Thank You, Steve Jobs
It wasn’t John Lennon or Michael Jackson they were remembering on TV this morning. It wasn’t John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan or Princess Diana. No, this time the lost icon was none other than Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple who in his lifetime achieved the kind of status that only a handful of humans ever enjoy.
Everywhere you looked, Steve Jobs was the story. Words like "genius," "brilliant," "visionary" and "leader" were repeated again and again. People across the spectrum of public life were honoring the man. President Obama hailed Jobs as one of the greatest American innovators, and Steven Spielberg called him "the greatest inventor since Thomas Edison."
On Facebook, Real Madrid midfielder Ricardo Kaká offered this status update: "May the Spirit of God console the families, friends and all those like me who admired this great man." And "Clerks" star Kevin Smith tweeted: "Our parents had JFK, we had Steve Jobs. Edison gave us electricity, Jobs gave us the Jetsons in real life."
Jobs’ Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak referred to his former partner’s death thusly: "It's kind of like when John Lennon died, or JFK. I don’t think anyone else, maybe Martin Luther King."
JFK, Lennon, MLK, Edison – that is some pretty hefty company in our pantheon of modern-day heroes.
An exaggeration? Hardly, when you consider the similarities. Like these other icons, Jobs is one of those rare people who dared us to dream, to imagine, to believe the human condition can and will get better. People who touch us through arts, deeds or both, and who lead and live as an example to others. Only a handful emerge in a generation – if we’re lucky.
We were lucky to have Jobs, and so it makes sense that he should receive the kind of adoration and outpouring of grief usually reserved for rock stars, beloved heads of state, civic leaders and Hollywood legends.
It’s all the more amazing when you consider what else Jobs was – a CEO. Imagine for a second any other CEO getting the kinds of tributes at the level of a John Lennon or JFK. You might be hard-pressed to, although there might be one or two.
And that is not to say there isn’t plenty of brilliance in the corporate world outside Apple. It’s just that Apple is special. Apple has, indeed, changed our lives.
So, while the "corporation" has become almost an obscenity in our world, Apple has managed to paint itself as a shining city on the hill.
When you think about it, Apple fans and worshippers don’t even really see it as a corporation. And it doesn’t matter if you’re trading or protesting on Wall Street today. Chances are you have an Apple device in your pocket or briefcase. You’ll see an Apple logo next to a "Give peace a chance" decal on a guitar case and think nothing of it – just as if you see it beside a "salesperson of the month" award in somebody’s cubicle.
Apple is transcendent, universal.
Even in the IT channel, where the company often has irked observers and partners to the point of distraction, there have always been secret – and not-so-secret – admirers. Go to any channel event these days and count the iPads and iPhones. You might even see an executive or two carrying an iPad he bought with his own money. An executive who, by the way, sees Apple as a competitor on some level.
With its products, Apple has managed to stretch boundaries, knock down preconceptions and gotten us to dream and believe. Who would have thought you could carry hundreds of your music CDs in your pocket for your listening pleasure wherever you are? That you could replace room-size, intricate machinery to lay out and print publications with a funny-looking little computer, some software and a small printer? That you could, at last, put a reliable videophone in your hands to talk to a friend or relative in the house next door or half a world away?
I became a fan with my first iPod – a brick-like device that I still keep as a museum piece. Having used Apple computers in the late 1990s, I wasn’t sold on the company’s brilliance. I took the plunge in 2005 with a PowerBook that, though it failed a couple of times, convinced me there was no going back to PCs. My wife and I counted 11 Apple devices in our house this morning, including Apple TV, an iPhone, several iPods and two iPads. It’s actually an even dozen, but I’d forgotten the museum piece.
So, trying to get a sense of perspective on all this, I’ve had to ask myself just how much these devices mean to me. Were they life-changing? Yes. Could I live without them? No question.
But I also could live without John Lennon’s "Imagine" or "Ticket to Ride." But just like Apple’s products, those songs have made my life a little richer.
And for that I am grateful. So thank you, Steve Jobs, and may you rest in peace.
Pedro Pereira is a columnist for Channel Insider and a freelance writer. He can be reached at email@example.com.