Apple loses its 'i'

Naveen_thumbDr Naveen Chilamkurti


This opinion was originally published in the National Times 7 October, 2011.

"Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower." Steve Jobs

There is no denying that Steve Jobs changed the world of personal computers and communication devices with his Apple products. From humble beginnings in his parents' garage, Jobs is now hailed as a visionary and leader in technological advancement whose products are coveted by millions and copied by others.

Jobs, a college dropout, made his first tech innovation at just 21, when he and friend Steve Woznaik founded Apple Computer Inc. in the Jobs family garage in 1976. Until late 1990s, Microsoft use to be the major shareholder in PC world, but it all changed when Jobs stepped in as chief executive of Apple in 1997. One of Jobs' first moves was to make peace with arch-rival Microsoft.

With his vision for the future in communication and personal computers, Jobs's first breakthrough came with the iPod — form there the legacy of 'i' started growing rapidly. The iPod was an instant hit as the music industry was badly wounded by illegal web downloads. Using Apple's iTunes store, music lovers could download legal, inexpensive digital music on to iPod. People bought iPods just so they could use this amazing music player the size of a cigarette box.

The iPod, iTunes, then iPhone and now the iPad were quickly embraced by a tech-savvy new generation. Steve Jobs use to quip that he would soon be using the title "iCEO".

The iPhone is still the best known and most used multi-touch display mobile phone, which has revolutionised the mobile browsing scene. It is fair to say that iPhone will go down in history as the first digital convergence device, equivalent to putting a computer, an iPod and a phone in your pocket.

With the release of new iPhone, Jobs cemented his legacy with a seamless storage technology called iCloud. iCloud automatically stores your content so it's always available to your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac, or PC, which means less need for external hard storage and so the use of less energy. It gives you access to your music, apps, latest photos, and more from whichever device you happen to be using. His vision and technological innovation were incomparable.

Jobs was neither a hardware engineer nor a software programmer, but considered himself a technology leader by encouraging and prodding the people working with him. Jobs was the most admired entrepreneur among teenagers. This is no a surprise as he made Apple products that were easy to use as well as being sylish.These gadgets have become as essential to teenagers as their schoolbooks.

Apple under Jobs's guidance also made a good impression on children with the Pixar-Disney animation studio. Few know that iPod played a critical role in setting Pixar's future, allowing the easy creation of music in movies such as Toy Story 2, Monsters Inc, and A Bug's Life. The link with Apple iPod meant soundtracks could also be readily available for download, adding to Pixar's success.

In 2010, Jobs achieved another milestone in his technical journey by launching iPad, an Apple iOS-based tablet, which has dominated the portable tablet market.
The news of Jobs's death was a sad day for the technical community, which lost a visionary and a talented leader.

The question now is will the Apple legacy continue without Steve Jobs? I hope his critical vision, management style, successful marketing, and branding products will be carried on to next generation. His unique style of sticking to his guns on product design and functionality has hopefully inspired Apple's management and employees to continue in that tradition without him.

Jobs's mark on the computer industry will be his legacy. He also inspired many young entrepreneurs with his leadership qualities. He was a passionate and inspiring leader.

He will be remembered as one of the few legendary personalities who have been the driving force behind the digital revolution.

Dr Naveen Chilamkurti is a senior lecturer in the Department of Computer Science & Computer Engineering at La Trobe University.