I know I’m late with this week’s “tech thoughts” entry, but I couldn’t pass on not remarking on last week’s biggest tech news story (and the biggest one in quite awhile)…
Steve Jobs returning to Apple in the late 90s marked quite the turnaround for the company. While I was a faithful Apple user during their “darker period” (the mid 90s), it was often the butt of many jokes in the media (such as on “The Simpsons”) or by other technology users (the eternal “Mac vs Windows” flame war), and financial analysts of the time always clamored about just when “Apple was going to go under.” Admittedly in retrospect, the way Apple was run for much of the 90s *was* a disaster—too many confusingly-named models and lines (Performa, Centris, Quadra), lousy advertising, etc.
However, with Jobs’ return came a new renaissance for Apple, and a big shift in the technology landscape between 1998 (when the first iMac was introduced) and 2011: the iPod, the iPhone, the iPad, and Apple’s more stylish laptops and desktops, among various other milestones. Today, Apple’s now ranked as the world’s most valuable company, beating Exxon. Not bad for a company people 15 years ago were convinced was going to go the way of the Tamagotchi and Macarena…
While I haven’t been a Mac user since 2005 (when I moved from my old Power Mac 7500 running OS 9 to a whitebox PC running Linux (Fedora Core 3)) and have some dislikes about how modern Apple runs things (DRM related mostly, plus my dislike of OS X’s Dock, etc.), I do appreciate what they’ve done, and am glad my first computer was a Mac (a Performa 636 running System 7.5). I wish Mr. Jobs luck (including healthwise) in semi-retirement.
As for Apple’s post-Jobs future, given how tied Apple was to Jobs as their “voice” or influence, I’m worried in a worst-case scenario that it’ll turn into what became of Disney after Walt’s death. Disney post-Walt had sunk into a mediocre, unimaginative state in the 70s and early 80s, churning out various mundane films (though I liked “The Cat From Outer Space” as a kid), before its creative renaissance began in the late 80s with “DuckTales,” “Roger Rabbit” and “The Little Mermaid.” That said, today’s Disney also seems much more corporate in tone than in Walt’s day, with Disney owning everything from ESPN to ABC, not to mention Disney’s lobbying to grotesquely extend the length of copyright laws.
Like Walt, Jobs has been a big creative influence over his company. Though in Apple’s case, it’s probably in a better position to avoid what happened to Disney, with Jobs staying on in an advisory role, among other transition plans. Disney’s 70s decline also was the result of other factors unique to them (particularly the general decline in American animation at the time, plus a lot of Disney’s Golden Age animation guard retiring). Ironically, Jobs does have a connection to Disney (via Pixar).
We’ll see what happens in the future… I look forward to revisiting this post five or 10 years from now. Looking back at the posts linked to above was interesting. I’d almost forgotten that I thought the iPhone was just something for “someone seeking to replace their iPod nano, PDA and current higher-end cell phone with an all-in-one device” (when’s the last time anyone used a PDA?!), or that it wasn’t “aimed at someone like me” (ironically, buying a smartphone’s been one of my best electronics-buying decisions, and something I’ve gotten lots of mileage out of).