Thanks, Steve — Created by Jonathan Mak.
Steve Jobs’ legacy spans a number of industries — the personal computer, computer graphics & visualization, the movie industry, the music industry, telecommunications and mobile devices, retail stores. The impact he made across technology sectors was like no other before him.
His legacy touched so many people, directly, because he put the user, the user experience and design first. His passion for beautiful was just beautiful and amazing.
Mobility technologists of today must thank Steve. To appreciate his impact on our sector, it is important to understand how things were before Steve Jobs and the iPhone. In short, literally, there was mobility before the iPhone and after the iPhone — both periods are completely different.
Before the days of the iPhone, the operator controlled every aspect of the mobile device — inside and outside. Those were the early days of data networks. While there were mobile platforms such as WinCE, PalmOS, Symbian, WAP and J2ME, that allowed for mobile applications, innovation moved at the speed of a turtle. The main factor that impacted innovation was the operator itself — FUD over the networks, and control over the handsets and what could be done on the handsets themselves (that is, the kind of connected applications). To go to market, it was the most painful process ever, and it was very expensive — creating an application was a barrier to entry all on itself, and then, the ‘operator deck’, which was the main way to gain visibility was terrible. There was no ecosystem. There were people with great ideas, but bringing those to market was just next to impossible. This resulted in non-sophisticated phones and simplistic applications. It meant poor user experience. It wasn’t pretty.
Not even the powerful Nokia could break through this.
Then came Steve Jobs and his team with the iPhone.
The only way to break away from the operator control was to reinvent the mobility sector, which first meant the operator cannot be in the center in control. Imagine that. That was unheard of. And to execute, you create your own hardware, software and complete go-to-market approaches. Now, that is thinking outside of the box.
And in the process, not only they raised the bar on hardware design, software design, the user experience! all beautiful, capable pieces, but it was much more than a phone. Yes it could play music and videos, but most importantly for developers, he redefined how applications are built, marketed and monetized. No more ‘operator deck’! No more operator control. He pushed for latest on web technologies. And the ability to create incredible native applications. The power transitioned from the operator and into the ecosystem and the developers themselves. Developers could write mobile web-apps, or native apps cheaply and market them via an app store and take a huge cut from the sales of their apps, or, developers could give the app away for free and make money in other ways. Developers were no longer at the mercy or FUD from the operators. Finally, after ~9 years!
That was the legacy, the impact of Jobs on mobility — he redefined the mobile industry as a whole, top to bottom and left to right — the hardware design, and the software within, the software ecosystem, the user experience, the monetization aspects. He knew that software was the key to success and that the developers were the messengers, the ones who would make it happen.
The rest is history — now everyone gets it, and everyone follows.
Without Steve Jobs’ vision and his cojones (no one before him dared to challenge the operator) and of course his incredible team, we would still be using crappy handsets, and boring software/apps.
The mobility industry is really defined as Before-iPhone (BiP) and After-iPhone (AiP).
Steve inspired me and many in my generation of mobile technologists. I never got the honor to meet Steve Jobs, but I always wanted to tell him, “Thank you, Steve!”
P.S. I look back at my out of the blue interview with Apple in ~2004-2005 when they were looking for mobile folks. I have never written about this before, but that is how I learned back then that Apple was getting into mobile. I had my own business back then, so timing-wise wasn’t good for me, but if I had joined, it would have been something special.