Monday, October 24, 2011

Steve Jobs: 1955 - 2011

Steve Jobs passed away on October 5,2011
He was only 56 years old. 
The impact he had on the world was substantial.
He was the heart, soul, creative cheerleader, guru, CEO, showman, innovator, and genius that ran Apple.  He and his company, for they are in a sense inseparable, brought the world the personal computer, the iPod, the iPhone, and lately the iPad (on which for obvious reasons this letter was composed).  Each of these products either created a new business space or revolutionized the ones they competed in.
The personal computer, and all the enhancements that have followed since, were offshoots of the first Apple that Jobs and Wozniak built in Job's parents' garage.  It created a new marketplace.  It was revolutionary.  People were able to much more on their own from word processing to various analyses.  One of the first software programs, Visicalc, allowed for so much more to be done in accounting and business planning than people imagined.  When the internet and email were added to the mix, people were unshackled from their desks, secretaries became obsolete, and productivity began to soar.  All the while, Jobs and Apple continued to refine and re-define their product.  Apple became the company and their PC line innovated into the brand name Macintosh then simply Mac to the current iMac series.  Their machines and operating systems distinguished themselves by being more reliable, not susceptible to viruses, and most importantly providing a superior more intuitive and easier to use user interface than their competition.
PCs and windows took over the business world.  Macs were relegated to the art departments, education, and other specialty aficionados.  The people that wanted them, liked them, and needed them were happy to pay the premium that these PCs commanded.  They commanded premium prices from the beginning and that has lasted to today.  One can pay twice as much for a comparably equipment iMac than the cheapest Windows based PCs.  It seems that people in increasing numbers are doing just that.
Steve Jobs was genius and an innovator.  He could see ahead of everyone else.  He was not an inventor in the style of Edison (who may have indeed been the last solo inventor).  Jobs did not invent anything himself but guided new product conceptualization, new product development, and marketing.  His genius was seeing what technological innovations were making possible.  He saw this before anyone else.  He not only saw it but had created an organization that could bring the concept to market faster than anyone. 
Apple was more innovative in the early years of personal computing than most of us probably give them credit for.  They had the first networking capability for PCs.  They had the first real laptop computer.  They were the first to use much of the technology developed at Xerox's Research Park in Palo Alto including the mouse.  Apple did not just borrow or steal this technology.  They, under Jobs guidance, acquired the rights to and innovated beyond the bulky high cost yet groundbreaking Xerox prototypes and brought them to the mass market. 
The created an operating system that really truly made the PC the useful tool we all rely upon today.  They made the operating system work intuitively using icons, windows, point, click, and drag to really free people to create written work, spreadsheets, and artistic displays.  Their work was the underlying example for the highly successful Microsoft Windows and Office software that is so ubiquitous today.
But, this was only half of his genius.  He had another, perhaps even rarer, gift.  He could create simple, elegant, intuitive, and superior user machine interfaces.  Once one had one of his products in ones possession, this superiority in ease of use and navigation became crystal clear.  No one else could do this, not even close.  He had a gift for seeing how emerging technologies could be used to make innovative ground breaking game changing products that changed entire industries and marketplaces.  He had a gift for marshaling the resources and people of Apple to make this all happen.  There is no question that Jobs was the mastermind and leader of all of this. 
This was all there in the PCs but that was only the beginning.  The new century became the Apple century, at least thus far.
On October 23, 2001, they released the iPod.   This product revolutionized the music business immediately and across the board.  This miraculous device the size of a deck of playing cards allowed one to access all of their music all of the time anywhere they were.  They stole the portable music business from Sony that had invented  the transistor radio, the Walkman cassette player, and their whole line of CD based products.  Sony never recovered from this and was never able to launch anything in their proprietary format that could remotely compete with the iPad. 
There is definitely a case that Napster, the creation of Sean Parker, is more responsible for the demise of the record stores and changing the industry.  Parker and Napster might have been the catalyst but he did not create anything sustainable.  It was Jobs and Apple that created an integrated channel that replaced stores, distribution, and physical products i.e. CDs with the iTunes and iPads.  Plus, what Jobs and Apple did was legal and has been generating revenue since its inception.
Jobs took over from Sony's Akio Morita as the innovator in portable music devices practically without a fight.  Without Morita, Sony was not the same when the innovative dynamo was no longer running things.  This makes one wonder how Apple will fare without Jobs. 
On January 29, 2007, Steve Jobs unveiled the IPhone at MacWorld 2007.  At the time the cell phone was dominated by Nokia and Blackberry with the occasional success from Motorola and the up and coming Samsung.  Jobs and Apple took it to a new level.  It was the phone everyone has had to have since its launch.   It is the product which all other phones are measured against. 
One would think that having innovated, invented, or coordinated the innovation and invention of the personal computer, the most intuitive operating system for personal computers, the iPad, and iPhone would be more than enough.  Anyone of these products would have made for an amazing achievement and spectacular lifetime achievement.  This was not enough for Steve Jobs and Apple.  He may have saved his best for last.  On January 26, 2010, the man introduced the iPad.  The iPad (again the device upon which I am writing this tribute letter) is something new and and also something in-between.  It is neither a smart phone nor is it a PC.  Yet, it does some of what each of these devices do and it does more.  It is something new and in-between. 
The iPad runs on apps just like the iPhone.  The bigger screen makes it a superior device for watching video, reading books, playing games, and other diversions.  The smaller size, instant on, and quick response makes it more convenient and easier to use than a laptop.  It is a revolutionary and evolutionary product that is taking the world by storm.  It is amazing to see how people that owns them use them is such unique ways to serve their own interests and passions. 
Why might the iPad be the best product Jobs ever shepherded into the market?  The competition, simply, does not come close.  While many looked at it as something evolutionary and inevitable, Apple surprised everyone and caught the competition a little flat footed and unprepared. 
There was lots of press when the iPad was launched about how they market was about to be flooded with pad devices.  Samsung, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, and Dell soon came out with their own products.  They were all lackluster, despite the advertising campaigns, by comparison.  Hewlett-Packard's product had such unimpressive results that they decided to pull it off of the market after just a few months.  They reneged on the decision when their small but avid user base complained and decided simply to lower price.  The only strategy that these competitors can possibly use is to drop their prices.  The press is now rife with predictions of the next wave of newer cheaper pad devices with Amazon leading the way.  We shall see.
When he introduced the iPad, he reported that in three short years since the introduction of the iPhone, Apple had become, in terms of revenue, the largest mobile device company in the world.  It had become bigger than Sony, Samsung, and Nokia. 
His genius was not just in the hardware.  He has created an integrated the hardware, software, and how software is bought and managed.  Apple under his tutelage created a integrated business supply system.  There are Apple Stores for browsing, touching, trying, drooling, and buying devices and machines.  Software, music, books, and other media flow from iTunes to the various Apple devices.
People that never owned an Apple product, save for perhaps the iPod, bought iPads and love them.  They love them so much, they are moving to iPhones and MacPros when it is time for them to upgrade their other devices.  iPhone, iPad, and MacBook Pro are the must have trio of business devices. 
The world is expecting Apple to take this integration to the next level.  The only thing missing from the suite of devices:  interconnectivity and Apple launched their iCloud based file sharing this month.  This allows the sharing of files between all of one’s Apple and Windows devices.  This would include photos, music, books/magazines, and office suite files.  It might also include apps.   iCloud would allow one the ability to read one's books or listen to one's music on any of one's Apple devices.
Beyond the market share numbers and everything written above, there is a very visual way to see and understand the popularity of Apple and Apple products.  Go to an Apple Store.  Sit outside the store and take note of the traffic going into and out of the store.  Notice how many people are leaving with purchases.  If the store is in a mall, take note of the traffic going into and out the stores around the Apple Store.  The traffic and comparisons will have as big an impact on how well Apple is doing as anything you might read in the business press.  It would be interesting if we could see the traffic in and out of the iTunes store.
He was impressive in life.  But, immediately upon his passing, it was as if the world as a whole truly realized how incredible this man was and how big a loss this has become for all of us.
·         Top Ten Quotes of Steve Jobs
·         Steve Jobs -  June 2005 Commencement Address Stanford University
This Stanford University website contains both the text of Jobs famous speech and an embedded Youtube video.  It is well worth the 15 minutes it takes to listen to this speech.  Another website that I found,, has summarized Steve’s seven rules of success:

1.    Do what you love
2.    Put a dent in the universe
3.    Make connections
4.    Say no to 1,000 things
5.    Create insanely different experiences
6.    Master the message
7.    Sell dreams, not products

Not everyone, however, is enamored with the man or his memory.  Someone in a discussion group I belonged to posted the following:  “I predict that when the glitter settles, he will be largely remembered as a clever, obsessed guy, who made an enormous amount of money paying workers very little while getting top dollar from middle class consumers for prettier, slightly more reliable toys.”  Another person in the same group provided a link to the darker side of Steve Jobs with “There is blood in those gadgets” and referred us to a blog posting:
I started to respond to those postings in that discussion but it was running out of steam, so I thought I would respond to it here. 
This whole debate in that discussion group took place with people around the world via... semaphore? smoke signals?  Ah yes, we are using the www, the internet, using devices from a variety of manufacturers including servers, wires, chips of all kinds, bloody devices that have sped up the mining and dissemination of data, information, thoughts, and wisdom to practically the speed of light.  We love the convenience.  We are mostly blind to slimy underbelly of it all:

·         Pollution:  there is a huge issue in this silicon chipped device world we love.  Obsolete batteries and devices in landfills are a pollution bomb of toxic materials and heavy metals we bequeath to future generations.  The amount of electricity server farms suck up and the heat they generate is an issue that has been expounded upon in the press.  We should worry about this every time we put finger to keyboard, cell phone, or tablet screen:  toys many of us use all the time.

·         Conditions in factories:  All companies chase cheap labor around the world.  The more fast paced and competitive the industry; the more this is true.  We should think about this when we buy any new device made in any third world country.  Even if the factory is well run respecting people.  The workers are often displaced.  Yet, they somehow take the jobs.  Why?  Simply it betters their lives even if it is the result of factories closing in the west.

Why just beat up on Steve Jobs?  We all drive cars, wear clothes, eat meat, and enjoy electricity.
·         Do we think of the pollution that cars spew out?  The natural resources they consume?  No we enjoy the convenience and freedom of conveyance.
·         Do we think of the conditions in clothing factories when we buy a shirt made, undoubtedly in a sweatshop in some third world place?  No... we need clothes and appreciate the low prices.  
·         Do we think of the conditions for animals and workers that produce meat in feed lots?  Factories that hatch 250,000+ chickens a day and slaughter the same number 20 some days later?  No, we appreciate the "everyday low prices" and seeming abundance of it all.
·         Do we think about the amount of electricity we use to run every gizmo we own and light our house?  Where does the coal come from that is used to fuel the power points?  Who works in those coal mines anyway?  No... we take electric light and the ability to make ourselves sleep deprived as some kind of basic human right.

We want all the conveniences of a modern life.  Collectively, we want to have them at the lowest cost possible.  Companies that provide these goods and services want to make as much money as they can in providing these goods and services to us.  Very few companies and leaders can constantly innovate and hit more than their share of home runs.  Akio Morita and Steve Jobs are from the same cut of cloth in my opinion.  They are very rare and special business leaders.
Are we collectively willing to do with less and pay more for what we do get simply in order to make the world a little better for everyone?  Versus making it a whole lot better for just me?  Or just you?  The answer from the majority is a very loud NO WAY.
Lastly, I imagine Steve Jobs was driven, ambitious, and very hard on people at times.  I imagine as that he could be one offensive SOB.  Good coaches and motivators from the ranks of business, warfare, and government are often that way.  They have to be in order to get their troops to be aligned with and act on their vision.  To do great things, organizations have to be yanked in the direction the visionary leader sees as the direction to go.  The organizational inertia wants to do what is known and comfortable.  It will never stumble in the direction the visionary wants it to go in the same way consumers will never tell companies what the next innovative breakthrough product should be.

Addendum:  I wanted to keep this part separate from the above tribute to Steve Jobs.  Again, upon his passing emails were sent in Armenian circles with the subject:  Steve Jobs spoke fluent Armenian.
My first reaction while waiting for the email to open was "Huh??"  If that were true, why hadn't I heard about it.  This is definitely something the Armenian community would want to tout and be proud of:  Steve Jobs is Armenian.  Who woulda thunk.
I had made an extrapolation on the subject that Steve Jobs spoke Armenian.  He is not Armenian per se.  He was adopted by John and Clara Jobs who raised him.  His  adoptive mother is Armenian.  Her maiden name is Hagopian.
Even the Turkish Newspaper, Today's Zaman, carried a similar story with the headline, "Steve Jobs adoptive Armenian mother has Anatolian roots.  Clara Hagopian Jobs family were from Malatya and immigrated to United States following the "1915 incidents.”
His birth father was a Syrian Muslim.  I am sure that both Arabs and Muslims are noting this positively for the same reasons both Armenians and Turks are doing so:  some part of his genius must be due to his (...fill in the blank...) background.


  1. Loved it! His Commencement speech at Stanford was truly inspirational.
    Perplexed yet understandable that there were negative comments made.
    He had a very tall handsome Armenian who was instrumental in designing many programs. He quit I think it was over 10 years ago. Armenian pubs never picked it up. Saw it only in the NY Post. He was considered a great asset. Didn't have a home computer then only the one in office so it may have been on the internet

  2. From my friend Andres:

    from my Mac Book Pro, I like this view of Steve Jobs better

    it shows the he was a brilliant, genius, visionary businessman.....son of a bitch, cruel mean, selfish and nasty human being .....


    Steve Jobs final words.

  4. for me steve jobs is a hero, thanks to him I could see the world with beautiful because the work that he made