By most working professionals’ standards I guess you could say I’m still fairly young. Born in March of 1984, yours truly had not quite arrived when Steve Jobs introduced the first Macintosh computer. It was one of the first personal computers to use a graphical interface allowing users to control their computer using the pointing and clicking of a mouse as opposed to typing in commands. When looking back at pictures of this system, it truly amazes me that only 27 years ago, a time period I didn’t think was so long, this Macintosh was high-tech.
Really – I’m talking what everyone thought of as super advanced technology. If I were to liken it to a technology of today and say that the way people viewed the Macintosh back then was the way that we view the ____ now, I think the only product I could pick would be…the iPad. How ironic that the best benchmark for cutting-edge technology today is the same company it was then.
It would be remiss for a blog that talks about multi-channel retail to not reflect on Apple, one of the biggest companies in the world, the day after its preeminent CEO and co-founder, Steve Jobs, announced his resignation. Why should Apple be mentioned on a multi-channel retail blog? Let’s think about this one. In the past ten years, commerce has changed so dramatically that it’s hard to even recount the shift – buying products is literally no longer the same process. Talk to nearly any of your friends and ask them how they decide on a purchase. Undoubtedly one step or more in that buying process will involve some sort of digital step. Whether it’s a Google search of the product to check prices, a sweep of the product’s online reviews, a price comparison inside a brick and mortar store using a mobile device, a post on Facebook to friends asking for recommendations, a scouring of the Twitter-verse for any available coupons…I could go on. Along the way, Apple has paved the path for those changes.
In 1999, two years after Jobs’ return to the company (he had left for some time due to disagreements with John Sculley, who had come on from PepsiCo), Apple launched the iMac and subsequently the iBook, establishing the template that still exists at the company today: two lines of desktops, two lines of laptops. Since then, people have been consuming, processing and operating differently. 2001 brought the launch of the first iPod, which changed the way people listened to music and subsequently, bought music. It was now being done online. So would soon be the case for buying shoes, stocks, lunch…everything.
In the next few years, more and more people started to adopt the Apple computer into their homes, and it started to surge back into the classroom. I remember as a journalism student at the University of Connecticut, I was fascinated to find that all our “writing labs” were equipped with Apple computers. Once I was in my junior year and the work load really ramped up, I knew I had to align my own technologies with those I used in the classroom. I have always been a late adopter. Not because I don’t love technology or resist it – I happen to love it. I’m just a hard sell. It takes a while for me to be won over by a product; I must be thoroughly convinced of its value and necessity before buying in. But sure enough, come the beginning of junior year, I bought an Apple (a MacBook which I still use today – nearly 7 years later and still going). And sure enough, I looked online to research it before buying. And again, sure enough, once I had it, I was buying all my books for class online – no more long lines at the UConn Co-op book store. For me, this was just the beginning of how my life would change into one consumed by digital products – a thing simultaneously good and bad…which is an Op-Ed for another time.
In 2007, the iPhone was launched and solidified the population’s desire to shift more and more activities to their mobile devices. A laptop wasn’t good enough anymore. Something that could be carried around in your pocket became essential. While other mobile devices were making moves in this direction, Apple was the first to transport the online experience (which had become so commonplace to so many humans) seamlessly into the palms of people’s hands via a touchscreen. Not only could people check their emails at any time, they could shop – something they had gotten used to doing online but couldn’t necessarily do on their work computers. The company sold 15 million phones in 2010.
A year earlier, in 2009, Jobs announced a leave of absence due to health concerns. Five years prior to that, he had been diagnosed with cancer and once the announcement was made in ’09, it was apparent that he was still fighting against it. But shortly after tumult over the news of his leave slashed the company’s market value, it had bounced back with one of its most innovative introductions yet. In 2010, Jobs introduced the iPad, the first touchscreen tablet device that merged the desktop/laptop computer experience with the mobile one. It was a feat many people questioned before it actually happened: would any device really be able to bring those worlds together? Do people really want something “in between?” And what’s more, will they spend nearly the price of a full computer to have it? Turns out, as has steadily been the case for Apple in the past 15 years, the answer was yes. Within a week, 500,000 of them were sold, and a year later, when the iPad2 was launched, people were lining up outside Apple stores and Best Buys to get their hands on theirs. In New York City, where I’ve called home for 4+ years now, the wait list for an iPad2 was upwards of three months when it was first released.
Not only were people beginning to use these devices to perform their typical online functions, but they were beginning to perform new ones they didn’t know they wanted or needed to. The App Store offered up new applications that would make everyday tasks easier, games more accessible, organization more natural, financial management more manageable. People began to check into their flights with the Delta App, see if they needed an umbrella for the day with the Weather Channel App, make sure their checks would clear with the Mint.com app, set reminders with the ToDo App, shoot birds out of slingshots with the…you get the picture.
Yesterday, Jobs sent a letter to the company announcing his resignation saying, “I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s C.E.O., I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come.” Today, nearly every website and publication is commenting on this news, reflecting on the legacy Jobs leaves behind and where the company will go in the future. As a creative thinker and hopefully an innovator on some level, I look up to Jobs and his ability to create a company that never scoffs at risks, build products that are groundbreaking, and leave behind a company with unparalleled esteem. I think all of us next generation thinkers, be we writers, marketers, some combination of both, or something else entirely, hope that we can one day command even one iota of the respect we all give to Jobs.
I’m still lumbering through the mobile world with my Blackberry, (how sad is it that this device seems archaic compared to the iPhone?) but given the rumors of a new edition coming out soon, I am happy to say I will be a late adopter yet again, but a loyal Apple customer and iPhone devotee none the less.
And with that, I’ll leave you with some of my favorite articles from yesterday and today which reflect on Steve Jobs: