For some reason, even in our highly consumeristic culture, it seems oddly inappropriate to laud someone's life because he designed great products that millions of people bought and enjoyed -- becoming incredibly rich in the process. People are supposed to be lauded for achievements in the areas of politics, charity and art, but they are seldom praised for what they've achieved in business.
Arguably, there was much art that went into the leadership Steve Jobs provided to Apple and Pixar over the years. On of his hallmarks was an insistence on perfection, and it shows in the two companies he's most famous for leading.
The first Apple product my family bought was a Mac Plus back in 1986, when I was in second grade. I spent countless hours on the computer -- writing, drawing, playing games, developing some of the technical skills that I now make my living by. And ever computer that I've bought new since that time has been an Apple (despite a seven year stint working at Dell.)
During all that time spent around Apple users, I've had plenty of chance to learn that there is, at times, something a bit cultish about some Apple fans. Yet in the odd spectacle of people literally around the world showing up and leaving flowers and cards and candles in memory of Steve Jobs at Apple stores, I think there's something else going on as well.
Jobs became successful (at death his wealth was around $8 billion) through an insistence on building products that delighted customers. "Insanely great" was his oft repeated product criteria. In our global, capitalist economy, he was able to delight millions of people while making billions of dollars. For all that Apple design is all about pleasing customers, it runs at far higher profit margins than any other computer maker, and has been rivaled in worth in the last year only by Exxon-Mobile. (As someone wryly observed: "Apple's market cap: 353 billion, and people are leaving flowers and notes for Steve Jobs at Apple stores. Bank of America's market cap: 62 billion, and people are marching on its offices in protest.") And yet the reason why people have this oddly strong emotional reaction to Jobs' death is not some side effect of his business success -- it's the thing that drove it. Over the last three and a half decades he made product after product that people loved, and which they think made their lives better.
Rest in peace.
UPDATE: Donald points out a little known point. Jobs was adopted, son of unmarried college students, and in the post-Roe world would probably never have been born. Like our president.
Learning Notes Week of Sept 14
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