I have to admit that I was slightly sad that Steve Jobs died. I mean, he was one of those inventors that I grew up with in the rise of the generation of the computer and the Internet. It’s been Jobs versus Bill Gates for decades with one or the other seemingly looking for one-upmanship in computing, peripherals, and software. It seemed like the end of a pretty marvelous era. Then I closed my laptop and went to in to help my wife with dinner. I didn’t weep. I didn’t “RIP Steve Jobs” on Facebook, and I didn’t contribute to the multitude of tweets that made it seem like Gandhi had just passed into the next life.
Steve Jobs won. That’s pretty much the only way you can describe what happened to Apple since the mid-1990’s and the near collapse of the company…to right now. Steve Jobs managed a corporation not only by creating innovative products, but by marketing the company to near perfection to a group of people that believe that Apple is somehow the antithesis of a corporate entity. It is the company that perfectly caters to David Brook’s famous Bobo; a combination of bourgeois and bohemian. The fairly new upper-middle class that combines the liberal idealism of the 1960’s with the self-centered attitudes of the 1980’s. Apple is the icon of the post-materialist; a company that is more than the money. It is an experience, a lifestyle, a symbol of what a company can be to a new and vibrant age of information and optimism. And Steve Jobs crafted that image very, very well.
It’s funny because I think that Apple users seem to forget that Jobs was really at the forefront of running the corporate side of the company for a long time. It was Jobs that was out there reassuring shareholders at meetings. It was Jobs that was out there insisting iTunes was going to prevent Internet piracy to protect digital copyright. It was Jobs who instituted Digital Rights Management on music, refused to let go of his coding to open source networks, and would often get on Twitter and e-mail to blast critics of this product. It was Steve Jobs that approved for Foxconn to manufacture the iPhone, and it was Jobs that had to deal with public relations problems around the multitudes of suicides at the factory in China. Tasks by-the-way that were off-shored to an international location depriving American workers of employment. In short, Steve Jobs and Apple were just as corporate as Microsoft, General Motors, Exxon, and Alcoa; only Jobs knew how to market to a public that was starving for a positive corporate image.
In a few weeks I’ll wander into my AT&T Store and retire my iPhone 3G for a brand spanking new iPhone 4GS. I’ll do so knowing full well that Apple will be making a profit from the fact that I am purchasing something I desire. I’ll also know that I will receive major satisfaction from this good, just like I’ve received satisfaction from Bill Gates, Howard Schultz, Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Henry Ford, and J.D. Rockefeller. Know what Steve Jobs had in common with those six corporatists?
A whole hell of a lot.