How Steve Jobs Rewired Our Lives-and Raised Our Expectations

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look more like Mac OS. On the mobile side, Jobs’ victory is complete: While Google’s Android operating system and Microsoft’s Windows Phone are both impressive, and include quite a few innovations of their own, they would have been inconceivable if Apple had not pioneered the way in touch-based computing with iOS.

The bottom line is that Steve Jobs proved that consumers care about good design, and this fact forced Apple’s competitors to raise their games. The happy result is that consumers win no matter which gadget they buy. Thanks to the pressure from Apple, even the lowliest entry-level BlackBerry device from RIM is far more sophisticated and usable than the leading mobile phones of 2005.

But Jobs’ passions weren’t limited to technology. He also had revolutionary ideas about the content that technology could deliver, and how it should be made and sold. When Jobs acquired the computer-graphics division of Lucasfilm in 1986, no one could have known that it would spell the end of the era of Snow White-style feature animation. But with 1995’s Toy Story, Pixar proved that CGI characters could emote believably, paving the way for a series of hits like Cars, The Incredibles, Up, and Wall-E that would ultimately transform Disney itself (and make Jobs its largest shareholder).

From movies, Jobs turned to music, bringing out the iPod in 2001 and persuading the record labels a couple of years later to start selling content for the devices through the iTunes Store. Thus was the template created for today’s vast Apple entertainment ecosystem, which is all about fluidity and interoperability. If you live in my household, you get your music from iTunes and you listen to it on your Apple iPhone or iPod; you get your TV shows and movies through Netflix or iTunes and watch them on your Apple TV; you download your books and magazines from iBooks or Amazon’s Kindle Store and read them on your Apple iPad; and all of these devices connect to the Internet and to each other through your Apple Airport.

In fact, the only media device in my apartment that isn’t from Apple is the television itself—and it should surprise no one that Jobs had his eyes on that niche too. “The television industry…pretty much undermines innovation in the sector,” he said at a technology conference last year. “The only way this is going to change is if you start from scratch, tear up the box, redesign, and get it to the consumer in a way that they want to buy it.”

I know that there are Apple skeptics who feel stifled when surrounded by this much Cupertino technology, and others who resent the content controls or the distribution fees that Apple imposes through iTunes. But I feel freed, to be honest. When all this technology is working together seamlessly, which is 99 percent of the time, I don’t have to think about where to search for the digital content I want or who to pay—it’s just there. When I think back to the days when I had to drive to Tower Records for an album, Blockbuster for a video, or Barnes & Noble for a book, I experience zero nostalgia. And it was Steve Jobs, more than any other single person, who made all this change possible.

I started off by saying that Jobs has raised our expectations of our technology, or our entertainment, and of ourselves. To understand what I mean by that last bit, you need to go watch Jobs’ commencement address at Stanford in 2005 (the video is below and there’s a full transcript here). Jobs never talked much in public about his personal life, but the Stanford address was an exception. Here he laid out the basic philosophy behind his stubborn iconoclasm—a philosophy that he said became even clearer for him after his initial cancer diagnosis in 2004. And here he challenged the students in the audience to be equally stubborn:

Your time is limited. So don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most importantly, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

It’s a haunting but revelatory speech, especially now, because it dwelled on death. Jobs, ever the optimist, called death “the single best invention of life” because it “clears out the old to make room for the new.”

Frankly, I wish we could have kept a bit of the old around, because the world won’t be quite as magical without Steve Jobs. But even in 2005, I think Jobs was telling us to get ready to let him go and move on. Which, now, the innovators he leaves behind must do—but, hopefully, using their hearts and their intuition as much as their heads.

Video of Jobs’ 2005 Commencement Address at Stanford University:

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Wade Roush is a freelance science and technology journalist and the producer and host of the podcast Soonish. Follow @soonishpodcast

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4 responses to “How Steve Jobs Rewired Our Lives-and Raised Our Expectations”

  1. Steve Jobs was from my generation, yet I learned of Jobs’ death in a text message yesterday from my 22-year-old daughter. By coincidence, I was just talking to another dad who said he got the news from his 14-year-old daughter, who said in all seriousness, “I think this is bigger than the death of Michael Jackson.”

  2. Sharon & Dean Branson says:

    Wade, your writeup about Steve Jobs was amazing, job well done. Our history with Apple and the influence of Steve Jobs on our lives, started mid 80’s when our son returned home from being an exchange student in Sweden, fully licensed to “drive the Mac” at his HS. Shortly thereafter, we replaced our Franklin, with a Mac.

    Each of us enjoyed the company of your parents tonight…your Mom with Sharon at the Lioness Style show while your Dad and the other husbands of the ladies at the style show, had hamburgers at the Dockside.

    Keep us the good work,
    Sharon and Dean

  3. Dr.A.Jagadeesh says:

    Wonderful appreciation of the great contributions of Steve Jobs to technology and society at large.

    Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India
    E-mail: [email protected]