Noted science and science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke once said that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Magic is something that tech visionary Steve Jobs delivered to us, time and time again.
The big news last week – outside of earthquakes, hurricanes, Mideast revolutions and European debt bombs – was Jobs' retirement from his post as CEO of Apple. He will stay on as chairman of the board, but it can be assumed he will play more of a figurehead role than active visionary.
For those on the enterprise side of things, Apple has always been a peripheral force, producing well-designed and well-tuned machines for the graphic arts set or for tech-shy consumers. But Jobs and Apple never seemed to really care what the tech crowd was up to, and followed his own path instead.
Some of his actions seemed counter-intuitive, For example, while every vendor of every stripe tries to run away from hardware – seen as a tight-margin commodity end of the business – Apple and Jobs embraced it tighter and tighter as the years went by. Jobs strongly believes that elegant software needs go hand-in-hand with elegant hardware to deliver the most profound user experience. Rightly or wrongly, few in the industry, to this day, think like that.
Jobs helped reshape the data center and enterprise IT in many ways that nobody could have foreseen.
Client computing: Jobs and Apple pushed the PC to transition from a tech hobbycraft into a user-friendly platform. The success of the Mac prompted Microsoft to get Windows out to the market, replacing the DOS command screens only a programmer would love.
Mobile computing: Year after year after year, analysts and pundits and vendors and everyone else talked about how the mobile-phone-as-computer revolution was just around the corner. It was always just around the corner, but never showing itself. Phones had browsers, but trying to access the Web and Internet over a phone was the clunkiest experience imaginable. The iPhone finally made mobile clients worth thinking about.
He made computing “hip.” How else can you say it? He is cool and he has cool visions for reshaping the world in a positive way (putting a “dent in the universe,” as he once put it). Until the 1980s, computing was an insulated world of printouts, punch cards and pocket protectors. Those back room “geeks” of yesteryear became the visionaries, the movers and shakers, of today's world. And Steve Jobs – by living his vision that technology should be accessible to everyone regardless of technical competence – was a big reason for this rise to prominence.
We only see the likes of Steve Jobs once a generation or so. Next time you log onto the Web or engage in a social network chat with colleagues across the globe, thank Steve for helping to make it possible.
Joe McKendrick is an author, consultant, blogger and frequent INN contributor specializing in information technology.
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