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Thursday, October 06, 2011
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Steve Jobs - The Man, The Myth, The Legend

As everyone in the world knows right now, Steve Jobs passed away yesterday. I'm writing this blog post while I watch Pirates of Silicon Valley, and remembering the history of one of the greatest battles in modern times... Microsoft vs. Apple. Of course that war is far from over... and that is not what is important to talk about now. But what did Steve Jobs do, and what does he represent? In many ways, Steve Jobs represents the best that America is and can be. Strangely enough, though many, if not most people would agree with that statement... if you described Steve Jobs and what he did without mentioning his name, those same people would likely think that unnamed man was a failure, and an unpatriotic businessman.

Steve Jobs never graduated college. The man he cofounded Apple with, Steve Wozniak, didn't graduate college until after Apple was well on its way to being a success. Oh by the way, Steve Jobs smoked pot too.

We remember Steve Jobs for his remarkable successes towards what ended up being the end of his life. The iPod, iPhone and iPad are what every other company aspires to create, and what people wait in lines to buy. Of course, Steve Jobs was also at the helm of some remarkable failures early in his career. There was the predecessor to the Macintosh, the Lisa. And of course, after Jobs was fired from Apple, he started a new computer company called NeXT Computer which went nowhere. What made Steve Jobs a great businessman was not to throw away that which failed, or deny the failure, but to accept the failure, learn what went wrong and fix it, while keeping those new ideas that made something great.

At his core, Steve Jobs was a businessman, but he never really invented anything. What he did was perfect things. He also knew the true value of things. And that latter skill is the one that made Steve Jobs truly successful. He took concepts that other companies never thought would be successful, or never could be sold to regular people, and saw what they did not. Because they never valued what they created, they sold it to him cheaply, and he turned around and did something great with it.

Steve Jobs did not invent the MP3 player, though he certainly did what no other company was able to do... make it truly useable. And then he did what he'd never been able to successfully do before with it... sell computers. Steve Jobs did not invent the telephone, but he found a way to merge it with other technologies to create a new something that nobody can think of living without. In an age where people seem convinced that a company should succeed and people don't understand why consumers won't buy a product even though a few people think its great... Steve Jobs figured out what people actually wanted and sold it to them. No pressure... no demands. He made great products, and so people naturally wanted them.

Of course, there was a time when Apple was in trouble. Perhaps some people remember what happened almost 15 years ago... when the enemy himself, Bill Gates, literally looked over Steve Jobs on the screen and took part ownership of his company and helped save it:

Of course, looking back on it today, its surprising that ever needed to happen. And if you look at that time as the lowest point in the war... you can say that Apple has certainly fought back and in many ways is winning. Once again, Steve Jobs did what every great businessman does. He learned from his failures, kept what worked, and changed what didn't.

For a more personal view of Steve Jobs, I suggest you read this piece from All Things D, and Engadget looks back on Steve Jobs in his own words.

# Posted at 8:32 PM by Nick  |  Comment Feed Link 2 Comments  |  No Trackbacks

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Thursday, October 06, 2011 10:31:30 PM (Central Daylight Time, UTC-05:00)
Steve had a gift for recognizing what was broken in our technological lives and then fixing it. Like the MP3 player. LIke the mobile phone. Hell, like the personal computer itself.

I think you overstate the whole Microsoft investment thing. Even back at that low point, $150 million was merely a gesture; it wasn't "ownership" in any meaningful sense. It was too low a dollar amount, and it was non-voting stock anyhow. Far more important was the agreement to continue selling Office to Mac users.
Thursday, October 06, 2011 10:35:48 PM (Central Daylight Time, UTC-05:00)
The dollar amount may have been relatively small... but as you say, the Office commitment had value in and of itself that helped keep Apple afloat in many ways. But what I found to be most interesting was the way that Bill Gates himself was on that big screen, looking down on Steve Jobs as Jobs gave great praise to Microsoft and its products while the crowd jeered. Back in the days when it really was viewed as a Microsoft vs. Apple war... it was a surreal moment if nothing else. And when we look back on it now, it seems even stranger.
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