Shine On You Crazy Diamond
Homage to Steve Jobs, 1955-2011

As bands go, there aren’t many that touch Pink Floyd. The epic Shine On You Crazy Diamond is a nine-part composition that bookends the Wish You Were Here album. To me, the song and especially it’s title, befits Steve Jobs the man, his death and his legacy. In recent weeks, he has become endearingly known as The Crazy One, in reference to the now famous Think Different video ad campaign.

... three weeks have passed since Steve's untimely death and when I first heard the news, I was initially shocked, which I thought I would be, and then sadness crept in, which I didn’t expect. I was speechless. How often do you feel sadness for someone you never knew or met? I started putting this post together on October 7th, and found that after a few days, I couldn’t string a cognitive sentence together. I decided to let it simmer for a while. And over the last few days, it’s been easier to write, as I’ve felt the need to express my disbelief, mostly out of enduring respect and growing admiration for Steve.

There are maybe 5 major events that define the last 10 years of my life, and on a professional level, two stand out: starting QUERIDODESIGN and buying a Mac. And they go hand in hand. As a company we are known among our clients, partners and friends for being wildly passionate about nearly all things Apple. We wouldn’t do what we do, or be where we are without Apple and the products they’ve created. You wouldn’t be reading this if it wasn’t for Steve and Apple.

On Steve Jobs’ threefold legacy

1. Liberal Arts

Steve cared most about design and aesthetics in Apple’s products. This has given the Mac product line, the iPod, iPhone, and iPad, it’s personal touch. Apple customers are fiercely loyal, passionate even, about Apple the company and especially it’s products. No other technology company is quite as fortunate. This is partly seated in the fact that Steve and Apple found a way to take a functional, impersonal gadget and make it personal and desirable. At it’s core, this has a deep affect on people and will above all, carry Apple forward. In a way, the Personal Computer industry is just beginning.

Apple is often criticised for it’s supposed ‘walled garden’ approach. Whether or not this assumption is correct, the way I see it, at least for most consumers, is who cares? Apple's products just work and take the chore out of everyday computing. Millions of people around the globe have access to Apple's cutting edge technology. Steve was known as a control freak but the end result, the complete product, is superior to anything else out there. He always put the user first and this mindset is ingrained in Apple’s DNA and culture.

2. Technology

Steve was different from nearly all his peers. Unlike Bill Gates, Paul Allen or even his partner in crime Steve Wozniak, he wasn’t an engineer. And ironically, this ended up being one his greatest strengths. He was obsessed with aesthetics, taking something complex and making it simple. It was this marriage between design and technology that Steve got right. But he appreciated technology greatly and drove the engineering teams at both Apple and Next to write ‘insanely great’ software.. software which pushed not just Apple but the entire industry forward. With time, he learnt the ‘greater’ importance of software and during his second Apple tenure, refined this further and further, the end result being iOS and to a lesser degree, OS X Lion. Steve realised that the complete user experience would drive hardware sales, which is Apple’s primary cash machine. Why else is there unprecedented demand for the iPhone? It’s first and foremost in the software. It’s rather ironic that in the short term, Microsoft won the software war. Looking ahead, it seems Apples approach has more longevity, driven by Steve's insistence on software and hardware integration.

3. Business

As is now legend, Steve was forced out of Apple in 1985, the company he co-founded with Woz in 1976. He quickly started NeXT, and purchased the floundering animation division Graphics Group from Lucasfilm, later renaming it Pixar. He pumped a huge amount of his Apple fortune into both companies. Many believed he was finished, both as a businessman and as a visionary. Others feel that had he remained at Apple, perhaps Microsoft wouldn't have dominated quite like they did. I see things differently: during the ‘hiatus years’, Steve developed incredible business acumen. He needed this 'timeout' from Apple. He made mistakes, plenty of them. And he was aware of them and kept learning, often stating “iterate, reiterate”. Come late 1996, and Apple were pretty much a spent force. They were lost, and needed a modern Operating System badly. In 1997 Apple ended up acquiring NeXT (NeXTSTEP became OS X, which in-turn was ported and became iOS), and Steve rejoined the company, initially as a consultant, then interim CEO (iCEO) and finally as permanent CEO in 2000.

"The cure for Apple is not cost-cutting. The cure for Apple is to innovate its way out of its current predicament." Steve Jobs, 1999.

11 years and a cash horde of $82 Billion later, Apple dominate the smartphone and tablet industry (well, iPad industry really). This can only be described as the most incredible turnaround in corporate history, building Apple into the worlds most valuable company. And it’s all been down to Steve's leadership. On his return, he immediately set about re-building and inspiring the team(s), refining the production process, shrinking R&D and focusing on a few key products. His leadership style was completely unorthodox, and Steve Jobs is now hailed by many as the greatest CEO of his generation, maybe of all time. This is down to a few key factors: strategic vision, a startup-like team structure, firsthand management and understanding what customers wanted. Steve was relentless, seeking out and mastering details, yet always seeing the big picture. Least we forget, he was also a master showman. Nobody else did it quite like him, and this isn’t limited to the computer industry. He had a flare as a showman that appealed to the everyman, keeping us on the edge of our seats, wanting more.

And to quote John GruberJobs’s greatest creation isn’t any Apple product. It is Apple itself”. I couldn't agree more and I believe it's Steve's true legacy.

On Steve Jobs the Human Being

Steve was a deeply compelling character. 100% sure of his convictions, arrogant even, but caring greatly for everything he was involved in, from his family to Apple. He was an artist, a romantic even, yet down to earth and likeable. And as daily news reports trickle in, it seems his battle with cancer was increasingly severe, fighting with intensity and courage through the agony. I greatly admire such qualities in people, and Steve's fight was nothing short of amazing.
UPDATE: Heartbreaking Eulogy for Steve Jobs, by his Sister Mona Simpson

A light has gone out but Steve Jobs will Shine On, and I am certain he will be remembered as one of the greats, centuries from now, and not just as a technology visionary but as a man who changed the world. A young Steve said “We’re here to put a dent in the universe. Otherwise why else even be here?”. The way I see it is, he left a couple of dents, at least. And Along with Nelson Mandela, Tim-Berners Lee, maybe Stephen Hawking, Flossie Wong-Staal and Paul McCartney, we’re lucky to live and witness the world evolving, moving forward via the sheer brilliance of these great human beings.

I am excited to see what Apple CEO Tim Cook does, how he carries the company forward. My feeling is that he is the perfect successor (he has been well groomed) and I have total faith in him and the executive team Steve Jobs nurtured and built. After all, Tim Cook has been running the day to day operations of the company for the past few years. Only time will tell, but I’ve already placed my bet.

A collection of excellent Steve Jobs related links

  • Apple Celebrating Steve. The Jonathan Ive dedication stands out (starts at 48:15). Sad and heartfelt yet humorous and uplifting. The hotel room bit is hilarious. Apple should really unleash Ive at the Keynotes. Phil Schiller does a fine job but not a great one and now that Steve's gone, it is probably up to him to do the actual product presentations. But he just isn't believable delivering the 'insanely great', 'boom', or 'awesome' lines that Steve was so good at. Jony Ive is, he could easily pull it off. Imagine Ive presenting the products he created, with Steve-like-passion. The prospect is mouth watering. Oh, and Coldplay's performance: perfect.
  • Steve Jobs narrating The Crazy Ones
  • John Gruber’s excellent tribute. As always, he hits the nail on the head.
  • Stephen Fry Need I say anything else?
  • Lovely piece by John Lilly
  • MG Siegler at his best TechCrunch
  • Matt Drance at Apple Outsider
  • President Barack Obama
  • For posterity, the legendary 2005 Stanford Commencement address
  • And finally, those thirsty for early Apple history, this is an excellent collection of stories on the development of the very first Macintosh: Folklore.org: Macintosh Stories
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