The True Legacy of Steve Jobs

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Editor’s note: This article was originally published August 28, 2011, after Steve Jobs resigned as CEO of Apple, before he passed away October 5, 2011.

The term “game-changing” comes to mind when I consider the true legacy of Steve Jobs, now that he has resigned as CEO of Apple. I encountered Steve initially in 1991 while I was with Oracle. He was  pitching the NeXt computer to Oracle and conducted a demo of NeXt, which was really cool technology. NeXt, of course, eventually evolved to become the core of the Macintosh set of products. Who would have thought back then that NeXt would be bought by Apple and that Steve would then become Apple’s CEO?

What struck me even in 1991 was that he was an amazing marketeer. And he was a visionary. From the beginning, he had a different take on the enterprise software market from that of traditional vendors.

Until recently, traditional vendors in the enterprise space mostly delivered complex software solutions, customized and made more complex to address customers’ unique complex requirements. Implementations were lengthy and upgrades were tough.

Steve’s take was that consumer products can work in the enterprise. The iPhone is a great example of his approach of simplicity: two options – black or white, 16 or 32 bit, and 3G or Wi-Fi. And upgrades are simple.

His initial approach to the enterprise market – of removing the complexity from solutions – wasn’t successful. However, with the advent of the iPhone, the employee base has brought the device into companies and Apple has caused consumerization to be the main influence on enterprise software solutions developed today.

Enterprise customers now look at the tradeoff between simplicity and complexity due to customization. Steve’s game-changing approach is influencing the software industry to learn to offer products that eliminate complexity, are easy to implement, require no training or manuals or support, and have simple upgrades.

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