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Steve Jobs – a personal tribute

9 October 2011

Steve Jobs or Apple did not invent the mouse, the Graphical User Interface., the touch screen, gravity sensor or the technology underneath the portable music player. The mouse and the GUI were created/invented in Xerox labs ; the touch screen and the gravity sensor were being used in avionics for decades before iPhone was launched; Robust and feature rich MP3 players were available for years before ipod was launched.

If all the good stuff we associate with Apple products were not invented/created by Apple/Steve, why is he being hailed as next best inventor after Edison by Spielberg and what is compelling me , an ordinary user of Apple devices to write a personal tribute ?

His genius lay in making these technologies/ enablers accessible to the masses, packaged with his signature elegance.

  • The mouse would have rotted in Xerox R&D lab, had Steve Jobs not used it in the Mac. Xerox bosses had shelved this R&D initiative as they did not think that there would be any serious use for such a plaything !
  • It took his chimerical vision to find an use for the touch-screen and gravity sensor in consumer electronics. Impact of the touch screen on the consumer experience cannot be overstated – A very large number of keyboard-phobic folks have morphed into tech-savvy power users of computers , smart phone thanks to Steve’s vision.
  • In the portable music player market, while others were busy selling the MP3 technology, compression ratio etc. , Steve said carry your entire music library when you go jogging, dancing, cycling. Moving music from the PC to the iPod is an absolutely cumbersome process , but all iPod lovers would just ignore such nags – such is the seductive persuasion of an iPod

To use an overworked phrase , his product offerings directly ‘touched’ the way we communicate, get entertained or compute – but there are other areas where Apple’s offerings and business practices have affected the consumer indirectly .

Digital Rights Management or DRM is one such area where Apple’s initiatives had a huge impact – they went beyond changing the rules and changed the game itself ( apologies for using another overworked phrase).

Giants like IBM. Xerox, Microsoft have faltered and lost billions as their DRM was way below par. Apple through its iTunes marketplace not only protected its own interests but perhaps helped reduce piracy in the audio market greatly.

In places like China Microsoft has given up on licence tracking. In places like Sudan (on US blacklist) American companies have no access to the market and only pirated software is ‘freely’ available. Apple’s business model makes it China-&-Sudan-proof – to get a Tom Cat, Angry Birds or the latest Justin Bieber track, customers sitting in Shenzhen, Khartoum or Timbuctoo will need to go through iTunes and Apple will get its 20% cut. It could not be simpler . Others are learning from Apple – Android marketplace comes readily to the mind.

Ending this note with a couple of personal peeves.

  • Peeve #1 – Non-availability of Adobe Flash on iOS. Whatever be the stated, unstated, ostensible strategic reasons, do not agree with them – hope better sense prevails with the change of guard and I get to play Facebook Scrabble on my iPhone.
  • Peeve #2 – Absence of a file manager app and attachment facility for outgoing mails.

Steve Jobs – Be good, R.I.P. wherever you are.

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