The Tao of SteveSeptember 1, 2011
There are exactly 7 remotely stationed Australian aborigines that don’t know what Steve Jobs said last week. They are the only people that would probably enjoy the newsletter I had finished 2 days prior to his surprise announcement. The piece I’d written was Pulitzer quality, philosophical prose that waxed poetic about: “What is left for Steve Jobs at Apple?” There were clever comparisons to Steve McQueen, my other favorite, cool Steve, which is where the title came from. That was the only thing I was able to salvage. It also raised concerns about his health and the ultimate query as to what mountain was really left for him to climb? Steve has done things that no one else in the tech OR business world has ever done and now Apple is playing tag with Exxon for the largest publicly traded company in the world. What was left for S.J?
And then he told us he was quitting.
Now, 7.9 million bloggers and news commentators are typing endlessly about the-legacy-of Steve-Jobs-and-what-Apple-will-be-like-without-him. Will Tim Cook be able to fill his black turtleneck? What does it mean that Steve will stay on as Chairman of the Board? Will he be calling the shots while un-showered, still in PJs in front of cartoons and a bowl of Count Chocula? How does Apple function without the iconic Steve Jobs and his reality distortion field? Isn’t he the mad scientist with the Time Machine who regularly dashes to the future to find out what we’re all using and then comes back and builds it? What is Apple without the genius of Jobs? And more importantly, do I know the answers to these questions?
Of course not.
I’m just a guy in the trenches who sees people struggle every day to keep their “perfect” Apple systems up and running. We get to work with lovely, albeit frustrated people who don’t understand why their free printer won’t work. But will that stop me from trying to appear knowledgeable, wise and visionary as I comment about the future of Apple without Esteban?
Of course not.
So here’s what I think.
Apple’s going to be just fine. It’s definitely the beginning of the end of an era, but Apple’s going to be okay, at least for a few more years. Supposedly there is a 5 year plan in play and all people have to do is learn their lines and the magic honey will continue to flow from the kingdom. But it also seems unlikely to me that Steve will just instantly let go of the less visible reigns and not be in on most major decisions coming out of Apple for the next few years. He quite likely will have a lot of power as Chairman of the Board. However, I think his health issues have compelled him to pull back and examine his mortality again.
His pancreatic cancer was supposed to be a death sentence and he miraculously survived that. And then there was the secret liver transplant a few years back. He’s definitely a survivor against the odds, but my take on Steve Jobs is that he’s also a philosopher. He’s keenly aware of his own mortality and how, and with whom, he wants to spend whatever time he has left on the planet.
I’m guessing his 4 kids and wife are probably at the top of that bucket list. I know they would be on mine. [My family, not his.] Hopefully publishing his authorized biography is also on there. That may finally give us a clue as to what being Steve Jobs is really like, or at least how he’d like to be remembered.
Additionally, I’m hoping he’ll write and speak more about what he likes and dislikes about technology and how we mere mortals should be interacting with it. He’s always been the number one champion of forcing technology to adapt to humans, not the other way around. If Microsoft robots were to try and take over the world (assuming they wouldn’t collapse from the weight of viruses before taking their first step), I’d want Steve Jobs around to tell us how to fight them. People listen to Steve Jobs, even people who pretend not to.
In spite of the fact that I’ve spent a few decades tossing back more purple Kool-Aid than I can comfortably talk about outside of meetings, I don’t agree with everything he says. I’m not a big fan of the burrowing of iOS into the MacOS and Lion is still a messOS in my opinion. BUT, he’s been right about a LOT of things like:• Cell phones, especially “smart” ones, were really sucky before the iPhone arrived.
• Cable companies and cellular service providers are still pretty sucky too.
• Computers were super ugly and deserved to be hidden below desks before the first iMac came out and altered the way things could look.
• Desktop computers are looking more and more like trucks on our highways, with 90% of us driving cars that look like laptops, iPads, and iPhones.
• Flash & Blu-Ray really do suck* and the internet and our computers would be a better place without them. *[Note: My editor, my esteemed wife, has made me aware that I’ve overused this word and that it’s rather juvenile. Try as I may, I cannot find a more adult adjective that appropriately describes the suckiness of both of these technologies. She remains disappointed and continues to hurl the thesaurus at me.]
• Digital access to movies and music is a done deal. Either come up with a reasonable price to sell them digitally, or the majority of the people you want to buy them, will download them for free.
• You really have to build backup software into the OS if you want people to back up. More than half of the people still won’t use it. 100% of those will still say they “intend to.”The Tao of Steve. What will Apple do without it? No one truly knows, not even Steve.
In the meantime, I’d like to leave you with one of my favorite quotes from the impatience of Jobs.
Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. 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. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary. We’re here when you need us,
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