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Steve Jobs

October 10, 2011

Last Wednesday, two of us at RK2 were talking about all the ways Apple products have had an impact on our lives and our work.  Unknown to us, perhaps a few minutes earlier, Steve Jobs passed away at his home in Palo Alto.

Steve Jobs was a hero of mine.  It’s not because we both attended Reed College, or because I’m a longtime Mac fan (I bought my first, a Macintosh 512e, in 1986), or because I have seen every Pixar movie ever made (an occupational hazard of fatherhood), or because I care about fonts in ways no normal person really should.

What I admired most about Steve was the way he expressed a well-rounded Liberal Arts education in everything he did.  Instead of finding technological solutions to technological problems, he curated solutions broadly, driving towards the most elegant design by probing deep into materials science, anthropology, typography, and numerous other fields of human endeavor.

There may be some who say his impact is overrated, that his 317 patents were undeserved or unremarkable, that his influence is limited to computers, that he was just a marketing whiz and not much more.  It would require a vastly longer blog post to fully debunk that idea, so let’s just look at Mr. Jobs’ impact on the world of commerce.  There are at least seven industries that have been indelibly altered by Steve Jobs:

Computer Industry

If you own and enjoy a personal computer, you have Mr. Jobs and his partner Steve Wozniak to thank for pioneering the concept of a computer, the Apple II, that regular people could use.  Graphical user interfaces, windows, menus, the mouse, USB, wifi — the list goes on — were all pioneered by Apple.  Even the World Wide Web, the thing you are using right now, was created by Tim Berners-Lee on a NeXT computer built by Steve Jobs.

Consumer Elecronics Industry

First, the iPod supplanted the Walkman.  Now, the iPhone is supplanting nearly everything else, from GPS devices to cameras to guitar tuners and is significantly disrupting the portable gaming subcategory.  Once, not long ago, if you wanted to do something new with a device, you had to buy a new device.  Now, there’s an app for that.

Movie Industry

Ignoring Mr. Jobs’ unprecedented string of 12 blockbuster feature films as CEO of Pixar, Apple is a significant player in the growing market for movie distribution served most prominently by Netflix.  No matter how you get your movies, it’s possible the film was created on Apple’s Final Cut Pro software.

Recording Industry

iPod owns the market for portable music players and iTunes is the number one music retailer.  While the recording industry was in freefall from rampant piracy, Steve Jobs proved that artists and record labels could make money selling digital music.

Publishing Industry

With the launch of iPad, Apple is now poised to take a bite out of the market for books, magazines and newspapers.

Telecommunications Industry

One word: iPhone.

Retailing Industry

While other computer manufacturers were closing their retail operations, Apple rolled out a bold retail concept that continues to enjoy average sales per square foot rivaling Tiffany’s.  If you think maybe Steve wasn’t that involved in the effort, think again: at least one of his patents was for the design of a staircase used at Apple’s retail stores.  And that iconic cube at New York’s 5th Avenue store isn’t actually owned by Apple: it is the personal property of Mr. Jobs himself.

Although Steve Jobs packed an incredible number of accomplishments into a life cut short by illness, he somehow always left us on the edge of our seats, waiting for just “one more thing.”  Had he lived an average lifespan, who knows what more he would have accomplished.  Fortunately, I suppose, ideas take time to move from concept to finished product, so it’s possible we’ll see one or two more fruits of Steve Jobs’ labors from Apple in the coming months.

In the meantime, our thoughts are with the Jobs family in their time of loss.  We will miss him.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Tammie Sullivan permalink
    October 20, 2011 10:30 pm


    As always, very well said.

    Your former ACS colleague,


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