I’ve been struggling for something to blog about since I got back from Italy. (Life at home is nowhere near as exciting, and that’s got more to do with the fact that Britain has no culture any more, not the fact I’m back to working 6 days a week.) Then I woke up this morning, with two messages on Facebook from my pal Scott and a text from him waiting for me, instructing me to ‘Seriously, wake up and check the news.’ So I did…

Wow… I can’t explain it, but I had a gut feeling as I pulled up the BBC news homepage that I knew what was coming:

Steve Jobs had died during the night.

As most of you who know me relatively well, you can imagine how I’ve taken this. Celebrity deaths never bother me really, with the exception of Michael Jackson – but who wasn’t bothered by that? My response to Scott was that I no longer see a point to life any more, and that my route to work that morning would include a slight detour, ending in a jump from Union Bridge onto the Denburn Road… All amateur dramatics aside however, I got into the car and drove to work, noting the motorcyclist who had met the wrong side of a lamp-post on the Kingswells road and was being loaded into the back of an Ambulance. (Another Apple fanatic clearly taking the news well…)

It got me thinking, where the hell is that company going to go now? When he announced his resignation as CEO in August, I wasn’t worried. As head of the board of directors, he was still going to have a huge say in the running of the organisation. All decisions about the operation of the company, from a financial perspective anyway, would be authorised by him to an extent. As finances control everything in a company (and I’ve come to know this the hard way, through recent experiences on my university placement) I imagine that Apple would continue to operate in the way that it did under his leadership as Chief Exec.

Lets not forget, that he was ousted from Apple in 1985. A slump in computer sales in 1984 led to a fallout between Jobs and John Sculley (then CEO of Apple Inc.) which resulted in Jobs being fired from Apple. He began his own computer company, NeXT, manufacturing workstations which were marketed towards the scientific, financial and education sectors, but were never widely adopted due to the price tag. Something Apple is known for today. Even then, Jobs demonstrated an obsession for design and form factor, manufacturing the outer casing of NeXT workstations from Magnesium. The second generation, the NeXT Cube, bears a striking resemblance to one of the most iconic Macintosh’s ever built – also known as the cube.

Power Mac G4 'Cube'

Nabbed this photo from an Engadget article...for all those copyright folks out there (I'm NOT about to start Harvard Referencing this, jeez I'll be here all night...)

Not necessarily the most successful model (I’m led to believe it would overheat occasionally and cause the thick, moulded plastic around the machine to crack) you have to admit it’s got style! NeXT was acquired by Apple Inc in 1997 to bring Jobs back to the company and prevent it from going ‘beneath the surface.’

In 1986, he bought The Graphics Group. Better known to you and I as Pixar, giving us the delights of Toy Story, Finding Nemo and the like. Pixar also developed its own machine, known as the Pixar Image Computer, but after struggling financially, they contracted with Disney to produce several feature films which Disney agreed to co-finance and distribute. Bring in Toy Story, Monsters Inc. and Finding Nemo, among many others! Things went pretty well with Disney and Pixar, but the decision was made in 2004 not to renew the contract after negotiations between Jobs and Eisner (Disney CEO) broke down. A new CEO at Disney later and things were patched up.

How Steve came to be CEO of Apple however, has to be the best part of this story (obviously reaching the top of your game has to be your best bit, but it’s not for that reason that I enjoy it so much) He was never formally re-hired by the company as a permanent fixture, but on a six month contract while a new CEO was sourced. During his absence from Apple, three CEO’s came and went, each driving the company into the ground in their own way. Such ‘innovations’ as the Newton:

Nabbed this from Techbuffalo also...

and licensing Mac OS to run on ‘clone’ machines made by other manufacturers, gave Apple a bad rep and forced the company into decline.

Shrinking rapidly, Jobs was called in to repair the damage. He re-joined Apple in 1997 as deputy CEO, finally taking over in 1998. He axed the Newton, OpenDocs and licensing requirements for the Mac Cloning program were changed to make it extremely difficult for third-party manufacturers to make their own models and undercut Apples sales. Although seen by many as greed by Steve Jobs, IBM were facing the same problem from manufacturers like Packard Bell and Compaq, and were facing complete loss of control of their own platform!

He signed a deal with Microsoft, for $150 million dollars worth of shares in Apple. For this however, Jobs demanded that they were non-controlling, and Microsoft were bound by this deal to continue making a Mac compatible version of Microsoft Office. They then went on to lose several patent battles with Apple over desktop items like the trash can and the Macintosh ‘floating window’ interface.

Jobs went on to revolutionise and innovate, in a way only he seemed to know how. Many compare it to nothing other than the captivation of an audience with a clever marketing campaign. I guess there is some truth in that, I think we’ve all seen the infamous ‘1984’ ad campaign that accompanied the original Macintosh at the Superbowl. To say that Apples advertising strategy has changed would be a blatant lie… However, if the Newton is any example to go by, he had a nasty habit of turning up in San Francisco every year with something these folks want! Like it or lump it, the iPad is the most successful selling tablet PC out there now, and I think it’s going to be a long time before anyone manages to compete with it – unless those Koreans have anything to do with it…

Now I suppose, this brings me to Tuesday, and my first ever disappointment following an Apple Keynote. Every time something major’s happened, I’ve been watching it happen, then spend hours perusing the Apple website absorbing every piece of information available. I know it’s sad, but then I don’t criticise the many millions that sit in the pub every night watching 11 men chase a ball around a patch of grass, falling over and pretending their life is over… I realise I’ll probably get lynched for saying that, however here is my cup of care:

courtesy of demotivationalposters.org (good for a laugh!)

In all honesty, it’s not the introduction of yet an other ‘S’ iPhone. (The 3GS was responsible for making me the avid iPhone hater I was this time last year) But more to do with the fact that our new CEO seemed to be desperate to delegate the responsibility of unveiling ‘the most amazing iPhone yet’ to other members of his team! Many of you will remember the original iPhone launch in January 2007 – or I do anyway – in which Jobs presented most of the Keynote single-handedly, and unveiled the iPhone himself.

Now I realise that was the launch of a whole new kind of product, but if you take over from someone like Steve Jobs, you’ve got some pretty big shoes to fill. Not to say that he should become Jobs, but at least show the same enthusiasm. Half the excitement of a product launch was watching Jobs regress into childhood, moments before he unveiled a new wonder on the world. I only hope that we see more of Tim in the coming months. I doubt I know we won’t see another major launch from them again this year. However, early next year, we can expect a MacBook Pro refresh (usually around February – April) and I imagine we’ll see the iPad 3 shortly after. Not sure what we’ll see with it, although I imagine that the next iteration will feature a widely anticipated retina display. I wouldn’t hold your breath for a USB port though folks, IT’S NOT THAT KIND OF DEVICE!

I’ll admit I’m a sucker for a good advertising campaign, and my gullibility makes me a marketing execs dream when it comes to convincing me that my life will be better with this money pit of shiny-electronic-computer goodness. But you cannot deny that the iPhone has changed everything, and that’s not because it’s marketing slogan was “This changes everything.” Before the iPhone, the only people wandering the streets with smartphones were businessmen. Fact. Who would want to browse the internet or reply to/send emails on a device with keys so tiny? Who else would need to? The iPhone came along and suddenly everyone wants the internet in their back pockets. It doesn’t take a genius to realise that the iPhone has changed the way the internet impacts day-to-day lives. Jobs never claimed to have done things first, most of the time, but he sure as hell made it desirable! By taking something and making it user-friendly, you force it to reach out to those who would be otherwise blissfully unaware of the capabilities because they’re too idle to learn. (In my honest opinion and limited experience providing first line IT support this year, computers aren’t difficult – USERS ARE!)

The real magic of Apple comes from the way that they bring things together, and make users want to adopt them. iCloud is a classic example of this, and I have to say that my real excitement for October 4th was not the unveiling of the latest hardware, but the launch date of iOS 5 and iCloud.

Now I know, as well as many other geeks out there, that ‘the cloud’ is not a new idea. But again, I find myself having to remind people I speak to about this that Apple never claimed to be the inventor of ‘the cloud.’ Neither is iCloud their first attempt. Apple have been in the cloud computing game since the release of Mac OS X, which launched a set of online tools, in true Apple style known as iTools.

Apple has been in the cloud business for a while, and as a subscriber of MobileMe, I cannot fault them. Through the MobileMe service, my phone is kept up-to-date with everything I use, and all data is pushed to it automatically. Now again, I know this is not a new thing, and will remind everyone that it was RIM that pioneered the push-data technology. It also gives push email to the iPhone, which is not available with a Gmail account or similar, unless it supports Exchange Activesync. Don’t ask me why, I’ve never been able to get to the bottom of it, other than that it might just be to convince people to subscribe to MobileMe.

However, iCloud changes everything, and yes I know I’m using that slogan again… The problem with most cloud based services is that users have to make the effort to use them. Files have to be saved to a specific location to enable their upload to the cloud for access elsewhere or a website has to be visited and the file uploaded manually. This is all a major inconvenience!

iCloud seeks to change that, and it will!

I know the hassle of not synching my iDisk before I shut my MacBook down at night, and the number of times I’ve gone to work or uni and what I’ve needed isn’t there would astound many. What Apple have done is integrate it in such a way that, in the way you expect electricity when you plug your vacuum cleaner into the wall, you will expect the service from iCloud.

There is no synchronisation process. No folder system. The system does it all for you. Furthermore, many have complained about the lack of capacity with it. First off folks…it’s free…and a free account on Dropbox only entitles you to 2GB of storage in their cloud. That 5GB only accounts for documents, iOS device back-ups, email and any songs you may have in your iTunes library which don’t feature on the iTunes store and have consequently been uploaded as part of ‘iTunes in the Cloud.’ Any purchased content (books, apps and music), and photos in photo stream don’t count towards that. So you’re actually getting rather a lot of bang for no buck! iCloud also enables users to purchase iOS devices without the need for a computer, as it will allow them to import music onto them from the cloud, back it up centrally in case the devices get lost or replaced/upgraded and synchronise across multiple devices. All this is done, of course, completely automatically, so even if you buy music using the iTunes store on your mac and your device has a data connection, you’ll find it there mysteriously next time you pick up your phone!

Apple is about to set the standard for cloud services, just in the way it has done in terms of the personal computer user experience, smartphone capability, the way we listen to music and the re-definition of the tablet PC market. All this comes down to one man…and we have a lot to thank him for. He may have been controversial, and at times described as ‘erratic’ when it came to his management style, but James Bond once said that: “The distance between insanity and genius is measured only by success.”

No matter how you swing it, Steve Jobs influenced a lot. Without the Macintosh, we wouldn’t have computer mice. Without the iPhone, we would still be using stylus’ to control our smartphones (although poking people on Facebook with a stylus might be a little more fun that way…) Without my iPod, I don’t think I’d have made it to uni and be sitting in the position I’m in now. Call me extremely sad, but there is nothing I get more enjoyment out of than my collection of Apple stuff, most of which is surrounding me right now as I write this along with my parents old G5 iMac – a true relic! It saddens me that I may never see a visionary like that again in my lifetime, in many ways he was the Michelangelo of my generation, undermining society to do things his way – not unlike Michelangelo with the dome over St Peters Basilica, deliberately made 1cm smaller than that over the Pantheon to piss off the popes, a worthy cause in my book.

...sad...I know...

I’ve followed him, and his leadership of Apple, since the age of 14. I’ve seen the transition from PowerPC to Intel (a decision which almost made me renounce my faith in the Church of Apple, when I saw it as a step away from the company’s heritage) the rise of the iPod and the introduction of the iPhone. I’ve owned about 5 or 6 iPods actually, and despite having an iPhone I cannot shake the dependancy I have for it now I own a car. I’ve used every iteration of Mac OS X since OS 10.3 “Panther,” which was installed on that white beast you can see in the photo above; jumping straight onto my laptop at 1AM following arrival home from a wedding on July 20th to start the download for OS 10.7 “Lion” for installation whilst in the shower before work the next morning, and I’ve drooled longingly over the Mac Pro’s in the Apple shop.

I realise now that I’ve rambled for the best part of 3000 words, I’m hoping that I can channel this much effort into my uni work this year so I can aim for a first class honours! So I end this with my favourite quote from our leader, Mr Jobs to John Sculley who, at the time, was CEO of Pepsi.

“Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life, or do you want to come with me and change the world?”

My god, did he do that.

R.I.P. Steve.