The Legacy of Steve Jobs

Like many in the world today, I sit here stunned by the loss of Steve Jobs. His impact on technology, media and overall consumer behavior is immeasurable.

And yet, if I had to define his legacy, it would come down to one simple phrase: He made technology easy to use.

This has been a consistent theme in Apple products from the very beginning, starting when they were at the forefront of the revolution in personal computing and thereafter in consumer electronics.

Whether you were a pasty-faced geek in 1976 programming BASIC on the Apple II or today's cherubic toddler streaming "Dora the Explorer" from Mommy's iPad, the user experience remains the same. Easy.

As a market researcher, I hear these refrains every day. Many of my clients develop services, content and games for Apple's platforms. Others are hardware manufacturers that compete head to head with Apple.

I observe consumers as they interact with media and technology. Sometimes, they magically fall in love with the experience, easily navigating, extolling the transformative benefits of technology. Other times, they struggle with difficult user interfaces, designs or products.

If you've ever asked an Apple consumer why they're a fan, you'll find there's a commonality to their stories. In most cases, there's been a seminal moment where using an Apple device is easier, faster and more appealing.

(A personal note: I was so inspired by Steve Jobs and Apple's efforts 20 years ago that after college graduation, I moved across the country to work in Silicon Valley.)

What is it about Apple's products? They possess an elusive yet consistent "X" factor. In many cases, it allows them to overtake existing competition, often redefining a market. (Pop quiz: Who built the first personal computer, MP3 player, mobile phone, tablet or online music service? Hint: It wasn't Apple.)

That factor is the imprimatur of Steve Jobs. From the beginning, he challenged his colleagues to make things "insanely great," even if it seemed impossible. He would review and refine accordingly until a product (or presentation) was flawless. He bridged science and art, by embracing design and creating marketing communications, packaging, and ultimately, a retail experience that consistently underscored the core tenet of Apple.

Of course, there are naysayers--the ones that say Apple is too slick, too expensive, too closed and proprietary.

Recently, I worked with a company that was directly competing with Apple. They detailed their product's competitive advantages, enumerating every feature and highlighting their expensive marketing campaign. And yet, they could not understand why their product was failing to gain any market share.

I explained to them that consumers do not buy product based on features, but rather, the overall experience a product conveys. (Side note: A little-known fact is when Apple was founded, Steve Jobs was in charge of marketing, not development.)

Apple has been known to do little consumer research. In a 2008 Fortune article, Steve Jobs noted: "We do no market research. We just want to make great products."

Hearing that, a colleague of mine once said: "That's not true, Apple does lots of research. They just use the same test subject over and over again. His name is Steve."

I'll be missing that focus group of one. Thank you.

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