Never judge a person until he is dead...said someone. But then you are not supposed to judge a person that is dead as well. It is not a question of judging but often one gets to know the full impact a person's life has had upon us only when he has departed.
Steve Jobs is one such person..
It is not as if he was an unknown entity while alive. He WAS Apple, he was pretty much everything that Apple did and did well. And what a great success his journey has been...
But then so many technology CEOs and founders are well known, Larry Ellison, Bill Gates, Dell, to name just a few.. They are known not just to geeks and industry folks but also to common people - taxi drivers and hawkers for instance. Perhaps not Larry Ellison, but at least Gates.
But then Steve Jobs was a Bill Gates, a Larry Ellison, and then a lot more than that. Because when you talk about him it is not about linear growth or continuous progress, you are talking about disruptive changes, that too across a broad spectrum of industries. Industries with 800 pound gorillas that have been dictating terms to users, consumers and even governments. Industries that were almost immune to change brought on from outside. He brought them to heel by simply threatening their very existence.
Even the most sceptical would have to admit he changed the music industry, the design and creative arts profession, the telecommunication business as well as, of course, the computer and allied gadget businesses. And the publishing business too, with the wild success of the IPAD. We are not even talking about the movie business here, yet another business he contributed a lot to.
He also showed us what matters is not just a laundry list of features but that eclectic mix of clever marketing, slick design, feel good factor, that cool-factor that appeals to adults as much as it does to teenagers and the youth, that cuts across cultures, and a lot of other things that one can analyse to death with hindsight but are so hard to get it right if you are on your own. I have not met a Apple user that worries that his IPad cannot accept micro-sd cards, cannot support flash and so many other cannot's that Motorola tried to exploit in their ad for the Droid. We all know who has been more successful.
And we got to know just how big he was when he passed away - Samsung and Google had to postpone their new product launch. The outpouring of public sympathy across the world was overwhelming. Lots of people felt sad as if they knew him personally. Me too, though I don't use any of Apple's gagdgets (now is not the time to talk about why, just as it is not the right time to talk about Ice cream Sandwich). Google news that thousands and thousands of pages of links to stories - much more than any other such event.
He remained a very private person too - there were no 'farewells' or public announcements or bulletins of worsening health condition. There were no attempts to garner sympathy by talking about it and sharing details. He quit his job, simply faded away..as if he was waiting for the 4S launch to be over...