Thursday, 6 October 2011

Icon #80 Steve Jobs

I don't think I knew who Steve Jobs was when I bought my first iPod.  It was a fifth generation Classic, the first with video play back and it was the start of my world changing.

From that point on technology started to become a rather expensive hobby and whilst it would be wrong to say every step along that journey has involved Apple, they have been at the heart of it.

I've always loved things that have a bit of soul, things that've been a labour of love or things that have a spark of genius somewhere within.  Whatever you feel about Apple as a business their products have all of that.  My 60gig iPod from six years ago still has it with the click wheel.  Such a simple navigation tool, married to a brilliant menu system all working in a beautifully designed shell that at the time held my entire music collection.  Five years ago I marvelled at that.  All my music.  In my pocket.  Mental.  It went everywhere with me along with my, at the time, dreadfully average mobile phone.

A year after buying my iPod I joined an Audio and TV department and my exposure to Apple products grew enormously.  iMacs, MacBooks, iPods, Apple TV and iPads.  You name it, I've sold it and slowly but surely the Apple story became part of my everyday.  There are still times when I have to explain to someone how iTunes works with an iPod.  Seeing someone click as they 'get it' never ceases being enjoyable.  The simplicity of two devices working together, transferring data without the user having to do anything other than plug them into each other, still makes me smile.

It took a while for me to get into the Apple keynote thing.  I was aware of Steve Jobs and knew the background to his role at Apple by the time the iPhone launched but that was the first keynote I watched.  There were other smart phones around of course but the iPhone did things so seamlessly, in such a simple way, that everyone seemed enthralled.  A great deal of us still are.  Steve Jobs understood what people wanted before they knew they wanted it.  With the iPhone he took everything we loved about our iPods and added layer after layer of other content and then added a phone.  It's almost a shock when mine rings because I use it for so many other things I often forget it does that.  There are other phones that do the same job now.  Other brands, other operating systems and other app stores.  Some of them even look pretty good.  But none of them have any soul, none of them feel like their imbued with genius and none of them feel remotely like a labour of love.  I guess, at the end of the day, none of them feel like one man sat in an office, looked at the final product and said, 'That's brilliant, imagine what we'll do with next years.'

What Steve Jobs created with Apple was a brand with an identity like no other.  Aspirational products, some affordable, some extortionate, but all effortless to use.

As I sit writing this on my beautiful MacBook, dreaming of an iPad, while keeping half an eye on my iPhone, I can't help but think of the quote that's been everywhere today:
'Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn't matter to me... going to bed at night and saying we've done something wonderful... that's what matters to me.'
I hope that was true, because you nailed it Steve.