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Thursday, October 06, 2011

iSalute : Remembering Steve Jobs

I was about to board my flight at Chicago's O’Hare when the news of Steve Jobs passing away broke. When I landed in San Fran (My United flight did not have Wi-Fi)- my thoughts were with the family, Apple colleagues and the huge number of Steve Jobs and Apple supporters. Innumerable iPads, Macs, iPods inside the aircraft symbolized everything that Apple got out to the world. As I landed in San Francisco, nothing prepared me to see the huge global outpouring of affection for Steve Jobs. Today as I drove past Infinite Loop @ Cupertino, I just couldn’t stop recollecting the fact that From Tokyo and Paris to San Francisco and New York, mourners created impromptu memorials outside Apple stores, from flowers and candles to a dozen green and red apples on Manhattan's Fifth Avenue.

The speed and reach amazed me – not in a way surprising given the reach of the electronic media and social tools but what did surprise me was the fact that in this age where scandals, misdeeds make huge news, for news of Steve’s demise to make such an impression, completely swept me off my foot.

A creative genius, a perfectionist, someone who keeps pushing the boundaries of innovation, keep improving the state of the art in technology and provide flawless value to people and win their hearts and gain walletshare consistently is perhaps an unparalleled phenomenon in the world. That Steve could do this in this century – when choices abound and consumers are so picky and promiscuous is an incredible, unmatched saga of achievement.

Steve and Apple stood for unadulterated class. What to pick and what to ignore. From his legendary presentation skills to the new industry models that he created to the array of products that symbolized the very best of its genre stands testimony to his genius. From converting a consumer product space from a volume play centered around margin outreach, he proved that volume play can be done with very respectable margins and still make each and every consumer feel very proud of their status symbol as consumer of Apple products, While people may debate for ever whether Apple is a media company or an entertainment company or a company playing in the consumer non-durable space etc.. he truly made Apple as a lifestyle for its countless number of consumers around the world. In his recent presentation to the Cupertino city council on Apple new campus plans, he said that the architecture would be of so high standards that all students of architecture around the world would plan a visit to see the campus when it is brought up. I have seen in countless occasions the sort of work culture, full of focus and energy that Steve had brought inside Apple. For several years continually, he defined the norms through his products, the definition of what could be done in the high tech consumer space.
Its Jobs’ vision, and the design of Apple’s products — the touch interface, the easy to navigate non-computer-like operating system, the ease of use — and the well designed and now robust Apple ecosystem, the iPod and the iPhone and the iPad have each played a role in disrupting virtually every form of entertainment – the consumable media, from music to text to video.

Not for nothing people call him the best CEO in the world, which he proudly occupied or for some he is the greatest industrialist that America has produced. In and of itself, Steve proved to be the defining standard here. While the world was broadly aware of the deep set of concerns around Steve’s health for the last few years, not many would have expected the end to happen so soon. For many of his admirers, he could pull that magic out that so famously espoused in his product launch presentations. For several decades, the world will recollect the fact that while fighting these personal setbacks, that Steve and his team could keep rolling out category killers/creating products so consistently, create the volumes, maintain healthy margins (in a very tough business and competitive environment), making Apple in the process the top valued technology company in the world. A truly awe inspiring phenomenon ,indeed. The fighter and winner that he is nothing (except those who could have known his medical condition well enough) could make it look that he himself could fall soon.

Ever since he came back to lead the reigns of Apple, Steve and Apple were synonymous with success, His master set of strategies that helped turn around the prospects of Apple would be part of textbook history for ever. Why is it that in his passing away, there’s so much of feelings all around? Steve Jobs stood for the user in a computing world where missteps and mishaps get tolerated across the board. He single mindedly advocated the cause of users as seen from the range of Apple products that got launched - for a majority of Apple users he through magic worked to get whats in their minds and roll out not only products that meet their needs but provide more than those – teens, moms, father and older generation – virtually all strata of society shared similar adulation for Steve.

The PC industry’s most fascinating grandfather who also brought out the post PC–World into reality is clearly the greatest visionary and creative mind that unfortunately just moved into the shadows. In the last few weeks, ever since Steve announced that he is moving out of the CEO role citing his health concerns, some wrote premature obituaries, citing their personal admiration and the impact that Apple products have made in their lives. Some would like to see him as a combination of Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Mozart. While some of my choice of technology usage could be different from that of Apple, Steve jobs never ceased to excite and create awe and inspiration in my mind.

That the world could see a 56 year old man in the most technological advanced nation on earth and for somebody who practically had all the global resources at his disposal could lose a fight against cancer( as widely reported), leaves a chilling feeling in the minds and hearts of his followers. There’s anger behind all the praise and sorrow that one man who has done so much to advance the state of the art , who could have given so much had he lived longer could be taken away right in front of our eyes.

Am sure Apple management would continue to take his journey forward, but what stands out is the fact that in this world innovators are always outnumbered and being a successful innovator and a business man is a deadly combination -that’s available only in its rarest forms – symbolized as with Steve Jobs. There is no substitute for Steve – its truly the end of an era. Hopefully this would be part of a continuum, where the new takes over from where where he left and keep running.

Words from Steve Job’s commemorative speech at Stanford rings resplendent with widom,” “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” From Steve Jobs Stanford Commencement Speech, 2005

Steve leaves us with this thought : A true hero in life who could change so much in the world leaves a great thought of substantive force in our minds.- at everyone’s level, given the vision, determination and energy, all of us can make a difference in what we set out to do – small or big. The world will never ever see another Steve Jobs – he is truly unique – one who cared about liberal arts and technology together keeping user needs in mind. It's still difficult for me to see how this great smart computing world would maintain its growth and innovation without a Steve Jobs touch to its advancement. Hope is the answer and as Steve has shown in resurrecting the prospects of Apple, for the determined, it is always possible to achieve. He started his business journey from a garage with a friend. How destiny shaped him & how he shaped his destiny.

As someone said to me in the words of Steve –“iCame, iCreated, iWent. And my legacy will live on.

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