Like many of you, I woke up this morning to the sad news that Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple, died late last night. Steve had been unwell for a while; he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2004 and despite a successful liver transplant he took medical leave earlier this year, and resigned as CEO in August. Sadly, he was never able to return.
The picture on this post is of my iPod Mini, which was the first Apple device that I owned. Bought back in 2004, it was the start of a trend which has seen Apple products replace my music player, home computer and most recently my mobile phone. The iPod Mini was a well-designed, well-built unit that was easy to use, and this has been true of all of the Apple products that I’ve owned – 3 Macs, 2 iPods and an iPhone.
This doesn’t include all of the music I have bought from the iTunes Store – the first really successful online music store and the first big store to move away from digital rights management (DRM).
Apple is, and always was, bigger than Steve Jobs, and is home to many talented people; I doubt that his departure will have a profound negative effect on the company and its products. But Steve had the vision and balls to innovate. I remember the initial reaction to the first iPod – Slashdot called it ‘lame’ – yet it went on to dominate the portable music player market; so much so that the term ‘iPod’ has almost become a generic term meaning any portable music player, not just those made by Apple.
With the iPhone, Apple took a niche market, which was mostly the preserve of businessmen with bulky, complicated handsets, and launched a simple, nice-looking smartphone that appealed to the masses. Android may be the most-used smartphone platform nowadays, but it was the success of the iPhone that showed that a mass-market smartphone was viable, provided it was easy enough to use. Ditto with the iPad – the tablet market was very niche before it came along, yet the iPad has sold over 20 million units since launch and a number of similar devices are now available. This all happened under Steve’s leadership, in a company that, when he returned to it as CEO in the nineties was on its knees, but is now the world’s richest company.
Steve Jobs achieved more in his short 56 years of life than many of us will. And I for one am very grateful for all of the things he and his colleagues have done. The fact that I, and probably millions of others across the world, read about his death on a device that he helped to design just shows how many people’s lives he has touched. May he rest in peace.