Really unpleasant people, aren’t they? This is what you get from unbridled power …
I suppose, for me, on the outside looking in, Steve Jobs’ most singular achievement (more from Wikipedia here) was to recover the true value for massive corporations of making money out of hardware. Microsoft gouged out a whole generation of value-adding perspectives when it knocked IBM off a pedestal the latter had long owned – and, by so doing, showed us all that late-20th century publishing could be reinvented in the name of software design, development and downloads. But the value of making physical objects was consequently lost on a whole generation of get-rich-quick entrepreneurs.
I recall using, briefly, the Apple II at school – can’t recall the reason why but we definitely preferred it to the boxy IBM.
There was something, even then, about the way something looked that was important.
Steve Jobs should be remembered, then, for having brought back and underlined to the computing industry – and, indeed, industry everywhere – the importance of having a physical manufacturing side. Not just bits and bytes but screws and cards. In this age of service industries, of huge financial movements of electronic money, of speculative actions which bring down the economies of nation states and banking crises which touch everyone except the banks, Jobs was able to demonstrate that manufacturing industry still had a place.
A bloody expensive place, mind – but a place, nevertheless.
But Jobs did more than that. He not only picked up and ran with IBM’s belief that hardware was good, he also took Microsoft’s learning curve to heart and proved he could do software even better. His real achievement, then, was in synthesising the two approaches and creating physical objects of grand utility which actually worked first time round in an age of warranty-less publishing.
I’m not sure if I entirely agree, though, with the extent to which he pushed aside Microsoft’s tendency to mix and match different philosophies of working within the same software interface – wherever I’ve come up against it, the concept of “one best way” has always seemed most anti-human as far as I can see. If we as learners all have different learning styles, and we as teachers all have different teaching styles, why cannot we contemplate that we as users all have different working styles?
Diversity is the true mother of invention. And not everything that Apple has done, or indeed does, has this modern reality properly enmeshed in its DNA.
Even so, the ability Jobs had to bring together both good hardware and good software should not be underestimated.
And even though my experience of Apple products is limited to Apple IIs, my mother’s laptop, my daughter’s iPod and the occasional snatched glimpse of someone using their iPhone as I walk down the street, I sincerely do not underestimate the importance of his entrepreneurial teachings for the wider manufacturing and service industries.