Steve Jobs has died too young.
But what a lot of life he packed into his 56 years, and what a lot of other people’s lives he transformed in the process.
As news of his death broke this morning in Europe, President Obama said in a statement, “There may be no greater tribute to Steve’s success than the fact that much of the world learned of his passing on a device he invented.”
Most of the tributes from the around the world will mention how this was a man of remarkable vision, a man who transformed a technology company into a lifestyle company and services provider, and gradually made Apple’s latest collection of chips, processors and cables headline news around the world.
Jobs’ key skill, though, was both remarkably simple and incredibly rare. He knew what he wanted, and no amount of corporate bullshit, interminable meetings and excuses could stop him from getting it.
Anyone who has ever worked in a corporate environment will have witnessed the way great ideas get ground down by committees, focus groups and marketing departments to emerge unrecognisable at the other side. The ethos across such companies, be they newspapers, car manufacturers or computer makers, is to produce something that “will do”.
Jobs knew that the price of excellence was taking risks, first to recognise, then never to dilute the purity of a good idea. And, boy, did he take risks. When he returned to Apple in the late 1990s, the company was a spent force, with a dwindling band of loyal users. Bang! Jobs released the iMac. Bang! Jobs ditched Apple’s operating system to replace it with OSX. Bang! Jobs ditched Motorola processors, rendering a whole generation of Macs obsolete overnight. Bang! Jobs launches the iTunes store, after 18 months of relentless argument with record company executives. Bang! Jobs released the iPhone, not only taking on the established powers such as Nokia, but showing them what they could have been making all along. Bang! Jobs released the iPad, the first computer to make tablet computing make sense.
There will be thousands of articles about Jobs over the next few days, each with quirky insights and personal tales to tell.
I have only one.
Back in 2004, Jobs made an unexpected appearance at the launch of an iPod at Billingsgate fish market in London.
It was always accepted wisdom that Jobs didn’t really like England very much, and one journalist piped up at the press conference to ask him if it was true.
“I hate your power plugs. They ruin the lines of our adapters.”
Whoever gets to design his tombstone has a hell of a job ahead of them.
For more on the life of Steve Jobs, please read http://www.beehivecity.com/hightech/steve-jobs-resigns-as-apple-ceo-due-to-illness-15111/