Thursday, August 25, 2011

Why do we still need Steve Jobs

The news fell like a bomb. Steve Jobs is no longer Apple's CEO.

In less than 24 hours, a lot have been written about it. Coverage of Bill Gates's departure from Microsoft was not even close. So, why do I dare about writing more? Simply because since most people know the Steve Jobs which saved Apple from bankruptcy, to me he was one of my childhood heroes.

My first time in front of a computer was when in 1979, when I was 8 years old. I started programming in 1983, at the age of 12. Back then there was no Macintosh, and the most coveted computer for a kid like myself was the Apple IIe, a commodity almost unreachable in my country back then, because of the import taxes set by our incompetent politicians.

Even then, I used to enjoy collecting every single brochure (all in English) from every computer I saw in the fairs. How do I wish to have them now! Those would be nice collection pieces today. In one of those brochures was the short tale of two kids (almost teenagers) who founded a company by selling a minivan and a calculator. It was inspiring.

Steve Jobs has always been a complex character, a misunderstood person, a man with a different view of technology. To Steve Jobs, technology is a part of being human. It should not be something arcane and complex, that divides genius from common people, but something that makes us better human beings, which get us together, makes our life better. Nothing describes his vision better than the metaphor "a bicycle for the brain"

Let's highlight what Steve Jobs is NOT: He's not a brilliant programmer or engineer. He has no academic degrees. He did not design the Apple I or II. That merit goes 100% to his partner, Steve Wozniak. In that sense, people like Ed Roberts, Paul Allen, Gary Kildall and others are to be recognized for the creation of the technology itself.

Now, what Steve Jobs IS: He's an excellent judge of people's talent, who gets rid without any remorse of those he calls "bozos", keeping only the "genius". He's stubborn and driven. He believes in his own vision. He can fail. Projects like the Apple III, the Apple Lisa and the Mac Cube were big flops. He's perhaps the best presenter in the world. He's an unsatisfied perfectionist. And he has the passion of taking technology to the people.

Steve Jobs's innovation is sometimes misunderstood. I think it's worth recalling a little bit. The IBM PC was born as a reaction to the new personal computer trend, started by the Apple II. Windows and most of the other GUIs were born as a reaction to the Apple Macintosh. The newer generations can remember how listening to music was before and after the iPod, how the iPhone changed the phone as we knew it and how the iPad became the standard for tablet computers.

None of these inventions we created by Apple. The personal computer was created by Ed Roberts, the GUI, by Xerox, there were already MP3 players in the market, as well as smartphones (Blackberry and Palm). Regarding the tablet, I'd suggest to search the Compaq Concerto in Google. Nevertheless, none of these products took off. And the reason is easy enough to understand: They lacked the human touch. And it's there where Steve Jobs is above anybody else.

In today's world, technology companies are going through very dark times. Dell is a glorified assembler. HP is not even the shadow of what it used to be. Microsoft has no actual leadership nor direction. IBM has no consumer products. Oracle has dedicated to buy others and compete in areas it should have not get into. Google lacks of that human touch technology needs to blossom. Wall Street has contaminated Silicon Valley in a way that it's worth getting rid of the creative minds to make the stock go one point up. There's no long term thinking anymore. I've seen it myself in HP.

In this environment, Steve Jobs is a beacon of light in the darkness. He is who raised the quality demand bar for what a technology product must be. Steve Jobs made Apple what every technology company should be: A product-focus company, not a Wall Street expectations-focus company. And funny enough, is that vision what made Apple the most valuable company in the world.

Technology moves the world. And the world still needs Steve Jobs. As a matter of fact, the world needs more and new Steve Jobs. Something not easy to achieve, but a reachable goal, if one has enough will power to make the objective. And funny enough, that's another of Steve's lessons: With will power we can achieve the impossible.

My best wishes to Steve Jobs, and may he be doing what he always does, for many, many more years.

1 comment:

Ian Basset said...

Nicely stated, completely agree. I hope his health improves - such a bittersweet situation to be a part of so much innovation yet knowing you may not be around to see the next chapter of your own book.