We’re now some months on from the sad news of the death of Steve Jobs, which caused so much reflection in the world’s media.
For those who haven’t already, I’d suggest reading Malcolm Gladwell’s article in the New Yorker. It raises a really interesting question about innovation, the role of the inventor and the ‘tweaker’, arguing quite compellingly that Jobs was more of a tweaker than an inventor…
‘In the eulogies that followed Jobs’s death, last month, he was repeatedly referred to as a large-scale visionary and inventor. But [in] Isaacson’s biography, [the author] suggests that he was much more of a tweaker. He borrowed the characteristic features of the Macintosh – the mouse and the icons on the screen – from the engineers at Xerox PARC, after his famous visit in 1979. The first portable digital music players came out in 1996. Apple introduced the iPod, in 2001, because Jobs looked at the existing music players on the market and concluded that they “truly sucked.” Smart phones started coming out in the nineteen-nineties. Jobs introduced the iPhone in 2007, more than a decade later, because, Isaacson writes, “he had noticed something odd about the cell phones on the market: They all stank, just like portable music players used to.”
The idea for the iPad came from an engineer at Microsoft, who was married to a friend of the Jobs family, and who invited Jobs to his fiftieth-birthday party. As Jobs tells Isaacson:
“This guy badgered me about how Microsoft was going to completely change the world with this tablet PC software and eliminate all notebook computers, and Apple ought to license his Microsoft software. But he was doing the device all wrong. It had a stylus. As soon as you have a stylus, you’re dead. This dinner was like the tenth time he talked to me about it, and I was so sick of it that I came home and said, ‘Fuck this, let’s show him what a tablet can really be.’”
Gladwell suggests that: ‘Jobs’s sensibility was editorial, not inventive.’ It’s a fascinating piece,
not least because of its recognition that the so-called tweaker can be as valuable as the inventor. Read the article in full here, and let us know your thoughts.