Its sad that he is gone. Like many in the IT and computer business I have seen the ups and downs of the companies in the industry that took place as a form of creative destruction. Once big names like Silicon Graphics, Sun Microsystem, Motorola and Atari fade away or disappear altogether from the landscape. New companies such as Google and Facebook emerge from almost nothing to become giants within a few years. New technologies come replace old ones that become obsolete quickly dragging down the companies that were offering them. No other industry in history has seen such rapid transformations and upheavals as the computer business. Perhaps no other industry has seen such intense and continuous competition - competition that brought great products at great prices. Today after 20 years of IT shows & Comdex type events, they are still bringing in the crowd. People are happy to be buying because IT products are one of the few things in this world that fall in price - your cup of coffee price goes up, housing price goes up but IT products go down in price. This is free market competition at its best bringing innovation and affordability to masses. There are few companies as innovative and creative as Apple.
In 1995, I remember reading about the demise of Apple Computers in Business Week magazine. The prediction was very believable. Apple has lost most of its market share to WinTel (Windows + Intel computers) and was burning up its cash at a rate that would put the company in peril within a year. When Michael Dell, the rising star in 1995, was asked what he would do if he was running Apple, he said he will just close it down and return the remaining cash to shareholders. It was believed that few consumers would buy Apple's proprietary hardware + operating system because momentum had shifted to Windows based computers and the bulk of applications were written for Windows. In the 1990s, I took a management course and one of the case study was Steve Jobs ouster from Apple. The case study painted a negative image of Jobs being an autocratic stubborn leader - I was taught not be like Steve Jobs but to learn from his rival John Sculley who won the support of the board of directors to force Jobs out of the company. At around that time, there were several books out on Steve Jobs that painted him as a "snake-oil" sales man who took shareholders money to start NeXT and lost $200M in the hyped up venture. If Steve Jobs had decided to retire in the 90s and take it easy with the millions he made as a founder of Apple, he would have left only s small footnote in IT history as the co-founder of Apple who foundered....but he did not and came back to dazzle the world with fantastic beautiful products. He leaves the world as a great visionary who transformed our lives and touched billions of peole around the world.
In 1997, Apple has a campaign called "Think Different". Critics pointed out that it was gramatically incorrect and should be "Think Differently". Steve Jobs, however, went with his instincts to use "Think Different" because there was this "edge" to the sound of the phrase. It was a highly successful advertising campaign to convince consumers they should break away from the convention, "think different" and try Apple's products instead of the mundance stuff rivals were churning out. Steve Jobs' own life epitomised this "Think Different" spirit. Here are a few extracts from Wikipedia to illustrate this point:
Although he dropped out after only one semester, he continued auditing classes at Reed, while sleeping on the floor in friends' rooms, returning Coke bottles for food money, and getting weekly free meals at the local Hare Krishna temple. Jobs later said, "If I had never dropped in on that single calligraphy course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts."
Jobs then traveled to India to visit the Neem Karoli Baba at his Kainchi Ashram with a Reed College friend (and, later, the first Apple employee), Daniel Kottke, in search of spiritual enlightenment. He came back a Buddhist with his head shaved and wearing traditional Indian clothing.[38During this time, Jobs experimented with psychedelics, calling his LSD experiences "one of the two or three most important things [he had] done in [his] life". He later said that people around him who did not share his countercultural roots could not fully relate to his thinking.
Jobs also has a daughter, Lisa Brennan-Jobs (born 1978), from his relationship with Bay Area painter Chrisann Brennan. She briefly raised their daughter on welfare when Jobs denied paternity by claiming he was sterile; he later acknowledged Lisa as his daughter.
It is hard to say for sure if his creativity and innovativeness came from his unconventional life but Steve Jobs believed it was the case. Apple's founders the 2 Steves (Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs) started Apple with money they made from an illegal "blue box" that allowed users to make distance telephone calls (across states) for free. They were rule breakers if not law breakers. In Singapore we struggle to promote innovation and creativity - we even try to "teach" this in school and "encourage" students and workers to be "more innovative". Companies hold talks and courses on innovation but we still find innovation lacking in our society. Why is this so? Singaporeans more than people of other countries are conditioned to be obedient because breaking rules comes with heavy consequences. You distribute a few (political) news letters on the streets and the authorities come after you for illegal hawking. You are not allowed to speak and gather openly to protest. We have extremely harsh laws enforced rigidly so that obedience pay off e.g hefty fines for litering and spitting. Companies constantly kill off innovation by imposing rules, processes and checks out of fear of making mistakes. Several prominent researchers left Singapore recently and hinted that "bean counting" was starting to get in the way of their work. The strait-jackets in our society and companies - too many rules, procedures, processes - stifle innovation and keeps everyone "thinking the same" rather than "think different". We can perhaps learn something from Steve Jobs' amazing life and wonderful accomplishments:
"Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice, heart and intuition." — Steve Jobs
Yes, and there are no hard truths....let us, the new generation, not be trapped in another man's thinking...lets us not believe we cannot think for ourselves and lets us not be shackled by somebody else' "hard truths". We must and can progress if we break free from those who want to box us in.