When I was a child and first discovered Star Wars I became obsessed. I began to learn everything I could about the Universe George Lucas had created. I was fascinated by the mythology and the processes that had gone into translating that myth to film. I realized then that stories were not plucked from the air but came from the imagination of an author. Once this realization struck I began to talk to my parents about how George had done this and George had done that. I wrote a letter to George to complain that the latest Star Wars video game was not coming to my console of choice. Then one night at dinner, my father asked me why I called him George instead of Mr. Lucas or George Lucas. I didn’t have a good answer then but I think I am beginning to have one now.
Last week Steve Jobs passed away. Many of us in the Apple community frequently called him Steve. I believe that we do that because, like Star Wars, Apple’s products were a window into his mind. I do not believe absolutely everything in the products was a result of Steve’s direction, just like I do not believe everything in the original Star Wars films was a result of George’s. Nevertheless, his influence into the products of his company dwarfed that of other tech CEOs. If Apple products were a window into Steve’s mind, what can we reasonably say was important to him?
Simplicity, reliability and delight were all attributes that Apple’s products consistantly displayed. But I think that the most important thing we can learn about Steve from his products is that the user was the reason for all those other attributes. Steve Jobs cared about what the user’s experience would be with Apple products. He cared about how it would feel to hold it and carry it around all day. He cared about how reliably the product protected our precious captured memories and how we could best relive them wherever we happen to be. He cared that we should be able to use his products without prior training or expertise. He knew that we would only return to his company if we loved every part of the experience. In short, he cared about us.
Now that he has passed, I hope that we will be able to learn about more people through their work because they have the honesty and integrity to infuse themselves into it. I hope that we will have the courage to do it ourselves. Goodbye Steve.