Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, died yesterday aged just 56. There aren’t many individuals that truly embody the company they created. Steve Jobs was Apple. Apple was, no, is Steve Jobs. There’s no doubt about it.
It’s not Steve Jobs’ prolonged battle with pancreatic cancer that we’ll remember, but the products and ultimately the company he created.
I woke to the news of Steve Jobs’ death via a stream of mourning tweets. There were four trending Twitter hashtags dedicated to him. We’d have to look back to Michael Jackson’s death for a similar influx. The dedications keep rolling in.
This is all the more impressive considering that Jobs was the CEO of a technology company. This says as much about him as a person as it does the brand he built. Steve Jobs became indistinguishable from Apple, and not just in the minds of tech geeks, but the public too. Why?
How did Steve Jobs become indistinguishable from Apple?
For one, there’s the fact that Jobs announced every new product on stage himself – even when he was in the throes of his illness. Indeed, he only stepped down as Apple CEO in August of this year, continuing his stage presence up to this date, despite his frailty.
His image is also embedded in our minds – Jobs wore the same outfit for the past two decades – a black turtle-neck jumper and light-blue jeans. Sure, his clothes might not be as slick as the iProducts he’s had a hand in, but there’s nothing more alienating than a stilted and suited businessman – his down-to-earth image is something every man and woman on the street could relate to.
As much as Apple’s products have very much been a team effort, there’s always been a impression of an auteur – that one passionate visionary permeating every single product.
Jobs’ passion for easy-to-use and elegant products has become Apple’s strict design philosophy, so even if he didn’t have a direct hand in every feature, Apple’s products radiate this singular vision – a vision that you feel has been instilled into every one of its employees.
In fact, there’s some truth in saying that Apple couldn’t survive without Jobs’ vision. When Apple sacked him in 1985, the company lost its way. It wasn’t until his return in 1997 (during which time he had founded Pixar) that Apple was able to stand on its own two feet again.
Without his return, we may never have seen revolutionary products like the iPod, iPhone and the iPad. Will the foundation Steve Jobs built be strong enough to keep Apple in its current position as the number one technology company?
Other companies led by a singular visionary
Apple’s singular vision is something not many other companies have been able to pin down. Although Bill Gates is very much seen as the face and creator of Microsoft, this company’s stable of products don’t shout that same singular vision that all Apple creations do.
In the end, it’s very hard to think of other individuals who are indistinguishable from the companies they had a hand in, at least to the extent of Steve Jobs. There’s Richard Branson for Virgin. James Dyson, who has the advantage of having the same name as his company and products. If you look to the video game industry, there are names that have a similar mythic-like quality – Miyamoto for Nintendo, Kutaragi for PlayStation…
But none of these names reach the same audience as Steve Jobs and Apple – his design philosophy has attracted people who might have previously shied away from technology. Apple is a brand for all people – and this is the legacy Steve Jobs leaves behind. Just one more thing:
‘Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me… Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful… that’s what matters to me,’ Steve Jobs speaking to the Wall Street Journal in 1993.