The technology industry and indeed the world lost a titan of the modern technology pantheon yesterday. Steve Jobs was a pioneer and an innovator and a progressive thought leader, but what may have been greatest about Jobs in my view was his audacious, fervent and oftentimes smug ability to say No.
Nope is what makes Apple great. Adobe Flash? Nope. Doodads, fads, and support for legacy standards? Hell no. People hate it, but it’s like taking your medicine, you’ll thank Jobs for it later. Thank you, Steve.
Jobs has said that “[innovation] comes from saying no to 1,000 things to make sure we don’t get on the wrong track or try to do too much.” Maybe Steve Jobs’ real genius was his willingness to systematically squash 1,000 less-than-awesome ideas? He was the arch-decider at Apple after all, and the self-described gravitational force that kept the vision intact and focused. Apple’s restraint and devout focus on simplicity and elegance has made their products supremely cool – evident, if not digestible to all but the most rabid Apple-haters out there.
To achieve simplicity you need a singular vision. Jobs provided that.
Jobs was proof that the more you are a megalomaniacal micro-managing autocrat the easier it is to enforce a progressive vision and keep it cohesive. Without Jobs I worry that Apple will struggle to maintain their zeal for simplicity and elegance in design, and irrevocably dilute their key market differentiator. Tim Cook may be a micro-managing despot like Jobs, but he seems to lack Jobs’ laser-focus, vision and perhaps more importantly his audacity for No.
Apple nay-sayers have to acknowledge Jobs’ greatness, and I have a great deal of respect for a genius born of an innate sense of focus more than anything else. Voodoo-warlock prognosticator? Maybe not. But genius of focus, definitely.
It seems to me that product companies may be best served by megalomaniacs who cultivate their focus with an iron fist, while services companies (such as Fairway) may benefit from narcissists who can charm their customers with their charisma. Jobs seemed to be both really: secretive, powerful, perfection-obsessed, and sometimes obstinate, but also a showman huckster and cult-inspiring front-man for the Apple indoctrinated.
And what will become of the ubiquitous and cultish group of technorati sitting outside their adopted Starbucks habitat, listening to their iPods, working diligently on fan-fic short stories on the latest model MacBook Pro? Apple fan-boys need a godlike icon to resolve their cognitive dissonance for Apple’s short-comings and armor themselves against heretical Microsoft/Google counter-culturists griping about Apple’s products and policies. What will happen without Jobs to shield and shepherd the Apple faithful?
It’s kind of sad to think about, really. Now I’m sad. Not just about Jobs’ unfairly-early departure, I’m also sad that something that was cool has less of a chance of continuing to be cool.
Steve, the world will miss your audaciousness, singular vision and uncompromising Nope.
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