The death of Apple founder Steve Jobs wasn’t particularly a surprise, he has been fighting pancreatic cancer for some time. But it does give pause because he was one of the two primary visionaries who gave us the computer age we live in today. I wouldn’t say that Apple was an innovator so much as it is a perfecter because Apple has always borrowed the technology of others and perfected it. Apple anticipated what people wanted of their technology and provided it, usually leading the way in terms of mass marketing. Like Bill Gates of Microsoft, Steve Jobs could see the future and did his best to bring it to light in a profitable way.
Back as the dot-com bubble was popping, Steve was considered an anachronism by a profit hungry board and dismissed from the company he started. But after the work of John Sculley, brought in to replace Jobs failed so miserably it nearly left the company bankrupt, Jobs was returned the reigns. Once again he discarded innovation in favor of taking that which existed to the next level and once again succeeded in seeing what people wanted and providing it. His perfection ideas are the foundation of Apple, and his departure leads a lot of people to wonder about the future of the cult. And cult is right. While Apple is synonymous quality, it is also synonymous with cost. It also took a bit of the adventurer to be a part of the Apple following and participate on the leading edge. We have all seen Apple with and without Steve Jobs and history has a tendency to repeat itself. I personally wonder if the ideas of committees and focus groups will droop the Apple product line into the monotonic realms of mass market mediocrity. Will the next product be the iRemember when Apple was cool?
Apple was already in search of their Next Best Thing. The iPad has now been duplicated and improved upon through the infusion of Android with small scale computing. The average tablet has more than sufficient power to be all the computer someone needs today, and you should see what’s up technology’s sleeve for future improvements and enhancements. So what follows the iPad now that it is part of the mundane workaday world?
Of course, I speak from a position of disability, but I have to hope that personal assistants is high on the list of likely. By personal assistant, I mean like that exemplified in Isaac Asimov’s I Robot. Having a machine reach the level of sophistication sufficient to replace a person to perform personal services would cause a brave new world for the disadvantaged. Those who understand the idea of enterprise networks that involve different computers of different types and operating systems to work together, and understand the idea of cloud computing, can see how an iAssistant might be able to plug into many systems and networks to do everything from your laundry to driving your car (better and more safely). A Google on two legs that not only can inform you of most anything, but do most anything as well. The imagination staggers at the weight of all of the possibilities.
The thing is, we pretty much have all of the technology to pull it off. In my world of robots and radio controlled airplanes, I am doing things at home that even a decade ago would be considered high military black art development. I see what I can do and it makes me shudder to think what might be happening inside the walls of DARPA, the government’s advanced research skunk works. With the miniaturization and new materials to work with developed in our logarithmic technological rise, it doesn’t take wheelbarrows full of money to create prototypes of new ideas. I tend to believe that before long, someone’s garage is going to turn out the Next Best Thing.
Sadly, there won’t be a Steve Jobs to see it and take it to the public as another iProduct. We’ll just have to see what the future has in store. Through Steve Jobs, Apple has had two turns at the trough. Without him, will it get a third? Only time will tell. For now I can only bid goodbye to one of the icons of my generation. While I’m not an Apple aficionado per se, I have tremendous respect for the work and vision Steve Jobs had, and I’m curious about the future of the company that only achieved under his guidance.