In Celebration of Technology that Serves Humanity

I feel fortunate to have been a student of Steve’s career and his prolific development of technology for the rest of us. 

I’ve learned equally from his successes and his failures. 

The technology he brought to market helped me express my talents, run my company and serve clients better. Steve brought advanced technology to the consumer market sooner and better than anyone. See the appended list below and add to it…


Technology Steve helped make accessible to mere mortals:
Graphical computer interface and the mouse
Typography
Graphics
Desktop publishing
Object-oriented programming
DSP’s
Digital music
Display postscript
Firewire
Wi-Fi
Digital video
Laptop computers with palm rests
Media players
Online music and media store
Smart phones
Touch interfaces
Apps
Affordable software pricing
Milling as a mass manufacturing process


I started prototyping business software and advanced concepts with Hypercard at the Doblin Group in 1989 with Tom Sublewski. Tom could get the Mac to control anything.

I wrote my master’s thesis and developed a prototype with object oriented programming in 1993 on a NeXT machine. NeXT was the company Steve built after being fired from Apple. NeXT is the same operating system underlying today’s OSX and the programming environment used by iOS developers. I owned and trafficked in NeXT machines for several years until they were bought by Apple when Steve returned.

Pixar was supported by Steve with his personal money for many years before their breakthrough “Toy Story.” Their first celebrated short, Luxo Jr. (http://www.pixar.com/shorts/ljr/), was played over and over at Doblin Group as we reveled in their talent. “Spinal Tap” was also played over and over for other reasons.  

I bought Final Cut Pro 1.0 when it launched because I didn’t have to edit consumer video on tape between two cameras anymore and it was $1000, not $100,000 like video editing studios at the time. That’s an order of magnitude less costly and it made a difference.

Final Cut Pro also debuted the importance of Firewire, which Apple also created, that would become a basis of iPod’s success because it could move music fast enough for synchronization.

I bought and worked on PC’s (Sony VAIO’s) when Apple lost direction and created mostly meaningless variations of computer models that underperformed and were over priced.

I learned about SKU reduction and clarity of product portfolios when Steve returned to Apple and eliminated most models and created a simple two by two portfolio consisting of (consumer and pro) & (laptop & desktop) yielding 4 models instead of a dozen.

I realized Steve still allowed his personal taste to get the best of him when the Apple Cube launched and failed. But I also realized he’s just human and profoundly thoughtful as his Stanford commencement address reveals.

I still remember Steve’s introduction of WiFi, a concept I couldn’t understand at the time. Steve demo’d it by having Phil Schiller jump from a platform on stage to a mattress while remaining connected to “the network.” That might be useful, I thought.

I remember being at Motorola when they laughed off the idea that Apple would create a mobile phone. Now iPhone accounts for most of Apple’s revenue. And Apple is the first or second most valuable company in the world.

The iPad came and succeeded after many failed industry attempts. We can debate how innovative it is, but when my 85 year old Cuban father in-law carries the iPad around his farm with a smile of fascination and disbelief, I know we have become somewhat numb to the amazing things Steve has helped create.

Starting with the iPod, Steve and Apple has had an incredible run of success. Today, it seems inconceivable that Apple was considered a failure for many, many years—both Apple and its customers were dismissed by the mainstream PC industry. That sentiment remains today even though all the traditional arguments of Apple’s irrelevance are now mute by definition and fact. (Niche, overpriced, lack of performance and functionality.)

For many of us, it’s embarrassing how successful Steve and Apple have become. Airports, streets and client conference rooms are filled with Apple products. You don’t understand how odd that is to someone who lived through most of Apple’s history with them as a niche player. 

Finally, my most important lesson from Steve, besides perseverance and principle, was that he valued and demanded the integration of disciplines respecting each and expecting all to do their best to make remarkable things happen. I have long dreamed that gravitytank
could become the Apple of management consulting based on this core value.

Thank you, Steve, for how much you gave and how much we learned from you.
You worked harder than anyone to make technology serve humanity and inspire the rest of us to do our best.

written by: Chris Conley