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The Much-Missed Genius Steve Jobs With Bill Gates

It’s now a year since Apple co-founder and technological whizzkid Steve Jobs passed away. In an age when legacy is king, MBF Blogs looks at Jobs’ enduring legacy and wonders whether there is virtually a Steve Jobs’ religious movement given the passion he still arouses in his fans.

In looking at it, there are two distinct but connected aspects to what he left behind. One, the clever and popular devices, the iPad and the iPhone leading the field, but including a host of Apple Mac gadgets over the years that have literally transformed the way the digital revolution has moved.

The second direction is the man himself. Always something of an enigma, even after his death from cancer, barely a day goes by but his name isn’t called up in some news story about technology.

Apple and Steve Jobs are impossible to avoid. They are the talisman, benchmark, criteria for stories about design, technology, cleverness and big money.

But It’s Not About the Money, Apparently

In the summer of 2012 Apple became officially the world’s most valuable company with a market capitalisation of $556bn. The iPhone revenues alone now generate more than Microsoft does in a year and Apple is worth more than Microsoft and Google combined.

Wrapped up with these stunning statistics, Apple’s design chief, British-raised Sir Jonathan Ive, who was credited with shaping iPad and iPhone, said that Apple’s guiding principle was not making money but a desire to make ‘great products’.

He swore that was the case as jaws around the world gaped open in some incredulity and he conceded it was ‘flippant, but the truth’. They just want to make great products. And millions of users, especially those who queue faithfully, religiously round the block to worship at the altar of Apple, that is to say, get themselves a new iDevice readily agree.

Profits climb steadily in a market that is mature if not saturated with smartphones. Then along comes the iPhone 5 and profits go stellar again. Apple is slugging it out in the courts and behind the scenes with Samsung over technology patients. Apple takes controversies, criticisms and mishaps in its Chinese assembly plants in its stride.

Ive told the British media in July that when Apple was on the brink of bankruptcy through fierce competition from Microsoft in the mid-1990s, ‘you learn a lot about life through death’.

It’s a handy metaphor for a review of the company a year on, because he meant that it confirmed the view that Apple products were not good enough and untill they were, Apple was going nowhere fast.

Apple Was a Minority Taste

It seems unbelievable now, but in those early days, Apple Mac computers were largely confined to the offices of designers, artists and those few eccentrics who just preferred them to the ubiquitous PCs that everybody else had.

In the early 1990s I invested in a Power Macintosh computer, a tower and a heavy PowerBook laptop and became one of the first in Lowestoft to get an internet life. The LaserWriter printer that came with it was made by Apple too and was the best quality printer I have ever had. The whole package cost £3000 then!

I loved it all and have been an Apple devotee ever since. Then, I relished the fact that it was different from other, inferior systems. I got over the problem of total incompatibility, even with Word. My daughter, then in high school, hated it because she’d do homework on it and then put her stuff on a floppy disk which no machine at school could read.

Is Apple More Than a Core Now?

Since Jobs’ death, Apple share price has doubled and in October the market capitalisation topped $630bn. Despite the doomsayers shrieking that all Tim Cook, Jobs’ successor, can do is tweak old products a bit, that the days of game-changing technology are over, the fact is that Apple is a major, well-established life-force.

Most commentators give credit to Tim Cook for making the notoriously secretive company better at communicating with shareholders and investors and actually paying dividends from its vast cash reserves.

It may be that it has become more corporate, according to Katherine Rushton in The Daily Telegraph (5 October 2012) with less power to the creatives, more to the management. That could explain the iPhone 5 going out initially with an inferior mapping service of its own (after ditching Google maps) littered with laughable/annoying errors.

Either way, it led to a lot of ‘that wouldn’t have happened in Steve Jobs’ day’ sort of finger wagging. And it probably wouldn’t have done. But it did happen, and everyone has to move on ready for The Next Big Thing. Wherever it’s coming from.

Linked Blogs:

Steve Jobs: Always an Iconic and Controversial Figure, Now on Stage, 14 May 2012

Who Really Gains When Tech Giants Clash? 17 September 2012

New Codes of Conduct for Using Smartphones in Public, 31 July 2012

A Bite of Apple News a Day Keeps the Boredom Away, 4 September 2012

Will Apple Make the Superbrands Look Like Small Beer? 8 March 2012

50 Ways to Use a Smartphone, 8 August 2012

New Codes of Conduct for Using Smartphones in Public, 31 July 2012

Some Reviews of iPhone  5:

Shane Richmond, The Daily Telegraph: ‘the iPhone 5 is a marvellous piece of design. It stands comparison with the first iPod, the iMac and the original iPhone.’

David Pogue, New York Times: ‘this iPhone is so light, tall and flat, it’s well on its way to becoming a bookmark’.

Walt Mossberg, Wall Street Journal: ‘like many Apple products, it’s gorgeous’.

Luke Peters, T3: ‘Apple’s competitors have never been closer in terms of quality, function and aesthetics…’

Tony Horgan, Stuff: ‘it has the potential to be the best smartphone that you can buy.’

David Porter, MBF Blogs: ‘I’m hoping the family will buy me one for Christmas!’

Image: Joi Ito