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The Legacy of Steve Jobs

The Legacy of Steve Jobs


Uday Dandavate

The story of Apple is a modern day American fairytale. While Steven Spielberg captivated the imagination of the world with his cinematic creations, and Walt Disney with his powerful stories, Steve Jobs inspired and engaged the world with his prolific innovations. Initially, he appealed to a very important early adapter audience - the creative community. While Bill Gates captured the mass market with his windows platform, Steve Jobs targeted a niche segment of the population and built the momentum of apples success to eventually reach a broader audience. A closer look at the history of product development at Apple reveals a trail of failed products (not all the failures can be attributed to Steve Jobs), more notable amongst them, the Newton Personal Digital Assistant, Apple Lisa, PowerMac G4 Cube, the ITune phone (Motorola Rokr), Apple Pippin, the Twentieth Anniversary Macintosh, MobileMe, the Apple TV and above all the Next Computer (conceived by Steve Jobs when he left Apple). In early days when Steve Jobs ideas were ahead of their time, and his audience was less prepared to change their habits, some of his products failed in the market. Many of these products had a central idea that was characteristic of Steve Jobs passion for disruptive innovation. Some products failed because they were brought into the market ahead of their time or not positioned at the right price point. The core concept behind each of these failed products later influenced design of other products, which became successful when the market was ready for those ideas. For example, Newton failed in the market but much later when the market was ready for a personal digital assistant Palm Pilot became a huge success. The G4 Cube set the stage for fan-less cooling in PCs, and showed the world a future where computers would leave office desks and move to the living room, to become part of the entertainment center. The current OS X of apple computers is based on the operating system of the Next computer developed by Steve Jobs.

In the last two decades people are open and eager to learn new behaviors around disruptive innovations. They are gradually turning to new ideas and innovative role models as opposed to following old methods and dogmatic ideologues. Steve Jobs success in recent years cannot be separated from the distinct shift in the psychology of his target audience. This growing segment of population will continue to expect the pace of innovation to continue at Apple and at other technology companies, though Steve Job will not be there to lead the way with a continuous churn of endearing designs. New York Time columnist David Brooks describes this new segment in his book Bobos in the Paradise. He profiles a new class of people, "Bobos," who he believes are becoming the most influential class in the American society, saying that, I returned to an America in which the bohemian and the bourgeois were all mixed up. I was observing a cultural consequence of the information age. In this era ideas and knowledge are at least as vital to economic success as natural resources and finance capital. The intangible world of information merges with the material world of money, and new phrases that combine the two, such as "intellectual capital" and "the culture industry," come into vogue. So the people who thrive in this period are the ones who can turn ideas and emotions into products. These are highly educated folk who have one foot in the bohemian world of creativity and another foot in the bourgeois realm of ambition and worldly success. The members of the new information age elite are bourgeois bohemians. Or, to take the first two letters of each word, they are Bobos. These Bobos define our age. They are the new establishment. Their hybrid culture is the atmosphere we all breathe. Their status codes now govern social life. Their moral codes give structure to our personal lives.

Steve Jobss creativity, vision, and genius appealed to this influential population. Jobs understood the Bobos and harnessed their changing social mores with his own template for disruptive innovation. Jim Collins, author of popular books like Great by Choice and Good to Great, called Steve Jobs Beethoven of the business world. While this comparison is a great recognition of Jobs innate creativity, it fails to recognize his passion for and ability to change the world with the force of his imagination and the design of his products. I would instead call him a revolutionary. He raised peoples aspirations to another the level. I was born in a family of social reformers, who were inspired by Marxian or Gandhian visions of changing the world. The visitors to our home came from a variety of backgrounds, from academia, from professional practices, from the field of arts, politics and social work. I remember many of them carried a simple cloth bag, popularly known as Shabnam bag. Later, I became aware that wearing a Shabnam bag and flip flops was considered a symbol of a social reformer and a bohemian. Reflecting over those memories, I realize that the apple has attained similar kind of symbolism amidst the BoBos. Like those who carried the Shabnam bag on their shoulders, users of apple products seem to emit an air of confidence and idealistic enthusiasm of a BoBo set on a mission to change the world with creative imagination. Many people are wondering whether Apple will be able to sustain the prolific flow of creative outputs that Steve Jobs set in motion. Wall Street wonders whether the company's stock will remain on the upswing after its visionary leaders passing. Regardless of what happens at Apple or in the stock market, Steve Jobs' true legacy remains in the millions of people who expect technology companies to continually add delight through design. Will it be a hard act to follow?