Yesterday, October 5, 2011, Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, died at the age of 56, after a long sickbed due to (pancreatic) cancer. Until his last breath, he was closely connected with the company he co-founded in 1976, together with his companion Steve Wozniak. After he abolished his function as CEO of Apple definitely in August 2011, it became more quiet around Jobs, but everybody knew that he was very, very ill.
It is hard to overestimate the influence of Steve Jobs on the computer industry. From the seventies, when Jobs invented the Apple II computer, via the Apple Macintosh in the eighties, the iMac in the nineties and the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad after the magic year 2000, the computer industry was looking at the Apple products and marketing strategy (iTunes) in amazement and sometimes with hardly hidden envy.
How could this guy, whose products were generally more than 50% more expensive than comparable products of the competition, get away with these (too) high prices?! The answer is: an Apple product is unique, it is trendsetting and it has a unique feeling of quality surrounding it, that is lacking at competitor’s products.
Already the Apple II computer, that I first saw at the beginning of the eighties, looked so much cooler than all other homecomputers that were for sale in those days. And although the Macintosh and iMac now might look old-fashioned and outdated, in their days these products were revolutionary different and brought userfriendliness to another level. Just like the iPod, iPhone and iPad still are doing currently.
You immediately recognize an Apple product, just like you always recognize a friend that is your friend, because he/she is different from all other people.
It will be hard for Apple to go on without the inspirator and driving force that Steve Jobs was. Already in the eighties when Jobs left Apple for the first time, the Cupertino-based company started to lag. And had Jobs not returned to the firm in 1996, there might have been no iMac and no future whatsoever for Apple. That’s how important a leader Jobs has been.
One of my first blogs was about Steve Jobs and the ‘cult of personality’ that was surrounding him; the almost religious devotion of Apple’s customers and shareholders towards the founding father of the brand. What was Apple’s greatest asset when he was around, could now turn into the brand’s greatest handicap, now that he has passed away.
But I believe that Apple now is a different brand than in the eighties. I believe that the products, the marketing via iTunes and the design philosophy can stand the test of time. And that Apple can go on making beautiful, innovative products that shake the world every now and then.
I’m convinced that the brand will survive this terrible blow. The drop of the exchange rate of 3% yesterday seems to point out that the investors also keep their trust in the brand.
But still the brand will never be the same without its founding father. And the products might have lost a little bit of their uniqueness and charisma, now their creator is not around anymore. Apple will become a brand a little bit more ordinary.
May Steve Jobs rest in peace.