"Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything--all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure--these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important." - Steve Jobs
For years, I had resisted acquiring an Apple product. I refused to buy into the hype simply because it was cool to be Apple branded, and I didn't understand the fanboys whom I thought to be often blindly, and more often irrationally, religious about their loyalty. My "Apple downfall", as my friends described it, came when my Palm T|X was nearing the end of its shelf-life and I was desperately in need of a replacement. But, there were no suitable models in a market which no longer saw the need to produce PDAs--that's personal digital assistants, for those of you not old enough to remember. I came close to re-buying the T|X which would have cost me over S$500...yes, I was that desperate. And a desperate person makes desperate moves. So I did what I said I would never do. I bought an Apple iPod Touch. Or, as I call it, the iTouch. After the initial couple of weeks when I whined constantly about features I had on my Palm but were not supported on my iTouch, I began noticing the features I didn't have on my Palm but had on the Apple device. I later followed that up with a Macbook, primarily because I wanted GarageBand which is available only on the Mac OS, and an iPad because it offered everything the first generation of so-called tablets never provided. And that really is how Apple wins its fans--by providing products it knows consumers demanded for but never got from the market. That had always been mantra of the late Steve Jobs, who once said: "You can't just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they'll want something new." In a 2008 Fortune interview, he explained: "Our DNA is as a consumer company--for that individual customer who's voting thumbs up or thumbs down. That's who we think about. And we think that our job is to take responsibility for the complete user experience. And if it's not up to par, it's our fault--plain and simply." This Jobs quote should also ring even more loudly now: "A lot of companies have chosen to downsize and maybe that was the right thing for them. We chose a different path. Our belief was that if we kept putting great products in front of customers, they would continue to open their wallets." I never appreciated, and still don't, Apple's business strategies and dealings, which I deem too high-handed, too propriety, and too restrictive toward its partners. And I still believe a proper multiyear succession plan should have been in place the day Apple realized Jobs' departure would be eminent--like how Microsoft implemented a 2-year transition when Bill Gates announced he was reducing his involvement in the company. But, I truly appreciate Apple's intense commitment to innovation, and its ability to continuously come up with product line after product line that not only challenges the way its competitors think about their own offerings, but also influences how consumers think about the way they consume content. No doubt, Jobs played a key central role in steering Apple's success in the market. Ovum's chief telecoms analyst, Jan Dawson, said: "In just the last four years, he had reinvented the smartphone and the tablet computer. And previously, he also changed the music industry dramatically with the introduction of the iPod and iTunes." For all his reported temperaments and aggressiveness as a manager, Jobs--who in 1993 was ranked among Fortune's list of America's Toughest Bosses--was irrefutably a man of great vision, and the man behind many great products that have since carved significant milestones in tech history. Regardless of my misgivings about some of his business decisions, and my belief that one man alone does not hold up a company--there will always be someone smarter and someone more innovative--I readily acknowledge along with many others in the industry that there will always be only one Steve Jobs. President of Walt Disney Company, Bob Iger, said: "Steve was such an 'original'."