Steve Jobs: The Ghost in the Machine?

By Carl Weiss

Image courtesy of imagesandspaces.com
Even though it's been more than 3 years since the death of Apple Computer co-founder Steve Jobs, his presence is still felt in the industry he helped start. Whether you use a PC, a laptop, a tablet or a smartphone, there is some of Steve Jobs inside these devices. If you buy music online, Jobs was responsible for revolutionizing the way that music is bought and sold online. He even had a hand in bringing digital animation to fruition with his acquisition of Pixar. When it comes to revolutionizing the technological world in which we live, you'd be hard pressed to find an area in which Steve did not have an impact. In this article from  Working the Web to Win we will look at how different the world would be had he not come along, as well as how his legacy is likely to continue for decades to come.

Gone but not Forgotten

At Apple Computer, Steve Jobs is gone but not forgotten.  While it would be hard to forget their iconic co founder, even 3 years after his death, it is as though Steve had just stepped out for lunch.  That’s due in part to the fact that Jobs had his hand in so much of what we consider to be high tech today.  From iTunes to iPhones and from desktop publishing to reading our news and magazines from a tablet instead of paper, his spirit lives on in the products they make, sell and use. Even future products will always be measured by the success of his legacy products.

Of course, there is one other reason why anyone who visits Apple Computer corporate headquarters at 1 Infinite Loop, Cupertino, California would have the impression that Steve is due back at any moment. That’s due to the fact that his office has remained virtually untouched since his departure.  His nameplate still graces the door.  When asked why during a March 18, Washington Post interview, Apple CEO Tim Cook responded,

Courtesy of fastcodesign.com

I haven’t decided about what we’ll do there. But I wanted to keep his office exactly like it was. What we’ll do over time, I don’t know. I didn’t want to move in there. I think he’s an irreplaceable person and so it didn’t feel right . . . for anything to go on in that office. So his computer is still in there as it was, his desk is still in there as it was, he’s got a bunch of books in there. His name should still be on the door. That’s just the way it should be. That’s what felt right to me.”
That could change in a year, when Apple’s new flying saucer-shaped headquarters is completed.  But what will not change is the large footprint and lasting legacy of one of the titans of microcomputing.  In their just released book, “Becoming Steve Jobs: The Evolution of a Reckless Upstart into a Visionary Leader," authors Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli document Jobs’ triumphs and travails. While a visionary, Steve had what amounted to blinders on in a number of circumstances that cost him big.

One of the first was a unilateral decision he made in 1984 to air an Orwellian 60-second spot during the Super Bowl without consulting the board until the day before it was scheduled to air.  According to the book, the board was so horrified that they sold one of their spots so that the ad only appeared once during the game.


Shortly after that, Steve decided it was time to reinvent the personal computer, the market for which was becoming glutted since the introduction of the IBM PC and its many clones. Taking $50 million of the company’s money, Steve assembled a team of the best and brightest at Apple and created what he thought would be the next leap forward in personal computing technology.  Called Lisa, the computer was released in January of 1984 priced between $3,495 and $5,495. Even though the system was well ahead of its time, commercially its launch was hailed as a failure, one that would ultimately cost Jobs his job.   

Failure Never Stopped Steve Jobs

Courtesy of en.wikipedia.org
This failure did not deter Jobs, who along with several other ousted Apple employees went onto start NeXT Computer, Inc. in 1995.  While NeXT only sold around 50,000 units and was ultimately absorbed by Apple for $429 million, several of the concepts developed at NeXT were incorporated into later Apple systems, including parts of the OS X and IOS operating systems.  During his hiatus from Apple, Steve Jobs also dabbled with another company called Pixar, in which even George Lucas had lost faith.  Pixar would later go onto produce a number of animated features some of which would receive Academy awards.  Jobs also clearly had a bead on the NeXT big trend of the 1990’s which he referred to as interpersonal computing that would soon appear with an eerily similar moniker: The Internet. 

Steve’s Return to Apple

While Steve Jobs returned to Apple, after running another computer company he started called NeXT, a man named Gil Amelio was the CEO of Apple. The company was a disaster at this point, and Jobs didn't think very highly of him — in fact, he thought he was a bozo.  
To signal his displeasure, Jobs dumped all but one of the shares he had gotten for selling NeXT to Apple without telling anyone. He had one share, so he was still able to attend Apple's annual meeting, "but the sale was a high-decibel vote of no confidence," write the authors. "Amelio felt stabbed in the back, as he was."    Read more at businessinsiders.com 
Courtesy of extremetech.com
How Steve Brought Apple Back

More importantly, immediately upon his return as CEO, Steve’s first job was to replace nearly everyone on Apple’s board.  You have to remember that Steve was absent from Apple for eleven years, during which time the company had floundered.  Within two years Jobs had brought Apple back from the brink of near bankruptcy.  In 1998, Steve started debuting a number of revolutionary new products, including the   iMac,  iPod, iPhone, and iPadHe also initiated the service side of the business by opening a chain of Apple Retail Stores and two new etailers,  iTunes Store and the Apple Store.  As a result, by 2011 Apple became the world’s most valuable publicly traded companies. Unfortunately, that was also the last year of Steve Jobs life.  That doesn’t mean he waited until the last minute to make sure that his legacy was preserved. 
Steve's Why
"Steve cared deeply about the why," current Apple CEO Tim Cook told authors Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzelii. "The why of the decision. In the younger days I would see him just do something. But as the days went on he would spend more time with me and with other people explaining why he thought or did something, or why he looked at something in a certain way. This was why he came up with Apple U., so we could train and educate the next generation of leaders by teaching them all we had been through, and how we had made the terrible decisions we made and also how we made the really good ones.
Apple's senior vice president of Internet Software and Services, Eddy Cue, noted that Jobs was "working his ass off till the end, in pain," using morphine to remain functional. In his final years Jobs began accelerating preparations to leave the company in a good shape, including founding Apple University, but also talking with Cook about what would happen after his death.

"He didn't want us asking, 'What would Steve do?' He abhorred the way the Disney culture stagnated after Walt Disney's death, and he was determined for that not to happen at Apple," according to Cook."
Summoning Tim Cook to his home on August 11, 2011, Steve passed him the torch by naming Tim
Image courtesy of Forbes.com
as his successor.  But even that meeting demonstrated Jobs unwillingness to give up the ghost.
“Cook remarked to the biography's authors.  "I thought then that he thought he was going to live a lot longer when he said this, because we got into a whole level of discussion about what would it mean for me to be CEO with him as a chairman. I asked him, 'What do you really not want to do that you're doing?'" 


Apple's Stock is better than Ever

While his passing did have a short term negative impact on Apple’s stock price that briefly fell 5%, the company Steve founded is today stronger than ever. In March 2011, Fortune Magazine named Steve Jobs the “greatest entrepreneur of our time.”  Other posthumous honors included the Grammy Trustees Award, inducted as a Disney Legend, along with a bronze statue in Budapest commissioned by the Graphisoft company and a memorial that was erected in 2013 in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Suffice it to say while the corporeal form of Steve Jobs will only be with us via YouTube and previously televised interviews, his undying spirit and lifelong list of  technological accomplishments will continue to haunt the industry that he helped spawn. 

In this article, I explained how the innovating spirit of Steve Jobs permeates many of the  high tech products we love and use today. I cover the many facets of  our world that were touched by Jobs innovation. I show how, even though he is gone, Apple corporation will continue  to build products based on the ideas and the way of thinking that Steve Jobs imbued his company.

If you like this article, you can find more by typing “innovation” in the search box at the top left of this blog. If you found this article useful, share it with your friends, families and co-works. If you have a comment related to this article, leave it in the comment sections below.  If you would like a free copy of our book, "Internet Marketing Tips for the 21st Century", fill out the form below. 




Carl Weiss is president of Working the Web to Win, an award-winning digital marketing agency based in Jacksonville, Florida.  You can listen to Carl live every Tuesday at 4 p.m. Eastern on BlogTalkRadio 

1 comment:

  1. Steve Jobs made a significant contribution to our society as a whole and made the entire tech industry up their game. Thank God he took the time to imbue his ideas, methods and philosophy into Apple Corporation. This way we will continue to benefit from Steve Jobs now and in the future.

    ReplyDelete