ONE need not look far back to see how the proverbial Gordian knot has been cut again and again in the last 50 years where we have seen business innovation happen at breakneck speed. The dawn of personal computers in the late 70’s slowly broke the monopoly of big corporations, the only ones who could afford those giant mainframe computers.
Atari popularized console gaming. Sony rose to prominence in the 80’s with the popular Walkman portable music player. Nintendo reinvented the gaming console with the wildly popular Family Computer. The 90’s saw these technologies becoming faster, smaller, more refined, and of course, this was when the internet first landed on Philippine soil. The late 90’s saw cellphones become more and more popular with the invention of text messaging.
The year 2000 onwards has exploded with inventive fury that have disrupted the way we work and the way we play. Want to know about something? Google it. Want to know about someone? Look for their Facebook account. Want to broadcast what you’re doing at the moment, or follow someone who does? Get on Twitter. Need a ride? Book it on Uber (but not anymore in Manila where you need to use Grab). Need a place to stay? Go to AirBNB. Need anything? There’s Amazon. Need a calculator, calendar, watch, music player, video player, library, flashlight or camera? There’s your phone. Oh yeah, you can use it to call or text people too.
What these products did so well was not so much to untangle the mess that existing products were in, but to invent a whole new way of doing things that simply sliced through the old ways and left them lying in the dust.
Perhaps no other individual best personifies the technological push and innovation of the last 50 years than the well-loved and well-hated Steve Jobs.
From the time he and Steve Wozniak founded Apple Computer in 1976, Jobs had always had a grandiose vision. Wozniak’s technical genius delivered great products, but it was Jobs’ marketing genius that made people want to buy them.
In the Apple I, Jobs defied the prevailing idea that only really big businesses needed computers. In the Mac, Jobs showed that computers could display gorgeous fonts and introduced the era of desktop publishing. The iPod and iTunes changed the music industry and made Apple into the world’s largest music retailer. The iPhone made Apple a leading phone manufacturer and the iPad, which people initially laughed at when it came out, has become a common household device. Jobs created a cult-like following that defied odds and expectations, forging an empire that Alexander couldn’t have imagined in his wildest dreams.
The years following Jobs death has seen the beast rearing its head, however, and Apple has been stagnant for a while with no earth-shattering releases or announcements, its phone sales plateauing and even rumored to be declining as it has last year declined to publish numbers for the first time.
Perhaps they have been trying hard to “maintain” the vision, forgetting that “maintaining” is probably the last thing a living Jobs would want to do.
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