I’ve been feeling incredibly sad and depressed since hearing the news about the death of Steve Jobs. It’s affected me far, far more than I thought it would.
Not that I wouldn’t be upset – I’m typing this on my MacBook Pro (my 5th Apple laptop), I heard the news via my iPhone (my second), I watched the reports coming through last night on my iPad (which I had hooked up to my television via Apple TV), so all in all you could grade me as a dedicated Apple customer who has been more than touched by Steve’s vision. But, like everyone else, I’ve also known that he’s been ill for a long time, and when he went on extended medical leave in January and finally stepped down as CEO in August, things didn’t look good. So if last night’s announcement was a shock, it wasn’t wholly unexpected. But still, I’ve been near catatonic all day.
And it’s not because I love Apple products so much or that I fear the company will lose its way and we’ll never have another amazing, life changing product from them ever again. I do love Apple products, and I will be eternally grateful for the day that Steve rejoined the company and made most of the contents of my house possible. But then again, Steve didn’t come up with it all by himself. He surrounded himself with skilled and talented people from Jony Ive to Phil Schiller, Scott Forstall, Greg Joswiak, Bob Mansfield and current CEO Tim Cook, who are all still there and I have no doubt will lead the company and the product line to plenty more amazing places that I’ve never even imagined.
What I realised today, was that what’s been making me really depressed isn’t seeing my iPhone and thinking: Steve did that, it’s watching the clips on youtube of him talking about changing the world and making things better and doing things that others say can’t or shouldn’t be done and won’t work if they are.
If Steve Jobs gave the late 20th century and early 21st anything, it was a kick up the arse and the message that Good is never good enough. OK will never do. If it isn’t awesome, you’re not trying hard enough. Steve was a brave and fearsome knight in the battle against mediocrity. Yes he gave us technology that did what we wanted it to do, that ‘just worked’, that was limited only by our imaginations, not by the constraints of computer engineering. Yes he made technology human, and tactile, and beautiful, and something for everyone to be excited about not just geeked over. But if you want to know Steve Jobs’s real mission, the answer wasn’t in the iPhone, but in the box it came in. Sleek, minimalist, stylish and brilliant in the way that with a tab here, or an indent there, it allowed you to effortlessly tease the new love of your life out into your hand.
Where other manufacturers saw a box, Steve Jobs saw part of the experience. A detail to be got right. A small thing that could be endlessly improved to make seeing it, holding it, opening it and keeping it (my house is full of Apple boxes I can’t stand to throw away) a better, more enjoyable experience. From the packaging to the retail stores, from the design of a power supply to the workings and rendering of the OSX operating system, Steve’s attention to the detail spoke to the best in all of us. He showed that it’s not about making it cheaper, it’s about making it better. It’s not about doing something that works, it’s about doing something that you’re proud of. It’s about saying that it does matter, it is important and it really does make a difference. That Apple became one of the most successful consumer brands at the height of the worst economic downturn in 60 years, proves that he was right.
So I’ve realised, what’s made me really sad today, isn’t that the man who brought me my iPhone and envisaged the iPad has died at 56 years of age (he did, after all, achieve more than his share in that time), it’s not that his wife and children have lost a husband and a father, it’s not that there will never be another Stevenote or ‘one more thing…’ It’s that the person who stood-up, parted the raging seas of mediocre, average shit and showed us that we are all capable of and deserving of ‘amazing’, isn’t going to be around to remind us just how ‘Awesome’ life should be.
For that, more than anything, he will be greatly missed.