducts. It was Jobs' vision to make computers simple. People should be able to turn a computer on and it should work from the first click of the mouse. Jobs rightly intuited that the graphical user interface (GUI) would define personal computers for decades to come. The Apple era had dawned with the launching of Macintosh in the early 1980s. Three Apples have changed the course of history. First there was Adam's apple. Then there was Newton's apple. In 1984 the third apple came to redefine personal computers- the Apple Macintosh.
In 1985, Jobs went into the wilderness saying goodbye to Apple and founded NeXT Computer. In 1986 he bought what would later become Pixar. In 1995 Pixar launched Toy Story in collaboration with Disney. Over the next 15 years, Pixar launched box office hits that included A Bug's Life; Toy Story 2; Monster's Inc; Finding Nemo; The Incredibles; Cars; Ratatouille; Wall-E; Up and Toy Story 3. Again, Jobs' intuition to understand that consumers would respond to animated movies laid the foundations for a new generation of Hollywood movies.
In 1996 Apple bought NeXT. Steve Jobs returned to the company he had co-founded twenty years earlier. At the turn of the new century, in 2000 Jobs became the CEO of Apple. It had to be different. Jobs became the first iCEO and probably the last. The rest is history. The comeback was unmatched and unrivalled. Jobs' Apple defied the law of gravity of Newton's Apple going 'where no man has ever gone before'. The iEra had dawned. Apple launched the iPhone; iPod; iTunes; and iMac. All these products redefined the way people connect to technological gadgets in a personal way never seen before. Within a decade of his comeback, Apple had become the world's most valuable company.
Why does Steve Jobs stand out from other CEOs? He was ruthless when it came to a business decision like any other successful CEO. But Jobs understood one thing very clearly- the psychology of consumers. This is of paramount essence in the marketing of any product. Powerful intuition is what is needed to understand and predict human psychology.
Jobs 'knew' what people wanted and he gave it to them with elegant products through which consumers would develop a personal iTouch with technology. He grew up in the 1970s consuming The Beatles and Bob Dylan. Apple was named after Apples Corps of The Beatles. The 1970s generation was a generation throughout the world that wanted to change the world for the better. Steve Jobs was a product of that generation who followed his dreams. There is no such thing as a genius. A genius is just a person who is above the average, but perseveres better than the average to 'fine tune' the frequency and get rid of the noise made from outside. Steve Jobs followed his dreams to make technology 'user-friendly' and for the use of consumers. Steve Jobs was just that above the average person who followed his dream- and kept on following it- nothing more and nothing less.
On June 12, 2005 Steve Jobs summed himself up to the graduates of Princeton University, USA. It was relevant for the students that day, and also for everybody who wants to change the world for the better.
“Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most importantly, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary”.
Powerful words of wisdom from the most creative CEO the world has ever seen. RIP iGenius Steve Jobs!
The iSteve Touch: Apple Products Under Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs may have been a successful businessman and an outstanding orator, but in his heart he was a designer. Designing better products is what his heart followed all his life through intuition. Three decades of designing through innovation have changed the way we look at technology today.
Apple I; Apple II; Lisa; Apple IIe; Macintosh 128K; Macintosh Portable; iMac; PowerBook G3; Cube; iPod; iBook G4; iMac G4; iMac G5; MacBook Air; iPhone; iPad
Sources: Bloomberg Business Week, Oct 10, 2011; The Guardian, Oct 6, 2011; Wikipedia
(The author teaches economic theory at Jahangirnagar University and North South University.)