October 7, 2011

A World without Steve Jobs

The news of the passing of Steve Jobs came as I turned on my iPad arriving at the BWI airport. It caused a gasp from me. Much of the prior 90 minutes were filled talking with my seat mate about the future of technology and our finding ease in using the tools we have today and their near future incarnations and beyond. The conversation kicked off with a question about iPad and differences between iPad and iPad2.

Today, what really struck as I woke today was not as much on what Steve Jobs inspired and shipped, but what didn't ship. I have had some long discussions with folks from Apple about things that got stuck in the Steve Jobs review and how to potentially get a feature or product beyond that hurdle. The attention to detail was stunning as to what the CEO focussed on and how each thing fit in not only the whole stretch of Apple products, but also all the touch points where people experience Apple. On rare occasion something that has been a bit of a clunker shipped from Apple, but mostly it is shipping great products that are well designed, well engineered, and very well built.

Having a leader understand this whole of the ecosystem of experience and making decisions to remove things that could dent that whole of the experience is essential Steve Jobs. One thing in particular sticks out is Apple not shipping is Flash in the iPhone. At the time many other smartphones included a Flash player in their devices, but it was never a good or passable experience, even when it wasn't locking up the device or crashing it. Jobs and Apple took a lot of heat for this decision, but it was geeks that cared about Flash in phone and those who only understand checkboxes when making device selection that were having the lack of understanding. The lack of Flash in iPhone and other iOS based products is one key to their ease of use and uptime, which lead to high user satisfaction of the devices.

American companies in recent years have been competing on price not quality, and therefore have largely been shipping mediocre products. The financial success of WallMart is founded on getting brands to make a cheaper more mediocre product so people own a brand that once mattered, but the product is deeply lacking in the quality they bought for a low price. The Steve Jobs Apple did not give in to shipping junk, their products may cost more than other devices, but once you add similar components to what Apple didn't cut corners on the price is rather close if not much more for the competing products. Jobs turned Apple around from a company that had become focussed on price and mediocrity and returned it to a company that focussed on "Boom" and quality with forward thinking products. Jobs shifted the focus from following to bringing the future to today with quality.

When we consider Pixar, Tim Berners-Lee inventing the web on Steve Jobs' Next Cube computer, changing the music industry with iTunes and iPod, disruptively moving the mobile phone marketplace, and countless other drastic changes one man and his companies made it is tough not to stop for a moment and be thankful and know we have been blessed with one who dreamed of greatness for the world around him and delivered it though passion and flair.

Now it is our turn not to give into mediocrity and accept the merely acceptable, but measure what we do and bring into our world and lives the greatness that should be there.



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