Steve Jobs

by | Oct 6, 2011 | Intranets

Apple and I go a long way back. From 1979 to 1981 I worked for a company called Creative Strategies International, set up Larry Wells and Dave Norman, who knew each other at Stanford Research Institute. CSI was one of the first of the high-tech market research and forecasting companies. Dave Norman went on to found Dataquest, which was subsequently bought by Gartner. Although I was running the European operation I visited Cupertino, the CSI HQ, on quite a regular basis, and can still remember that the street address was 4340 Stevens Creek Boulevard. Apple was a client of CSI and I visited the offices (which were small and drab) on a couple of occasions and can still remember attending a launch event for (I think) the Apple IIc in San Francisco. It would be nice to say that I met Steve Jobs, but I’m fairly certain I didn’t. CSI did have an impact on Steve, because around the time I joined he hired a young analyst from CSI as the first director of market research for Apple Computers, which is how they became a client of CSI!

I came late to PCs, despite running the European research operations of International Data Corporation for a time. I did have a PC but used it only for email. In those days I had a secretary, as I did on moving to Logica in 1989. A year later and my secretary vanished in some corporate cost-cutting, and I was faced with having to do all my correspondence on a PC. I was given an Apple SE30 with a 40MB hard drive and immediately fell in love with it. When you switched it on a small face smiled at you. What a great way to start a day. It was also mobile, or at least luggable, and had a nice carry-case that enabled me to take it home and use it over a weekend despite a weight of 20lbs. It was so easy to use that even I, as a total PC neophyte, had no problems working out how to get the best out of it. I took it with me to my next two jobs, and it never let me down. Eventually in 1996 I had to join the IBM PC club, and retired the SE30 to the loft. Do you remember the Y2K scare? Many consultants made a lot of money predicting the end of computing we knew it. On 1 January 2000 I brought the SE30 down to my office, plugged it in, and once again it smiled at me. I felt reassured that even if MS-DOS collapsed I would still have my Mac to use. It’s still up in the loft.

Last month I acquired an iPad2. My first return to Apple since the SE30. It was just like the old days. The only information in the instruction book is how to turn it on. Every time I use it I find myself saying “Mmm. That’s neat!” I can’t work out why it took me so long to acquire one, but like the SE30 it has changed the way I work without making me change the way I work. I’m waiting now for iPhone5 to emerge, but maybe I’ll make do with iPhone4S.

The media coverage of the very sad early death of Steve Jobs has been quite amazing. I cannot think of any other businessman in the past or of the current generation that would have caused so many people, like me today, to reflect on the impact they had on business and society. I gather Steve was a very difficult person to work for. So was Winston Churchill. But Steve Jobs had a vision, and he has always stayed true to that vision. Apple products have transformed the way we work, and our attitude to design and usability. Despite the best efforts of the world-wide IT industry everyone has to build PCs, tablets and phones to meet benchmarks set by Apple, and of course Pixar did the same for the digital film industry. The iPod and the approach to music downloading was equally innovative. Steve Jobs was one of a kind. For some strange reason I miss him even though I never met him. I wish I had.

Martin White