The year has flown by. Actually, the last decade has been a blur.
It's hard to believe, but late last week marked the 10th anniversary of Steve Jobs' death at age 56. When that day came, I remember being simultaneously unsurprised but still shocked. It was well-known Apple's dynamic CEO was fighting for his life against the scourge of pancreatic cancer – a rare form of the disease. If you recall any Jobs sightings near the end, he was gaunt, ashen, and obviously not well. Still, when he died on October 5, 2011, it was a tremor felt around the world.
As then-President Obama noted at the time, “The world has lost a visionary. And there may be no greater tribute to Steve’s success than the fact that much of the world learned of his passing on a device he invented.”
Jobs didn't just envision, innovate, and market – he inspired. You wanted to be on Team Apple, to join the tribe of Apple fan boys and girls, to be part of something that didn't just make you productive. It made you cool.
Some would argue that's the black hole broadcast radio finds itself in. You can throw spears and shoot arrows about the state of broadcast radio. But at the core of radio's challenges, the medium, the platform, the industry aren't cool. If you remember hearing Jeff Smulyan preach about NextRadio, recapturing the “cool factor” was at the core of his vision.
And ironically, one of the reasons Jeff's innovation didn't take off is that Apple would not play ball with this technology for the iPhone. An FM chip in their famous cellphone? Uh, uh. Why share their “coolosity” with broadcast radio?
But thanks to Jobs and the now-famous Apple App Store, radio stations are front and center in iPhones, iPads, and now in dashboards, thanks to Apple CarPlay. Yes, some of you are grumbling that I'm talking about radio streams – not its over the air broadcasts Apple carries. And to that, I respond, “Get over it.” We are living in a streaming world – audio and video. We are fortunate that radio broadcasters – their content, formats, personalities, and advertisers – are allowed to come along on this amazing tech journey.
Jobs' iPhone remains the company's biggest moneymaker. The new iPhone 13 models retail for as much as $1,099, but that won't change the enthusiasm for this year's model.
History shows there will be high demand for the newest version of a device released more than 14 years ago.
Tech guru, Shawn DuBravac, tells the story of the first review from the New York Times when Jobs held it up on the big stages at Macworld way back in 2007 (photo at the top of today's blog post).
At $499 and $599, these new Apple gadgets seemed pricey to some – a device that perhaps “techies” would lap up, but that regular folks would reject. Some wondered why they'd want to browse the web or check email on a phone.
The New York Times declared iPhone was “not for everyone” in their initial coverage of this innovation (pictured left) that would go on to change our lives. Little did they realize that we'd all be carrying around a smartphone – many of them iPhones – in just a few short years.
Most “megatrends” – and the iPhone qualifies for that rare status – take many years to take shape and proliferate. The Smartphone Revolution – pioneered by Apple's iPhone – happened fast, becoming a mass market success. And it has truly rocked every aspect our lives.
The truly amazing thing about Jobs' iPhone is that most companies wouldn't have brought it to market. In Apple's case, its iPod had become an amazing cash cow, revolutionizing MP3 players, and ultimately changing the way we listen to, collect, and pay for music. The debut of iPhone essentially rendered iPod obsolete – and the Apple team had to know that.
Many corporate teams would have elected to protect the iPod (think Kodak), rather than not only releasing, but putting its total weight behind iPhone.
Later, iPad might have had some of the same disruptive effects on iPhones when Apple brought it to market in 2010, 18 months before Jobs' death.
If you understand your mission, your products, and your tribe, you become fearless in the pursuit of new innovation. That's what Jobs was all about. He wasn't afraid to disrupt himself. In fact, he welcomed that process because it led to more innovation from the brilliant minds at Apple's headquarters in Cupertino.
Today, Apple is still killing it, financially picking up right where Jobs left off. Tim Cook, the successor to the Apple throne, has made the company even more profitable than it was when Jobs walked this earth. Based on the way Jim Cramer and CNBC see it, Apple hasn't lost a beat.
If anything, they've grown more powerful, continuing to lead the way, along with the other FAANG “city states” – Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and Google.
Here's the tracking of Apple stock since Jobs passed:
Oddly enough, Tim Cook and his team have accomplished this without a new breakthrough product. The most profitable gadget in their entire tech arsenal today?
And along with its multi-billion dollar App Store – in fact north of $64 billion in 2020 – iPhone is still the cash cow.
Meanwhile, Watch has not become a mass market gadget. Despite it shifting into tech products with innovative health features, Apple's Watch is still a nice-to-have piece of hardware, not a need-to-have device – like iPhone quickly became.
And there's turbulence within Apple's Health division, according to Business Insider. Data integrity and how it's used go to the heart of Apple's internal struggles, as well as key resignations and company firings.
But that's not all. Since Jobs' departure, Apple has missed the voice revolution, despite having a foothold with Siri. Instead, Alexa is the biggest voice assistant in America (it's Google just about everywhere else).
And Apple has failed to produce a smart speaker that's even remotely competitive with Amazon and Google's varied line of a voice-activated gadget.
Apple's HomePod was released late – in 2018. And it retailed for more than $500, out of step with the price points well-established by Amazon Echo and Google Home's more popular models.
All of this begs the question of whether Apple has given up on its ability to inspire us with its innovations in exchange for a better bottom line:
Decade after Jobs' death, has Apple traded magic for profit?https://t.co/k01LkZ9oU3
— Sawyer Merritt 📈🚀 (@SawyerMerritt) October 3, 2021
None of this takes anything away from Jobs whose contributions to our lives has been inestimable. He will be discussed in the same sentences as Edison, Tesla, Da Vinci, and Einstein.
In a new CNBC column, Brandon Gomez collects reminisces about Jobs from fellow tech giants Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Meg Whitman, Jony Ive, and others.
But the keenest observations are about Jobs' marketing skills. Bill Gates admits he was outmatched by his competitor's ability to take the stage and spin gold to all of us, the press, and his own teams. Every product introduction was like a stage show, and Jobs was the wizard in front of the curtain.
Elon Musk's memories of Apple's CEO are quite a bit different. He was snubbed by Jobs at a party – the only time the two ever met.
Bob Iger, former CEO of Disney, talks about how things changed when his company bought Pixar from Jobs for $7.4 billion in 2006.
In a Vanity Fair article, Iger spoke about Jobs' superpower – his ability to frame big tech deals and market them to the world:
“It’s hard to imagine a better salesman for something this ambitious. He talked about the need for big companies to take big risks. He talked about where Disney had been and what it needed to do to radically change course. […] For the first time, watching him speak, I felt optimistic that it might happen.”
Interestingly, Apple released a 3 minute tribute video last week. After you see the old photos of Jobs and Wozniak in the garage, the video highlights a series of product introductions by Jobs. Dressed in his signature black long-sleeved T-shirt and jeans, you see him roam the stage, making his magic, and hawking his products.
MacBook. iPod. iPhone. iPad.
He made us all want one. These devices weren't just useful – they were cool. And that's one of the greatest memories I have of Jobs.
As someone whose profession involves selling ideas and often taking the stage to make presentations and speeches, watching Steve Jobs do his thing is both inspirational and aspirational. Right now, we all could use a little of both.
What do you remember about Steve Jobs?
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