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Final farwell: Steve Jobs 1955-2011

01 Nov 2011

Business magnate. Control freak. Inventor. Perfectionist. Visionary. Buddhist. Movie producer. Cut throat. CEO. Marketer extraordinaire. Many labels have been used to describe the late Steve Jobs – and it’s interesting to note that nearly all of them, both positive and negative, are to a certain extent accurate.  He was a Buddhist, he did produce movies, his name can be found on a multitude of patents, and he was an internationally renowned (not to mention emulated) CEO.  You don’t become those things, in particular in the world of IT, without being concerned with control and getting things as close to perfect as you can. You need to be prepared to cut, thrust, parry and go for the jugular. All of which anecdotally at least, we know Jobs was not only capable of but very good at.But what he was best at, it seems, is the final label. Marketer extraordinaire. Jobs took what is universally thought of as a ‘geek’s world’ and made it...sexy. The tools and toys that had hitherto been used by bespectacled, shy, sci-fi reading young men (and a few women) not only became popular in the given sense of the word, they became popular in the more literal sense of the word: they are now something everyone uses.  Few business people, especially within the ICT world, would be without some device preceeded by an ‘i’ – or at least their cousins. Yet less than a decade ago, all of these were considered at best an expensive indulgence. Jobs made them necessities.Perhaps Steve Jobs’ greatest strength was to recognise sometimes you need to do things differently. Returning to Apple after being ousted didn’t bother him. Rather than indulging in crowing or apology (at least publically) Jobs simply picked up where he left off and got on with thingsWhen his staff resisted the idea of a uniform, he didn’t force it on them, but created and wore his own. The black turtle neck and 501 jeans made him as much of a brand for his company as the famous apple itself. Sitting somewhere between the awkward tanktops of the Big Bang Theory stereotypes and the Armani suits of Donald Trump, the uniform made Steve Jobs stand out: the CEO who dressed like one of the guys, the computer nerd who dressed like the in crowd.Part rockstar, part hardnosed businessman, part IT geek, Jobs took a role – and an industry – and turned it on its head. There are many who admire Gates for his philanthropy and there are those who admire Zuckerberg for his sheer nerve. Most would like to have an idea that will emulate their wealth.  Few want to ‘be’ them.There is no doubt Tim O’Connor can carry out his role as CEO of Apple – he was after all, handpicked by Jobs himself.  It is unlikely however he will galvanise people in quite the manner of his predecessor and mentor.Maybe that’s a good thing – maybe some turtle necks just aren’t made to be filled.