The Alchemist

Many words have been written about Steve Jobs since his untimely and premature death.  Rarely in the world of business and technology is someone’s passing a newsworthy event, even rarer that it affects more than close family and friends.  That Steve Jobs in both life and death could send ripples round the world speaks to his impact on the lives of many, if not all, of us.

Steve Jobs has often been cast in laudatory and valedictory commentary as a great innovator, a stand out inventor, and undoubtedly his inventive contribution to the technology his companies have sold has been important, even vital.  Yet, he did not invent the personal computer or the digital music player.  He didn’t conceive the fundamental idea of downloading music and other content.  Far from being a technology follower, his contribution was more important and more subtle than just being “the guy who dreamt up stuff”.  Steve Jobs made things real.  He converted technology “can does” into retail “must haves”.  He made difficult, quirky technology like the personal computer not only easy to use, but a delight, something beautiful and desirable, something we would all want to use.  All, but perhaps not quite all, Steve Jobs single minded vision and adherence to an independent “Apple” world left some out in the cold, unable to accept the limitations with the bounty.

In his autobiography, Steve Jobs talks about the events, some seemingly random, that led him along the path to conceiving and then delivering some of the most iconic products of this, or probably any, generation.  Dropping out of college and studying typography because it was “cool” was just one of the influences which would later become united first in the Mac and later in iPod and iPhone,  and most recently in iPad, creating an image and identity and then brand which would rise to global predominance.  A global prominence protected and secured by IP.  Steve Jobs clearly “got” intellectual property.  He understood IP’s role and importance.  The need to have IP.  The need to use IP.  He also understood something other innovators could do well to embrace: innovation needs to be delivered to users not as innovation but as an enhancement to our lives.  Steve Jobs did exactly that: enhanced our lives.

Thank you, Steve.