RIP Steve Jobs (1955–2011)

In the last week since the sad demise of Steve Jobs, who finally lost his brave seven-year battle with pancreatic cancer, I have read many tributes to his life’s work from a great many of the world’s business people, media spokespeople and, thanks to social media and the blogosphere, people like you and me.

Now, I don’t think I’ve ever considered myself a die-hard Apple fan. I never owned a Mac pc or laptop, an i-phone or an i-pad. I certainly wouldn’t have considered queuing all night to be first in line to buy the latest and greatest Apple offering. I’ve always been a “PC” with the one and only exception of my i-pod Shuffle and later, my Nano (which incidentally I can’t imagine living without). However, if I’m honest with myself, this has been mostly down to convenience, and not because I didn’t love the idea of their products.

After a few early and quite frankly meaningless IT lessons with a BBC microcomputer back in the early eighties, I later graduated to use PCs with the same mouse and graphical user interface combo we all take for granted today, Microsoft Windows. This, though we didn’t realise then, was entirely the work of Steve Jobs and his partners at Apple, who adopted the Xerox mouse and GUI (graphical user interface) for the Apple Macintosh computer, the world’s first commercially successful personal computer.

Perhaps ironically, I started out my working life using Macs in the world of publishing at IPC magazines where I did several months unpaid work experience in the editorial team at Woman’s Journal magazine. Even now, I remember being impressed with its simplicity and graphic interface. Even in black and white, it was prettier and more creative than I’ve ever thought Windows to be. So convinced was I of its prowess, I even did a short introductory course in PageMaker, Mac’s desktop publishing software for when it came in handy.

Sadly, I never needed to use those skills, but during this early time in my professional life, I became certain of my love of working with words and went on to pursue a career in editorial work and later marketing. Working for American and UK corporations though, ensured I never used a Mac again; “business” used IBM PCs for cheaper purchasing costs and more flexible software options; only creatives and artists relied on the acknowledged graphics expertise of Mac software so these services were outsourced as required. At home it always seemed easier to get a PC, not because we don’t like beautiful things in our house but because we knew how to use Windows for PC and it seemed annoying and inconvenient to switch to Mac, only to find it wasn’t the same and everything was in a slightly different place (how high maintenance!).

As a professional marketer though, I can’t ignore the success of the Apple brand, user or not. I respect the innovation and market leadership it represents, admire its iconic status and appreciate its simple beauty. The business story behind it is incredible, not just for its success, but for the recognition it retains and the way Apple products have continued to not just revolutionise whole product markets but actually change the way we lead our lives.

The question is of course, how much longer can it continue to do this? How much of the brand was down to Steve Jobs himself? Is it not certain Apple will lose something without his vision, leadership and creativity? Apple clearly lost its way against the steady rise of Microsoft in the battle for market share after the board got rid of Steve Jobs in the mid-eighties, only to resurrect itself with his return to the board and restructuring of their product line. Since then we have seen Apple launch its i-range (Mac, pod, phone & now pad) and its share price achieving an all time high of $300 in 2010. On the other hand, if a brand is that successful, is it because its core values are intrinsic to its existence regardless of who leads the way? Only time will tell for Apple.

Recently, I read Steve Jobs’ commencement speech to Stanford University graduates in 2005. The world has promoted this since his death as a seminal work, quickly becoming as iconic as the man himself and it dawns on me that this guy was a true legend of our time. As I find myself wondering if writing and blogging on a more beautiful, portable i-pad 2 wouldn’t be less likely to bring on arthritis than my Blackberry, I realise this man’s ideas and energy changed my life almost without me realising. Without the genius of Apple’s first personal computer, it isn’t certain you and I would be as familiar with IT as we are today. Would the likes of Google, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter have been able to conquer the world the way they have without that graphical user interface? Would I have started to follow my heart and write again…?

Finally, as it becomes clear that there is nothing I could write here that will do justice to either the man or the brand, I will leave you with a link to Steve’s Stanford commencement speech and to the words of the man himself. May he rest in peace.

I suggest you read it. Like Steve Jobs himself, his words might just change your life the way he seems to have changed the world!

Mayfair Mum x

© Mayfair Mum, 2011

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