Near Yellow Mountain

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

An Apple a Day

A week ago I attended a football game with 92,999 other people. Stanford vs USC - a three overtime thriller. As exciting as the game was, I left the stadium more impressed by something else - the pervasive use of Apple products. In this case mostly the IPhone being used as a camera and a way to keep up with other college games but there were also IPads and Ipods being used around me.

Being the happy owner of an Air Mac, an IPpad, an IPhone and an IPod as well as Apple stock - it was certainly not a revelation to me that a lot of people are similarly equipped. However sitting in a stadium and observing those around me as well as those at a distance via my wife's binoculars, it was a revelation at how widespread and constant the use of mobile technology has become even at a sporting event. Of course, there were also Android phones and even the occasional "dumbphone" with a camera but  Apple products were certainly in the vast majority. If this game had been a one sided "yawner" - it would have been understandable for the crowd to seek diversion in their personal electronics but this was a close game that kept the vast majority of the crowd on the edge of their seats (when they weren't standing and screaming).
Apple products have enabled a change in the way people interact (Facebook, Facetime, etc). Yes, I realize you can get on Facebook on a Windows PC or other non Apple device but if that was your reaction you are missing the point. How many people that never carried a camera before now take pictures almost daily because a reasonable quality camera is now in their phone? How easy has "around me" made it to find a restuarant or gas station no matter where you are in the world? I recently had a hankering for a Subway "veggie delight" when I was in Tokyo. Around Me made it easy to follow the little dot on my IPhone screen to the closest subway.
Since the death of Steve Jobs much has been made of his accomplishments. I have almost finished reading the book recently released on this life. What is strinking to me is that what seems to have made Steve Jobs a success was his refusal to accept the status quo and the easy path. His creative thinking along with stubborness mixed with arrogance seemed to have fuled his success and later caused him to be fired from his own company only to rise again  when the "corporate" version of Apple failed and he was called back after his success at Pixar among other things. The appreciation his "uneducated" adoptive father gave him for doing things right and clean, simple design is diametrically opposed to mentality of mst big companies today.

A couple of months ago, a senior executive where I work gave me and several other directors in our division a book on the "secret" to Steve Jobs innovation "process".  I found this totally ironic. Someone like Steve Jobs would have been fired within a few months if he worked for our company or most of the Fortune 500. As a non PC young man with poor personal hygiene, Steve Jobs would probably never have been hired by most companies that are now trying to discern what his secret was.

Hopefully there are more young people out there that will follow their dreams and create great products. Innovation is likely to continue to come from people that don't follow the conventional path and are willing to risk security to pursue their dream. I have yet to open the book that promises to tell me Steve Job's innovation "secrets".

Upon reflection the lesson from Steve Jobs seems pretty simple - one person totally committed to a goal still can change the world.