With the flood of colorful mix of euphemisms, letters of praise, and rants that I’ve seen posted on facebook and other places about Steve Jobs and his recent passing, I thought this made a hot topic worth exploring.
Really, I have to thank my good friend Ian Baumel for giving me the motivation to pen this, as he really stirred up a bit of commotion on the subject.
I can only guess and postulate that with all of the praise and notes on how Steve Jobs was an innovator… that really ticked off Ian in a way that he decided to post a rant on his fbook about it, and while I disagreed with some of the content and certainly some of the context… It did make me think about all of that (which is what Ian’s notes tend to do… make you think).
I went back to see that post this morning and it’s gone, so instead of answering to all or most of what he wrote, I am just going to touch on a few points that I think was missing from Ian’s rant. Here goes…
What was Steve Jobs Real Impact on Technology and Innovation?
He didn’t really “Invent” alot of the things he promoted and marketed…but that shouldn’t take away from his genius. He made some of the things that were already in existence BETTER. One case in point.. Tablet PCs.
Yes, microsoft and other companies came out with tablets first. Sure, that’s a given. But most of those early tablets FAILED. Why, you might ask? They were all poorly outfitted, had software that wasn’t intuitive, and were marketed poorly.
Let’s examine that just for a moment, because of all the examples I could give, this really touches on the genius that Steve Jobs was, and it answers the question about his impact on technology and innovation. So if you wanted to break this down in the simplest form, he made stuff better.
How? That’s actually easy to explain. Steve Jobs’ relentless pursuit of simplicity and ease-of-use is what made all of the difference. The first tablets stunk, and maybe he recognized that. Early smart phones, they were complicated and you had to really learn how to use one, instead of it just being dummy-proof. Let’s examine that a moment more.
The iPad – This had no more technology and processing power than the early tablets. The amount of memory wasn’t any different, so what was the big deal here? WELL… It was easy to use, and it looked alot cooler. It was lighter and less clunky, and here’s the kicker… because of great marketing and all of the small things done to make it “user friendly” .. it was adapted by a broader base of consumers who wanted a bigger version of their already popular and easy-to-use iPhone or iPod. That’s it, there’s the genius right there in a nutshell.
I make no claims here that Steve Jobs was an angel or a well-known philanthroper, that he wasn’t. And for that one could easily argue that someone with such wealth (not just rich, wealthy) could have publicly done so much more to donate to charity and/or join some of the exclusive charitable clubs that were started by Warren Buffet and Bill Gates, sure.
But if you look at some of the things that were created and maybe perfected by Steve Jobs, aren’t we placing a really high standard on someone who contributed alot? Does every wealthy person in the world need to donate in order for us to appreciate what they do? If that’s the case, we should be yelling at the entire Bush family and asking them to donate some of their millions to the cause. Candidly there is less to appreciate about the Bush family, as they have only given us war and a joke for a president (this applies only to George JR of course).
Back to the point – When people pass on and we evaluate their life’s work and try to sum it up, its sad to say that some will try to rip apart their work for their own purposes. While that’s free speech and people will exercise that right, I think its more important to give credit where credit is due.
Steve Jobs took failed concepts and products and made them better, he fixed obvious problems and solved common issues which kept these failed products from being accepted and adopted by the masses. He did much of this by banking on his own thoughts and ideas on how things should really work. He did this without the use of focus groups, which many of his competitors rely on heavily to make decisions on everyday products.
Steve Jobs took risks that most business leaders wouldn’t dare take today, and most of the time he played his cards very well. He chose to make things like phones and portable digital devices easier to use, more intuitive, and somehow more acceptable across the board.
I am thankful he did all that he did and for pushing the envelope further than others had in the past. I don’t use an iPhone (my wife and friends do), but I use an Android phone, and it exists only because the market for smart phones grew and that spawned more competition… which gives us new and innovative products that we so enjoy today.
So thanks Steve Jobs, even if you didn’t invent or create some of the core concepts for products you sold worldwide…but you did do what you did in a BIG way, and in a way, we all benefited from that innovation. I know my friend Ian is happy with his Motorola Atrix 4G phone that runs on an Android OS. In a roundabout way, I think we have Steve Jobs (in part) to thank for that.
By Louis Wing
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