Steve Jobs: God or Geek?

Apple, NeXT, Pixar. That is the legacy of Steve Jobs. We can sit here and argue that Jobs was not a genius and that his contribution to the world was insignificant. We could do that, but it would be a waste of time.

Microsoft fan or one of the Apple faithful, we still have to acknowledge the role Jobs played in shaping the computer industry, the music industry, marketing and the world of animation.

Steve Jobs was not an engineer. He wasn’t even necessarily a smart man in the most traditional sense. What Jobs had was intuition and vision. The iconic Mac computers would not exist today where it not for Steve. The other Steve, Steve Wozniack, would still be selling his Apple I to hobbyists in a garage. It was Jobs who decided it needed to be packaged up and sold to the average person: the Apple II was born.

“My vision was to create the first fully packaged computer,” he told Walter Isaacson, the author of Steve Jobs published by Little, Brown. “We were no longer aiming for the handful of hobbyists who liked to assemble their own computers, who knew how to buy transformers and keyboards. For every one of them there were a thousand people who would want the machine to be ready to run.”

It was Jobs who visualised the iconic design of the iMac, it was Steve who insisted iPhones be made of glass. It was Steve who insisted the Apple Store was needed. It was Steve who insisted products needed to be fully integrated, artistic and simple to use. It was Steve who turned the computer industry into a market suitable for the everyday consumer, and transformed it into a place of artistic expression.

For Steve, Apple was not the average computer company – it was about being different, it was about changing the world. Something Steve and Apple summed up in their 1997 “Think Different” commercial.

But Jobs has made his fair share of flops as well. There was the Lisa, the Apple III, the hockey-puck shaped mouse and the button-less iPod shuffle (3rd generation). But in amongst his successes these are largely forgotten about or ignored, for once his dichotomy of things being complete shit or absolute brilliance doesn’t define how we remember everything.

His tumultuous beginning at Apple was nearly his downfall but time away at both NeXT and Pixar allowed Jobs to grow into the CEO he was destined to be. NeXT taught Jobs the importance of deadlines and budgets. Pixar taught the ever-controlling Jobs to sit back and let others shine but it also showcases Jobs love of art and his belief that technology can be art – without his investment the world would be without classic films Toy Story, Finding Nemo and A Bug’s Life.

Coming back to Apple a changed and better man, Jobs set about saving the company he had started. Part of Apple’s uniqueness is the way products are launched. It was here where Jobs’ perfectionism was helpful, with his product launches now legendary. The grand display Jobs and Apple put on ensure immense media coverage from all media outlets and showcases Jobs’ innate marketing know-how. His launches have gone down in both computing and marketing history – from the first Macintosh introducing itself in 1984, to the first iPod launch in 2001  (introducing the product with the now famous “I happen to have one right in my pocket”) to Apple’s biggest leap since the original iPhone, the launch of the iPhone 4 in 2010 in which he pokes fun at leaks – and demonstrated a CEO with an innate sense of what people want (before they know it).

The iPod Dancer - one of the most iconic advertising campaigns of the decade.

Tied in with product launches was Apple advertising. Jobs’s desire for everything to be perfect and his “less is more” mantra led to some of the most iconic advertising seen, such as the iPod dancing silhouette with the string of white headphones.

Furthermore, the iPod can be credited with saving the music industry. Yes, it is a huge call but it is true. The music industry was floundering, the problem of illegal downloads was growing and no viable solution had been found. That is until Apple and Jobs created the iPod and the iTunes store. It was Jobs who convinced the music companies to come on board, ensuring artists would get paid for their music (with Apple making a tidy profit on the side) and demonstrating the persuasiveness of Jobs.

The iPhone was how my parents (now in their 50s) foresaw the future back in the ‘70s. Okay, so maybe they thought that it would hover at our shoulders, but still, Jobs achieved a lot more in bringing the Jetsons’ version of the future closer to our reality than most other computer companies. The iPhone 4s with Siri further achieved bringing the future into the present. And while Microsoft may claim to have had a similar function on their Windows phone (Tell Me), comparative tests between the two have been, at best, laughable.

Everything Steve aspired to (and generally achieved) was about making things simple, innate. It had to be easy to use, and pleasurable to look at. What counted to Jobs was the overall user experience, and this is what makes Apple so different. The future for Apple, and his successor Tim Cooke, is continuing to aspire to Steve’s mantra of “less is more”, and living up to the standard he left behind.

Of Steve Jobs, the question is continually asked: tech god or average geek? His personality doesn’t completely fit the conventional nerd image. His interest in drugs and his continual search for truth in religion paint a more complex image then the average computer geek stereotype. A perfectionist with his own version of reality, Jobs lived a life of passion and ultimately achieved what he set out to, he made a “ding on the universe”. After all, who am I to argue as I type this on my MacBook Pro and text on my iPhone 4? Even if you are not a Mac enthusiast, we can acknowledge that without Jobs, the computer world would be vastly different.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Steve Jobs: God or Geek?

  1. Geoff

    There are words I’d allocate to Jobs, God and Geek are not one’s I’d use; Visionary, Egotistical, Driven, Entrepreneurial… all strengths and weaknesses.

    • I think Steve Jobs was definitely the epitome of how all those traits could be a strength or a weakness. From all reports, he was a very interesting person, though perhaps not someone you’d want as a best friend.

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