Steve Jobs was an icon of the personal computer industry. In my opinion, there is only one other living human being who could equal or rival his celebrity status. That person is Bill Gates.
Their lives had many similarities and some differences. They both were brilliant. They both started their businesses several years after leaving college. They did not consider a college education tantamount to their success. They both grew up on the West Coast. Jobs took a class in calligraphy at Reed College that he said inspired him later as the multiple fonts and word spacing (kerning) manifested themselves in the Macintosh.
But there were also the differences between them. As extraordinary as they both were as showmen and business titans, Steve was all about perfection and aesthetics never compromising for profit. Bill Gates was very focused on profit and simplicity of code. He has since been able to relinquished his throne to go on to global-community service. He last wrote his last lines of code in 1989. Steve battled through a liver transplant and pancreatic cancer while holding aloft the mantle of the brand for his firm, relinquishing the stewardship of it only when his health failed him. It was no more than a matter of six weeks between his resignation and passing.
Because I am an author with the Digital Brand Marketing Education Blog, I would like to focus my lessons learned from Steve Jobs on these four topics, Digital, Branding, Marketing, and Education.
Before the invention of the personal computer that Steve Jobs presented in his usual fanfare, pulling it by the handle out of a gym bag, mainframe computers took up entire rooms. The idea of a personal computer on every desk and in every home was viewed as preposterous if not impossible.
Steve acquired the original mouse technology from Xerox who could not commercialize on it but in an agreement let their engineers work with Apple in return for IPO offerings when it became commercial. The “GUI” (graphical user interface) allowed the development of graphics, images, and multiple fonts. It was the essential element that allowed the transition from a totally code and programmer based system to a user-friendly system. His team created the initial software and then other companies jumped on the bandwagon.
His leadership fostered a creative environment that let the team negotiate, innovate and create with a high standard.
Bill Gates was primarily a software man learning early on that he preferred more pedestrian, affordable PCs in contrast to the ‘elegant’ devices of Apple and then Macintosh. Bill’s goal was to mass-market software and for a while Microsoft was the proprietary software on all PCs. In contrast, Steve Jobs computers were and are geared to the connoisseurs in the industry.
Over time, the two companies did become more similar. With Windows, Microsoft adopted the more obvious mechanisms of the Mac, the mouse, and the programs in PC version and now Macs use the Intel processor. But Steve was the master of the brand. His mantra was perfection.
He would not let a product emerge from his laboratory into the public domain until he felt it had reached absolute perfection. The quality control with parts suppliers is one example. Perhaps this was a drain on his health compared to his, at least seemingly more laid back adversary, Mr. Gates. His interest was quantity over the level of quality that Jobs demanded without compromise. One wonders where Apple will be headed without Jobs. Microsoft seems unfettered by the resignation of Gates.
Jobs was a master at marketing. Just the mere rumor and then word of the emergence of a new or newer model of a product sent the Mac devotees to the stores where they would often camp out over night to be the first ‘kid on the block’ to have the latest version of whatever it was.
The presentations of his latest products were also impeccable examples of marketing and promotion. One year Ridley Scott, now a famed film and TV producer, was brought on board to create a memorable, even shocking Macintosh Super Bowl commercial. No one who has ever seen it will forget it.
When generations of the various Macs were born in irresistible, candy colored variations, potential consumers were tempted to not only purchase these mechanical wonders but agonized over which day-glow color to buy. That would be a major problem for me. I would want one in each color. Jobs combined perfection of design, streamlined elegance and hot colors.
Have you ever wondered why school systems buy and use Macs? If one is a student, there are special reduced price versions of the programs available and discounts on the computers themselves. What does that say about the quality of a Mac over a PC? I feel there is no more evidence necessary that ‘the proof is in the pudding’. Educational systems throughout the country chose to have their students learn on Macs, not PCs. They may have had to settle for PCs when their families both them their own. But the educational system provided only the best and most reliable quality control.
Steve Jobs has left an indelible mark on the world of technology and design. Much has been written about him before and since his passing. This post is but a peek at one small part of the universe he occupied. For me, his example showed there are some valuable lessons to be learned in Digital Brand Marketing Education.
What I learned from Steve Jobs by Guy Kawasaki
This Week’s Issue Of Time Magazine Has Steve Jobs On The Cover And The Story Behind His Upcoming Bio
The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs: One Last Thing; R.I.P Steve Jobs