The Impact of Steve Jobs: A Developer View

By Channel Insider Staff  |  Print this article Print

Developers--from Java creator James Gosling to thought leaders in open source, DevOps, Web, mobile and other areas--weigh in to share their views on how Apple s Steve Jobs impacted programmers.

SAN FRANCISCO -- JavaOne has become a tradition for me. I have not missed one yet. Each year is memorable for different things. This year it is memorable as the place where I learned of Steve Jobs passing.

I was in a meeting with a source at JavaOne here when he received a text informing him that Jobs had passed away. After that, nothing else that had been announced or talked about at the show made much difference anymore. The news was jarring.

Another annual tradition at JavaOne for me has been a meeting with Java creator James Gosling. Though Gosling no longer works for Oracle and has no direct impact on the language he created, tradition is tradition. And, as we share an affinity for roasted Dungeness crab and savory garlic noodles, we were scheduled to have dinner on the day the news came down. As soon as he heard, Gosling called to see if I was still going to make it or whether I might be involved in writing stories celebrating Jobs life. After checking in with the editor on duty and learning that the Jobs story was in the very capable hands of a colleague, I headed over to crack crab with the Java Man.

As much as we tried to fight the urge to talk shop or get into trouble with stories that might cause headlines, the conversation eventually but briefly ventured to Jobs and mortality, as Gosling described his brush with death as a spectator at the Reno Air races, where he escaped unscathed despite being just 40 feet away from a fatal plane crash.

However, I wanted to get a developers' perspective on the impact Jobs and Apple has had on developers and the developer mindset. Who better to ask than a guy who created what has become the most popular programming language around (and one who also has been a self-proclaimed Apple fan)? Plus, the JavaOne venue was full of developers to talk to about the impact of Jobs on developers.

Gosling shared a few thoughts and said he had a lot more to say on it. Those thoughts eventually wound up in a very potent blog post on Jobs and Apple.

Said Gosling in his post:

He was unique. Apple cannot replace him, and I don t think that they should try. He was a messiah. Within the company there was a cultish reverence toward him.  He was famously difficult to work for and unrelentingly demanding of perfection. I interviewed for jobs with him 3 times: once before he was fired, once at NeXT and once after he returned. Each was a long lunch at The Good Earth.  Each was a wonderful, intriguing conversation, but I left each thinking, No, I can t work for this man: he s mad!  That visionary madness drove him and his company with a tremendous force. He was personally not an engineer or a designer, but he had a tremendous sense for excellence. Many companies use focus groups to help them refine products, but not Apple: they just had Steve. He was often criticized for being a control freak, but that was all in pursuit of excellence: anything out of his control was out of his ability to improve.  He didn t just have a sense for Apple s products, he had a sense for Apple s customers and what would delight them. As much as he was devoted to Apple, he was more devoted to Apple s customers. One of the biggest drivers of Apple s success in recent years is the delight their customers feel in every part of the process, even something as simple as opening a box is thought through carefully. Every detail matters.

Ari Zilka, CTO at Software AG s Terracotta, the maker of scalability and performance-enhancing software, played up the coolness factor of Jobs designs and how they make programmers feel good and want to work.

"Jobs' computers and technology make devs love to program," Zilka, who was present at JavaOne, said. "Personally, I loved DEC the defunct Digital Equipment Corp. machines because they were elitist and purpose-built. I hated Windows machines and just couldn't get myself to do much work on them. Ever see a real died-in-the-wool hacker unzip his backpack and whip out a Dell to start coding on some idea he and some friends have in a coffee shop? That scene always seems to include Macs and only Macs; geeks in the corner of the Starbucks use Macs because it s a device for the passionate. Jobs forced Windows to change to survive. He forced Linux to change to survive. He lived at the nexus of technology and art, and that's exactly what his machines are. I thought I was a 'fanboy' of Apple till I realized last night I am a 'fanboy' of Steve."

To read the original eWeek article, click here: A Developer View of the Impact of Steve Jobs