Steve Jobs, 1955-2011
But it's a lot more than that. I think Mac fans have a connection with Steve because he wasn't just another guy who started a company and sold products. Steve Jobs started a company that brought us the Mac, subsequently got thrown out of his own company, and then got brought back in years later, and went on to produce a string of hit products, turning Apple around from being on the brink of bankruptcy to now being the largest tech company in the world (by market cap).
He re-invented products and even whole industries. The original Mac with the mouse and GUI, and the multi-coloured iMac. The iTunes Music Store, which changed the way we consume music, and the iPod that changed the way we listen to music. And the iPhone, which re-defined the smartphone, combined with the App Store and its development platform.
For those of us that were using Macs back in the 90's when Apple was going through regular CEO changes, Steve Jobs' death is particularly saddening. I remember a time when Apple had about a dozen different product lines, from the PowerBook 3400, to the Performa 5400, to the PowerMac 8600 and 9600's... hugely expensive, very little choice of games, and if anything was available it wouldn't be cheap (I remember buying SIM City 2000 for �30 from MacGold!). Yet the Mac OS, even at version 7, was still far slicker and easier to use than Windows, and that's what kept Apple's customers loyal. It was a technical operating system that was friendly and easy to use for non-techies: you could guess how to do something and 99% of the time your guess would be right.
Upon being appointed Interim CEO (or iCEO) in 1997 after Apple bought his company NeXT, Steve immediately started work on refining Apple's product line and making products that customers really wanted, starting with the iMac, which brought British designer Jonathan Ive to prominence.
The iMac was almost as big a revolution as when the original Macintosh launched in 1984, with its striking, colourful plastic casing, all-in-one design like the first Mac, and relatively aggressive price-point of $1,299 (�999 here in the UK). It was designed to be a machine that would bring the Internet to the masses, the "i" in iMac standing for "Internet". It featured a G3 processor, which was previously only available in very expensive, professional-line PowerMacs, and dropped legacy technologies like the floppy drive, ADB and SCSI in favour of USB; a very controversial move.
However, the iMac was an instant hit and lived on to see many revisions and improvements, most notably the fruit-coloured variants, which eventually led to my Mum getting a pink iMac, bless. And so began the coloured plastic revolution, with Apple releasing other products in its range with same distinctive look, from the blue & white PowerMac G3, to the cult-classic but commercial-failure that is the G4 Cube, and the original iBook.
It was at this time that Apple's following grew stronger, with thousands of us tuning in to Steve Jobs' keynotes to see what Apple would launch next, which would happen like clockwork in January and July at the Macworld events. Steve's charisma on stage and the way he could build up tension and then passionately announce something that would wow the crowd was unmatched by any other CEO. His trademark "one more thing" was his key phrase that he'd deliberately leave til the end of his keynotes to announce the most major product - playful, yet now legendary. I really wish I'd tuned into more of his keynotes now!
Even when Steve was announcing things that were a bit duff, or when he had to backtrack like when he promised 3GHz G5s by a certain timeframe but then couldn't deliver the goods, he had this way about him of talking around it and making things seem not so bad; often referred to as Steve's RDF, or "Reality Distortion Field".
The iPod, which he first announced and launched in 2001, eventually went on to be the product that would catapult Apple firmly back into the playing field, with its third revision seeing it gain mainstream traction, and eventually led to Apple launching the iTunes Music Store; the largest online music store in the world. It took Steve's charm and negotiation skills to win over all the major music companies to get on board, a feat that no other company had previously been successful with.
And this brings us to today, where Apple is now sitting firmly at the top with the iPhone and iPad under its belt, products which have made the company a fortune and propelled Steve Jobs from obscurity to international fame and recognition. It's a hell of a story, and incredible to think what Steve Jobs has achieved in just 14 years after his return to Apple. And that's without touching on the fact he bought Pixar before it was even Pixar and turned it into a billion dollar company too, but that's another story!
Steve Jobs will be sorely missed, and although I don't doubt that Apple will continue to go from strength to strength, I have a feeling it won't be quite the same without Steve at the helm.
RIP Steve Jobs.
What are your thoughts and feelings around Steve Jobs? Any fond memories of Apple during Steve's tenure as CEO? Let us know in the comments below.