Brad Down

Life without Steve - What now?

Hearing about the death of Steve Jobs for me was one of those 'where were you when it happened' moments. At the time I was sitting on the Manly Fast Ferry half way to the office. a couple of years ago if you had stood at the front and looked back at the passengers you would have seen a sea of white newspapers but now its all heads down staring at the little screen that connects us to the world.

Steve WozWhen somebody like Steve Jobs passes, it is with great saddness, but also a great sense of respect and admiration. He was one of those characters that is a folk hero to the geek generation, he is an entrepreneurs dream to start with nothing to achieve something great. The influence he has had is just immense but through no requirement of a demand or instructions from a company board. He just wanted cool stuff in his life and it just so happened we all wanted it too.

So what now? Is there anyone at Apple that genuinely wants cool stuff in their lives? Or will they all just become tools of the board? Last time without Steve Jobs the Apple board made awesome decisions like allowing cloning and cutting costs on R&D, now while these probably made sense to a board responding to shareholder demand, in reality at the time that is not we wanted. The typical Apple Mac customer was fiercely loyal and because the majority of us were in the publishing and design industries we wanted gorgeous looking stuff.

When Steve came back to Apple he immediately created the iMac and the awsome looking G3. All colour and power these machines were exactly what we, the jaded designers and artworkers working on beige boxes that looked just like PC's wanted. Even though they were insanely expensive we still used our passion and desire for these products to convince out IT managers to buy them. This was the key to Steves success, the ability to create enough desire for a product to make the purchase even though it did not make financial sense.

I ask again, is there anyone at Apple that can create a product like this? Disrupt a category? Develop a new operating system? Create objects with the attention to detail to make sure every little thing is just so. So that it leaves you without a shred of doubt that you must have it. I say no.

I hear lot's of stories and opinion about a long product pipeline of Steve influenced devices and that Apple has had enough input from him that a culture of innovation is now permanently ingrained. I hope so but without its number 1 customer, the guy the company developed these products for, I am going to say that we will see Apple and Tim Cook come under influence and control of the board. He will be forced by pressure to maintain the share price to cut costs, reduce innovation and clear inventory.

The irony is that Steve and Apple have inspired other companies like Google and Samsung to become more innovative and competitive. He taught them that people do value design and simplicity over cost and complexity. Apple will now blend into the pack releasing continuous upgrades to its existing product line. Things will get thinner and lighter as they always have but without Steve chinks have already appeared. Especially in Lion, this operating system to me feels bloated, botchy, over designed. Not Steve like at all, and I think this kind of bloat and replication of success elsewhere without considering the user is where Apple will suffer.

Realistically what users are looking for now is a new operating system, well, what we a really looking for is to do away with the operating system like the iPhone, but we don't what iOS replicated on desktop we want something else, something better. I bet Steve knew what it was, I just hope he emparted not just the idea for it to someone at Apple, but the desire to want to build it amazingly well.

Here is to Steve Jobs, my inspiration, your products have dominated my life, from my first to my last may your spirit live on in the company you have created and the products you breathed life into. Thank you for it all.


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Brad Down Burst SMS Brad Down
Company: Burst SMS
Position: Head of Innovation
17 years experience in web design and usability, advertising, marketing and graphic design. Morphing into mobile marketing and SMS expert. Multi skilled, creative and passionate. My goal is to make the web easier to use and more useful for everybody. Specialties: Mobile Marketing, SMS Marketing, Enterprise SMS Solutions Read Brad's full bio

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