Global CIO: Steve Jobs' Legacy: 10 Ways He's Rocked Our World

The profound influence of Apple's brilliant founder and CEO has changed how corporations of all kinds approach strategy, design, and customer engagement.
"Apple's done extensive user-testing on touch interfaces over many years, and we really understand this stuff. There are clear limits of how close you can physically place elements on a touch screen before users cannot reliably tap, flick or pinch them. This is one of the key reasons we think the 10-inch screen size is the minimum size required to create great tablet apps." The design of Apple's products has not been driven by cost-control priorities, but by optimal customer experiences. That will be an incredibly valuable lesson for many other companies, both inside and outside the IT industry.

#5) Clarity Of Mission. A few years ago, Apple paired up with Google on various efforts, creating a formidable power couple whose engagement included Google CEO Eric Schmidt joining Apple's board. But when Jobs felt that Google was beginning to encroach on Apple's strategic businesses, Jobs forced Schmidt off the board. Here's how Apple's press release described it: "Eric has been an excellent Board member for Apple, investing his valuable time, talent, passion and wisdom to help make Apple successful," said Steve Jobs, Apple's CEO. "Unfortunately, as Google enters more of Apple's core businesses, with Android and now Chrome OS, Eric's effectiveness as an Apple Board member will be significantly diminished, since he will have to recuse himself from even larger portions of our meetings due to potential conflicts of interest. Therefore, we have mutually decided that now is the right time for Eric to resign his position on Apple's Board." Too many companies in too many businesses give their boards almost unlimited latitude and autonomy—Jobs' ouster of Schmidt showed the extent of Jobs' unquestioned leadership of Apple and his willingness to create powerful adversaries for the benefit of his company.

#4) The Near-Magical Apple Retail Store Experience. Lots of tech companies have opened retail stores over the years: IBM, Microsoft, Xerox, AT&T, and Dell among them. I think it would be fair to say that none of those efforts has been a rip-roaring success. Conversely, Apple's Retail Store global network got off to a great start and has only accelerated since then—and the genesis of that success was Jobs' unwillingness to do things the traditional ways. He hired a retail expert from Target, they created and analyzed a range of prototypes in a warehouse, and ultimately decided to strive for a totally different type of retail experience than consumers looking for tech products had ever experienced. Instead of being designed around the computer stuff the store was hoping to sell, Jobs demanded that the Apple Stores be centered on the way people want to evaluate, experience, and use technology. And the stunning financial results from the Apple Retail Stores bear out Jobs' strategy: retail revenue increased by 95% to $3.85 billion; the stores "hosted" (Apple's customer-centric term, very revealing in its orientation) 75.7 million visitors during the quarter, up almost 50%; and in the notoriously low-margin retail industry, Apple's profit margin on its $3.85 billion in revenue was more than $1 billion, more than double the year-earlier quarter. The big lesson from all segments of Apple's business: put the customer at the heart of all your thinking and great things can happen.

#3) The Supremacy Of Software. Business models, massive revenue streams, and tradition have presented significant obstacles for IT companies to move their focus from hardware to software in spite of the fact that all the signs clearly point to the emerging preeminence of software as the driving force behind business innovation, insight, and opportunity. Jobs has had no such problem because he's always argued about the intrinsic and escalating value of software. Here's how he put it in the mid-October conference call in response to a question about other device makers closing the gap on Apple's mobile products: "You're looking at it wrong. You're looking at it as a hardware person in a fragmented world. You're looking it as a hardware manufacturer that doesn't really know much about software, who doesn't think about an integrated product, but assumes the software will somehow take care of itself. . . . And you assume that the software will somehow just come alive on this product that you're dreaming of, but it won't." (For the full story on Jobs' views on software's preeminence, please click here.)

#2) Torpedoing Outdated Business Models. Unwilling to accept outdated business models in industries ripe for exploitation by Apple's new products, Jobs—once again—defied tradition and overturned the ancient and low-value revenue models in the music and book industries. As we wrote in Global CIO: Steve Jobs Torpedoes Another Stale Business Model: "Steve Jobs, just a few years after single-handedly shattering the music industry's sclerotic business model with the iPod and iTunes, has taken his revolution to the frumpy book-selling business with the iPad and an audacious new pricing model. . . . In much the same way that various desperate characters in 'Casablanca' attempted to beg, buy, or steal salvation from Humphrey Bogart's Rick in the form of the exit visas he possessed, staid book sellers—for whom the introduction of the paperback was an almost life-threatening experience—are now rushing to secure favor with Jobs and Apple in the hope of not being left behind in what they are coming to view as the desolate pre-E-reader world."

#1) Daring To Be Insanely Great. From the iPod to the App Store, from the Apple Retail Stores to iTunes, from the iPad to the MacBook Air, and on to the new generation of Mac systems that are selling at 7X the rate of the overall PC market, Jobs has inspired and driven and whipped his Apple colleagues to go beyond "exceeding expectations" and strive for uncompromising greatness. More than just a creative genius who could conceive new ways of doing things far beyond the vision of most of us mere mortals, Jobs has always compounded that aesthetic brilliance with passionate leadership that created a company stuffed from end to end with wild-eyed evangelists who believe that "insanely great" is much more than a catchy slogan—that it's an uncompromising mission.

Yes, more than anything else, Steve Jobs' legacy is that he's taken "insanely great" from a narrow and often-unrealized aspirational slogan to an unshakeable sense of purpose and possibility embraced not only by his company but also by his worldwide legions of customers.


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GlobalCIO Bob Evans is senior VP and director of InformationWeek's Global CIO unit.

To find out more about Bob Evans, please visit his page.

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