In Memoriam: Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs, 1956-2011

Apple just opened stores in Shanghai and Hong Kong, two of its largest anywhere. Tim Cook, the company’s chief executive, noted earlier in the week that the Shanghai store had had as many visitors–100,000–in its first weekend as its Los Angeles store had in its first month while the Hong Kong one sold more Macs on opening day than any other Apple store had. All of which is a roundabout way of expressing how global the was the transforming cultural and commercial influence of Steve Jobs, who died yesterday after a seven-year battle with pancreatic cancer at the age of 56.

This Bystander first read the sad but not unexpected news on an iPad. This post was typed on a MacBook. An iPhone and an iPod lie nearby. We use iTunes and the App Store, and other products and services from companies Apple’s have spawned. We still have a Newton in a cupboard somewhere, so we might be a little Mac-centric. But it was not just in the tech toys that Jobs expressed his genius but in how he made what they did a seamless and stylish part of our daily lives, and profoundly changed how we live those daily lives as a result. He also made a wildly successful business out of it. Apple is America’s second most valuable company by market capitalization.

Right from the start (Apple was founded in 1976), Jobs could “think different” (though the tag line didn’t come until 1997). Jobs’s realization that his time was limited may have driven the remarkable explosion of his creative and business talents in the last seven years of his life. We recall a remark we once heard in the early days of the Internet, “the future is already here; it is just randomly distributed”. With an inspired combination of vision, talent and drive, Jobs could see the future first and do more to make it a coherent part of today than anyone.

Sina.com has posted a comprehensive tribute (in Chinese) and an evocative slide show of Jobs’s life and achievements. The products and the man who conceived them are so iconic it barely needs commentary, in itself a testimony to his legacy.

We also like this infographic of Apple in China, a reminder that it is not all cool, shiny stores.

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