I woke up this day to the reality that one of the greatest and most iconic figures in the tech world has passed on--Steven P. Jobs, the co-founder and chief creator of Apple Inc.
This blog is more personal than usual simply because I was "closer" to the news than I would normally have been. You see, I was on a ho-hum assignment here in downtown San Francisco covering the Oracle Open World (OOW) conference, when news first trickled in that Jobs had passed away.
As I think about it, it's even more ironic, given the fact that Apple just launched its latest iteration of the immensely popular iPhone, dubbed iPhone 4S, the day before he died.
Not that I know the man personally or interviewed him before, but the impact of his passing somehow felt greater. I reckon this is because of the close proximity of San Francisco--about 60 kilometers--to Cupertino, where Apple is headquartered, and probably because much of the brilliant aura of the man was demonstrated on the same stage in the Moscone Center, where OOW was held this week.
Mind you though, I ain't an Apple fanboy to say the least, although I confess to have used a MacBook for about 3 years now, and an iPhone for as many years too.
Being a tech geek, I've always known of Apple brand. My first memories of Apple were, of course, by way of the Apple II computer in the 1980s. Then came the 1990s, when a friend of mine bought the Macintosh, for his work as creative director of his own advertising firm. Though not a user of an Apple machine at that time, I had appreciated the aesthetics of the fine, albeit expensive machine.
But it was only in 2004 that I got more interested in Apple products, courtesy of a former colleague from the publication where I worked. My ex-colleague--let's call him Chris--sat next to me and was an out-and-out fanboy. He used to stay up late into the night just to watch Jobs unveil new product lines, and mind you, this was before sexy iPhones and iPads had come to the market.
I remember really encountering my first taste of Apple's hallmark of simplicity but yet functionality when Chris demonstrated all the new, cool features on Mac Tiger 10.4, which debuted in 2005. Features such as Spotlight come to mind, an incredibly superior search function compared to the then inferior Windows XP search.
That year was also a significant turning point for Jobs too, as he announced that Apple will adopt Intel x86-based chips going forward from 2006, effectively dumping the Power PC chips it had been using all the while. This allowed features such as Boot Camp to exist, a powerful and useful virtualization feature available to those who want to have Windows and Apple OS co-existing on board the same machine.
It was primarily because of this that I made the switch to Apple machines--that, and the growing frustrations I had with Microsoft's Windows, as well as a litany of grouses I had with Redmond.
But I digress.
The move to embrace Intel chips was, IMHO, a masterstroke by the visionary Jobs. So successful was the switch that I remembered Jobs even saying that you could put together Apple bare metal hardware with Windows OS, and it would outperform a Windows-based machine with similar specs.
It also meant that by using commodity x86-based chips, Jobs could negotiate better pricing and make his Macs cheaper than before, and give more consumers access to a premium brand without them having to sell an arm and a leg.
So finally in 2008, after doing a lot of thinking and trials with virtualization software such as Parallels, I decided to move to the MacBook (though I didn't actually use virtualization software as I didn't need Windows on my machine after all).
That move proved significant for me as I realized that there wasn't anything I couldn't really do with my Mac that I would have otherwise been able to do with a Windows machine, save playing games--which I don't anyway.
What impressed me most about Jobs and the products he created was that he was able to spot things that we need, even before we ourselves knew that those features would be useful. Some simple examples: Spaces and Expose in Leopard or Spotlight in Tiger.
This was probably due to the fact that Jobs never sought to find out what the market wants; he eschewed market research, always preferring to depend on his own instincts and just created things he thought the world needs and would want, thereby setting a trend in itself.
The other masterful thing he had, IMHO, was the tenacity for details and his dogged quest for perfection. On Sep. 5, Newsweek reported that the night before the original iPod launch, Jobs made his staff stay behind to replace all the headphones jacks because he didn't feel they were "clicky" enough.
Of course, Jobs had his fair share of controversies and detractors too, and I personally feel too that some of his strategies for the Apple going forward could be stifling, but now is not the time to discuss such topics.
Whilst his passing at a relatively young age of 56 is truly sad and my thoughts go out to his family and loved ones, today, I've chosen to remember him by celebrating what I believe is the most important thing Jobs has given to the world.
That is, our ability as humans to push the envelope of our God-given gifts of creativity and imagination to greater heights, and to do it with the great tenacity empowered by the human soul everyday of our lives for the betterment of mankind and society at-large.
This is the legacy of Jobs worth embracing amidst this tragic loss.
Thank you Steve Jobs--may you rest in peace.