I want to put a ding in the universe

This article was originally written for and published in ‘The Hindu – Metro Plus Section’.
View original article here.

He did, undeniably (Steve Jobs 1955 – 2011). To many, Steve Jobs maybe known as the face of Apple Computers and maker of devices such as iMacs, iPods, iPhones and iPads. To technology insiders, he was the guy who demanded that users of his computer programs and electronics should be moved to emotion.

The one to make bold statements like “…people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”, Jobs had an uncanny knack for looking into the future and daring to be different in the present. In 1996,he realized that making beige boxes for computing would no longer be doing a great thing. A profitable thing perhaps, but not great. Hence his plan to bring computing to the palm, using devices so powerful, affordable and fun to use, that users will ask “How did we live without that?”

Jobs impacted our lives not with cute gadgets, but strong changes to the business philosophies around us; the impact of many of these will be felt for decades to come.

Jobs insisted on creating computing devices that accompany the brain as it focuses on accomplishing a task. The most “logical way of doing things” is the hallmark of Apple products.

Jobs contended that it was futile to attempt to protect digital content, focussing instead on creating an easy-access distribution chain for digital content. While competitors were busy inventing digital locks, he opened the gates to iTunes Online Store to all. Products that are priced right, affordable and accessible have made the store great and the business model for digital stores of the future. Breaking down restrictive walls, Jobs wanted to open doors to rich content from cultures around the world to people around the world. It is amazing how much he accomplished in less than a decade what others may not be able to achieve in their lifetime.

Perhaps his biggest asset was the trust he placed in users to follow the honour code. To date, Apple software does not come with complicated serial numbers, require repeated authentication or subject to occasional law & enforcement checks. Punish the legitimate customer to make up for the pirate has not been Apple’s philosophy under Jobs and it has paid off by Apple becoming the most valuable technological company in the world today, massively enriching it’s investors.

Steve Jobs was socially reserved, but he set the benchmark for customer care. He publicized his email ID for people of the world to get in touch with him and quite often replied to users of Apple products in person. Customers were not penalized for losing the software CD, they were simply issued a replacement with a gentle reminder that the next one would cost. The world of business maybe populated as densely as Earth, but such customer care is rare.

Jobs also combined philanthropy and business acumen by donating computers to educational institutes at all levels. While he may not have created the Apple Church, Apple followers are now born in the crib. The ‘i’ products are ubiquitously are available and the de-facto standard for some categories of electronic devices. The genius of these products lies in the attention to detail. From working with confectionary makers to get the lozenge colours of the unibody iMacs to making graphic buttons that are “so good you’ll want to lick them”.

Few have contributed to improving our lives with innovations that take us towards the glitzy future we once saw in movies. One wonders how much we would have been impacted if this person had another decade to live. Or perhaps quite a few decades. Without prejudice, may I be forgiven to state that along with Jesus, Jobs’s second advent is something I look forward to?

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