Five years ago, on October 5, 2011, Steve Jobs passed away. As the founder of Apple Computer, he created a brand and series of products unmatched for his time, and served as a business & innovation role model for an entire generation of designers, artists, and business leaders. With half a decade now gone, and Apple Computer’s future arguably at a defining turning point, a few of us on the Boston XD team wanted to take the opportunity to reflect on Apple’s impact on their lives, and what the last few years of Apple have meant to them.
Do one thing well
Throughout art school, I reflected fondly on times with my dad learning design programs on our Macintosh Color Classic, then years later teaching myself basic coding on my iMac (that I bought with my own savings), and in college, using my iBook to keep my school life on track. As I used these products over my formative years and learned more about Steve Jobs, I cherished a crucial lesson Steve Jobs preached: Do one thing well.
This edict came into play upon his 1997 return to Apple when there were too many products with no distinguishing features, so he nixed as many as he could. Since Jobs’ passing, I see this issue coming back to Apple, as others do. In the diagram below, you can see the multitude of options* for each product. I’m not even including all the colors. If your friend walked into the Apple store and wanted an iPad, which of the 21 would they pick? Would they pick the iPad mini 2 or 4? Not sure what the difference is? Me neither.
If Steve Jobs walked into Apple Computer now, which products would he nix? What’s the “one thing” Apple does well? I don’t have a good answer. That scares the shit out of me.
*I’m defining “option” as combinations of capacity, cellular/wifi, and model. I’m considering what questions a typical customer would be asked by a salesperson. Too many questions = too many options.
I can’t think of any product that I simultaneously love and hate, other than my iPhone. My iPhone has become an extension of my hand and my brain. It’s the keeper of my email, social media, texts, fitness tracker, music, calendar boarding passes, bank account. Heck, I can even order a coffee from it.
Oh, and it’s also a phone.
An original purpose of a cell phone was to keep people connected, no matter the distance between them or location. Instead, I find myself succumbing to the stereotypical millennial that is on their cell phone too much. Rather than feeling connected, I sometimes feel distant.
Instead of looking at the phone as the enemy, I need to look at my usage and behavior. I need to give up my phone for an hour a day or put it away during dinner. This will help me feel more connected to those around me, in real time, in real life.
But let’s face it: it’s unrealistic to say I’d just give it up (touché Apple & Steve). As I reflect on how Apple has changed my life, the most obvious and impactful product has been the iPhone. As much as I want to hate my phone for being such an important part of my life, I think it’s necessary to applaud the genius work that happened in order to put this tiny, smart device in my pocket. Apple successfully created a product I didn’t know I needed, and now I need it all the time.