Some more thoughts on the passing of Steve Jobs

by Marty Gabel

Though this is probably a selfish way to start, I probably wouldn’t have my current job or be writing this if it wasn’t for Steve Jobs.

That might sound a bit over-the-top, because there’s a lot of people behind the scenes at Apple, and many thousands of random events that have led me to this particular role at Appolicious. But there’s no denying that Steve Jobs was a hugely influential figure. His vision and expertise in leading Apple made it one of the biggest business success stories of the modern age.

Steve Jobs and Apple have touched all our lives. Even if you don’t work in “the industry” and write about this stuff everyday like us, you’re probably very familiar with the company’s influence and its products. Like most people out there, I’ve got a story about my first Apple product. I was a little late to the game: it was actually one of those all-in-one original iMac G3s back in 2000. Frankly, it wasn’t that good. OS 8 and 9 were clunky and slow. The machine’s innards were quickly superseded by speedier products. But it did help pave the way for the company’s far more groundbreaking OS X, and made sure people knew that a computer didn’t need to be an off-white ugly box noisily buzzing away in a corner.

No instruction manual required

This design aesthetic continued through all of Apple’s subsequent products. So here’s my next Apple product story: the original iPhone. Admittedly, I didn’t line up outside the Apple store for this, but I remember its release. When Steve Jobs’ original keynote revealed the iPhone to the world, many of us gasped. Here was what we’d always wanted as kids: a computer in the palm of our hand! This was a product that excited us, that we coveted, that could (and subsequently did) change how we use our phones.

Yet my immediate memory of the original iPhone 2G was different. After I opened the box, synced it with iTunes and switched it on, it was the first ever product I’d owned that was so easy to use that I never once had to look at an instruction manual. To me, that was a revelation. Here was a technically sophisticated product that had very little learning curve. The operating system, apps, everything just worked totally seamlessly and easily. Sure, it wasn’t perfect, but it’s a stunning example of the vision of Steve Jobs and Apple, and one that has pervaded to this day. Thanks to Apple, everyone now works to make their products simpler and easier to use, despite their complicated technology.

As an aside to all this, I also remember how people would ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ at the original iPhone: it was so different and unique. Now its influence is everywhere and it has become wholly ubiquitous. But one Christmas at my in-laws, out in the rural, windswept plains of southern Minnesota, we were eating at a remote restaurant and my father-in-law wanted to know the scores of a local wrestling competition. We sat around the little iPhone, watching it slowly, painfully chug-away on its snail-like analog connection (no 3G or even EDGE out there) as a very basic website loaded and we got the information he wanted.

A few years on, this sounds so hokey. But technology moves quickly, and back then, it was a revelation. We were connected to the outside world. Sure, any laptop or desktop computer could have done the same thing, maybe even a BlackBerry. But this was a touchscreen device, a tiny computer, a gaming machine in our hands and... well, we were excited.

If Steve Jobs had only left the legacy of bringing touchscreen smartphone technology to the world, that would be sufficient. But there’s been more, a whole lot more. The company has changed the way we consume and listen to music. There were other players in this of course, like the original Napster. But iTunes, the iPod, and now the iPhone and cloud-based services have truly revolutionized the music industry. As if that wasn’t enough, as mentioned above, with unique visions like OS X and laptops with great aesthetics, style and ease-of-use, we’ve had a truly viable alternative to Microsoft Windows for many years.

Innovation extends beyond Apple

And here’s the rub. As well as being a great innovator, Steve Jobs and Apple, through their line of smartphones, computers, software, and music products have been fantastic for business in general by encouraging others to innovate and produce better products. Windows may still dominate, but it has improved drastically because of Jobs’ influence. Its future tablet/OS offering, Windows 8, could even take the company and design aesthetic yet further.

If it wasn’t for Steve Jobs and Apple, Android may not be the success it is today (and I wouldn't get to write about it so much). Plus, these things are circular. Because of Android building on a lot of what Apple first brought to market and drastically improving it, Apple has followed up by taking a page out of Android’s book and further enhancing its own products. Competition has been good, given us consumers more choice, and made life better for everyone.

So I shall bring this somewhat rambling tale to an end. It’s been a little bit of an externalization of hundreds of thoughts I’ve had since I heard about the passing of Steve Jobs. So many thoughts, in fact, it’s tough to order them correctly. But this is the kind of legacy that remains. Without sounding too gushing or fawning, people everywhere today have been sharing their Apple stories -- their first computers, their first experiences (some more moving than others). It’s rare that I’d be so bold as to claim someone have such a deep and meaningful impact on so many people, but in this case it’s true. It’s rare, too, that a shrewd businessman and entrepreneur garners more respect and love than any politician or celebrity upon their death.

On an even more personal note, however, having known a number of people who have had friends and family deeply affected by pancreatic cancer, I do hope that with the passing of Steve Jobs that awareness of this terrible disease is raised further, and that there will be more money donated to work towards a cure.