My favorite segment of the festival was hearing Walter Isaacson talk about his book and the man, Steve Jobs. Steve Jobs was a designer and viewed himself as an artist and that is exactly what he was. He designed Apple’s concepts all the way from the computer to the boxes they came in.
Thanks to Steve Jobs calligraphy class at Reed College and his post drop out globetrotting trip where he converted to Zen Buddhism, along with his passion for design and art, he had all the ingredients to turn Apple into the most successful retailor in the world. Apple is indeed the most successful retail store followed by Tiffany & Co – even so, Apple is 50% more successful than Tiffany & Co.
Although notorious for being harsh on the people who worked for him, many told Isaacson they would walk through a wall to work for him again. What made Steve Jobs and Apple so different from any other computer company is simple. Dell, HP, IMB etc… built the computer design around what the engineers claimed they could and could not do. Whereas Jobs designed the computer and told the engineers to make the computer that would fit in this prototype. And then Jobs had the engineers sign the inside of the computer they worked on because every piece of art should be signed by the artist.
Jobs and Gates had a long rivalry until the day Jobs passed away. Jobs thought everything he made was insanely great and everything else, especially Gates work, sucked. They differed in their business model. Jobs implemented the end to end model. He built the hardware, the software, and the applications that were all dependent for an Apple to run, whereas Gates licensed out the operating system to the other distributors. On Jobs death bed Gates came to his side and they both exchanged praise for one other’s successful works to try and make amends. After this meeting, Jobs told Isaacson that Gates was a synonym for a donkey.
When Gateway was going out of business Jobs announced to the board that he wanted to open up a retail store. The board replied something along the lines of you “Are you kidding? Look at Gateway!” in which he said back “Gateway opens stores in cheap locations. We will build and open stores in the most expensive locations. Like 5th Avenue in NYC!” As you can imagine, the board was even more confused!
Jobs built a mock store in the warehouse of the company’s Cupertino headquarters. Isaacson claimed that getting into the Situation Room at the Whitehouse is easy compared to this design room at Apple. Everything from the staircase to the floor is patented to Jobs.
Jobs put a huge emphasis on the computer, iPod, and iPad box. They had to be exactly 90 degrees. The reason behind the design of the box is so that opening the box is emotional and truly beautiful. Isaacson said that when Jobs passed away even the Occupy Wall Street members were waving their iPhones in honor of Jobs, a billionaire. The reason is, is because they experienced the emotion that Jobs created.
When Jobs created the iPod, he did praise himself on disrupting the industry and changing the way people will listen to music. He worried about the competitor who would be inspired to create something better. He then realized the threat was putting music on mobile phones. He had to cannibalize the iPod by creating the iPhone, otherwise someone else would have had them for lunch.
If you read the book you will notice that Jobs did not spend a lot of time with philanthropic work. He told Isaacson that he was taking things out of the flow of history so he had to focus all of his time on putting things back in the flow of history. He also believed that creating a way to access textbooks digitally will help schools across the world and make it easier to access them – his own way of giving back.
Isaacson said that Jobs inspired others to do great work. He was not the one who engineered the computers but he was responsible for bringing it all together and executing it in a seamless manner to create an emotional and beautiful product for the consumer. May this man inspire all of us to continue to change the industry through emotion and beauty.