Steven Paul Jobs: 1955 - 2011

by , Oct 6, 2011, 7:41 AM
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A friend of mine who is not the emotional type asked me last night if I felt as personally affected by Steve Jobs' death as he did. I did, I replied. Even though we all sensed it was coming, it was still a jolt to hear that Jobs had left us at age 56. I can't think of a contemporary entrepreneur-turned-CEO who personified his products as much as Jobs has, and it's difficult to think of products that people who own them are so fond of, shortcomings and all.

"He was a visionary responsible for transforming the consumer electronics industry and ushered in a new era of digital innovation," writes technology columnist Shelly Palmer. "From the foundation he laid for one of the most successful companies ever to his ability to think outside the box, Steve Jobs will be missed, but not forgotten."

Allowing that his genius has been written about ad infinitum since he resigned as Apple's CEO in August and that he is "a historical figure on the scale of a Thomas Edison or Henry Ford," the Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg also gives us a glance at the private Jobs he got to know after his 1997 return to the company he founded but left in a rift with the board.

Jobs cultivated the influential Mossberg, who couldn't help but be wooed by the force of his personality and showmanship even as he was very aware of it. Mossberg shares a few telling anecdotes, including one about getting Jobs and Microsoft founder Bill Gates to agree to appear together on the same stage for the newspaper's 'All Things Digital' conference in 2007.

The well-laid plans were almost blown up by a remark Jobs made in an on-stage, one-on-one interview by Mossberg before the joint session took place. Asked what it was like to have become a major Windows developer since iTunes program was installed on Windows PCs, Jobs replied: "It's like giving a glass of ice water to someone in hell."

Mossberg writes: "When Gates later arrived and heard about the comment, he was, naturally, enraged. In a pre-interview meeting, Gates said to Jobs "so I guess I'm the representative from hell."

"Jobs merely handed Gates a cold bottle of water. The tension was broken, and the interview was a triumph, with both men acting like statesmen. When it was over, the audience rose in a standing ovation, some of them in tears."

Steven Levy, who wrote Insanely Great: The Life and Times of Macintosh, the Computer that Changed Everything in 2000, has a piece on Wired.com. He has some inside tales, too, including the day he was walking down Broadway and received a call from "unknown" on the yet-to-be-released iPhone he had been given.

"It was Jobs, ostensibly wanting to know what I thought, but actually making sure I understood how amazing it was," Levy writes. "I acknowledged that it was extraordinary, but mentioned to him that maybe nothing could match the expectations he had generated. People were calling it the 'Jesus phone.' Didn't that worry him? The answer was no. 'We are going to blow away the expectations.'"

The Apple home page this morning is simply a full-page image of Jobs. The board of director's simple but elegant statement reads:

"We are deeply saddened to announce that Steve Jobs passed away today.

"Steve's brilliance, passion and energy were the source of countless innovations that enrich and improve all of our lives. The world is immeasurably better because of Steve.

"His greatest love was for his wife, Laurene, and his family. Our hearts go out to them and to all who were touched by his extraordinary gifts."

In a letter to staff, CEO Tim Cook writes, "We are planning a celebration of Steve's extraordinary life for Apple employees that will take place soon. If you would like to share your thoughts, memories and condolences in the interim, you can simply email rememberingsteve@apple.com.

Some other snippets from around the net:

  • Bill Gates: "For those of us lucky enough to get to work with him, it's been an insanely great honor. I will miss Steve immensely."
  • Mashable Tech's Adam Ostrow has put together a video of 10 of Job's "most magical" moments, starting with his demo of the Macintosh in 1984 (dressed in tux, green bow tie and long locks) to his "unforgettable commencement speech at Stanford" (where he told students: "Death is very likely the single best invention of life. It's life's change agent; it clears out the old to make way for the new.")
  • President Barack Obama: "There may be no greater tribute to Steve's success than the fact that much of the world learned of his passing on a device he invented" -- whether a Mac, an iPhone or an iPad. Obama revealed to ABC News's George Stephanopoulos earlier this week that he had gotten his iPad "a little bit early" directly from Jobs, which he said, was "cool."
  • VentureBeat's Sean Ludwig has a list of "10 important products Steve Jobs helped bring to the world" starting with the Apple II and ending with the iPad. Even the short-lived Lisa, which cost an astounding 10Gs in 1983, makes the cut for some of its innovative features.
  • The Wall Street Journal has a roundup of consumers' touching reactions from around the world. In Beijing, for example, mourners placed lilies and chrysanthemums in front of an Apple store.
  • Veteran technology reporter John Markoff writes the New York Times' 3,500-word obit with reporting contributed by Steve Lohr: "Mr. Jobs was neither a hardware engineer nor a software programmer, nor did he think of himself as a manager. He considered himself a technology leader, choosing the best people possible, encouraging and prodding them, and making the final call on product design." A friend of the family tells the Times that Jobs succumbed to complications from pancreatic cancer.

"When employees first talked about Jobs' 'reality distortion field,' it was a pejorative -- they were referring to the way that he got you to sign on to a false truth by the force of his conviction and charisma...," writes Levy in his perceptive obit. He concludes: "Steve Job's reality field actually came into being. And we all live in it."

0 comments on "Steven Paul Jobs: 1955 - 2011 ".

  1. Thom Forbes from T.H. Forbes Co.
    commented on: October 6, 2011 at 9:51 a.m.

    Fast Company has a great collection of anecdotes about Jobs that I've just come across. http://bit.ly/oCgkMr

  2. Jay Levin from Kerr Hill Inc.
    commented on: October 6, 2011 at 11:59 a.m.

    Only one I can think of as coming even close as a "contemporary entrepreneur-turned-CEO who personified his products as much as Jobs" would be Jack Welch. Still its not even close.

  3. Tim Orr from Barnett Orr Marketing Group, Inc.
    commented on: October 6, 2011 at 7:09 p.m.

    I liked the anecdote collection, and here's sort of one, but alas, negative: When I bought my first iPhone, I had huge difficulties getting it activated. AT&T was no help, so finally, I called Cupertino and told the switchboard operator I was desperate.

    She connected me with a tech. After trying several things, he suggested there might be a hardware problem. He put me on hold, and when he came back, he had made arrangements with the local Apple store to swap my phone out that evening, which I did. No paperwork. Just handed the phone to the manager, who was expecting me, and he handed me a bag with a new one in it. Activation problems vanished.

    Making a long story short, I was so thrilled I wrote Steve a very complimentary letter (on real paper with an envelope and stamp and everything), naming the tech and store manager who helped me.

    Never got a reply – from anyone, not even a PR person or exec assistant.

    Still, I love all his products so much (Well, maybe not the Lisa and the Newton, both of which I also owned), that I cut him some slack on that one.

    "Taken for all in all, I shall not look upon his like again."

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