Visionary, Genius, the Edison of our Time.  The epithets that journalists have affixed to Steve Jobs in the wake of his sudden resignation are generally reserved for obituaries.  Jobs, however, is still alive and kicking, despite speculation that health concerns were the impetus behind his abrupt departure.  By officially transitioning to Chairman of the Board, and conveying his prior duties to Tim Cook, Jobs implies that his work as CEO is done.  “I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come,” Jobs professed in his resignation letter.  However, for someone who obtained his first job at Hewlett Packard at the age of 13, and co-launched the personal computing revolution, it's unlikely that as “Chairman of the Board, director, and Apple Employee,” Jobs will be throwing in the towel any time soon (Douglas Adams would certainly argue against that). Jobs will undoubtedly continue to engineer brilliance, albeit in a different capacity.  As Sascha Segan remarked in PC Mag, “Jobs's new role gives him more flexibility. He no longer has to do the scutwork of being a CEO: the partner meetings, the exhausting presentations, the long hours. But if you think Tim Cook isn't e-mailing him daily about every design project the company is working on, I think you're mistaken.”  In the letter, Jobs went on to reassure his employees, positing, “I believe Apple’s brightest and most innovative days are ahead of it. And I look forward to watching and contributing to its success in a new role.”

“Any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is, is clearly a man to be reckoned with.” - Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

iPhones, iPads, and Innovation

With such an impressive portfolio of revolutionary inventions already under its belt, it’s mind-boggling to imagine what else Apple has up its sleeve, and more importantly, how these products will change the way we live. Apple’s legacy of innovation can be traced back to 1983, with the launch of the Apple Lisa, the first home computer with a GUI, or graphical user interface. The MacBook recharted the trajectory of design and exponentially augmented the potential for human creativity. With iTunes, Apple conflated music with technology, making CDs obsolete and providing independent musicians with a quality distribution platform. However, this fusion of technology and music also paved the way for the loathsome popularity of autotune. The iPod transformed music from a source of entertainment and aesthetic pleasure into a mobile companion. The iPhone and its associated apps, have re-imagined the way we navigate our worlds and connect with one another.

Apple's Delicious Design and Development

While art and science are often treated as apples and oranges, handled by different teams with different skill sets, Apple’s genius lies in its ability to synthesize the two, and prove that not only are superior design and execution possible, but collectively, one augments the functionality of the other.  With Apple, technology became expressive, creative, and most importantly, hip. Jobs breathed fresh air into an industry that was previously marked by its analytical rigidity, making it chic to be geek, and positioning techies as the new rock stars.  Apple’s design success can be attributed largely to a team which has been able to successfully pinpoint and anticipate the needs of the user.  The design of the iPod, for example, was influenced by the desire to have a product that would allow the user to navigate their selections while easily holding a cup of coffee.  Furthermore, the iPod click wheel was designed to reference old volume knobs and radio buttons.  Its soft forms made it more user friendly, while its glossy white color made it look like candy to the young, trendy music lovers that it sought to appeal to.  With these products, Apple has defined the aesthetic of our generation.

A Culture, A Community, A Lifestyle

However, Apple’s influence extends beyond its commitment to sleek product design and user interfaces. Under Jobs’ direction, Apple has evolved into a community, a culture, and a lifestyle.  With futuristic stores equipped with genius bars, Apple’s attention to detail extends far beyond its breathtaking user interfaces.  Perhaps innovative architecture and interior design is simply the way that Apple has extended its commitment to its core values of design, innovation, ease, simplicity, and quality in the physical world. Wood was selected for the interior exhibition tables because of its natural ability to evoke warmth in a space, while glass is used to make the space seem bigger and lighter.  Walls are either white or covered with aluminum, to imbue the space with a technological aura.  Meant to evoke the atmosphere of a neighborhood bar, Apple employees are instructed to have a hands-off attitude, and instead encourage visitors to come in, use the computers and other gear, and feel comfortable checking their e-mail. Apple’s in-store theatres also signaled their intention to utilize the stores as a focal point for instruction and training on Macintosh computing and the digital lifestyle.  The stores’ on-going and special events are also evidence of the company’s attitude that its retail stores are a gathering place.  Tutorials, workshops, youth programs, and a full schedule of film screenings, lectures, and musical performances make Apple stores more than retailers; they’re community centers.

Maestro of the Micro

Considering Apple’s global influence on culture and design, it’s no surprise that Apple products have also had political implications.  Apple products and their associated apps have been responsible for regime revolutions and microfinance projects in the developing world.  They’ve also fueled a riot or two.  Furthermore, ethnic friction and animosity that has persisted for centuries, and in some cases, millennia, is gradually being eroded through the instant bond that is often felt between MacBook, iPad, and iPhone users. While Jobs may be a melange of contradictions -- a hippie, a pirate, a humanist, a capitalist, a Buddhist -- it is these contradictions that simultaneously make so him accessible and enigmatic. Apple has always been ahead of the curve when it comes to evolving the quality of life, something which can easily be seen in the futuristic, utopian design of Apple's new Cupertino headquarters and employee housing spaceship.  Perhaps Jobs doesn’t have much time left before his spirit launches into space, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t know how to live before he dies.

“Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”- Steve Jobs, Stanford Commencement, 2005

Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish

Like a leaf blowing in the wind, the trajectory of Jobs' life and career has been unpredictable, but ultimately, at Apple, he found a safe place to land.  Subsequently, Jobs butterflied Apple, fueling its metamorphosis and enabling it to emerge from its computing cocoon with wings for flight.  It has been said countless times that Jobs saved Apple.  One can only hope that his health doesn’t turn the savior into a tragic hero.

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