This was a tough week for Apple Inc. On Tuesday, new CEO Tim Cook took the reigns, and led us through 90 minutes of build up about an iPhone that was brand new inside, but the same on the outside. The only difference was a little S after the name. We all waited for the new iPhone 5, only to be told that it didn’t exist yet… Not what most of us expected.
On Wednesday, we heard in the afternoon that Steve Jobs, one of the founders of the company and the iconic spokesman for so many years, had died. We all knew that the performances by the man in the black St. Croix Microfiber Mock Turtleneck, Levi’s 501 jeans, and the New Balance 991 shoes, would never be again.
Today, I have such mixed feelings, it’s hard to write. I love Apple products. They represent all that Steve Jobs was about… building an excellent product that allows the user to do things that they never could before. Building something so intuitive, that it “Just works!” Building technology that would make you wait in line for hours just to be able to hold it in your hand.
As a technology person, I just loved the rollouts. It was like Christmas morning. The features would pop on the screen, followed by Steve or one of his employees showing us how it operates and explaining how we couldn’t possibly live without it.
I remember the anticipation of waiting for the first iPad to come out. We didn’t even know what the name would be. At first, people couldn’t figure out what to do with it. I think back about going to the Best Buy store and trying one out. It just seemed like a netbook without the keyboard. I couldn’t justify the price.
But a few weeks later, my wife and I went to an Apple store, and one of the salespeople took 20 minutes and showed us how it works and what you could do with it. We took one home that day and my wife’s life changed in a major way over the following weeks and months. She literally uses the iPad for so many different things, from email, to games and surfing the web. It truly is a game changer.
When the iPad 2 came out, I waited in line for three hours for one. The guy in line ahead of me got the last one in the store. I was frustrated and just about to go home, when one of the shoppers in the store decided to wait for a different model. I got the last one in the store.. a white 16g iPad 2 with WiFi. And then I picked up the thing that made it different from the first, a grey magnetic smart cover. A cover that did all sorts of cool tricks.
The problem with Tuesday’s rollout was that there was no new Smart cover, no thinner body, no bigger screen. No new anything that you could see. It was like getting a new chain or gearset for your bike for Christmas. None of your friends would ever know.
Maybe this post is selfish or childish, I don’t know for sure. I just know the feeling of taking my iPad 2 down to the local coffee shop and people coming up and asking… is that the new iPad 2? How do you like it? How does the cover work? Is it really lighter? Then I would show them the cover. How it made a great prop or easel. And then I would take the cover off and hand the iPad to them. The thin and lightweight marvel of technology was now in their hand.
This is what Steve was all about. Creating things so cool, so unbelievable, that you just had to have one. Creating not only a product but a story to go with it. Creating an experience that was worth waiting three hours in line for.
That story didn’t happen on Tuesday. And now the man in the black turtleneck is gone. But not his ideas and his incredible focus along with his passion for excellence. Steve literally changed the world.
So what is the takeaway? It’s that we need to pursue excellence in our lives and focus on our true passions. Life is short. Don’t spend it on unimportant things.
One of the best things about Steve Jobs was his finely scripted presentations. One of the most telling things about his passion and focus were his shoes at his last public presentation at WWDC. To end this post, I’d like you to read the powerful story called Universe Dented, Grass Underfoot by John Gruber.