Yes, we’ve all received the memo: Steve Jobs died. And as with all “major” news stories these days, the media has fallen over itself to cover every last aspect of what little story there is.
To be sure, though, there’s no doubt that Jobs revolutionized computing, but not by what he created. Instead he revolutionized it by how it was packaged, marketed, and presented. He’d once said that Apple proudly stole other people’s ideas, but they could present it in ways that on one else could.
The mouse and window-type operating system, otherwise known as object-oriented computing, wasn’t new to Macintosh when it was introduced in 1984. Nor was it new to its short-lived flop of a predecessor, Lisa. Xerox created that several years earlier. But what Macs managed to do was present the operating system in a computer that was relatively affordable and easily accessible by home consumers.
MP3 players weren’t created by Steve Jobs, but I think no one can argue that the iPod didn’t perfect their interface and a simple store to purchase music through. Tablet computing has been tried for years, and only the iPad became a commercial success.
Sure, a big part of it is how Apple products are made and how they look: they’re the computing equivalent of Scandinavian designed furniture or Bang & Olufsen stereo systems. They’re more expensive, but you know what you’re paying for, so you’re happy to do so.
I admire many Apple products, and would love to have the where-with-all to be able to get a few more, but they’re a bit out of my pay grade. But I’m happy with what I have: an iPod that contains my entire 9,200 song music collection. Jenni has a great laptop that part of me still covets. And, truth be told, the Mac OS still just looks sharp, clean, easy to use, and makes any and all versions of Windows look like cartoons.
We techies spent some of today arguing the finer points of the Mac versus Windows debate, and I kept coming back to one simple point: Mac products may require proprietary hardware and software, but you can’t argue that they don’t work well and haven’t captured the consumer’s attention. Like it or not, if the iPhone is the defacto standard in smartphones, it’s because Jobs and his people at Apple produced a more appealing overall product than anyone else. Truth be told, I think I’d love to have an iPad and iPhone, just because of what they are, but I don’t need them: my Android phone works well for me, and I just can’t think of a legitimate reason to need a tablet computer.
I don’t agree with people who say either that computing will change forever now that Jobs is dead–mainly because computing is always changing, but not because of one person or company–, and I don’t agree with people who say that Apple will die because he’s gone. On that point, Jobs was around long enough for people in the company to realize that they still need a visionary, and whether that’s one person or a group of people, as long as they have that, in the form of truly unique thinkers, they will be fine. No matter what, computers will continue on, changing and evolving as hardware gets faster and better and as programmers come up with new things that can be done.
So yes, it’s a sad thing that Steve Jobs is gone, but mostly because he was only 56. Who knows what the world might have missed out as a result of his dying so young. But really, that could be said about so many more people.
See you tomorrow.