Steve Jobs, Apple’s visionary co-founder and CEO, died Wednesday after battling pancreatic cancer for the past 8 years. Steve’s impact on the world cannot be underestimated, particularly in his commitment to blending design-driven aesthetics with cutting edge technology. From ushering in consumer-friendly computing with the Macintosh in the 1980s, to reinventing animated storytelling with Pixar in the 1990s, to returning to Apple and creating user-friendly & futuristic devices such as the iPhone, iPad, and Macbooks in the 2000s. Over the past week countless blog tributes and news stories have covered Steve’s past and innovations in the tech world. Instead of doing the same here this piece serves to address both his technological contributions and personal virtues in reaching for the stars in all walks of life.
Apple was never just a simple computer company when it was founded by Steve Jobs and longtime friend Steve Wozniak in 1976. Back then, IBM ruled the computer world with its cold, sterile workstations and the idea of computers reaching the masses was laughable at best. However, the two Steves sought to change that notion by developing Apple’s simple and unique Apple I, II, and Macintosh computers—using Wozniak’s engineering brilliance and Jobs’ sales pitch flair. Though later in life Steve Jobs would become one of the strongest proponents of IP and copyright protection—both for Apple’s proprietaries technologies and its entertainement partners’ music/movie content—in the early 1980s he was very much a pirate, and expected just as much from all of Apple’s employees.
The original Macintosh’s (released in 1984) graphic user interface was blazen ripoff of the operating system developed by Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) several years earlier. Steve never denied accusations of stealing the IP to influence the Macintosh’s OS, and he asserted Apple improved upon the shoddy design of the original considerably. During the 1980s two of his most commonly cited mottos were “It’s better to be a pirate than join the navy”, in reference to being an outside upstart rather than fall in line with IBM’s stiff blue suits, and Pablo Picasso’s infamous “Good artists copy, great artists steal”, indicating that stealing in a sense was acceptable if you really made something your own, and the world much better for it.
Into the 1990s Steve discovered the immense value of knowing your core competencies, buying George Lucas’ technologically advanced Pixar graphics company and turning in into an blockbuster animated movie generating machine. Steve instilled a sense of heartfelt storytelling into every motion picture project Pixar began working on, something then seen as impossible with the stiff computer graphics produced until that time. With films like Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, Monsters Inc. and many others Steve convinced the world that by sticking to your vision and believing in the truth of your message that you could succeed beyond the wildest dreams of your doubters. By the late 1990s, Apple had fallen into disarray with a lack of clear identity or visionary leadership. Steve Jobs returned to the helm in 1998 and immediately set upon redefining not only what Apple stood for, but also what the consumer and business worlds would know about computing electronics in the next century. With the iMac Steve introduced a playful side of computing, until then known only by the dull gray and beige case color schemes. The iMac shocked the world as the first computer to omit the then-staple floppy disc drive, but Steve held firm and asserted that users needed to start planning for a post-floppy world… something that would become an industry standard within several years.
Proving he was still capable of recapturing the magic of what was considered a stagnant market with the colorful iMac, Steve then set his sights on transforming Apple from a computer company to a products and service company. Apple dropped the ‘Computers’ part of its full title and became simple ‘Apple Inc.’, developed the iTunes music player software and subsequent iPod music player—organizing users vast collections of illegally downloaded music files into a simple, easy to use digital environment and portable device. The iPod skyrocketed into superstardom, becoming the de facto music player, and eventually Steve began striking deals with the entire music industry for an innovative, and incredibly successful, digital music business model that has reaped billions of dollars in profits in, what was then considered, a lost cause industry amidst rampant piracy.
Around 2003 Steve was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and given only a few months to live by his doctors. Rather than letting the news destroy him he then refocused his efforts on even more challenging endeavors. Over the next several years Steve would spearhead partnerships with carriers like AT&T and Verizon, software and service companies such as Google and Microsoft, and countless other program developers to introduce the world to truly fantastical consumer and business geared devices. Unlike most other companies the Steve Jobs-led Apple chose to invent the future rather than wait for it. From the mid to late 2000s Apple rolled out the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad—each becoming the dominant, leading offerings in the mobile phone and mobile device markets. Steve send the message that computers and their related devices were cool, and that despite rampant digital piracy that you could create successful business models for selling music, movies, TV shows, games, and other software—you just had to create a simple, inviting, and fairly priced system for consumers of all ages to do so.
Since his cancer diagnosis Steve fought on, enduring numerous treatments and a liver transplant surgery. His health continued to fail and he was struck with facing his mortality, a lesson we must all face in our lives at some point. However, unlike some who fear the end of their life and seek to retreat from the moments left, Steve stuck to his personal and professional values to remain committed living it all to the fullest. DtecNet’s Vilnius office Director Aurimas Bakas once said, “Do what you do best and what you love doing.” Steve Jobs truly embraced this mantra and espoused it with all the contributions he made to computing, motion pictures, and the consumer and business product worlds. However, Steve would likely be the best person to discuss his views on life and personal challenges, and his 2005 Commencement Address at Stanford University is the most fitting example of this, viewable here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UF8uR6Z6KLc. Here are some of the most prime words of wisdom from the address:
”You can’t connect the dots looking forward you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something: your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well worn path…
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.”