I have this expression I say when I see a woman dressed to the nines with matching bag, shoes, hat, scarf and jewelry (in any combination of that list): “the only thing that separates us from other mammals is our ability to accessorize.” What makes jeans and a white t-shirt unique? Everything over, under or around it. Fashion is art and art is fashion.
No one understood the power of this better than Steve Jobs. Now arguably, the guy who never wore anything but a black turtleneck and jeans is hardly a shining example of the art of fashion. I’ll give you that. But he may have been the only individual who EVER understood it when it came to technology.
Before Apple came along, we had 10 years of “personal” computers from other technology titans that were anything but. We had 15 years of “smart” phones that were mostly the dumbest things ever invented. And we had 20 years of “personal stereos” (cassette tape and later CDs) that were neither very personal nor very good stereos.
Mr. Jobs understood the relationship between functionality and individuality. He understood the philosophy of designing for the masses one customer at a time. I can’t think of a single consumer products company that understands either of these things half as well as Apple, and by association, Steve Jobs.
At last count at the end of 2010, there had been 92 million iPhones and 26 million iPads sold since their respective launches, and I am sure that number is now higher. Having said that, I can with certainty GUARANTEE you that no two devices are alike. They may look alike, but they are highly personal. No two people in the word could possibly have the exact same combination of music, movies, photos, applications, games, ring tones, cases, contact records…the list goes on and on. They are like snowflakes. No two are the same.
I read hundreds of Facebook statuses, Twitter posts (even at 140 characters they are unique), tributes from the rich, the not so rich, the famous and the not so famous, it is clear that Steve Jobs as an innovator, creator and human being, has touched every individual in a very deep and personal way. What other individual that has passed away in the last decade can you remember generating this kind of personal outpouring of genuine loss? We pay tribute and homage to others, but we grieve the loss of Steve Jobs. I read a post this morning from a friend who wrote, “I am not sure why I feel this profoundly sad about a man I’ve never met.” It’s personal.
The only conclusion I can draw from this is that millions of us have built a deeply individual connection with these products, and by extension, their creator. We feel like we know him personally because all of us have created personas that he enabled. He knows EXACTLY who I am even though he has never met me. I saw a t-shirt the other day that said, “I hope I am half as interesting as the guy that owns my iPad.”
How many times have these words been uttered in total panic? “Oh my God, I have lost my phone. My life is on that thing.”
And my personal favorite from a well known tech reporter: “Apple owns me. And my kids. I’m waiting for my dog to learn how to use the IPad. Seems unfair she’s the only family member that can’t leave her pawprint on the universe somehow.”
Who knew when he created these things he would spawn millions of digital fingerprints and millions of friends worldwide? After all, it’s just a phone. But it’s my phone. And no two are alike. Each one, a complete original.
Just like the man himself.