Yesterday's sudden announcement from Steve Jobs that he is stepping down as CEO at Apple has led to a flurry of articles written about Mr. Job's impact on the industry and what this means for Apple. Reading many of those articles has led me to reflect upon how this man's great career has influenced my life. Upon completing this reflection I've come to the conclusion that he has been one of the most influential people in my life; especially of people whom I have not even met or worked with.
The influence of Mr. Jobs started early. I remember many late nights in high school sitting in front of the Apple II my father had brought home from work. Learning how to program and make that machine do anything I wanted fascinated me. With some simple additional hardware, I could hook up that machine to control and influence objects outside the computer. What power. The possibilities were endless. These late nights led to my decision to attend engineering school in college and focus on electrical engineering. I preferred electrical engineering because I wanted to learn more about digital design to build and interface with the computer. Software was an integral part to making this tool sing and dance.
That love of the PC provided me the opportunity to work at IBM in Florida while Don Estridge was leading the team building IBM PCs. This job shifted my focus from Apple computers to IBM PCs. That shift lasted a couple of decades and culminated with me working at Microsoft. During this time, I thought Mr. Job's influence upon my life was just that initial, but critically important, exposure to the Apple II. After all, I wasn't an iPod user. I didn't use a Mac. During those decades I don't know that I used any Apple products so I figured there wasn't any further influence. Boy, was I wrong!
In the mid-90s, the mobile phone was really hitting its stride. They were becoming smaller, having better Internet connectivity and prices were dropping. The industry looked solid with Nokia, Motorola, RIM and others leading the charge. Most people figured there wasn't room for another player in this crowded space. Then, Mr. Jobs announced a "revolutionary product that changes everything" - the iPhone. Of course, the Apple loyalists jumped on the bandwagon immediately. However, I think it was when the downloadable app model matured for the iPhone when the true revolution began. This vision of the mobile phone being an open platform that isn't defined by the carrier, but instead by the consumer, is revolutionary and now being copied by every other major platform including the TV. The downloadable app model is considered an integral part in enabling the Bluetooth ecosystem containing low energy sensors. This model allows rapid innovation for product developers and incredible flexibility for the consumer.
So, after a couple of decades the influence of Mr. Jobs upon my life has come full circle. I carry an iPhone. I use an iPad for reading and web browsing. I travel with a Macbook Air. These are all great products I love as a consumer, and appreciate as a tech – and mobile industry – professional. For these excellent tech devices as well as the influence he had on the direction of my career, I'd like to thank Mr. Jobs, and wish him well.
(Credit: Mike Foley)