/ Technology

Has anyone epitomised a company like Jobs has Apple?

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.


Unlike millions worldwide, I’m not an Apple evangelist but the one product I do love is my iPod Nano. Even though it’s a good few years old, it’s still sleek and fits neatly in my pocket and its seamless integration with iTunes means it’s a doddle to use, too.
Saldy, it broke – beyond repair, yesterday – putting me in mind of the man with the Grandfather clock that ‘stopped short’ on the day he died.
I’m sure Apple has a future without Steve Jobs but with his sad death it looks rather less shiny, today, somehow.

When I think of legacy it stirs an emotion chord, plucking at my own desire to leave a legacy and to have done something better for others when I leave this place.

Seeking excellence and ensuring a precise execution of that vision are in my view the two key traits of Steve Jobs’ leadership qualities.

By the same token, our famous knights of the realm, Messrs. Sugar and Branson do not strike me as inspirational leaders, rather they evoke adulation around their success in growing wealth.

True leadership attracts and enlists others to follow a common path and most people who follow the success of those who generate huge wealth may only want to follow the fashion of it, and not their style of achieving it.

Whilst generating staggering revenues for his various companies, Steve Jobs was an innovator and an artist foremost, weaving his brand of theatrical magic to everyday consumer lives.

His disruptive products and ingenuity for thinking outside of the proverbial box has changed industries and consumer expectations.

As Coco Chanel famously said “Fashion fades, only style remains the same.” Steve Jobs packed an incredibly stylish line in business and I will remember him by this video:

Drawing from some of the most pivotal points in his life, Steve Jobs urged graduates to pursue their dreams and see the opportunities in life’s setbacks — including death itself — at the university’s 114th Commencement on June 12, 2005: http://www.youtube.com/embed/UF8uR6Z6KLc

Any death is sad but particularly one who touched millions of lives – through innovative and beautifully designed products.

Back in the late 1990s I used to scream at my techie, geeky friends asking why someone didn’t build a beautiful looking computer, instead of those hideous cream-coloured metal boxes, to go with my other electronic appliances. Other electronic industries had shifted to incorporate style, unfortunately computers were largely in the hands of creatively-challenged nerds. And then along came Apple with its new range Macs, but it was too late for me.

I have an iPhone 4. Whilst it’s beautiful to look at (that’s when it’s not in its leather case to improve the poor reception caused by the badly-designed antenna) I’m not sure it’s the greatest smartphone. Any scan of professional reviews on the interweb will easily back this up. Ditto iPod.

Apple, and with Steve Jobs in particular, had an enormous marketing machine that valued form over function to help sell their devices. The only exception to the rule seems to be the Mac, ironically the one Apple product that’s been around for decades.

@fatsam I’m not sure I completely agree with the form over function Apple argument.
Apple certainly built beautiful products, but one of the most important things to Jobs was building ‘stuff that works’.

His OS products may not grab the headlines but when we say smartphones or computers that work – we mean an OS that works. An Apple OS vs Microsoft OS is a no brainer.

As another example look at his insistence that he wouldn’t implement flash support on iPhones.
This was frustrating for users but the reasoning was Apple wouldn’t support a system that was fundamentally flawed – which flash is considering the number of crashes. Instead he created Apple’s own.

They didn’t always get the form vs function balance right – you’re absolutely right about the antennas – but compared to competitors Steve Jobs and Apple have consistently produced ‘stuff that works’.

wmgib says:
7 October 2011

He was just one of the most inspirational leader we have seen for a very long time. Any person that gets kicked out of a company that they started and comes back when its failing and increases its stock value by 9000% deserves massive respect. He is a hero by any standards! The fact he made great products that just worked and were cool was an added bonus