He Thought Different

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Think Different: The Apple slogan, ungrammatical though it is, encapsulates the reason Steve Jobs was the most successful technology leader of his generation. (Read the great retrospective of Jobs’ career and legacy by B&C’s George Winslow: Steve Jobs Dies at 56.)

The real genius of Jobs — apart from his masterful showmanship — was an extraordinary sense of timing.

In an industry driven frantic by Moore’s Law, which drove product-rev cycles at a pace of 18 months or less, Apple took the long view.

Journalists are taught to strive for two things: get it first and get it right. That axiom doesn’t hold in the tech world. Apple was not always first — but it has gotten it very, very right more often than not.

Jobs frustrated rivals to no end simply by delivering great *”insanely great” in his famous bon mot), beautifully designed products that just worked. In a society growing ever more tech-savvy, he was the savviest.

One territory Jobs never successfully colonized was TV. At a WICT luncheon last month, Wall Street analyst Laura Martin of Needham & Co. opined that 10 years from now, the TV industry will look back and see that what saved the $100 billion business was that “Steve Jobs got sick.”

That’s not exactly right. Apple and Steve Jobs, as smart and powerful as they have been, couldn’t do anything to alter the entrenched economic structure of the television business. (At least, not overnight.) And there are plenty of aggressive, deep-pocketed challengers (Microsoft, Google, Amazon) looking to shake up the way Americans watch and pay for TV.

We’ll never know what kind of magical thinking Jobs might have applied to TV in the next few pivotal years, but his devices and services will live on and evolve to keep driving change in digital media.

Peace be with you, Mr. Jobs.


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