Home' LAPTOP Magazine : December 2011 Contents Recently I turned on an Android phone and
saw the brand flash next to the words Dual
Core. Then the carrier’s brand popped up,
then useless messages such as “Starting services”
and “Preparing internal storage.” Steve Jobs would
never let this happen. And that’s because his mis-
sion as CEO of Apple was to make technology more
accessible, more personal. All the inner workings
should remain hidden from view, because they don’t
matter to the end user.
This philosophy drove Steve Jobs and Apple to
become the highest-valued tech company in the
world—ahead of Microsoft—but it’s a fallacy to believe
that specs didn’t matter to him as CEO. It’s how Jobs
leveraged technology to solve real-world problems
that will forever distinguish him from hundreds of
other leaders who just don’t get it.
Back in 2001 when Steve Jobs introduced the
original iPod, he made a big deal about putting 1,000
songs in your pocket. The 5GB hard drive inside that
revolutionary MP3 player was secondary. The real
feat was that Jobs andhis team managed to squeeze
that much capacity into a devicethat weighed a very
light (for the time) 6.5 ounces.
Butthat was only part ofthestory.TheiPodboasted
a unique Auto-Syncing capability via iTunes that no
one else was able to match, as well as a unique scroll
wheel that made using the product intuitive and fun.
It wasn’t about file formats or bit rates. It was about
changing the way people consume music.
Fast forward to 2007 and you’ll see the ultimate
marriage of hardware and software in the first
iPhone. Yes, it had amazing technology under the
hood, including a breakthrough capacitive display.
But the reason Jobs wowed the crowd at Macworld
back then was that this screen enabled multitouch
gestures for zooming in and surfing the full web with
a finger. For many, it didn’t matter that the iPhone
lacked 3G speeds because it offered a completely
different user experience.
The culmination of Jobs’ humans-before-specs
ethos is the iPad. Note that Jobs never used the word
tablet to describe his baby during his keynote. He said
he wanted to create “a new category of
device.” I couldn’thave been more
wrong when after the
said that the iPad wasn’t a netbook killer. And it was
because consumers didn’t care about how much
storage it had or whether it supported it Flash. As Jobs
predicted, it was all about “holding the Internet in your
hands” and being more “intimate” than a laptop.
Over the years, Jobs has sometimes put emotion
and aestheticstoo far ahead of specs and value. The
original MacBook Air was thinner and lighter than any
other 13-inch notebook on the market, but it didn’t
last long enough on a charge and was underpow-
ered. But then Apple reintroduced the product with
something the competition didn’t have: instant on.
Because the machine integrated flash memory right
onto the motherboard, the notebook sprung to life
when you lifted the lid. Jobs passionately described
it as a “MacBook meeting an iPad.”
And that brings us to another big reason for Jobs’
success. As CEO, he not only kept specs behind the
scenes, but was brave enoughtoleave certaintechnolo-
gies behind altogether. The floppy. The optical drive.
Mechanical hard drives. Physical keyboards.
Flash. Jobs came under fire for some
of these decisions. But as he
told the audience
view at the D8 conference in 2010, you
need to take risks to stay ahead of the competition.
“The way we’ve succeeded is to bet the right
technological horse, to look at technologies that
have a future. We try to pick things that are in their
springs. And if you choose wisely, you can be quite
So, yes, staying on the cutting edge of technology
enabled Steve Jobs to become the most successful
CEO of all time. But it’s only because he was able
to make us forget that we were using technology
Humans before specs
The Apple founder’s uncanny ability to make technology personal made
him a legend.
Editor in Chief Mark Spoonauer directs LAPTOP’s online and print editorial content. He has been covering mobile and wireless technology for more than a decade.
Read his weekly SpoonFed column at www.laptopmag.com/spoonfed, and follow @mspoonauer on Twitter.
by Mark Spoonauer
Laptop | December 2011
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