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Steve who?

Apparently someone called Steve has passed away recently. Surely everyone knows Steve who? Or do they...?

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Well it didn't really come as a shock, but there is always an element of sadness when someone who has contributed greatly to the world dies.

I'm not even going to attempt to sum up Steve Jobs's life or career, except to say that the phrases, 'The computer for the rest of us' and 'It just works' seem particularly relevant.

Of course the question now arises of where Apple will go without Jobs at the helm, who apparently took attention to detail so far that a component that would never be seen by anyone other than a repairman was once rejected on the grounds that it was ugly?

Those of us who use Apple computers, iPhones, iPads, iTunes and the rest might have cause for concern. Those of us who don't might have cause for concern too as Apple has set a standard of design quality and functional simplicity that is widely emulated. Where would Windows be now without Apple's influence? It would probably work just as well, but it would be damned hard work, if you see what I mean.

But what if you had never heard of Steve Jobs? Just as you never hear of the CEO of just about any company whose products you use every day. If the CEO of MacDonalds met an unfortunately early demise, would I worry about the quality of my next burger and fries?

Jobs would have been just as influential at Apple if he had not put himself in the public eye, and his passing would have been just as significant for the company.

But great companies have a 'company ethos' that is much bigger than any one individual. That Jobs contributed enormously to Apple's company ethos is not doubted. But the Apple ethos has not passed with Jobs, it is still alive, well and very likely to thrive for years to come. Perhaps decades.

And, believe it or not, not everyone has heard of Steve Jobs - even enthusiastic Apple users.

I realized this two days after Jobs's death when I came into contact with a 15-year old relative. "What's new?" I asked. The response was that look of blank incomprehension common in youngsters when they are assessing whether an adult might be saying something that is vaguely worth paying any kind of attention to.

But when prompted I received updates on school, musical instrument progress, family life etc.

"And what do you think about Steve Jobs?"

Blank incomprehension, followed by, "Steve who?"

Although a user of Apple computers, an iPad and on occasion an iPhone, and having owned five iPods over the years, she had never heard of Steve Jobs. And, when you think about it, there is no reason why anyone who doesn't have a special interest in computers should.

Bad news for the memory of Steve Jobs, but good news I'd say for Apple. People will buy their products as long as they continue to provide what 'the rest of us' want.

Steve Jobs then... he wasn't the only innovator or visionary in the world, but he was one of the greats. And, by those who knew of him, he will be missed.

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By David Mellor Sunday October 9, 2011
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