Ah, fate: a cruel mistress who won’t be denied her due. Is she blind to the value of a being’s contributions to the greater good, or does she take particular delight in robbing the world of its most dynamic and high-impact creatures?
Apple founder and CEO Steve Jobs passed away yesterday after a seven-year battle with pancreatic cancer. He fought to the end, determined to see through the company initiatives he’d started. He almost made it to the iPhone 5 release, but had to step down as Apple’s CEO on August 24, replaced by his trusted COO and professional soul mate, Tim Cook.
Jobs was kind of my hero. He was smart, driven and occasionally prone to shooting himself in the foot, with a creative vision and a passion for vendetta typically reserved for mobster movies and bad love affairs. There were years when it seemed like his cards had all been played. Tech pundits wondered if Apple would ever just admit defeat and go away; after all, Microsoft and Jobs’ then-nemesis Bill Gates had proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that the money was in operating systems, and hardware should be someone else’s problem. Can I get a “Oh no you didn’t?”
But despite the “wisdom” of his peers, the tech press and even the public to the extent they were aware, Jobs persisted. He always had a rabid base of loyal customers, even when Apple enjoyed less than 5% of the desktop market. He just knew his idea – that people are attracted to products that do lots of cool stuff and just, well, work – had to succeed; it was simply a matter of finding the strike zone that would make Apple undeniable. The adorable iMac unlocked the door in 1998, and though it was an imperfect comeback, the gumdrop-shaped and candy-colored all-in-one desktop computer captured the public’s imagination - and won its heart. The iPod sealed the deal in 2001, and great products loyal to the Apple Idea have followed since. As an entrepreneur and lover of the American Cowboy myself, I can’t think of any modern success story more fascinating than his.
In the coming weeks, speculation will roil the tech world regarding Apple’s future. Will the company be able to maintain its position as the planet’s leader in creative consumer technology? Will Cook be able step out from behind the curtain to take command of center stage? Or is there a new wunderkind waiting in the wings, whether currently at Apple or toiling in obscurity for a competitor?
At this moment, none of that matters. Today, Steve Jobs’s life is being commemorated like no business leader in modern memory (really, I can’t think of another example, ever). Across the country and around the world, people are gathering in Apple stores and coffee shops to write notes in grease pencil on store windows and commune with other Apple faithful to share soften the grief of their loss. No doubt there will be candlelight vigils. Maybe Neil Young will write him a song, ensuring Jobs a place in the gone-too-soon pantheon alongside Curt Cobain.
I’m not being cheeky here; Jobs’ life and legacy deserve celebration. In his passing, his successes will shine; his colossal failures, near-fatal professional stumbles and his big, acerbic mouth will lurk in the shadows until his tell-all memoir is released. Probably sometime next week. Perhaps exclusively on iPads and iPhones. God, he was good.