Thursday, October 6, 2011

Steve Jobs of Apple Inc.

Today, the tech world mourns the death of Steve Jobs, one of the most influential and iconic person in current history. Below is a photo of Steve Jobs that appears now on Apple Inc.'s website, a company he co-founded in 1976.

I first learned of Steve Jobs during college in 1990, when we are discussing the competition between Apple and IBM on one of our management subjects. Back then, our impression of him is a maverick or unconventional type of person, yet he cannot beat the Watsons of IBM in the market share of the computing world. In 1985, he was even pushed out of the company he co-founded.

However, as the saying goes, you cannot put a good man down. In 1996, Apple bought Jobs' NeXT software company, putting him back as an adviser to Apple which is going downhill that time. The following year with continuous financial losses, he was appointed as interim CEO of Apple. In 1998 under his leadership, Apple introduced the iMac computers with modern technology and sleek design, and sold 800,000 units in just 5 months to be back in profitability. I guess that was the start of "i" prefix phenomenon, which connotes "improved" or better and stylish products.

With the success of iMac, Apple started to buy other companies to complement their tech arsenals, focusing heavily on multimedia softwares. On latter part of 2001, Apple started selling the iPod music player which sold over 100 million units in 6 years, then iTunes was established in 2003 as their cash cow. After the iPhone started its dominance in the mobile phone business in 2007, the iPad rode on its success in 2010.

The iPhone became the benchmark on mobile phone industry. Other brands have been trying to develop that "iPhone-killer" but fails to do so. Despite the option to pre-order before its release date, iPhone fanatics line up in the stores, even days before its launch. The iPad restarted the tablet PC business, where HP and other brands failed to attract consumer interest about a decade ago. 

Aside from the success of Harry Potter books, we've never seen a cult following of a particular product brand, like when people would camp outside the shops just to be a first owner of an iPhone. Early brands of tablet PCs have failed, but the iPad makes you think that you really need it, even though you're already using a laptop and mobile phone. Never before that a particular consumer brand have built so much hype and became a standard of its own.

Steve Jobs steered Apple Inc. to its most enviable position in the business. Last July, Apple has more cash than the US federal government. At one time, they beat Exxon Mobil as the most valuable company. They also have an ever-growing loyal base of customers. If you want to be seen as a cool person, you must have an iMac, an iPod, an iPhone, or iPad with you.

Jobs kept his personal life hidden from the public, accepting press interviews only when it will help his company. This character of secrecy also helped in developing the hype and interest on the new products they release every Macworld Expo. He is also a visionary, knowing which company to acquire that will help Apple, the mother company. Early this year, I read an article where Apple bought a lab company that owns the patent on a super strong and scratchproof glass, better than the currently-used Gorilla glass, which could later replace the current glass panels on iPhone and iPad.

Aside from being brilliant, he is known to be a perfectionist and very particular in aesthetics. He would reject countless prototypes of iMac, iPod, and iPhones, until his product development team gets it right. For him, the form is equally important as the hardware and software of the product. No wonder that the Apple products you see now look and feel good as well.

He died at a relatively young age of 56. I can't help but wonder how many secrets or futuristic product innovations he brought with him to the afterlife. People say he is the Thomas Edison of our current time. He's not exactly the inventor, but for me he's the personified "kaizen", the Japanese term for constant innovation. 

The world will surely miss you, Steve. Thanks for sharing your ideas and life-changing product innovations. I wouldn't have a glossy and thinner Windows laptop, if Lenovo and other manufacturers have not seen your iMac Air. Thanks to you, my wife and our youngest son would sometimes quarrel over the use of her iPhone. Also, I wouldn't be enjoying a high tech Android phone now, if not for the high standards and competition created by your iPhone. 

May you rest now in "iHeaven".

P.S.  If you like to read Steve Jobs' heartwarming commencement speech --- "How to live before you die" at Stanford University in 2005, click here.

The Apple logo above with the profile of Steve Jobs is from Jonathan Mak's tumbler site.

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