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Steve Jobs: An appreciation
John Stokdyk adds his own thoughts to the tributes coming in following the death of Apple founder Steve Jobs this morning.
The first thing I heard this morning were warm words from Microsoft founder Bill Gates for is chief rival at Apple, Steve Jobs. As I suspected that could only mean one thing. The technology industry had lost one of its few genuine heroes.
With Gates, the industry's favourite anti-hero - stepping back from front-line involvement at Microsoft, Jobs’ death breaks one of the last links back to the counter-culture generation that spawned the personal computer in Silicon Valley, California.
Larry Ellison (more of a salesman than hands-on geek) now carries the flag for “personality” CEOs in the Valley, but Jobs was more than just someone who could give a stirring conference keynote speech. He was in at the start of personal computing and was part of the small group who popularised the “Wimp” (windows-icon-menus-pointer) interface that we now all take for granted.
The Apple II was his first great innovation, followed by the Macintosh and its user-friendly operating system and graphical interface. These advances showed that he had a strong focus on the user experience and good engineering and industrial design, but by the late 80s, Apple was being eaten alive by Microsoft’s global domination, which was ironically driven on by the success of the Mac-alike Windows operating system for PCs.
Jobs was ousted from Apple and replaced by former PepsiCo CEO John Scully, an obvious recipe for corporate success. While Apple continued to flounder, Jobs invested his time and money in the attractive, but ultimately futile NeXt workstation and the computer graphics outfit his friend George Lucas set up following his success with Star Wars. As a result of this move, we don’t just have Jobs to thank for all our lovely iGadgets, but also for helpling to bring the Toy Story series and similar Pixar productions to our screens.
Job returned to a moribund Apple in 1997 and introduced the attractive, clear plastic iMac models and a new laptop range that helped to steady the ship. But things really took off when he steered the company into consumer electronics with the iPod music player in 2001, followed in succeeding years by the iPhone and iPad – all of which confirmed the remarkable power of thinking about the customer experience first, and then applying the best design principles to giving them what they want (or in Apple's case, what they don't really know that they want - yet).
This magic formula helped to make Apple the most valuable company in the world and fully justifies Jobs’ reputation as a business and technology visionary.