June Newsletter
   October 5, 2012         |    Santa Barbara, California                 

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I miss him.

It's been exactly a year since Steve Jobs died.  Does Apple seem different to you too?  I find myself wondering if it has really changed or it's simply my projections filling the screen. 

Hand picked and groomed by Jobs, CEO Tim Cook has done a nice job of continuing to steer the ship that Steve built.  As far as anyone can tell, we’re still headed in the same direction and Steve was an impossible act to follow.  But it still feels different somehow.  Less magical.  The debuts of the iPad 3, Retina displayed MacBook Pros and even the iPhone 5 were just not as exciting for me as they would have been with Steve holding them up. 

Columnists, bloggers and all the various pundits will no doubt point to all kinds of evidence that Apple is no longer the house that Jobs built.  There have already been missteps that “would never have happened under Jobs’ watch.”  Apple’s replacement for Google maps for instance. 

According to Apple Maps, major world landmarks have been replaced with parks. Not an awful idea but rather challenging if you’re actually trying to find something in the real world.  Well known bridges have completely disappeared with one actually reappearing in a Home Depot much to the dismay of shoppers.  Powerful rivers have gone missing, historical landmarks misnamed, and entire towns have vanished only to be found a few miles away from their actual location.  We have driving directions that encourage automobile drivers to use railroad tracks and drive over large bodies of water to arrive at their destination.  And as if Salvador Dali had been hired for Apple’s mapping team, there are post apocalyptic aerial views of a very melted, distorted, dripping Las Vegas.  

Cook wrote a formal apology and the phrase “insanely great” was banned for the rest of the year.  Meanwhile, links to Google Maps and others were posted.  Ouch. 

Many are saying that Apple’s new Maps application is something Jobs would never have let out of the gate.  Small animals excepted (he was a vegan, afterall), Steve was known to kill things a few days before a launch if they were not exactly right. 

But he made mistakes too. 

Steve allowed Mobile Me to roll out and it was eventually, reluctantly a self-admitted disaster.  Before that iTools and Dot Mac were certainly not giddy successes either.  Ping never pinged and got the gong recently.  And many complain that continuing to label Siri, Apple’s cheeky search engine, as “beta” is a cop-out designed to deflect attention from her failures.  Is Apple, the world’s undisputed leader in innovative hardware and software design, just not very good at web and internet based services?  The question continues to hang as an iCloud over Apple’s future, which fortunately works for most, most of the time.

We all leave some unfinished business behind. Steve was no exception.

[This might be a good time to take a bathroom break... Apologies for the length of this homage, but Steve is at the heart of why we're all Apple fans.]

For starters, there are the legal battles that Apple seems to have with just about everyone. The Samsung case ended up netting Apple over a billion dollars, the highest payout of it’s kind.  But at what cost?  There are only a few high tech companies like Samsung that can make the extremely high res, high quality screens that Apple so desperately needs for all of it’s super cool portable devices.  Samsung clearly copied the iPhone and the iPad.  Look at them side by side and it’s hard not to say, “Well, duh.”  But where does Apple go now?  It surprises many consumers when they learn that most of what is inside an Apple computer or device is not made by Apple.  Tim Cook’s inheritance from Jobs is going to be finding a way to resolve these differences and still have parts suppliers to work with.

And then there’s Google.

Google and Apple were the best of pals in the war against Microsoft’s domination of the industry until one day....

Eric Schmidt, Google’s CEO who sat on Apple’s board during the iPhone secret development years, suddenly announced that Google also had “a keen, original idea.”  Google had decided to develop Android, a mobile operating system for smart phones that would be made by Apple competitors.  Yes, Steve had every reason to fly into a rage and want to go “thermonuclear on Google.”  He felt totally betrayed.  He had a well documented, scarred history of watching the Windows operating system steal most of their ideas from Apple.  With the second coming of Jobs to Apple in 1997, he insisted that Apple patent everything that could possibly be patented.  Even every gesture used to pinch, scroll, flick and shake your booty to get things to happen.  If Apple so chose, they could spend the rest of our lives suing other companies that infringe upon these.

[This might be a good time to search for food and water... Apologies for the length of this homage, but my editor passed out from exhaustion and fatigue a few hundred words ago.]

Supreme Court decisions aside for the moment (*ahem*), common wisdom says that corporations are not people.  I mostly agree with that with one major exception.  Apple, at it’s inception and for most of the past 15 years, really was Steve Jobs.  For all the brilliant minds that worked in his garage in the 70's and then later in the company that made most of them millionaires, Apple would never have winked into existence without Steve Jobs.  It was his vision, his evangelism and salesmanship that gave birth to Apple Computer.  After being fired from the company that he began, he returned and saved that company about 90 days away from certain death.  The rest is history.   He’ll no doubt be remembered as legendary, one of the most influential visionaries of our time. 

But apparently he wasn’t a very nice guy. 

He could be incredibly arrogant, demanding, cruel and mean to the people that worked for him.  He pushed them to their limits perhaps because he sensed his own mortality?  Or maybe that’s exactly what he would have done without a terminal illness to goad him.  Either way, he was brave enough to tell his biographer, Walter Isaacson, to just tell the truth about him, don’t sugar coat it.  A control freak throughout his life, he did not, in any way attempt to control the content or slant of the biography.  Normally secretive Jobs, gave Isaacson full access to all of his friends and family.  My take on this is that Jobs may have wanted us to resist the temptation to canonize just because he gave us some seriously cool toys. 

So if Apple, for all of it’s great moments in history, really was Steve Jobs, what is it now without him?

This time last year, I wrote how completely stunned I was to hear Steve Jobs had suddenly died.  I say “suddenly,” because even though we all knew he looked seriously skinny and ill, it seemed like something he was going to overcome.  He was the magic man, right?  He would envision something, and the impossible would happen.  If the Amazing Steve Jobs couldn’t overcome an early death, I felt I should examine my own. 

How do we live each day to it’s fullest and yet still make plans for the future?  How do we embrace every loved one in our life like it’s the last time we’ll meet without becoming desperately annoying?  I continue think about Steve’s wife, Laurene and their kids Reed, Erin, Eve & Lisa, and wonder how they’re doing.  If he’d known the exact time of death, would he have spent more time at home and left Apple to Tim Cook ages ago?

Selfishly, I keep wondering if I’ll ever be as excited about the launch of futuristic gadgets anymore.  The unique thing about Jobs’ death is we mourn for ourselves as much as we do for him.  We mourn the loss of mystery and magic in the world of technology.  I will never forget being at MacWorld when the iPhone debuted.  It was a moment.  Pure Jobs magic.  You could hear the intake of air when the slide came up that showed the first iPhone.  Just like the iPod, iTunes and the iMac had revolutionized consumer technology, the iPhone was clearly a game changer and the entire room felt it in seconds.  

[You're nearly at the end, but I'll totally understand if you need to take a short nap while I try to wrap this up.  My editor is back and has asked if I'm now writing a biography.]

Steve was a huge Beatles fan.  Like anyone born in the early 60’s, I’d definitely heard them on the radio.  I didn’t truly experience them until after they had broken up and I was pawing through some records at a friend’s house.  I still remember the moment that I flipped some forgettable LP forward and saw, “ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”  I had never seen or heard anything like this before and music took on completely new meaning to me with this Rock Opus.  Maybe Jobs loved the Beatles because they had that same kind of enchantment he brought to technology.  Somehow, they didn’t feel like “just a band” or ordinary musicians and songwriters.

They were magic.

I remember exactly where I was the night I heard that John Lennon had been killed on Dec 8,1980.  I remember feeling sad and empty thinking, “It’s really over.  No new Lennon/McCartney songs will ever be written.  The Beatles can never reunite. The Magical Mystery Tour is over.”

One year ago today I felt exactly the same when I saw the announcement splash across the news feed on my monitor.  “Steve Jobs, 1955-2011.”  Wow.  The Magical Mystery Tour can never take me away.  What now?

What Apple is, or will become without Jobs, remains to be seen.  It’s only been a year and Steve influenced much of what has emerged from Apple in 2012.  While I’m always optimistic and still a fan at heart, I know Apple will never be the same. 

I miss seeing that black mock turtleneck.

Apple has a moving tribute to Steve on their site today and I encourage you to have a look.



“And in the end...the love you take...is equal to the love...you make.” 

                                                                                               --Lennon & McCartney