Steve Jobs: Our digital version of Walt Disney

Summary:There's a solid argument to be made that Steve Jobs was the digital version of Walt Disney. Focus. Entertainment. Delight. Emotional attachment. Theatrical.

Steve Jobs has been compared to multiple business icons---Thomas Edison and Henry Ford to name a few---but the best comparison may be to Walt Disney.

There's a solid argument to be made that Jobs was the digital version of Disney. Focus. Entertainment. Delight. Emotional attachment. Theatrical.

The Jobs-Disney comparison isn't entirely my own argument. Daring Fireball's John Gruber connected the Disney-Jobs dots last year in a talk we caught on video below.

Pixar and Disney's John Lasseter also indirectly made the Jobs connection to Disney:

Steve Jobs was an extraordinary visionary, our very dear friend and the guiding light of the Pixar family. He saw the potential of what Pixar could be before the rest of us, and beyond what anyone ever imagined. Steve took a chance on us and believed in our crazy dream of making computer animated films; the one thing he always said was to simply 'make it great.' He is why Pixar turned out the way we did and his strength, integrity and love of life has made us all better people. He will forever be a part of Pixar’s DNA. Our hearts go out to his wife Laurene and their children during this incredibly difficult time.

Obviously the animation angle screams Disney, which happened to acquire Pixar. Jobs was Disney's largest shareholder. Pixar's characters will last generations much like Mickey Mouse did.

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak also compared Jobs to Disney in an interview with CNET.

More: Violet Blue: The spontaneous San Francisco Apple Store Memorial for Steve Jobs | Perlow: Jobs made me think different | Farber: He thought different | "Stay hungry. Stay foolish." | CBS News: Wozniak on Jobs | CNET: A Jobs timeline | ZDNet Steve Jobs memories | CNET roundup | Buzz Out Loud Live | Techmeme | Apple statement

But the comparison to Disney stretches to multiple areas. As Google Chairman Eric Schmidt said last night in an interview with Charlie Rose: Jobs showed that artists trump nerds.

Walt Disney recreated industries. Disney was among the first to create animated feature length films. Then, Disney created his own worlds via Disney World and Disneyland. Jobs also recreated his share of industries. Apple created a viable digital music delivery model. The iPad popularized the tablet. The iPhone revamped smartphones. And Jobs created the app ecosystem that's commonplace today.

Walt Disney marveled at the future. Jobs did too. Jobs saw an era where hardware and software worked together so well it blended into the background leaving you to your content. Any trip to DisneyWorld highlights a focus on the future---an optimistic one.

Just make it great was Disney's mantra. Jobs had the same focus. Anything---even the impossible at the time---was considered to make a product great. When Disney's first Mickey Mouse cartoons didn't sell he added synchronized sound. Magic soon followed. Jobs took that approach with his products, which combined technology, industrial design and art.

Disney and Jobs were showmen and sales masters. Disney had Bambi, Pinocchio and Dumbo. Jobs could sell and promote with the best of them. Jobs also had a nose for the storyline. Pixar movies and Apple devices all inspired emotional connections with their users.

Both men knew failure. Disney's first efforts flopped. Disney's first venture focused on animated shorts for a movie chain and quickly went bankrupt. Then Disney went to Hollywood. Apple was started in a garage by Jobs and Steve Wozniak. Later Jobs was fired at his own company. Jobs later said that failure made him what he became later.

Disney knew about land grabs. Jobs too. Disney procured a massive chunk of land in central Florida to build his dream resort. Jobs procured flash memory and components in the supply chain in massive quantities to build the iPad, iPhone and iPod.

Disney and Jobs both left physical monuments. Disney obviously left his fantasy worlds in Orlando. Jobs has his Apple stores around the world. A new Apple headquarters could turn out to be Jobsworld at some point.

And Disney and Jobs both left us too soon. Walt Disney died at 65 from complications from lung cancer. Jobs passed away at 56.

Topics: Mobility, Apple, Enterprise Software, Hardware

About

Larry Dignan is Editor in Chief of ZDNet and SmartPlanet as well as Editorial Director of ZDNet's sister site TechRepublic. He was most recently Executive Editor of News and Blogs at ZDNet. Prior to that he was executive news editor at eWeek and news editor at Baseline. He also served as the East Coast news editor and finance editor at CN... Full Bio

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