Steve Jobs – a Personal Loss

I’ve been in the IT industry now for over 25 years, and as I am sure is true in the case of anyone who has been in an industry for so long, I felt that I’d pretty much seen everything there is to see. Sure, the technologies change, but the way they are introduced to market, the promised impact, and the way people interact is pretty much the same – it’s just “new stuff”.

This week, while attending an industry event (you know, where they talk about all the new stuff, why it’s better than the old stuff, etc.) I saw something I had never seen before. Of course, I saw plenty of new products and new technologies, but that’s not what I am referring to – in the midst of all this excitement I saw genuine sadness and grief.

It was during this event that the twittersphere spread the news that Steve Jobs had died. Attending this event were partners from all over the world – I met folks from Italy who were constantly getting pinged on their phones with the news – the Italians back home were just waking up, while those of us in Palm Springs were in the same state and time zone as Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino. One of them had an iPhone – every time he looked down to get the message, it was another reminder of what was, to him, a very personal loss.

What surprised me, with the loss of Steve Jobs, wasn’t that it was big news, but that so many took it so personally.

Then I noticed that those who seemed to feel the loss most strongly were those that used Apple’s products. For Android and PC users, it was industry news. For iPhone, iPad and Mac users (especially those with all three), it was as if they had lost a friend.

I asked a few of them why they felt so strongly and the response was almost identical. They felt that Apple understood them, and built products to fit who they are, and Steve Jobs personified that. Whereas one company might have created an MP3 player, Apple created an ecosystem for listening to, sharing, and personalizing music. It wasn’t a matter of looking forward to Apple’s next product and seeing if it was interesting to them – no – these folks trusted Steve’s vision to the point where the real question was, “what will I be buying next?” It was almost like people returning to a restaurant, looking forward to the next thing the chef would come up with, knowing that it would fit their tastes, and trusting in the ability of the chef and the restaurant to deliver.

As a business owner of an IT services company, I’ve always felt that we have earned a trusted advisor status with the clients we serve. We know what we are doing, and in most cases, we have helped customers we serve grow and flourish even during down economic times by helping them make prudent choices and executing those choices on their behalf.

This eye-opening week has shown me that there’s another level of relationship possible. There’s a chance for greater level of understanding of our clients, and perhaps, for them, and with our help, a greater understanding for our clients of their’s. I, for one, for however long I remain in this industry, will be concentrating more on adhering to Steve’s vision that the personal computer phenomenon should always be more about the personal than the computer.

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