Remembering Steve Jobs

I owe a lot to Steve Jobs. My family got an Apple IIc computer when I was in the 1st grade (thanks Mom and Dad!) and it defined my entire career. I was an early card-carrying member of the cult of Apple. It wasn’t just about being cool or different. There are hundreds of tangible reasons why that platform was and is superior. Not just for artists, but for everyone. An evangelist was born.

In the 2nd grade, my 1st grade teacher came to get me out of class to help her “fix” her Apple IIe. Remember those guys with the green and black monitors? Turns out she just didn’t have the monitor on, but I found it remarkable that she came to me rather than any other adult in the school.

That was my first consulting gig.

steve jobs Remembering Steve Jobs

I often don’t write about “big news” since I figure everyone is doing it and the world probably doesn’t need one more blog post. But in this case, this isn’t just news. This is the end of an era.

But it’s not all sadness. Steve’s legacy is so strong, inspiring, and lasting that his untimely passing also marks the beginning of a new era — for Apple and all technology companies and geeks.

We’ve seen social media take hold in the past few years, and I believe we have yet to realize the true potential of that technology. In its infant state of exploration, experimentation and fundamental learning, social media remain anyone’s game.

Apple fueled the growth of new technologies such as social media by exploding the potential of open mobile app distribution. I clamor to ideas like this — philosophies, frameworks, and factories working together to empower everyone and level the playing field.

At the center of all this was Steve, whose singular vision and demanding standards merged artistry and technology into some of the most empowering devices and software ever created.

Being a life-long Apple fanatic means I’ve been there in good times and bad. I saw Steve get booted from Apple, and then triumphantly return to save the company from disappearing altogether. I painfully tried to help my college buddies with their late-90’s Mac’s that just weren’t very well-built.

When the Mac came about in 1984, I became mesmerized by desktop publishing and later PageMaker. The Mac made that world possible at the time, and once again I found it easy to dazzle people by doing what I enjoyed most – using the things that came out of Steve’s mind to solve problems and create.

This lead me to pursue journalism through high school and college. I was also an Apple Student Rep at Northwestern, which is the only time I received a paycheck from Apple. While I didn’t specifically pursue journalism as a career, my life has led me along the path of the new journalism in the form of social media and communication technologies. I apply these lessons on behalf of my company and clients every day.

And yes, I still use a Mac. Now I have several. I feel like much of the world has come to understand what I’ve known all my life. Vision like this is rare and deserves to be revered.

Steve would be the first to tell you that his path was not without mistakes. Whose life isn’t? But his journey is an extraordinary one worthy of reflection. He had a unique way of bringing teams of varied talent together to create something profound around a singular vision. It’s no surprise that Pixar is one of most successful film studios and business success stories in any industry.

Five years ago, who would have thought that thousands of executives would be walking around with an Apple logo on their phones?

If you’ve never seen it, take a few minutes to watch Steve Jobs’ address to Stanford graduates in 2005. These words continue to inspire me.

Thanks Steve for all you’ve given me and the world. We’ll never forget what you did and we’ll do our very best to carry your torch of innovation.

I was going through some old Apple memorabilia (yes, I have a lot of it), and found this photo of the rock we painted at Northwestern University in April 1997 before they changed to a single color logo. We made the student newspaper, The Daily Northwestern, the next day. However, the article was titled “Macintosh Misery” due to our decision to create hopeful art during a dark chapter in Apple’s life. Steve’s return and recovery of the company shortly thereafter thankfully make these mere anecdotes of history.

Apple Computer Mac logo NU Northwestern University Rock Painting 19972 Remembering Steve Jobs

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Apple Puts the ‘I’ in Cloud

It’s funny, I started writing this a week ago when this was just a rumor, but now that’s it’s official I can use facts.

On Tuesday, Apple announced a variety of things around the corner. The most notable is iCloud, which is a set of fully integrated apps that tie all your Apple devices together. This replaces the MobileMe service and makes it free, which is a welcome change as I was never thrilled with the performance of that service versus the promise.

Check out Gizmodo’s great 8-minute version of the keynote if you don’t want to spend two hours of your life watching the whole thing.

icloud hero Apple Puts the I in Cloud

The word “cloud” has been tossed around a lot in the past couple of years. If you’re not sure exactly what that means, here’s how I see it:

Technically, a cloud is a bunch of computers linked together to distribute the workload they’re given. Much in the same way that a single computer may have two or more processors to distribute the task load, you can think of a cloud as any number of computers working in harmony to get the job done.

Philosophically, a cloud allows you to store any amount of data or serve any number of applications. Most importantly, it allows you to access data and applications from any device or location. Anytime, anywhere, anyhow. The goal is true ubiquity of personal data for you.

Competition exists with companies wanting you to use their cloud versus the cloud next door. Ideally, all devices would work with all clouds and we’d all just be able to access our information from any terminal, regardless or brand or creed.

Apple is making a significant play here to unify their tight ecosystem of devices and software. They are in the best position to do this, as they have the most control over their ecosystem, delivering software, hardware, and networks that tie together.

Similar things exist on Android and other platforms, but like many things in the “Wild Wild West,” they may offer more or different capabilities but they’ll likely take more tinkering to get going. Apple tends to “just work.”

I recently presented at the SIPA 2011 Publishing Conference in D.C. on mobile (about 4 hours after this announcement) and one of the hot topics on people’s mind was the huge gap between how great the iPad is and how limited it seems to be when it comes to full-on productivity.

The iPad is here to stay through 2015 at least, as the following chart clearly indicates. Android tablet growth will be much slower than the phones since Google’s decided to license its Honeycomb tablet OS. This will be good for quality and consistency of apps, but creates a barrier for developers that will slow growth.

Chart1 Apple Puts the I in Cloud

While Microsoft is late to this game (again), their advantage is the embedded standardization of MS Office products (Word, Excel, PowerPoint). Getting these staple apps fully useable on the iPad and other tablets is essential for sales teams and other professionals, giving Microsoft a shot at this volatile market.

I’ve heard creative approaches such as running MS apps on a server and using the iPad as a thin client or dumb terminal. In this usage, the iPad is just used as a remote screen for a computer somewhere in the cloud. This grants full software capability, but the dependence on a constant Internet connection is a deal breaker for some.

This led me to Documents to Go, which is a native iPhone/iPad app that allows me to edit MS Office files directly on the device. I’m still getting used to it, and formatting retention isn’t 100%, but it seems to solve the issue of office productivity for many issues. Perhaps some day apps like this will exist in the cloud, but no matter how good the server infrastructure is, full adoption will always depend on local bandwidth for the user, which is far from perfect.

Happy 25th Birthday, Mac

It’s time to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Macintosh. I was pretty young, but remember this time well. We had an Apple IIc in my house for several years before our first Mac IIsi. What a sweet machine! When Apple (the company) turned 20, they released a special edition 20th Anniversary Mac. It was pretty sweet at the time, but wholeheartedly over-priced if you’re not nuts about this kind of thing. I doubt they’ll do anything to commemorate it this year with product, but you never know.

Here is a great photo of nearly every Apple computer ever made. It’s like looking at a family photo album. icon smile Happy 25th Birthday, Mac

Every once in a while I meet someone who isn’t familiar with the famous 1984 Super Bowl XVIII commercial Ridley Scott directed to launch the Mac. If you are one of those people, you need to check this out:

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