Steve Jobs was born of educated parents then adopted by a working class family. While this wasn't by design, it couldn't have been a more perfect beginning. Intelligence and a strong work ethic make for a good shot at success.
He has always been ahead of his time. Apple didn't invent the first computer small enough and inexpensive enough to have at home. But the two Steves did recognize that every home should have a computer and effectively invented the notion of the personal computer. Jobs has never been short on vision- from the original Apple computer to the Macintosh to NeXT to Pixar to the iMac, iPod, iTunes, iPhone and iPad. But his vision is even greater than that. Every thread of the fabric of Apple is scrutinized by Jobs. I heard that when the first Apple stores were opening, Jobs personally chose the songs that would be playing in the store.
Jobs has always been a man of great vision and focus. The vision part, in some ways, is the easy part. You either have it or you don't. I think Job's vision is to make things as easy as possible for the customer and not let the current limitations of technology and others' lack of imagination get in the way. If you ever find yourself interviewing for the job of CEO somewhere, you'd better walk into that interview with your well-thoughtout vision of the future of the company. The board will either love it or thank you for your time but you'd better have it.
Focus, on the other hand, is much more difficult. When you are in the role of CEO and you have lots of great ideas for growing the business, it's easy to want to try just about everything you can think of. Having the discipline to focus very intentionally and directly on your value proposition is rare. I remember Jobs once saying, after being praised for the work Apple had done on some product, "I'm more proud of what we have not put into our products than what we have." Jobs believes that you should only put in features that 80% of your customers will use. Anything else distracts the user, making the product harder to understand and less elegant.
At All Things Digital Jobs was asked what it felt like now that Apple was bigger (in market value) than Microsoft. Jobs responded (and I'm paraphrasing here), "It's sort of surreal. But it's not what gets me up in the morning." That really says it all. Jobs doesn't spend much time thinking about Apple's competitors. His focus, and the focus on Apple, is on what is best for their consumer, their customer. Jobs believes that if you focus on your customer, you will win. I think he's right.
I have been guilty in years past of wanting to put every feature I could think of into Real Studio. But I have learned by careful study that that's a mistake. I've grown more focused over the years. That's something I have learned from watching Jobs: focus is an extraordinarily valuable thing. And of course that technology can be beautiful.
Jobs has made his share of mistakes. He's an extraordinary demanding CEO which is a nice way of saying that he's not an easy person to work for. He has very high expectations and if you don't see things the way he does, he will tell you, bluntly, rudely and in no uncertain terms. I think he has mellowed over the years a bit, but still, this is who he is. I think perhaps this comes, hand in hand, with his vision, focus and work ethic.
You probably already know the reason for this post today. Steve Jobs has resigned as Apple's CEO. He has formalized what has been the case for the last few years. How will this affect Apple? In the short term, not much. Jobs is going to continue to be as involved as he can at Apple. It's his baby after all. If he has imprinted himself on Apple (and I believe he has) then Apple will continue to be the great company that Jobs always knew it would be.
I hope Jobs is with us for many more years because I believe he still has a lot to contribute. But if that's not the case, he will certainly be going out at the top of this game.