The death of Steve Jobs leaves a large vacuum in American technology. Jobs was an icon for his innovation and salesmanship.
Before founding Apple, Jobs dropped out of college to travel. He studied Buddhism and experimented with LSD.
Many Americans would call such actions irresponsible and assume Jobs would go nowhere. The vast majority of the time they would have been correct.
Unlike others, Jobs had a great business sense. He believed, at least to a small extent, in the American system of consumerism and was an innovator in that field. For a time in August, Apple was more valuable in terms of equity than ExxonMobil.
Jobs did not produce cars, airplanes, oil or food – all relative necessities for Americans. Consumers did not even know they wanted his products until they were released, and his ideas revolutionized more than just technology.
Jobs started Apple before the advent of the personal computing revolution. A 1984 Super Bowl advertisement made his small company an icon.
Unlike most computers, the Macintosh featured a graphical user interface (GUI). Without a GUI, there would be no tablet computing or smartphones. Microsoft later adapted a GUI for its now prevalent Windows.
Jobs was later forced out of Apple and bought an animation company from George Lucas. Pixar struggled for years but under Jobs closed a contract with Disney to produce three animated films. The first was "Toy Story. Pixar would later go on to produce"Cars,""Finding Nemo"and"WALL-E."
Jobs also created NeXT Computer. NeXT was in many ways a failure because it was ahead of its time. NeXT computers had innovations such as built-in Ethernet ports at a time where the Internet was still in its infancy. NeXT also developed one of the first email programs to allow file sharing – a now common capability. A NeXT computer served as the first server for the World Wide Web.
Apple later bought NeXT, and Jobs eventually returned to the top position within Apple as CEO.
Once again under Jobs, Apple released the iPod, iTunes, iPhone and iPad.
One thing is common. Not a single person knew they wanted these products until Jobs released them.
Tablet computing was tried by companies in the past and failed. Other companies released digital music – all failed miserably. Buying music off the Internet on a track-by-track basis was unheard of until iTunes launched.
Jobs did not just create a great product, he convinced people that they needed his product. Unlike executives before him, Jobs was an expert in salesmanship. His abilities made people make that initial iPod purchase. It gave his products a chance to succeed with an initial consumer base. The market eventually decided it needed his technology. That helped him succeed where many others had failed.
Jobs always wanted to produce a tablet, but first made a phone. The iPhone was one of the first smartphones and remains the industry benchmark. The iPhone also highlighted a gargantuan shift in the company’s attitude toward development.
Previously, Microsoft was the gold standard for developers. Unlike Apple, Microsoft offered strong third-party support. That may have held Apple back. Their computers were fast and held the perception of being less error-prone. They also did not have many games available for their platforms.
The iPhone, combined with the App Store, showed a major change in Apple. The company now has a huge development community producing new games and business programs for Apple devices. It allows small developers to potentially compete with large software companies as their products go to the same store.
Jobs also reconciled with perennial competitor Microsoft, allowing Internet Explorer as a default browser before Apple developed Safari and MS Office on Macs. These changes helped Apple survive when its survival was not a certainty.
Flexibility is a skill that many of America’s executives lack.
Jobs proved that one man can make a difference. He made a company that sells electronic devices as valuable as a company that sells oil. Thanks to Jobs, Apple is the most valuable technology company in the world. For a time in August, Apple was the most valuable company in the world, bar none.
The release of the iPad was arguably Jobs’ greatest achievement. The concluding chapter of the iPad release has yet to be written, but accusations of cannibalizing PC sales abound. In 2010, the CEO of Best Buy believed that up to half of laptop sales were replaced by tablets.
One person can change the world. Whether Apple survives for five more years or 50, Jobs’ contributions will always be remembered.