Posted tagged ‘Steve Jobs’

Steve Jobs

October 6, 2011

The home page of Apple Inc this morning features only a photo of company co-founder and long term chief executive, Steve Jobs, who died yesterday after his long struggle with illness.

Apple, and its products, are his legacy, as is his extraordinary understanding of the importance in this digital age of uniting information, art and design. This understanding, and his ability to communicate it both in words and in products, changed consumer electronics and associated industries beyond all recognition. It was an extraordinary achievement.

Motherhood and Apple pie

January 18, 2011

I have mentioned previously that, in technology terms, I am an Apple man. I have two Apple Macintosh desktop computers and one laptop; I have an iPhone; I have an iPad; I have two iPods; I have an Apple TV. At times in my long life I have used PCs, and I am proficient in the use of Windows, but I am always glad to get back to my Apple stuff.

But part of the Apple culture I subscribe to was formed in days of, if not adversity, then at least underdog status. First it was the hegemony of ‘IBM-compatible’ computers (a term the younger generation will never even have heard of), then of MS-DOS (which was the dawn of Microsoft), then of Windows. While these systems controlled 90 per cent or thereabouts of personal computing, it was fun to be part of the alternative Apple culture. Or at least, it was fun until Steve Jobs left Apple and its products started to look like the faceless IBM/Microsoft competition. Those were the days that I moved over for a while to Windows, made more fun by the fact that my computers were home-made by my Faculty’s then technology officer.

But Jobs returned to Apple, the Truth was re-discovered and made more Perfect still, and everything in my house went back to Purity and Good Design. Then came the iPod and the iPhone and the iPad, and all this is even more perfect than anything before. Indeed, the iPad is probably signalling the New Age of electronic enlightenment. But something is not the same. We are not the oppressed minority, we are not the under-dogs. Apple has become the largest global technology company, it almost totally controls online music sales. It does not have the dominant market share in either smartphones or computers, but it has the recognised leading product in each. Out-manoeuvered for so long by Microsoft, Apple is now thought by some analysts to be getting ready to take over its old rival. The future is Apple.

Or is it? The question mark in the story hovers over Steve Jobs himself. Here is the man who, without a doubt, gives Apple its identity, its style, its ability to fuse technology with design and culture. And he is ill. Yesterday he announced, again, that he is taking leave from the company to deal with health issues. How dependent is the world’s Apple future on this one man? Or has he now instilled in the company a sense of design and destiny that will survive him if he were to retire?

Indeed, the question is this: is computing success the product of better technology, or is it a cultural matter? I must do a bit of research on this. On my iPad of course.

So here it is: the ‘iPad’

January 28, 2010

A week ago I commented on the technology event that, even without any actual details to hand, was already leaving people breathless with excitement: the expected announcement of an Apple ‘tablet’ device, i.e. a handheld computer with touch-screen capability. Back then the smart money was on it being called the ‘iTablet’ or ‘iSlate’. As I commented at the time, the rumours had to be correct in a general sense, because Apple had allowed the hype to build up to such an extent that they were otherwise in danger of creating such an anti-climax that the whole company could be affected.

And sure enough, on Wednesday (January 27) the new absolutely-must-have tablet was unveiled by Steve Jobs himself: the ‘iPad’. And I have to say that despite the fact that all I’ve seen so far is the company’s own publicity, including this rather neat video, I am absolutely dazzled myself. In many ways it appears to be a larger-than-life iPhone, with the same concept and the same touch-and-feel. Like the iPhone, it will have both WiFi and 3G connectivity, and indeed it will apparently be able to operate all those applications you’ve downloaded on the iPhone. It will of course do music, it will do emails and the internet, it will do games, it will do wordprocessing and spreadsheets, it has a calendar, it stores and displays your photoalbums – you may never have to leave that armchair ever again. But then, as we also anticipated, it will store and display e-books, and to facilitate this Apple is opening its own online bookshop, the iBookstore. This will probably be one of the headline grabbing features, as Apple is thereby taking on the Amazon Kindle directly – and ass against the Kindle, it has colour and a backlit display, so you can read it in the dark.

So how will this go down? Pretty well, I think. The computer magazines are giving it the thumbs-up. And look at the impact on the blogosphere. I’ve just checked: some five hours since the iPad was announced, if I publish this post right now, this second, it will be blog post number 1,062,816 on the iPad across the world. Think of it, the noise from the launch event has hardly subsided and already over a million people have blogged on it. I can only marvel at how late I am.

Apple is good at publicity and marketing, and it is predicting that this device will change our lives. Exaggeration? Maybe, but then again, the iPod and the iPhone changed music and mobile telephony, so maybe they are right here also. But in any case, Apple have been so extraordinarily good as suggesting to us all that they are the designers and operators of the modern world we live in, that some prophecies they now make are wholly self-fulfilling. At any rate, I’ll be able to judge that from the inside as it were. As soon as the iPad ships, one will be shipping to me. Not least because it is remarkably reasonably priced.

Apple reflections

June 24, 2009

Today’s UK Guardian newspaper carried an article on Steve Jobs and Apple, reflecting on the driven nature of the company’s CEO. There are of course many people in Apple Inc, and indeed many whose contribution to the company’s fortunes and the quality of its products has been vital. But few companies are so closely identified with their CEO as this one is, and reports on his health and outlook on life have an immediate impact on its share price and on the confidence of its customers. Right now the talk is on whether he has recovered from his illness and is ready to return to the company.

As some readers of this blog will know, everything you read here is written and managed on Apple equipment. Right now I am sitting at my iMac; a few hours ago I was considering readers’ comments and publishing them, and responding to some of them, on my iPhone. Shortly I shall be taking my dog on a final late night walk, and while I do so I shall be listening to a particular podcast on a science policy theme on my iPod. I am wholly committed to Apple, and shudder when occasionally I find myself having to handle the equipment of other companies. And yet, if I am honest, there is nothing that this iMac does that could not be done equally well on, say, a Dell, or even a computer that someone could assemble for me in their garage from parts bought in any computer shop. And recently I gave an HP netbook as a present to a family member, and in trying it out beforehand was impressed with its features. But there is something in the Apple range that keeps me loyal, even if I could not always explain what that something is.

Some of it is the design. I loved the original Apple Macintosh in the mid-1980s. But in the Jobs-less era from the late 1980s and into the 1990s I grew disenchanted; the various LCs and Performas or whatever the models were called still had the neat Apple operating system, but the machines looked like any old IBM-compatible box, and I just lost interest and bought a PC. Only when Jobs returned and with him the unique style did I also restore the Apple brand to my home and office.

Perhaps the ‘something’ that makes me an Apple man is this: when all is said and done, Apple is more a concept than a piece of technology. What you buy into is the feel of the equipment and the philosophy of the community that has gathered around it. Not for nothing is Apple the company that popularised the desktop icon (yes, I know – it was developed by Xerox, but Apple brought it to your office). The whole Apple concept is iconic, awash with symbolism and ritual.

I may be jumping a little far now, but there is something of interest here for any modern organisation, including a university. DCU’s mission, for example, is strongly linked with a sense of identity, and with the idea that it doesn’t just offer a suite of educational programmes and research projects, but a particular concept of what we are in our time and our place. And I suspect that our success somewhat depends on our being able to convey this distinctive image, both to ourselves and to others. That isn’t a trivial or superficial thing: identity and community are everything, and I would like to think that access to DCU is also access to a particular outward-looking community.

I wish Steve Jobs well, and hope he returns to Apple at the end of the month, refreshed and invigorated. I’ll be watching.

Apple without Jobs? Is this conceivable?

January 15, 2009

For Apple fans, a heart-stopping moment: there are reports this morning that Steve Jobs, co-founder and CEO of Apple, is taking ‘leave of absence’ while he receives treatment for his fairly mysterious illness, described initially as a ‘hormone imbalance’ and now as ‘something more complex’. Predictable, Apple shares have dropped in value, and the internet is alive with rumour and speculation. The first thing to say, I think, is that I wish Steve Jobs well and hope he has a very speedy recovery. I hope he resumes the reins of Apple in the summer as promised.

As is being observed everywhere, this is not the first such leave of absence. In fact, he went on ‘leave’ for 12 years in 1985, and then in 2005 when he was being treated for pancreatic cancer. During his long absence from the mid 1980s the company went through a series of CEOs, designs and plans, and while I don’t claim to be absolutely typical of its market, I left the Apple world behind by the early 1990s when its computer products had lost the innovative edge technically and, aesthetically, began to resemble ‘ordinary’ PCs more and more. And not long after Steve’s return, I returned also, restoring the Macintosh on my desktop and accumulating iPods and iPhones.

Steve Jobs is not a technological wizard, but he is a total genius when it comes to identifying market demand and wrapping the technology in design that sets trends. He is the face and the voice and the music of Apple. Whatever happens to him right now, there will be a time when he is gone, and Apple will need to demonstrate that it can still find the magic without him. Maybe this leave of absence is a good testing ground for that.

For the moment, however, I wish Steve a full and speedy recovery, and a return to Apple in robust health.