R.I.P. Steve Jobs

(Though probably not M.I.X. Or B.U.R.N.)

Steve Jobs has died, and the media and the… Blogosphere? Social Nethood? …is showing an outpouring of, well, grief is the wrong word, but praise and love. Maybe grief is accurate, actually.

Not the kind of grief you have for your grandparents dying, but perhaps the kind of grief for a friend of a friend.

I can understand the technology world coming together to mourn him. He radically shook up the industry. What amazes me is how many people I know, not IT people necessarily, are posting small tributes to this man. His 2007 commencement address to Stanford Uni is getting millions of views on YouTube (and it is brilliant, by the way). The trending topics on Twitter yesterday were mostly tributes to him: “iSad”, “stay hungry”.

Google and Samsung, companies who have recently been in bitter dispute with Apple over mobile phone patents, have called a temporary truce, and, amazingly, have postponed a product announcement which was due next week, as a mark of respect.

In many ways this is his second remembrance in two months; he was eulogised and commemorated by the press when he stepped down as CEO in August too.

What other CEO would get this much press coverage, and this many genuinely affectionate tributes? Few.

Apple themselves announced a new iPhone on the day prior to his death. Jobs must have been at death’s door and they proceeded with the announcement anyway—but then Steve Jobs was a showman, and the show must go on.

I have a huge amount of admiration for what Jobs did; on a practical level, turning round a failing company and making it a world-beating success, but more for the care and craftsmanship he nurtured at Apple. Their stuff isn’t perfect, but it is by-and-large insanely great. His enthusiasm, and perfectionism, and values were quite clearly genuine. He cared about getting it right, and creating delight in his customers. Apple customer support is second to none.

I also admire his more or less complete lack of bullshit, despite being famous for casting his own reality distortion field. He delivered on his distorted reality. The iPhone really did change mobile phones, the iPad really is slightly magical, iMovie really is kind of amazing.

But the bullshit he avoided: clutter, and caring what journalists think, and DRM on music (eventually), and copying competitors, and unnecessary features, and incomplete features, and shitty packaging.

Opening an Apple product is like opening a present.

And Apple’s visual design!

Apple’s website tribute on the day his death was announced exemplified the product design he nurtured. Simple black and white photo and his name and ‘1955—2011’. (In fairness they had plenty moody black-and-White studio shots to choose from.)

He was a giant. He will be missed.

And perhaps, just perhaps, when Google and Samsung cancelled that product announcement, it was in respect for more than just his death. Wouldn’t it be nice to think that they cancelled the announcement because their tribute to Steve Jobs was to say: ‘This isn’t good enough. Our customers deserve better. We want to make this phone a little, insanely greater.’ It’s what he would have wanted.

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