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Steve Jobs - sad farewell to a visionary

A very quick blog to note the sad passing of Steve Jobs. Despite the fact that I’ve never met him, or even seen in him speak, and despite the reports that he was an extremely difficult individual on an interpersonal level, I do feel a sense of loss. Why? Because at 38, I’m pretty much a lifelong Apple user, and love its products today more than ever.  I started using my Dad’s SE30 beige box in 1990 to produce a school magazine… then used bigger and better Macs to edit University of Nottingham newspaper in my student days, and then another new generation of devices when I started working as a journalist professionally.

In those days, most people scoffed at Macs – amongst them a friend who is a computer science graduate and now high-flying banker – who couldn’t understand why on earth anyone would chose not to use a PC. And in those days, to be fair, Apple products weren’t great – these were Jobs’ wilderness years when he’d been ousted in the company – but as anyone who worked in publishing or design in those days knew, they did the job and were essential. Consequently there was a kind of cultish devotion to them, in the face of all adversity and cynicism.

The renaissance that Apple has experience since then, catalysed by Jobs’ return, has been well documented. The brand and its products have been transformed – they are now essential lifestyle products. So much so that even my computer science grad friend is struggling to justify why he should buy an Android smartphone instead of an iPhone – despite his best efforts.

But for me, what’s more significant than the acceptance of Apple’s products by consumers is their increasingly ‘must-have’ status in the business world. This was no better illustrated than at Salesforce’s recent Cloudforce event in London, during CEO Mark Benioff’s epic two and a half hour keynote, whose stage set featured a range of Apple products – despite the presence of Michael Dell on the same stage as very special guest. This would have been unthinkable five years ago. There was no accident in this – the Apple badge on the lid of the laptop is – quite simply – cool, and Salesforce want to be cool by association. Surreptitiously, Macs have gone from being lifestyle or niche business products, to the corporate desktop device of choice.

Jobs’ achievement in making Apple the number one technology brand in the world is simply extraordinary. There will be many other better overviews and obituaries written about the success of its business and product strategy. But loss is a personal thing, and today I’m sad because a visionary who produced many excellent and much-loved products, that have defined my working and leisure time, is no more. The brand will live on without him, but somehow I feel it will never quite be the same again.