It has been two weeks since Steve Jobs passed away.
In that time, I have seen the full spectrum of coverage, ranging all the way from the sycophantic (“steve-jobs-is-god-however-will-we-live-without-him?”) to the cynical (“steve-jobs-was-a-robber-baron-who-got-rich-by-exploiting-the-poor-and-I’m-glad-he’s-dead”).
The truth, as always, lies in between. As the heart and soul of Apple, he embodied the best and worst of the country.
- He co-founded a company that went on to become a major player in the computer industry. Then he was thrown out by the very managers he bought aboard to mind the store.
- But he didn’t stay down. During his twelve years in the wilderness, he nurtured two small companies. He then staged one of the the greatest comebacks in business history; Apple was in such poor shape that Michael Dell advised him to shut the company down and give the money back to the shareholders. Steve did not, and the rest, as they say, is history.
- Remember those two small companies that I mentioned earlier? They were called NeXT and Pixar. NeXT went on to become the basis of a new generation of Apple products, while the sale of Pixar to Disney made Steve the biggest single shareholders of the Walt Disney Company — and one of the richest men on the planet.
- As some have pointed out, he did not believe in corporate charity, preferring to leave that decision to the individual. I agree with him — giving away the company’s (shareholders’) profits is neither good stewardship nor good business. Let people give to the causes that they are passionate about.
- He was a fan of the Beatles, saying “They were four guys that kept each other’s negative tendencies in check; they balanced each other. And the total was greater than the sum of the parts. Great things in business are never done by one person, they are done by a team of people.” And yet he lived has life as first among equals, wanting things done his way.
- And he was not above pissing his idols off: first he created a company shared it name with the Fab Four’s music company. Then he pacified them by agreeing to stay out of the music business. Then he went back on his word, which is why their music was not available on iTunes until late 2010.
- Apple was noteworthy for designing products here (in Cupertino), but manufacturing thm overseas under less-than-humane conditions. On the other hand, it has been pointed out that a US-made iPad would cost over a thousand dollars.
- At his heart, Steve was a visionary; good at spotting trends (for years he refused to allow Apple to make a tablet until the technology and usability were good enough for him), he set the direction for a company that makes beautiful, functional devices that… just… work.
- And he marketed them to those who were willing to pay a heavy premium for usability, pose value and fashion.
- And he kept them on an upgrade treadmill by releasing newer version once or twice a year.
- Which made Apple a fabulously profitable company.
In the end, all his money could not add another day to his life, and he died at the age of 56.
In my opinion, he is gone too soon.