Tuesday, November 1, 2011

On Steve Jobs

I'm not an Apple fan but I do have a lot of respect for their products and Steve Jobs

I'll just say a few things about him I think should get more attention
After the original Apple, his first great business success was Pixar, that was what made him a billionaire.
The Mac was a great design but not a great business success.
The most important reason for which I think is that he didn't market to business, he showed his contempt for business buyers with the commercial of businessmen marching off a cliff.

His first great  business success at Apple was the iPod, and then the huge, huge , huge success of the iPhone.
All his successes had in common that they were striking visually--that must go to his core abilities. They had good visual user interfaces but even more they were things people wanted because of their looks. Even when they sacrificed some usability- you can't control an iPod by feel, for example.
One element of their visual appeal was that they had a higher screen resolution (dots per inch) than the competition. It makes them look very sharp, better in some way than the rest, though often there is no more actual information shown the user because the display is smaller. He created small but refined objects which people desired.
They were all also consumer products, not primarily for business (though the iPhone is a very useful business tool).

His idea of making a computer 'for the rest of us' has turned out to be more like 'for the best of us'- those with more money and less tech savvy, which is too bad. With the Macintosh, he couldn't compete on price because he didn't have the economies of scale of his rivals. 
But the iPhone-it was a great device, and the carriers saw that , and Jobs used that to force them to give him more control over it than any other phone mfg had- the control, and a cut of the revenues, of applications that can be installed on it. He used that to make a tremendous amount of money, probably more than 50% profit margins, making Apple the most valuable publicly traded company. 
He could have used it to break the carrier's subscription model, selling unlocked iPhones that worked with any carrier , making the carriers support them without making people pay hidden costs for 'free' phones. He could have supported all carriers,  and sold as many phones as possible at lower prices. But he didn't.
Fortunately the advances in his products have been largely made available by rivals at lower prices.

[Added May 2013-
Actually he went partway in breaking the carriers' model. The iPhone had a full fledged browser that would go to any site on the Internet, and the App store is fairly open as well. The carriers' attitude toward apps was 'make us an offer and we'll let you know if its good enough.' He didn't try to take a cut of everything people buy on their iPhones. 
This made the iPhone a huge success where earlier smartphones, with their lame carrier-approved apps had limited success.  ]