In light of this week's announcement of Steve Jobs' six months of medical leave, beginning immediately, we have brought back a customer favorite. Normally limited to CUSP subscribers, download the full article now.
You can call him a visionary. You can call him one of Silicon Valley’s “leading egomaniacs.” No matter on which side people may fall, there is no denying the important contributions that Apples’ Steve Jobs has made to the worlds of technology and media.
The man Fortune acknowledged as the “Most Powerful Businessman of 2007” has been a driving force in the personal computer industry and the digital music revolution. His entrepreneurial style and success has created may devotees in the business world – from CEOs sporting the all-black clothing look to the spectacle-style introduction of new electronic media products. There are many business models that would benefit from a few peeks inside the Jobs’ playbook.
For many of us, it’s difficult to imagine doing our jobs without some type of computer. Of course, that wasn’t always the case. It took individuals like Bill Gates, Paul Allen, Steve Wozniak, and Steve Jobs to transform the room-filling, card-reading early computers to machines that could fit on a desk (or lap) and were accessible to the masses. Despite ideas shared in formative years in Silicon Valley software companies and computer clubs, the path along the PC evolution diverged. While Jobs and Apple began work on an affordable personal computer system, Gates and Microsoft grew to dominate the industry through software — originally operation systems and later other kinds of programs. Businesses, schools, and individuals began buying more computers. For many, the actual computer brand and features became less important than Windows compatibility.
Differentiation – not everyone wants the same “flavor” of computer
In a world where computers could have simply become a commodity, Job’s and the Apple team veered in the other direction, developing a product that appealed to specific segments of the personal computer customer base. America was introduced to the Macintosh computer through the groundbreaking Superbowl commericial “1984,” in which this new computer with a graphical user interface made the product easily accessible to everyone – not just those who could type code. From the beginning, Jobs set out to create a new market, and fill that market demand with Apple products. The trend continues; starting back with their original graphic interface, Macs became THE computer of choice for graphic designers and artists. Working to those strengths, they developed programs that appeal to those qualities – such as the iLife suite that allows users to focus on creating/storing movies, websites, DVDs, and music. Apple has carved out a niche as a preferred product for people who are looking to explore those creative opportunities.
Additionally, ease of use became a differentiator. The first iMacs, released in 1998, were designed to be taken out of the box, plugged in, and be ready to use in less than five minutes. Jobs and Apple have continued to make this ease of use part of each new version released.
Sometimes, it’s what’s on the outside that counts
Let’s be honest: it’s difficult to tell one microchip from another. As for programming code . . . well, for many people it remains as elusive as ancient language. However, the eye can easily discern the difference between a regular PC and iMac or an MP3 player and an iPod. For many consumers, it’s not so much what’s inside the product, it’s the way it’s presented.
Design aesthetic is a crucial part of the Jobs/Apple formula. In fact, some detractors say the sleek design and appearance are the key selling factors for many Apple products, appealing to the technocrati and fashionistas with the shallow sell first . . . and then hooking them with innovative technology and features.
The look and feel of the Apple products practically drive consumer expectation, and Jobs and his crew continue to push the boundaries. As imitators struggled to reach the market with “clickwheel” clones, Apple took the next step by launching the touchpad on the iPhone and the iPod touch. And despite the fact our current iPods and cell phones still work just fine, many of us line up in order to get the new versions . . . just because the new versions look SO DARN COOL...
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