Steve Jobs: What we can learn


2 May 2011
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Very early this morning my iPhone popped up the news that Steve Jobs passed away. Naturally, it was a shock, though not unexpected, as he was critically ill. I opened my iPad and spent the next hour reading more details. What was striking was the fact that most of us (several hundreds of millions like me) were reading Steve's demise on devices created by him. As President Obama pointed out in his message what can be a better tribute to this geek hero, whose key decisions changed the computing landscape.As I started writing down this article (on Apple Mac, of course) the following are uppermost in my mind

1 Why can't we be ourselves (not imitate others)?

Steve Jobs, throughout his amazing days at Apple (and earlier), was by himself. He did what he believed in. He did his best. He accepted his mistakes and kept excelling in whatever he did! Very early Apple decided to drop floppy disks; recently Steve decided to bet on solid state disk (in place of hard disk) and very recently he decided to remove optical disk (CD/DVD). The recent Apple OS (Tiger) was completely delivered over the net (wire or wireless, but no installation CD). I can go on but the point is simple, he was by himself . He did not "flow with the stream" . In the process he excelled.

2 Create what consumers will love, not what market researchers tell you what consumers want

This is another area Steve was decidedly different. Apple iPhone when launched had dozens of established players, including the leader Nokia (then). Market research folks had a lengthy list of "features" that users wanted from the phone. Steve did not care a bit about those market researchers, but instead bet on "touch technology" and delivered "user delight" . The rest is history.

3 Do not be afraid

Steve was not afraid of anything or anybody. In fact, he wasn't afraid of death either; he embraced it gracefully. iPhone did not support Adobe Flash, as Steve felt iPhone's battery life will be compromised if he supported Adobe Flash. It was not sure if he was fully correct, but he took a stand. Later on he was vindicated. In his days at NexT he decided to sell his products only to academics & researchers; it was not a wise decision, but Steve alone could be bold enough to take such a decision that went against mainstream thinking.

4 Eye for details

I vividly remember Steve launching Mac Book in 1999 in New York when Apple introduced a very simple idea - a small light will glow in amber & red colour depending on whether the laptop is getting charged or the charge cycle is complete . Apparently it was a $1 solution , but it made a huge difference.

5 Make great products and they will sell

iPad was not the first MP3 device (there were so many from Creative alone). iPhone was not the first smart phone (Nokia had many such in 2007 when iPhone was launched; Palm made the first smart phone perhaps). iPad is not the first tablet (Microsoft made one 7 years ago). Yet iPod, iPhone and iPad created history and continue to ride the market, because they were all great products. Steve had a similar story at Pixar Animation too.

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