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November 23, 2011

The Steve Jobs Legacy

I finished reading the Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson and I came away with a better understanding of the Silicon Valley, the love of innovation at Apple and the legacy Jobs intended to leave at the company.

Steve Jobs learned from his failures, but never waivered from his behavior, which was incredibly Boolean. You never were wishy washy to Steve you were either an A player, who he wanted to be around, or you were on your way out.

I have heard similar view points from Google about looking for the cream of the crop. 

As a teenager he had the chutzpa to call the Bill Hewlett, the founder of HP, to get a part for a project he had. The story of Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak in a garage is complemented by a number of garages with hobbies in the area.

The garage mentality of California is now integrated into the culture of being willing to reveal but not necessarily share.

From the garage experiences, came the Apple II and from the culture came the LISA. From the revealing also came some key features in Android.

Apple has been on the offensive in the courts against Google and its partners.

The battle over the patents is one legacy that may be more personal and in the long run Tim Cook may rethink the strategy.

This will be an interesting place to watch the legacy of Apple.   Steve Jobs was aware that the natural tendency of companies is at the top of their game to become protective and lose their innovation.

Apple through a series of circumstances that have connected them to the right opportunities and the right partnerships has become the top of many industries.

A careful balance is now required of being innovative to itself and protective of its assets.

The ability to use iCloud for personal storage of devices without digital rights may be a place where the legacy of end-to-end reveals a weakness that open will overcome.

Most importantly for Apple is the legacy of management style. Apple developed its own form of matrix management where design dominated development.

This has been the truly innovative part of Apple and in the book it is clear that Steve was not the sole force to provide that leadership. However, Steve Jobs was the one to shepherd it through the system.

His goal was to make Apple management maintain its edge, but through the book Isaacson shows Disney, IBM and HP all having peeks and valleys in management.

The legacy then may fail and recover over time, it will be that the endurance of Apple will prove Steve’s legacy over generations.

Carl Ford is a partner at Crossfire Media.

Edited by Stefanie Mosca

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