Steve Jobs (1955 – 2011)

Customer Experience Driven Computing

Steve Jobs was born in 1955 in San Francisco, California, and it’s hard to think of an individual who has altered the landscape of the modern world more profoundly. At a time when computers were enormous, complex machines sitting behind walls of universities or in the basements of government agencies, Jobs envisioned a future where they would sit on the desks of everyday people, and later in pockets and pocketbooks and do everything from taking pictures to playing music, to making phone calls.

Let’s start with the elephant in the room… or at least the elephant sized computer.  In 1976, with Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne, Jobs co-founded Apple Computer with the goal of putting a computer in every home. They began their audacious venture in a garage, but the space limitations didn’t constrict Jobs’ massive vision. They launched the Apple I, but it was Apple II that catapulted them onto the road to success. While Wozniak was the technical genius, Jobs was the dreamer, the man who saw not just circuits and codes but an ongoing revolution.

He was not one to rest on his laurels. Pushing boundaries was his MO. He wanted more than a functional machine; he craved a beautiful one, and one that was intuitive and easy to use. Thus came the Macintosh in 1984, an aesthetic marvel with its Graphical User Interface and mouse, a radical departure from the text-based interfaces of the day. It wasn’t just a computer; it was a design philosophy materialized in microchips and pixels. The commercial for the launch of the Macintosh, an allusion to George Orwell’s 1984, ran during Super Bowl XVIII and is considered one of the greatest commercials of all time.

The path of innovation is never straightforward and Jobs faced setbacks, not the least of which was being pushed out of his own company in 1985.  Never one to sit back and relax, Jobs founded another computer company, NeXT Inc., that was later acquired by a then struggling Apple when it brought him back in 1997. During this hiatus from Apple he also bought another high end computer company, Pixar, and transformed it into a name synonymous with animated storytelling magic.

In 1997 Apple was on the rocks and it was questioned as to whether it could or should continue as a viable independent company.  The company turned for help to its founder and erstwhile spiritual leader and invited Jobs back. In doing so it set itself on a path to becoming the most valuable company of all time. 

Upon his return to Apple, Jobs led a renaissance that not only saved the company but changed the world.  Starting with the colorful iMac, he put Apple back on solid footing and returned the company to its roots at the cutting edge of culture.  The iMac was followed by iPod which set the portable and recorded music world on its head, and then eventually the iPhone, one of the most revolutionary products in all of human history, putting the Internet – and everything that entails – in the hands of billions of people around the world.  The Apple products that Jobs championed weren’t merely devices; they were ecosystems, integrated into a network of software and services that transformed how we do almost everything from listen to music, to communicate, get from point A to point B and pay for coffee and date. 

What’s particularly striking about Jobs’ impact is its multi-dimensionality. He didn’t just transform technology; he also revolutionized how businesses interact with consumers. The Apple Store, a temple for the tech-savvy and the curious alike, fundamentally altered the retail landscape. His insistence on design aesthetics influenced a whole generation of products and interfaces, from everyday household items to the skylines of smart cities.

When Jobs passed away in 2011, he left an indelible mark on how we live, work, and play. Gone were the days when phones were just for calls, computers were just for data processing, and animation was just for kids. In this post-Jobs world, our very lifestyle has been ‘Appled’—smooth, sleek, and seamlessly integrated.

In essence, Steve Jobs didn’t just create products; he created a paradigm. His innovations reshaped industries, his focus on function and design influenced a plethora of fields, and his understanding of the consumer experience set the gold standard. He saw the latent potential in the confluence of technology, art, and utility. His influence reverberates through Silicon Valley and beyond, a lasting legacy of a man who, in his own words, wanted to “put a ding in the universe.” What a ‘ding’ it has been.