Jobs did not have a secret life or secret skills or secret methods. When it came to product development he was about as straightforward as an executive-cum-engineer-cum designer could get.
Jobs died in late 2011, just a year after he launched the iPad, which arrived a few years after iPhone, which came after iPod, iTunes, iTunes Music Store, the Mac, and, well, you get the idea, right? Jobs was a product gravy train.
What set Jobs apart from predecessors and successors? The KISS principle. Keep it simple, stupid! as if dumb assed engineers and designers needed to be reminded (they did).
The KISS principle states that most systems work best if they are kept simple rather than made complicated; therefore, simplicity should be a key goal in design, and unnecessary complexity should be avoided.
Have you ever noticed that Apple has two major competitors? No, not Samsung, neither Dell nor HP. Microsoft and Google. Windows and Android. How would you compare each to Apple’s platforms, the Mac and iPhone?
Windows has two kinds of users. First, the geeky one who loves to tinker and dink around with settings until the cows are lost. Second, the user who hates the damned PC and only uses it because that’s what they use at work. Forced servitude of sorts.
Android has two kinds of users. First, the geeky one who loves to tinker and dink around with customized settings until the cows are reported missing. Second, the user who simply gets by with the basics; text messages, camera, email, a few games, maybe a calendar.
When Jobs launched the iPhone in 2007 hit pitted it against the so-called smartphones of the era; which we knew were not so smart. Instead, they were complicated beasts engaged in a race to see which could have the most features that customers would never use.
iPhone brought functionality that could be used.
Jobs introduced the iPad in 2010 with a similar notion but for a device that fit magically between iPhone and Mac. At $499 Jobs gave customers a new device that was more PC or Mac than iPhone, but easier to use than either one.
Jobs had both the position power (executive; CEO of Apple) and personal power (design and engineering chops) to make it happen. Apple’s co-founder had an innate ability to understand exactly where a new product should fit– both for a customer as well as in between other products. And, he was in a position to make it happen.
Even better, in every new product presentation, Jobs explained what was required and why Apple’s methodology was superior. What happened? Microsoft’s engineers, marketers, and executives knew that what Windows needed was more features.
Google’s Android engineering team saw the iPhone launch, too, and immediately scrapped their craptastic project and started anew. Android became an iPhone clone. What did they do? More features.
Meanwhile, Apple continued and continues to adhere to Jobs’ basics (made more difficult to do when so many products need to interact with each other) of small is beautiful and less is more.
There are times when I look at photos and movies on my iPhone and marvel at how much a simple little device can do when compared to any device of the past; pencil and paper, pen and ink notwithstanding. This is a truly wonderful era and it may evolve into a time when we forget the complexities of the past and how someone came along and made it better for hundreds of millions of customers.