One Year Later Steve Jobs Still Not God
Unless you have been hiding in a hole or totally ignoring the internet, most of you know that this past week was the 1 year anniversary of the death of Steve Jobs. The reactions, the write ups, and the stories published over the last few days really got me thinking as to what this man’s real legacy is, and why people try to hold him up as some sort of near deity.
First off, I have to make a tip of the hat to the people at Wired magazine. Clearly their offices run on Apple Kool-aid, judging on the recent spate of “the Iphone5 is amazing great perfect” style reviews that really weren’t reviews. Moreover, their article “Why We Will Never Stop Talking About Steve Jobs” is one of the pieces that sort of triggered this blog entry. They are perhaps one of the more obvious faces of why Steve Jobs continues to be over-hyped and nearly sainted.
The biggest error that most people seem to make is that they think Steve Jobs came up with all the Apple stuff. The reality is that Jobs wasn’t a creator, as much as a refiner. He had a very strong eye for spotting what was right and what was wrong with a product, and would stick with his ideas right to the end. His ability to find ways to market Apple as the cool option, to create artificial shortages, to pander to the fan base… those are all the things he was so good at.
The products? Very little of what Apple actually does is leading edge, rather under Jobs they were very good at spotting developing markets and putting out the defining product before the market matured, and in doing so, took dominant positions in it. The Iphone defined the smart phone market for ages because it was by far the best device at the moment that the market really opened up. The same with the Ipad, it’s not the best device, but Job’s shrewd product positioning and such made it into a product that defines the market.
Yet, for all of this, Steve Jobs is not god. In death as in life, he is still not god, not a diety. Sorry to burst bubbles.
Credit where credit is due: Jobs helped to define many of the products we use today. He defined an esthetic, a design style that was unlike everything around it. His greatest accomplishment might actually be Itunes, which is the razor blade that supports the Ipod razor, pulling Apple away from being a hardware only business into being a software one.
His other key was the presentation. This is where Steve Jobs the marketing guru really shows through. His tough approach to keeping products secret until launch, and then using those massive launch shows to generate hype was much of what drove Apple’s success.
Sadly, his desire to keep things secret may have been his own undoing, his illnesses kept under wraps, and his desire not to allow them to dominate his life means that he probably went years earlier than he should have. Even the near god Steve Jobs discovered that he cannot defeat nature.