The Death of an Innovator

Steve Jobs, the leader of Apple, Inc.

Yesterday, while driving home from work, my iPhone started buzzing.  I signed up for “breaking news” text alerts from AzCentral (perhaps inadvertently because I haven’t found them particularly newsworthy, yet I haven’t bothered to turn them off).  Imagine the shock when I read that Steve Jobs, had passed away.  His death was not particularly unexpected as he had battled with pancreatic cancer since 2003.  His health seemed to turn for the worse when he resigned as Apple’s CEO in late August.  Even with that, I was among many that thought he would likely return at the helm after a period of months.  Even the anemic photo that appeared sometime in September depicting Jobs as gaunt and frail could be dismissed as an anomaly or something expected in the course of cancer treatment.  Not everyone believed that the picture was a precursor to his final exit.

As recently as October 4 when Apple announced the new iPhone 4S, some pundits and many Mac-heads expected Steve to make a guest appearance to announce the revised iPhone or provide some words of reassurance that Apple’s best years still lay ahead.  Alas, this was not the case.  I would not be surprised if Jobs himself lay on his bed and watched the successful keynote.  Perhaps, that keynote allowed him some modicum of closure.  For him, that was his last chapter in a book he charged Tim Cook, the new CEO, with writing.

Of course, this is all speculation.  I have no special knowledge not possessed by the general public.

Steve was a giant that completely revolutionized computers, music, and technology.

I’ve been part of the Mac faithful since the very early 90’s when my dad walked in from school and brought back the Mac Classic (which later evolved into the iMac).  Even when Apple entered the “dark period” of the mid-1990s and the company faltered, our family continued upgrading: the Macintosh Performa, and later the Power Mac 6500.  Oft-criticized by a couple of close friends that had “unparalleled” computer games that were incompatible with my Mac, I couldn’t switch platforms (probably because I had no money, and my dad bought the computers.  I didn’t have a say in it.  I bought or downloaded what few games I could.  Oregon Trail,  Bolo,  Stuntcopter, Command & Conquer, and dozens of now-defunct titles).

I can’t claim that I should somehow feel worse because I’ve been with Apple longer than the majority of consumers, which, by the way, started purchasing Apple products in the last ten years.  It’s just that Steve Jobs had always exuded confidence in his products and the direction of the company.  He developed a cult following that captivated the consumers and both intrigued and frustrated his competitors.  He even strong-armed the entire music industry to fit within the Mac environment.

CEOs lead companies.  Steve Jobs did not fit the ordinary mold of a CEO.  He did not lead the wildly successful computer-turned-technological-giant company so much as he embodied the company whose stock shot up 7000% since championing Apple out of the dark ages.  It seemed that people were loyal to Steve first, Apple second.  For years analysts and shareholders worried about the lack of succession plan if Steve was unable to lead the company he once founded.  It wasn’t until recently that Apple announced its plan about how specifically it would move forward in a post-Steve Jobs world.

Now the time has arrived and with it the challenge to relentlessly innovate walking in part of the shoes of Steve but also progressing in a new, but hopefully equally successful direction.

As I sit with my iPhone at my side and type on my Macbook, I can’t think of a better platform I would rather write this post.  To this, I thank you Mr. Jobs.

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3 thoughts on “The Death of an Innovator

  1. Ben, you indeed have an exceptional long relationship with Apple. Thank you for sharing the post. We all miss him.

    On death, this is what Jobs says, “Death is very likely the single best invention of life. It’s life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. And today, the new is you.”

  2. As you know, I recently left my PC behind and picked up a MacBook. I credit you and your family for convincing me to make this decision. It is a decision I probably should have made several years ago. I remember growing up alongside your family, spending many nights at your house, playing those infamous games of StarCraft and Command and Conquer. I also remember when your dad made that computer lab out of those old Macs with the black and white screens. Do you remember how we all played Oregon Trail together? Anyway, Steve Jobs has definitely made a lasting impact on the world and I am sure his legacy will continue. After all, the company he created, Apple inc., is an “infinite loop” that will never end.

  3. Thanks for the comments Lijing and Ricky. On the first, Jobs’ death is indeed sad. His passing is death; no one can escape death. Jobs had the most profitable company in the world. Recently, albeit briefly, Apple surpassed Exxon Mobil. Apple had more cash on hand that the treasury department of the United States. Yet even with his wealth, he could not escape death or even postpone it a significant period of time. Sadly, Jobs was only 56.

    That said, Steve Jobs did make a lasting impact on the world. I’ll always remember those good memories of being at home or on the iMac in the garage with my brother and Ricky playing Starcraft on the network. Great memories.

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