Thursday, October 6, 2011

Steve Jobs made digital music cool

By Emmanuel Legrand

Like many in the world, I have been an avid Apple user for as long as I can remember – went through the whole range: Apple II (with a duo drive powering…256k!), the first Mac (loved it), Mac SE (great tool), iMac (hated it), PowerBook 145, MacBook, iPod, iPhone, etc – and I am saddened by the passing of Steve Jobs.
Yes, he changed people’s lives through technology and changed the way we approach technology.
The Mac computer was the turning point. It showed that you could get rid of the complexities of MS-DOS and other foreign computer languages and provide tools for people that were simple to use, efficient and fun. In short, they were made for non-computer literate consumers.
Jobs was also the man who steered the music industry into the 21st Century by setting up the iTunes Music Store and launching the iPod. By doing so he made legal digital music cool. And made billions for himself and the company not through the selling of content but by putting expensive devices into the hands of millions. Very smart indeed.
Of course, there were plenty of things that irritated me about Apple. The closed operating system for one. The high cost of the products (it is quite fascinating that Jobs managed to sell some plastic boxes with a few processors in it the price he did…but the packaging was fabulous). The ‘my way or the highway’ philosophy (remember when some dared to criticise the original iPhone?). The DRMs on iTunes. The fact you had to pay more for a “black” MacBook. The labour situation at the Chinese factories that Apple employed to manufacture products. And so on.
Jobs understood that he was the message, but I have always found the Apple corporate culture quite upsetting. At Apple, nobody else but Steve Jobs would make presentations; nobody would speak to the media but Steve Jobs.
Unlike many, I have never dabbled into the cult of Steve Jobs. Apple had become a sort of sect and it will take a while for Apple to detox and find a new modus operandi, not least because Jobs exemplified the company he co-founded.
Apple employees were proud to have him as a boss (and certainly not an easy boss), and they will have to learn to live without him. This might also give them extra incentives to shine and be creative, so that to live up to the standards that Jobs had set for himself and for the company. The worse that could happen would be that the company and its managers were paralysed by the legacy.
We need Apple to continue to innovate and create the new tools of tomorrow. We need Apple to be true to the spirit and the ethos of its founders and continue to change the world we live in. And we need Apple to be more open to the world and to its consumers.
So long Steve Jobs. You made a difference.

2 comments:

  1. Great piece Manu! An excellent summary of the pros and cons, balanced as always. I too have been a "non computer literate Mac user" and these friendly machines helped me adopt the information super-highways as well as many other aspects of the digital world in the early 90's. I just missed the times when Apple was the challenger, but that's another story;-)
    Bruno

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  2. Hi Emmanuel,
    I agree with you, I respected the man for his genius, but I hated him for his stubbornness.
    Jobs had a personal gripe against Adobe, accusing them of "sloppy programming".
    As a result, many of us Apple fans are turning away from the IPAD. I'm sick and tired of not having Flash videos and animations on my Iphone. Same for the absence of USB port or memory extension via SD cards.
    But with Acer, Samsung, Motorola, all on Android, becoming competitive, if Apple wants to maintain it’s lead, it will have to evolve.
    For example, the Iphone only becomes the best Smartphone on the market only once you have jailbreaked it.
    Let's hope it that now their "Guru" has gone “underground”, it will open a new era, where Apple accepts a more broadminded attitude to the large portion of customers who enjoy more open platforms.
    J. Gail's Band

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