"Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart." - Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs was stubborn, but less than the statistics on pancreatic cancer. He died at 56, at the pinnacle of an extraordinary and way too short career, after having fought till his last breath.
Through Apple, he marked my professional life more than anybody else in the technology industry. I'm not just an “Apple fanboy” since 1985. After I finally could touch and buy a Macintosh in France, I had the chance to know Apple from the inside and share, with extraordinary people, a vision of informatics for humans, for “the rest of us”, that is radically different from the one that was imposed on the business world.
My first contact with Apple predates my love-at-first-sight of the Macintosh. Among our neighbors in Orsay was Giancarlo Zanni, then CEO Apple France. I played with his daughters, my brothers were interns at Apple. At 14 year-old I was hooked by “l'informatique” but I couldn't legally work.
Many years later, in 1997, after a professional reconversion that drove me back to my first technological love affair, I landed an internship at Apple Europe, then got Apple as a client during my first adventure as a freelance. Steve Jobs had just returned to Apple (he was paid by Apple to buy Apple back, as we half joked at the time) and Apple had a product catalog shock-full of 15,000 references. He handsomely turned around a company that was 15 days from bankruptcy, a company the entire IT industry was laughing at. That this industry and many others aren't laughing anymore at Apple now is quite an understatement.
I have had the chance to see Steve Jobs in person on stage at several occasions, in Paris, in Cupertino, in San Francisco; those were even better experiences than seeing him on videos. Some are dismissive of his use of superlatives and his “reality distortion field”, but he really had a larger than life presence and gold in his hands: a vision and the means to make it come true. For one Steve Jobs, how many uncharismatic CEOs are out there bragging about grand ideas that will never see the light because they do not have a fucking clue about what the company they're managing is doing?
Apple's marketing is a wet dream for many marketing folks, who have some difficulty realizing (or admitting) that it's all about good design of good products that sell themselves. The recipe Jobs imposed when he came back in 1997 of not announcing a product before it ships, and especially to only design things that do “just what's needed and just well”, is an absolute departure from the old methods of competitors: empty announcements of vaporware, obese products plagued by plethoric features lists (the strict equivalent of the pissing contest among geeks).
For the past 25 years, all my personal computers have been made by Apple, and I didn't have to depend on IBM or Microsoft. I'm confident this will continue for years to come, considering the recent developments in personal computing and the choices ordinary people make when they're free to chose their own tools. This is the second time Apple has to run without Steve Jobs, definitely this time, but contrary to the Sculley-Amelio era, the company is prepared and stronger than ever.
I've read comments of people who are astonished by the reactions to the death of Steve Jobs. Those public manifestations coming from ordinary people around the world are concrete proofs that he influenced his epoch. Not getting that is just a display of ignorance.
While I am confident on a professional level about what Apple is preparing next, I am personally sad about Steve Jobs' death, sad for his family, and probably a bit nostalgic of a past era, a page that has been turned too suddenly and too soon. I do not ask you to comprehend that, just to respect this sadness.