When Apple Computer was founded, Steve Wozniak was the brains of the company, but Steve Jobs was the heart and soul of the organization. When Jobs left in 1985, an important piece of the company was lost until his return in early 1997. Watch the MacWorld 1997 video to see the distinct difference in presentation style between Jobs and former Apple CEO Gil Amelio. Just several days after Apple acquired Next Computers, Jobs already had a plan to get Apple back on track, while Amelio fumbled through his presentation.
MacWorld SF 1997
Watch the presentations Jobs made in the late 90s, and one will see a man who has clear cut goals. Quite often, Jobs' visions of the future were often over reaching (some ideas would never manage to land), but it's interesting to see how many of these ideas did manage to see the light of day.
Pundits have been crying for years that an Apple without Steve Jobs is doomed to fail. Time will ultimately rule the final verdict of these claims, but three years after the passing of the Apple co-founder, the company is still healthy and immensely profitable. However, Apple is currently riding an enormous wave of inertia from the products which were released while Jobs was at the helm. Eventually, this momentum will begin to falter, and the future of the company will depend upon new innovations.
In early September 2014, a fervor was buzzing throughout the tech circles, similar to that of December 2006, with all eyes turned toward Apple. Breaths were carefully held, only to be released in the zealous joy of another miracle product being born from the depths of Cupertino. A product that will carry Apple forward, that will prove that Apple can stand without Jobs.
Loud whispers predicted that Apple would be releasing a new brand of wearable, something which would formally herald the era of new computing devices. Many attempts have already been made at popularizing this concept, but no one single item has broken out from niche markets and entered the mainstream.
Enter the Watch.
This new device isn't just of interest to the technorati, but it has also garnered the attention of those in higher fashion and design. It is the embodiment of both form and function. As the press has tried to glean every available detail from the announced (but unreleased) Apple Watch, it has introduced a broader audience to horology, the digital crown, and Milanese Loops.
Comments from Apple CEO Tim Cook and Senior Vice President of Design Jony Ive have indicated that the Apple Watch is the first new post-Jobs product from the company. This is perhaps true, that Jobs did not have direct input on the Apple Watch, but that does not necessarily mean that his vision and spirit did not have some influence over the design and construction of this product.
Let's play the Devil's Advocate and assume that the ethereal presence of Jobs rose from the grave and played a subtle part in the creation of this new device.
Step back sixteen years to WWDC '98 where Jobs presented to a crowd of the Apple faithful, and he espoused the ideas of simplicity, technology, design, and fashion. The original iMac had just been announced the prior week, the first indicator of a new Apple. Gone was the myriad of confusing beige boxes, to be replaced by a simple matrix of four focused products, with the candy-colored Bondi Blue iMac being the keystone of this new strategy.
"As we get more towards consumer products, fashion gets important," Steve Jobs mentioned at the 1998 Worldwide Developers Conference. "For us, fashion is the design of our products. And we think this is really important to consumers." While he was initially describing computers, he also gave an alternative example.
Of a watch.
The Casio G-Shock — the hottest selling watch of 1998. Because of design.
Ten years earlier in 1988, the average American owned only one watch. Jobs continued, "Ten years later today, because of design, the average American owns seven watches."
To summarize: Design is very powerful.
Jobs has long recognized this, and it has been a common theme that Apple is at the crossroads of technology and the liberal arts. The marriage of tasteful design and fashion sense with technology. The wedding of Form and Function in the style of Apple.
Perhaps this is merely a coincidence that Jobs had mentioned a watch back in 1998, and Jobs had no hand in the creation of the Apple Watch, but it does provide for plenty of fodder for conspiracy theories. Regardless of where the line is drawn that divides fact and fiction, what we do know is that while Steve Jobs the man is gone, the ideals he presented persist.