How do you talk about Apple without mentioning its most outspoken supporter, its fiercest defender and its most innovative creator, founder Steve Jobs? How can you put the technological giant’s uniquely artistic spirit into words, when it would be so much easier to simply point to the man who embodies it?
There is no easy answer to that question, but the world must now come up with one. Many knew that this day was likely to come, but it seems no amount of preparation has worked to soften the blow, as Steve Jobs has passed away after a seven-year battle with cancer.
It would be simple enough to list off the various computers, software, or digital devices created under Jobs’s watch as concrete evidence of just how much of an impact he had on modern technology.
Even simpler to say that his involvement and belief in Pixar Animation was instrumental in the studio’s success, and helped create some of the greatest films that digital animation has ever produced.
Simpler still to explain how Apple’s CEO was a growing force in our own industry, taking a combination cellphone/music player and completely redefining what hundreds of millions of people consider ‘playing a game.’ But all of that isn’t what defined Steve Jobs, or his life’s work. If you asked someone on the street who Steve Jobs was, their reply wouldn’t name him inventor of anything in particular, or investor in any ultimately successful enterprise. How would they respond?
He runs Apple.
It’s a common tendency to identify a single person as the lone, driving force behind a large, impersonal company. But it’s hard to think of anyone who people connect more with their company’s beliefs, philosophies, style, and yes, products than Steve Jobs. But Jobs never placed himself above those he surrounded himself with, taking on the responsibility of motivating the others around him to carry on the ideas Apple was founded on, with or without him.
Sadly, that became a far more realistic charge as Jobs’ health declined over the past few years. And while that in itself is enough to believe that Apple will never be the same, we can’t help but think that the company’s founder would disagree. The inevitable sales drop in Apple stock will no doubt have the masses crying that hope is lost; that Steve Jobs never managed to instill the same passion for design and commitment he possessed within those beside him. And that is hard to believe.
One doesn’t have to look far to remember the lessons learned through Apple’s worst years, when Jobs was named responsible for one of the biggest collapses in Silicon Valley’s history. Or later, when he was subsequently credited with bringing the company back, better than before. Now it’s up to those left holding the Apple-banner to continue on where he left off, and show us that his presence in the company wasn’t contained within a pair of blue jeans and black turtleneck.
More than any other leader in this digital age, Steve Jobs got it. He knew where technology would go, and what he himself would demand, so Apple made it. We didn’t see the iPod coming, or how iTunes would change the entire marketplace of music and video. We didn’t see how the iPhone would revolutionize both gaming and mobile technology. But these great ideas became great realities. And while Steve Jobs may be gone, that lesson seems to have stuck with all of us, in one way or another.
With each new announcement of a new mobile technology, gyroscopes and accelerometers, or connectivity, the world is abuzz with theories and speculation on what it could mean, and what could be next. Who do we owe that to? Regardless of how much money Apple made with their products, Steve Jobs proved that a great idea really can change the world, and that was always more important than money.
And while the whole world will now have to wake up knowing that the world is missing one of its best and brightest, things aren’t all bad. Whether you’re turning off your alarm on your iPhone 4, or scanning through your morning paper on your iPad, take a second. Think about how those devices made your life easier, better, richer. Then remind yourself that they exist because one man believed in great ideas, no matter how ridiculous they may have been perceived. Then imagine what could be next. Because that’s what he would do.
We’ll miss you, Steve. But forgetting is impossible.
“We don’t get a chance to do that many things, and every one should be really excellent. Because this is our life. Life is brief, and then you die, you know? And we’ve all chosen to do this with our lives. So it better be damn good. It better be worth it.”
– Steven Paul Jobs