Blog Post

Steve Jobs and the sound of silence

Stay on Top of Enterprise Technology Trends

Get updates impacting your industry from our GigaOm Research Community
Join the Community!
Steve Jobs at D8 by Asa Mathat | All Things Digital

Like many of my colleagues in Silicon Valley, I was having a fantastic day today. It is crisp in the shade, warm in the sun. The skies are a magical blue with puffy clouds floating like dreams. And when all seemed to be going well, an email in my inbox — without as much as the new message sound — arrived: Letter from Steve Jobs. It was as if the inbox was observing the solemnnity of the occasion. It is an end of an era.

The first thought that ran through my head was about Steve’s health, and I thought to myself that this cannot be good. I don’t care about him being the CEO or head of Apple. What I really do care about is his health. He wouldn’t be making this decision unless things were pretty dire.

It is incredibly hard for me to write right now. To me, like many of you, it is an incredibly emotional moment. I cannot look at Twitter, and through the mist in my eyes, I am having a tough time focusing on the screen of this computer. I cannot hear the sounds of the street or the ring of my phone. The second hand on my watch moves slowly, ever so slowly. I want to wake up and find it was all a nightmare.

And while I wish for him to have more time with his family, I am also being very selfish. I will miss the thespian who made inanimate objects like a computer become a thing to behold. A few years ago, I compared Steve to Howard Hughes using the line, “Some men dream the future. He built it.”

Steve Jobs, the maverick who has architected one of the greatest comebacks in the history of Silicon Valley, continues to prove that he is a modern-day Howard Hughes. Unpredictable, charming, loving, petulant, and perhaps more than anything deviously mysterious. But more than anything brilliant.

I have watched him from afar. I have learned from his decisions. And yes, there have been the products Apple has built — especially those in the most recent decade. Jobs has had an incredible influence on me.

Jobs (and by extension, Apple) (s AAPL) has taught me (and I am sure others) a big lesson: If you want to change something, you have to be patient and take the long view. If Apple and Steve’s incredible comeback teaches us something, it’s that when you are right and the world doesn’t see it that way, you just have to be patient and wait for the world to change its mind.

Today, we are living in a world that’s about taking short-term decisions: CEOs who pray to at the altar of the devil called quarterly earnings, companies that react to rivals, politicians who are only worried about the coming election cycle and leaders who are in for the near-term gain.

And then there are Steve and Apple: a leader and a company not afraid to take the long view, patiently building the way to the future envisioned for the company. Not afraid to invent the future and to be wrong. And almost always willing to do one small thing — cannibalize itself. Under Steve, Apple was happy to see the iPhone kill the iPod and iPad kill the MacBook. He understands that you don’t walk into the future by looking back. If you do, you trip over yourself and break your nose. Just look at Hewlett-Packard, (s hpq) and you know what I am talking about.

As a founder of a company, Steve’s biggest gift to me is not the MacBook or the iPhone. Instead it’s the confidence to disrupt myself. Whitney Johnson, a founding partner at Rose Park Advisors recently wrote:

We typically define disruption as a low-end product or service that eventually upends an industry. But I’ve found that the rules of disruption apply to the individual too. Or as thought leader Jennifer Sertl writes, “innovation ultimately begins on the inside.”

Jobs is a perfect example of that. He could have settled for status quo and gone on as the chief executive. But why wait? After all, he is the man who can see the future better than most of us. And even if it means a full stop to what has been an incredible career.

Thanks, Steve.

146 Responses to “Steve Jobs and the sound of silence”

  1. igroucho

    One of the greatest combacks in tne history of Silicone Valley? Which is even to compare with Jobs’ resurrection of Apple (and renewal of IT)? NONE, by far. SJ rules!

  2. Personally I think we should separate ‘vision’ from ‘strategy’. Apple is a company with a vision and great execution.
    But they never created the AppStore or iPhone with a strategy for over 5 year. The AppStore happened to be a success because of great execution. With the success they quickly steered away from suggesting developers using HTML5, having real apps instead. It’s vision and ‘short term strategy’ if you will, but mostly: great execution.
    As of today all the other appstores are clunky in comparison and there is no ‘computer company’ who has elegant product design and software.

    Now only if they fix Lion ;-)

  3. Walt French

    Here’s to a crazy one. Love him or hate him, one thing you cannot do is ignore him. He has changed the world and we will never go back. — cribbed from Apple’s 2006 “Think Different” ad.

  4. I love the tribute, but do you know something I don’t? If not, then the tone of this piece is very much obituarial (if that is a word) and I think premature. Let’s not write him off yet.

  5. Alfredo Perez Grovas

    Hmmmmm All I can say is…

    ..SERIOULY ???? You are going to tell me that “It is incredibly hard for me to write right now” because a person that you have NEVER met in your life is deciding to quit his job for what may or may not be health reasons ???? Honestly, I find this either:

    1) Patently ridiculous that you would shed a tear for someone you have never met


    2) Disgustingly money grabbing to try to use the health status of a person unknown to you on a personal level to obtain some more hits on your website

    You are going to tell us that you “cannot hear the sounds of the street or the ring of my phone” because you heard Steve Jobs, with whom you’ve NEVER shared a beer, broken bread, seen laugh when you told a stupid joke or gone through a tough personal moment together with, is quitting his job ???

    Well, all I can tell you is….

    Either, cry me a river and be a little bit more genuine !!!


    Learn to care about people that do matter to you on a personal level ….I dunno, your high school friends, your long lost Aunt Bertha, or the milkman you have said hi to a couple of times in your life !!!

    • ThirstyTech

      Alfredo, it’s obvious you’re not a fan of Steve Jobs. This article was written by a fan and appreciated by fans.

      If you’ve ever had a favorite actor, musician, celebrity or role model, you’d understand what it’s like to see that person’s successful path come to an end.

      However, If your mind is shallow enough to slay another man’s thoughts as he expresses reaction to disappointing news, then I can already sense that your intellect is absent of any real capabilities to dream and venture forward on a path, based on the pavings of great leaders.

      In other words, get a life quick. Your response above obnoxiously declares that you are undoubtedly a moron.

      • Alfredo

        Hi ThirstyTech,

        No, on the contrary. I did try to place me in Om’s shoes and think “If the persons unknown to me that I admire most were to die, would I feel the same way Om did” and the answer to me was a resounding “No”.

        It is not that my mind is “shallow enough” as you put it. It is simply that my mind and my sould are far more full with care for people I have actually shared experiences with to KNOW what really caring for somebody whose crossed his/her life’s path with me means.

        Honestly, ThirstyTech, if you state that you could not operate yesterday after hearing Steve Jobs was quittng I tell you, go out and live a little, live life with people that are real and tangible to you so that you can learn what REALLY caring about somebody means and not feeling sad that somebody that you have lived vicariously through by reading about him/her on online blogs decides to quit.

        Until then, let me go out and dig my mini violin from under my imaginary chest to cry me a river for your loss :-)

    • I think Steve would think otherwise of Om’s article because he would be able to see the words of praise, Nay, the effect he had had on Steve’s life. And Steve would be able to recognize Om’s genuineness in expressing what so few can. You’re obviously not of that ilk – that is not surprising.

      As for breaking bread – seriously?? Why don’t you get past your own psychological complex and get a life and let others express freely and proudly what you clearly are incapable of?

    • Aviral Mittal

      You just remain on surface. That’s why you think that only having a coffee with someone can make you emotionally attached with him. People actually connect on ideas. Steve has been a guru to many. People have been trying to search his soul. His every quote is an evidence of his brilliance and wisdom. That wisdom can be applied to a large number of things and it makes sense.
      People can die(I am glad he is alive and healthy), but their ideas live. Forever.
      I can understand what Om felt. You need to get a life.

  6. Caroline Johnson

    Beautifully said Om. Never been sad about a CEO resigning but clearly he is gravely ill. No doubt the naysayers will have their say but they can only dream where he achieved – Apple & Pixar in one life time, a buddhist & a maverick! I wish him well with whatever time he has left :-)

  7. Aside from my being a diehard Mac user since college (’88), Apple has, by far, been THE single brand that’s influenced and inspired my life the most! Thanks, Mr. Jobs, for the greatest company in the world…and I hope we can look forward to many more years of your involvement.