Analog Angle Blog

Steve Jobs: one more view

Commentators, editors, journalists, and observers have all had something to say about the untimely passing of Steve Jobs; I thought I'd let the first wave pass before I added my views.

Although I am not an Apple acolyte, nor an Apple product user, I have great admiration for what Jobs and Apple have done in terms of products, markets, and forging ahead despite tough circumstances. I do have three observations from years of seeing what Apple has done.

First , Jobs' repeated exhortation to his engineers and marketers to create something “insanely great” is so different and so refreshing compared to just doing “faster, better, and cheaper”—although those attributes are important, too, of course, in many ways. But you need some pushing beyond that, to create the “pull” from far ahead.

Second , Jobs had the ability to create a Reality Distortion Field (RDF) that kept Apple going during some very hard times. Wait a moment…”what hard times?”, you wonder. There was a time when Mac computers were hovering at about 3% market share, software developers were not supporting it, the “i” products (iPod, iTunes, iPhone) were not yet released, and Apple's future was very much in doubt. The RDF that Jobs created was enough to keep the faithful users and media flame alive, even as the products were not there yet. That alone is an impressive accomplishment.

Finally , there was his ability to guide a company to rise above and learn from major failures. Consider this: if a broad-line IC company has a presumed winning product which doesn't meet expectations, that's bad but not usually fatal; they can go on to other products and probably have a strong backlog of existing products to sell. But it can be disastrous for a PC vendor who only has one, maybe two major releases per year, especially when these new ones are supposed to be the seeds of major new lines and market initiatives.

Apple stumbled badly with their Lisa PC (1980), and Newton (1987, perhaps a little too much ahead of its time). End of company? Could have been—except they were able to learn, adapt, retry, and move forward. That's an impressive feat.

Those are the three aspects of Steve Jobs and Apple I'll try to keep in my mind. They are broader and go beyond the specifics of the products themselves.?

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