What can be said that hasn’t been said already? Wednesday brought the news that we had all expected for some time now, but not this soon. Steve Jobs, arguably one of tech’s greatest visionaries, gone at the age of 56. As a journalist, you’re taught to separate yourself from the story, and I did in the initial minutes and hours after the news broke.
But now I’ve had some time to sit and reflect on the day’s events, and it floors me. I don’t think we yet grasp the true gravity of what has happened, and we very well may not for months if not years to come. In the simplest terms this is an incredible loss.
Yes, I understand Jobs didn’t do all the work himself. He’s had the help of an incredible designer in Jonathan Ive, the savvy business acumen of Tim Cook, and the marketing skills of Phil Schiller. In the end it was Jobs who had the final say though, and in every product since his return in 1997 has had his mark on it.
Since I made the switch to covering the Apple beat all-but full time in 2006, I’ve had the chance to watch Steve turn a company that everybody left for dead into one of Silcon Valley’s biggest success stories. What has happened here is nothing short of amazing, and Jobs deserves full credit for it.
He arguably had the best stage presence of any CEO in modern history, and had a knack for selling his products in a way that you’d believe the littlest improvements were the best thing since sliced bread. It was so effective that his critics snakily called it the “reality distortion field,” and he was able to play everyone (including the press) to great effect.
It was hard not be sucked in. I’ll fully admit at times I was too.
Did he make mistakes? You bet — but his successes have far eclipsed his failures. Just look at his two last major products. iPhone? A worldwide success, and still on its own the best selling single smartphone model in history. The iPad? It created a new market where most analysts (including this journalist) thought there was none.
See, being successful in business isn’t just about doing what people want. It’s about showing people what they need – and by God, Steve was good at it.
That leaves us the most important question: where does Apple go from here? Obviously, Jobs’ work will live on far after his passing. It’s not out of the question that he was already working on devices several revisions into the future, possibly some we don’t even know about yet, as these just aren’t developed overnight. The iPhone? It existed itself two or three years before we even knew the company was working on it.
But there’s going to come a time and place when an Apple product will no longer carry his mark, and that’s where the true loss of Steve Jobs will be measured. Has he prepared Apple for that point properly? We can only guess yes, but when your company is so intertwined with you personally, it begs the question if Apple will ever be the same.
For those of us who follow the company, this will be what we watch closely over these next weeks, months, and years. I don’t think any of us can truly say at this point if we know that Apple as we know it can survive sans Jobs, we can only hope.