Steve Jobs – Stay Hungry Stay Foolish
What more can be said of his spirit than the ever hungry adventurous drive for distilling the complex into the simple and creating solutions that work. Every letter of this article is being typed on a MacBook Pro that serves as my digital fortress; a reservoir for every creation that has escaped the depths of my mind, a forge where I create images of allure and words of wisdom. While everone on the Interwebs are talking about Steve, I’m going to focus instead on what he created and the products that help us artists and designer create. Apple products are for people who don’t care what the computer does, but care about what they can do with the computer. The premise is that people who use Apple computers are diﬀerent, and that Apple makes computers for those creative people who believe that one person can change the world.
Steve Jobs renovated Apple’s dying products eleven months after he came back and introduced the Power Mac and PowerBook in November 1997. These were the first Macs to run the new Power PC G3 family of processors, from Motorola. They were relatively fast machines designed for creative professionals, which outperformed their Pentium-based competitors in many respects. The new pro Macs sold quite well, proving to Steve that he was right about Apple’s customer base. He knew that a lot of Mac users had refrained from buying new computers throughout 1995 and 1996, not because they wanted to switch to Windows, but because they were afraid that Apple would disappear. It was a widespread feeling within the Apple community while Cupertino kept releasing bad products and accumulating losses. When Steve Jobs came back and instilled the company with cofidence, sales started rising again. So much so that at Macworld 1998, on January 8, he announced on stage that Apple was back to profitability.
But Apple’s biggest hit was yet to come. When Steve came back at Apple, a team was working on a so-called NC machine, for “network computer.” It was commonly thought at the time that personal computers were living their last days before their complete replacement by so-called “network appliances”, stripped-down terminals that would get all their content from the Internet. Steve kept the project internally but made it evolve into a new consumer desktop computer, the iMac (the i stood for Internet). The first words that showed up on the computer’s screen: “hello (again)” were a reference to Macintosh’s original “hello”. Steve Jobs had put Apple back at the forefront of the consumer desktop! Apple made bold choices in developing iMac. It was the first mainstream computer to oﬀffer USB connectivity and is recognized as the one machine that helped popularize this now-ubiquitous standard. The iMac was also the first personal computer not to include a floppy disk drive. He only put a CD-ROM drive in iMac, but perhaps the most striking feature of iMac was its radically different design, developed by Jonathan Ive and his team. It was a translucent, blue/green, round machine in a boring world of beige boxes. iMac infuenced a whole generation of designers, and its mark can be felt in a myriad of different products from the time, which ubiquitously sported translucent, colored plastic.
Next came the unveiling of Apple’s new operating system, Mac OSX which was the result of three years of hard work by all of Apple’s software engineers to port NeXTSTEP to the Mac platform. The system’s UNIX kernel was called Darwin, and it was based on Mach, the modern kernel technology developed by Avie Tevanian at Carnegie Mellon and the foundation of NeXTSTEP. Darwin was why Mac OS X had protected memory and pre-emptive multi-tasking, which allowed for multiple applications to run at the same time without ever bringing the systemdown. It also provided very advanced networking, unlike the old Mac OS. 2D graphics were based on PostScript, just like NeXTSTEP, which allowed for nice font anti-aliasing and on the-fly PDF rendering. 3D graphics were based on the most widespread standard, OpenGL. Object-oriented application development, which was the raison d’être of NeXTSTEP and its true competitive advantage, was of course possible in OSX, but it required entirely rewriting an application. So Apple provided an environment to which old Mac apps were easy to port, called Carbon. But what users noticed the most was Mac OS X’s brand new user interface, called Aqua. In fact, it is Aqua that Steve Jobs introduced at Macworld 2000, since OS X’s technologies had been known to developers for over two years, and the actual system wouldn’t ship for another year.
Aqua was a revolutionary new user interface that visually took the Mac OS and even NeXTSTEP to a whole new level. It used translucent colors instead of solid grays, circles instead of angles, and shadows and transparency aplenty. In fact the reason it was called Aqua is that “you wanted to lick it”. Mac OS X shipped on March 24, 2001, and became the core of Apple’s resurgence and current success.
Digital Hub Strategy
The Digital Hub strategy was a take on the future of personal computing that went against a common belief that had developed toward the end of the 1990s. Many analysts were so enthusiastic about the success of the Internet that they were convinced the personal computer was soon to disappear. It would evolve into a mere terminal whose only purpose would be to access all kinds of content on the Web. The consensus was that the current state of the PC was a dull, boring box, and that any and all innovation had stopped in the industry. Steve Jobs thought differently and professed quite the opposite: that the PC had a very exciting future.
The iPod was of course an integral part of Apple’s vision of the digital lifestyle. When they looked at the big picture, they realized that, unlike the digital camera and camcorder markets, the digital music player market did not yet offer compelling products to work with your Mac. That’s how the idea of making such a device in-house arose, in early 2001, after iTunes was introduced and the company started focusing on the digital music revolution. The original iPod distinguished itself from its competition for several reasons. Apart from its gorgeous look, its click wheel and user interface made browsing through one’s music collection very easy and fast; it had a hard drive which could store up to 5GB, or “a thousand songs in your pocket”, which was Apple’s tag-line for the new product; it connected to your Mac via FireWire, which was 30 times faster than your typical USB MP3 player; and it synced with iTunes seamlessly: you just had to plug it in, and the software took care of the rest.
The iTunes Music Store
Once Apple had step foot in the music business with iPod, they started looking at content. At the time, most people either ripped their CDs on their Macs or downloaded music illegally on peer-to-peer networks. Recognizing they were in a unique position to do so, Apple decided to try and come up with a legal solution by building an online music store. They had enough experience to do so thanks to their own popular online store on apple.com, as well as their QuickTime movie trailers, which had taught them how to handle massive downloads on their servers. So, on April 28 2003, Steve unveiled the iTunes Music Store at a special Music event. The results quickly exceeded the company’s best hopes. Five million songs were sold in just eight weeks, and another eight million in the following fifteen weeks, bringing iTunes’ share of legal music downloads to 70% — yet it was still only Mac-compatible!
Apple’s biggest move outside its computer and music businesses was announced at Macworld in January 2007: it is the iPhone. The basic idea was to build a digital convergence product, the ultimate digital device that would combine a phone, PDA, and iPod. Steve knew iPhone would be one of the most important product in Apple’s history, one that would set its destiny for decades to come. This little box less than half an inch thick was the ultimate digital pocket device, a computer/iPod/phone that allowed its owner to make calls, take photos, handle contacts and email, browse the Web, listen to music and watch movies in a powerful yet incredibly easy fashion that was unmatched by any of its predecessors.
“iPhone is five years ahead of what everybody else has got. If we didn’t do one more thing, we’d be set for five years!” – Steve Jobs, Newsweek interview, January 2007
The biggest of all was undeniably on January 27, when Steve Jobs finally introduced iPad, Apple’s much-anticipated tablet. There were rumors on an Apple tablet even before there were rumors on an Apple phone, and for good reasons: the labs of Cupertino started working on a tablet years before they worked on iPhone. Steve Jobs finally took the stage and unveiled iPad to the world. The presentation was bare, almost simplistic, with Steve sitting on a couch and demoing the device for most of his keynote. The iPad still stands strong as the best selling tablet ever in the midst of a new product launch in it’s category every week!
Steve Jobs is right, and almost everyone agrees he is and he will be a unique case in history of someone who has been instrumental in both creating and putting an end to an industry. Indeed, Apple was a key player in starting of the personal computing revolution in the early 1980s, and there would not have been an Apple without Steve Jobs. But Apple will also likely be the company leading the transition away from the PC, and this time there’s no denying this would not have happened so quickly without the iOS mobile revolution… What other man can be credited for such a huge impact on a multibillion-dollar industry? Death is not the end, it is merely a new beginning!