RIP Steve Jobs – Wonderful Inspiration

Apple Inc is booming, that is well documented so we won’t discuss it here.

This post is to farewell a great man whose impact will be measured in millions of lives in the next generation

Steve Jobs died three days ago and twitter is still running at 100 per minute, more personally I have been trying to decide how I feel about his death. It is an unusual combination of certainty and uncertainty. Certain it is important, uncertain how.

Firstly, it is remorse, not like a family member or friend or even respected business technology colleague. I never met the man but it is a combination of the above in small part plus a heck of a lot more.

Steve faced uncertainty too, he didn’t always know precisely what the finished products he designed would look like, however he had a vision and smart people around him to execute. Like we are with coinr I suppose. He even disclaimed apps at the launch of the iphone and then embraced them less than six months later to create, lead and define the global mobile app marketplace.

He did know however, and was able to visualise in immense detail the product in many cases, like the early macs, his visualisation skills and demands for attention to pixel level detail were legendary. Some things he shared with his only kindred hero, the inventor of the Polaroid instant camera.

Probably most of all though, Steve Jobs was differentiated and valued because of his ability to distill, refine and communicate a useful vision then lead people who respected him to execute.

Read that last sentence again, the world needs more people who have those skills in one brain.

I started with an Apple IIe (Europlus) when I was 12 or so, as a user, then programmer and maybe fan. This was followed by a successful career in real-time trading technologies and echoes some of the skills and experience in the coinr team today. Probably interesting is we all like macs and use imacs but have deep windows and/or unix experience.

Personally the non-Apple path was (after that early start) nearly 35 years long before returning as an unlikely ‘Apple fanboy’ only a few years ago entirely except for some corporate and government client work.

This was a surprise to me personally but no surprise to millions of people globally because something new was in the water at Apple – Steve Jobs had returned and was getting traction. As a team here at coinr (and as individuals) there is no doubt we recongnised this more than most and chose to really convert, we have every product they have released in recent years, usually many. Coming from a very pure applied science degree, with that much experience, it was an informed decision.

Put simply Steve was finally getting it largely right.

One tribute said ‘he leaves behind his family and 49,000 employees’. I believe he started out with neither and also left behind hundreds of millions of fans.

I used the words unique (or differentiated) and valued to describe Steve. Those measures are also an important business modelling method I deeply respect and advocate. a business model Steve Jobs invented or at least popularized. Value on one axis and differentiation on the other, bozos are bottom left, success freaks are top right, the other two corners are bound to die in price wars or win a worthless segment.

Steve Jobs was an autodidact, lifetime self educator, like myself and so many people I respect, though I didn’t know what an auto-didact was when I first heard he use the term many years ago, it made me realise again the value of life time learning.

Steve was not just teach or learning, he was helping us learn how to learn.

Of course his contributions to education are well documented, but I suspect very strongly we won’t realize the lasting impact he has had for some generations.

He was a father, like myself, not sure if he was a good one but from his public communications like the amazing Stanford address (if you haven’t seen it then google it and watch it twice), it is likely he was innovative in all aspects of life including multi-dimensional caring for his family. I am speaking to the graduating class of my old university UTS tomorrow, it is not Stanford but it is right up there down under. I think long term (think half a life time or more supporting causes you care about in the ways you have available to you (not just money but time and meaningful thought) are a great measure of what made Steve Jobs a great human being.

He was an enigma.  I doubt anyone sets out to be an enigma unless advised by their PR agent and in that case they are likely to fail eventually due to lack of natural substance.  I don’t know if I am an enigma but I know some of the products and companies I have led certainly are or were. No doubt coinr will continue to be one until we really launch enough features for people to recognize the way we hope to redefine our chosen space. Lets hope we can grow and develop some natural substance.

I’d be ecstatic to have anything I am involved with develop even 1% of Steve Jobs’ gravitas.

Steve was an innovator, but often times his innovation was the refinement of the work of others and the ability to integrate that in a manner others had not. Siri is an example of this, his last probably. This iPhone voice activated virtual assistant may succeed where others haven’t but certainly there are dozens of early examples where the ultimate measure of success – usage – proves he has been unique in the history of the world.

Mobile web browsing combines some of the most amazing international technology standards, skills, markets, companies and technologies mankind has even seen. Microsoft beat Apple to the market by the better part of ten years but it was Steve’s invention that drove acceptance to 87 times more effective adoption levels than Microsoft  based on some Cooper Sydney research we did years ago about nine months after the iphone launch.

Adoption was his success. Advocacy was his hallmark. Yet he was adopted himself and his original advocates his parents failed him.

In a world where every Windows PC is bombarded with security risks and virus attacks, his creations enabled diversity and enable some greater sense of safety.

In a world of incessant incrementalism by well intended people without systems thinking skills, Steve led the way by refining and removing ‘noise’, integrating and simplifying. Saving time and improving quality of life.

His tough commercial approach is less well documented, but it is probably his focus on time over money on real usage over shipped product, and on execution over research that defines it better than budgets, forecasts or other droll accounting terms.

Farewell Steve, we hope the world can collect and retain some of your principles and that your main legacies (and those that steer them) will continue as effective, innovative role models for other companies, products and individuals.

RIP Steve Jobs 1955-2011.

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