Did I catch you off guard? Is that a blasphemous comment? Some of the AAPL-ites on Seeking Alpha might think so, the non-fans would say absolutely not. I am a huge AAPL fan - customer and investor and I say no. Was he a visionary? Yes. Was he a genius? Yes. Was he an outlier? Absolutely.
One of Steve's "lost" tapes has resurfaced. It is below. Today is October 3, two days until October 5, the one-year anniversary of Steve Jobs' death and I am sure you have seen the plethora of articles come out. I read one about his favorite hangouts in the valley (Silicon, that is), one about people's stories about Steve that until then, hadn't showed up in any book or website. Articles about "the next Steve Jobs" and will Tim Cook be able to get out of Steve Jobs' shadow. If you haven't seen these articles, you will soon enough.
In this conversation from 1983, about an hour long, Steve makes some amazing comments about what the future holds for computers, media, etc. He made a comment about having a "radio channel for software", free that you can try before you buy. Was that foreshadowing the app store or connecting the dots to get to the app store? He talked about voice recognition that it would be a better part of a decade until that really happened. Was he foreshadowing Siri? Could anyone come up with these "what will the future hold for computing" ideas? Maybe. Did they? No.
Even Huffington Post made a comment about Steve's comments foreshadowing AAPL products. Yes, they came to be released and yes, they are enjoying record-breaking sales.
To HuffPo, I would say "Hello. McFly. Anyone in there?" I think we all need to get out of the "Reality Distortion Field" and sit back and relax a bit.
Steve, to me, was a product marketer and an evangelist who could see where the puck was going to next.
Leander Kahney (Cult of Mac editor) says that Steve Jobs wasn't really labeled a genius until much later in life, to which I agree, and to quote CNN's Doug Gross, on whether there is a next Steve Jobs, he responds "There's one easy response, it's safe to say that no figure in the tech industry will perfectly duplicate the unique blend of vision, salesmanship, mystique and eye for detail possessed by Jobs."
Steve wasn't a technologist, but he understood it, and he helped you and me understand computers, make us want them, and make them cool. Remember though, he had so many good people around him to help make these products a reality. And some would even say it is Jony Ive, the real brains of the Apple look and feel since 1996.
What about the Reality Distortion Field? I read an article suggesting that Steve has lied to us for years. To that, I disagree. I believe he believed everything he said. The #1 trait of a strong business is to be a good storyteller. To be a good storyteller, you have to (1) believe in your story (2) be genuine (3) elicit emotion in people and tell the story that it resonates with them
Steve was the master storyteller. Is it any wonder he helmed Pixar?
A couple of things I did take away from the speech was he said companies shouldn't have more than 4 layers. And he used as his example as the oldest organization, the Catholic Church. And he said, "when you start with nothing, you have nothing to lose". This sentence is very poignant and meaningful for me - of course, I wish I would have had this in the back of my head when I took on a lot of scary experiences in the past. But, I digress.
As a zen buddhist, I honestly believe that if Steve didn't travel the buddhist path, half of what we know of Apple would be non-existent. Steve Jobs was the total package, all his experiences wrapped into one thing. You can't dissect it and even play the "what if" games.
So, again I say Steve Jobs is not God. But he had and his products do have a mystique that is spiritual.
Disclosure: I am long AAPL.