After an eight-year battle with pancreatic cancer, Steve Jobs passed away Wednesday, October 5, at the age of 56. Apple, the company he founded in 1976, left in 1985, and rejoined and re-energized in the late ’90s, mourned the loss of their leader, while the world mourned one of the century’s premiere visionaries.
It’s one thing to have an unrestrained worldview, it’s another to simultaneously possess a keen pragmatism. It’s the combination of these two traits that explains Jobs’ innovative streak. He developed the concept of the computer with the casual home consumer in mind, yet the quality of the products delivered under his watch made them the essential tools of academics, writers, designers, entrepreneurs, and stay-at-home mothers alike; anyone who appreciated a powerful, intuitive way to tap into the digital world of culture, creativity and commerce. On the flipside, Garage Band and other built-in applications opened a new explosion in DIY culture for creative amateurs. In other words, he designed the hammer and nails of an entire generation.
His accomplishments as a businessman were also impressive: during his second tenure at Apple, their stock rose from $10 to $400 a share to become the second most valuable company in the world. He treated product launches like covert military operations, deciding and dictating Apple’s hype and myth for the press, not the other way around. Behind the scenes, Jobs orchestrated a supply chain that would move millions of manufactured units from China to Apple Stores across the world only days after his announcements.
He left a deep impact on the music industry, artists, and fans in a short period of time.
Jobs’ 2001 iPod tagline zings every time — “1,000 songs in your pocket.” The MP3 player itself wasn’t earth-shattering, but the compact size and sleek design of Apple’s player indeed were. Other companies had already made devices with bigger capacities, but the marketing and design genius of Apple — from their iconic commercials to the family of colored Nanos to the development of the intuitive Touch — pushed Apple to take over 75% of the MP3 player market. Like Kleenex, Q-Tip or Frisbee, iPod became a household name, synonymous with the MP3 player itself. Whether on a morning commute or trekking across the globe, it became a trusted companion on any journey, allowing you to match music to mood – always. This deepened an intimate connection between the listener, his or her music collection, and the device that brought them together — a connection that, according to some studies, more closely resembles love than mere consumer satisfaction.
In 2008, then Chairman and CEO of Universal Music Group Doug Morris praised Steve Jobs as “the smartest man in music.” Morris had good reason to view Jobs as a partner. In April 2003, amidst Napster hysteria and industry flux, Apple launched the iTunes store with merely 200,000 songs. Now the store boasts over 20 million songs, videos, books and apps only a click, or tap, away. Major labels weren’t the only beneficiaries, independent artists and imprints were equally included in this revolutionary new platform to monetize and distribute music. The business model he championed restored a sense of order to an industry doomed by anarchy.
Yet the scope of Jobs’ vision was broader than music and technology — he imagined an entire cultural dynamic. Technology is simply the medium that brings us closer to the things we love, and Jobs understood that. We do too, hopefully, every time we read a magazine on an iPad, listen to MP3s on our Nano or video chat with a distant friend. The difference is that our love extends beyond the content, beyond products themselves, to the man behind them.