With the passing of Steve Jobs, the world has lost Personal Technology’s first and only, Renaissance Man. His genius and sure touch for what the ‘aam janatha’ or lay persons, wanted in the gadgets that they bought and used, made Apple the company he co-founded, the world’s most ‘Valuable’ corporate entity.
Can we imagine using a desktop personal computer without a mouse? It was the Jobs-inspired Macintosh PC which first made the mouse the primary ‘pointing’ device on the PC screen. Those of us who owned the ‘other’ PC –the so called IBM PC -- had to make do with the keypad for many years till Microsoft played ‘catch up’ and replaced the MS DOS system with Windows ( and a mouse).
When we use a music player or even a smart phone, we expect to ‘touch’ the screen rather than punch keys – again something that Jobs in his Second Coming at Apple dreamed up and implemented in the IPod and the iPhone. It was this uncanny instinct for what ordinary people wanted in their interfaces with technology, that lay at the core of Steve Jobs’ genius. Interestingly, the next iteration of the iPhone that Apple unveiled only a day before Jobs’ passing, showcased another people-friendly technology – the ability to ‘talk’ to your device with voice commands. It will surprise no one, if this feature becomes standard on smart phones and hand held computers. Voice activation on phones was something Jobs had already planned before he gave up hand-on leadership at Apple a few weeks ago.
For us in India, the news of Steve Jobs’ passing comes a day after the government ( with help from a private partner) unveiled what is arguably the most affordable tablet PC in the world. For reasons that many India, have never been able to fathom, Jobs virtually ignored this country as either a market or as a source of innovation throughout his professional life. He visited India once – in the 1970s – as a college dropout in pursuit of spiritual peace; he lunched at the local Hare Krishna temple back in the US when he was tight on cash – but never once as head of Apple did he visit India: In this, he was odd man out: every major American technology company has found it both necessary and fruitful to make India a key element of its techno-commercial strategy.
Possibly as a result, Apple was never as big a brand in India as it should have been. The iPhone and the iPad have seemingly missed the huge opportunity provided by the mobile boom in this country. But maybe that is too narrow an interpretation. Steve Job’s contribution went far beyond what he did at Apple. He gave technology a human face; he unerringly hit, on what ordinary users and customers looked for, in the devices that made life easier, more meaningful for them. He put the ‘personal’ into personal technology – something that helps, rather than intimidates. … and he forced the entire global mass consumer technology industry to follow suit.
When the first hundred or so college kids unwrapped and began to touch-and-operate their brand new $ 35 “Aakash” Tablets yesterday in Delhi, a little bit of the Steve Jobs genius had rubbed off on them too.
Anand Parthasarathy . October 6 2011
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