Sharing the Tribal Knowledge

Thursday
Oct062011

The Non-Eulogy - 3 Things Steve Jobs (And Apple) did that completely changed my business life...

The "sort of" Tribute

It's approximately 24 hours after I learned of Steve Jobs death. Let me say, I never met him or knew him personally in any way, but growing up and living in San Francisco and the Silicon Valley, it's impossible to say that the cumulative results of his life's work didn't affect me in a profound way.

I was saddened to hear of his death because 1) 56 is *way* too young to die and 2) Pancreatic Cancer has got to be one of the lousiest ways for it to happen. Cancer sucks, after witnessing it attack people I know and love - it completely sucks sweaty chimpanzee balls, and I do hope one day science will kick it in it's said damp testicles... My thoughts and deepest sympathies are with his family because they didn't lose a CEO or a Tech Celebrity, they lost a Husband, a Dad, a Son....

There's been some wonderful words written about him with accompanying images and videos about his legacy, and how he's touched people. I would recommend you seek them out if for no other reason to sit wide eyed that one person, through tech, altered our world.

Some of my favorites can be found here

This guy also wrote a very touching tribute, that I think it hits a lot of items that I also felt about Steve Jobs, the Visionary and how I was rooting for him from afar and the ways his death affected me personally - you can click here for a link to his blog entry on it. You really should read it, I have - several times.

The Non-Eulogy

When I reflected yesterday and today about his passing, I kept returning to one thought:

He almost singlehandedly destroyed my business and then rebuilt it all at the same time...

I thought long and hard about that statement, how completely over the top it could appear, that Steve Jobs was the meteor that plummeted to earth and wiped out my prehistoric Land of The Lost bliss...

But the more I really considered the specfics of what my business offers people:

The Core DNA of my offerings is rooted in the Dedicated Touchpanel as the nucleus of everything I design, if you got no touchpanels, bro you got no business...

(It's possible to consider that Jobs might be "big assed meteor 1a" to "Housing Meltdown Meteor 1b" but the fact is they both changed the landscape across the nation and world pretty dang quick.)

So what did he do to me? Well there are three things, one of them is pretty obvious the other two were a bit more subtle but I see more and more the influence his vision has had on me.

#1) January 27, 2010 - Steve Jobs, Touchpanel Slayer - The release of the iPad

On that day all the swirling rumors had come true: Steve Jobs unveiled the iPad and after the first few moments of "Cool!" it was quickly replaced with oh "H-E goddanged Double Hockey Sticks" (I assure you it was far more expletive laced, but you get the idea...)

The minute I saw that device, the specs, the battery life and then the price, I *knew* everything I fundamentally had been doing as a business for the past 20 years changed, and I was potentially screwed. Apple had just walked into the prom, in a better looking tux, looked me up and down, chuckled and then walked off with my date. THEN for good measure it came back and told me to hand over my wallet and it was taking my limo too. Gee Thanks Apple...

It's now barely 19 months later, and only 17 months since the first iPad's shipped and if you look at the AV Industry (or Newspaper Industry, or Book Industry or or or), you tell me of a device that caused such a complete paradigm shift in the fundamental ways we did our business, than that one little piece of shiny hardware. We're talking about Henry Ford / Wright Brothers kind of stuff here. Sure the fanboys will say other people had come up with versions of Apple's offerings before that may have even been better or cheaper - but here's the kicker -  he made pretty much everyone on the planet *want* it.

#2) Gestures

I've got a 15 month old son and 7 year old daughter, to say these kids are tech savvy is a bit of an understatement, but today I spotted one small detail in my son's actions that made me step back and shake my head in amazement. My mother was at her laptop and as is my son's purpose in life, he wanted to mess with whatever she was doing... so he sat in her lap looked at the keys, looked at the laptop screen...

And then he tried to touch and swipe at the icons on the display...

Jobs and his team by hard baking Gestures into everything they do, starting with the iPod Touches and iPhones and then into the iPads, and even now in a roundabout way in their new OSX operating system fundamentally changed the instinctual ways people want to interact with devices.

So much has this permeated our day to day lives, that even if you hand a non Apple device to someone, in a short period of time they've created an environment of interactivity where a user feels that if they can't scroll, swipe, two finger rotate, or pinch and zoon something, then "it must be broken"

For good or ill, Apple was able to do something that no one in AV could do, they trained the general public on what to expect from electronics "simply and intuitively"

#3) The "I've got an App for that" Generation

For decades the Custom part of the Custom Installation industry focused on taking a bunch of disparate devices, and their remote control clutter and in our own form of Electronic Voodoo, create a system where you could do it all with a button press. No jumping around, no more, "press tv input then press power, then press DVD and make sure it's on the component input, then press select, etc etc etc"

We focused on unified control, on a single repository for all your information, stripped down and presented in the "cleanest" of operative matters.

Again, in less than a few years Apple completely changed the psychology of "one button for all" They made the concept of de-centralized controls cool. Got a TV, there's an app for that... Lights... App for that... DVD Jukebox... App for that. Want to check your email and browse the web in between commercials? App for that.

Now I know that this will draw the ire of the Custom AV purists (and a lot of control system manufacturers) out there, that we're dumbing down the process or making it worse and contributing to the mass ADHD predilections of the general public. But you know what... people are doing it anyway. Pick an AV manufacturer that would look you in the eye and say "never gonna happen" if you asked them "Do you have an iPad App for that"

Steve Jobs - Gamechanger...

So what did I do? I learned not to fight Apple on this one, I learned to partner with them. I changed my entire approach from a hardware driven, really expensive and instantly obsolete touch sensitive device, towards a more nimble, upgradeable and transferrable software approach. We focused on the experience people are telling us they want, to match the experiences they already have with their existing media.

Time will tell how good or bad we're doing it but the one constant in life is change, and Steve Jobs for whatever you want to say about him at least changed *my* world.

So, with all heartfelt sincerity, thank you Steve.

You will be missed...