Thoughts On The “Man in the Machine:” Steve Jobs

We tend to measure people’s value by their accomplishments. When it comes to Steve Jobs, his legacy is based on transformational leadership that launched innovations and impacted high-tech and other industries for more than 30 years. But more important, he left a digital footprint that will forever be embedded in our collective consciousness.His success is so astonishing that millions (billions?) of people have either read Walter Isaacson’s book “Steve Jobs,” watched the bio pic movies “Jobs,” and “Steve Jobs,” or viewed the recent Discovery Channel feature “Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine” to gain a glimpse and learn some lessons about Jobs’ legendary life and career. After 570+ pages of reading and more than 6 hours of video, I gained an even greater appreciation and knowledge of how he and his colleagues, including Steve Wozniak, took Apple from a garage startup to one of the highest valued corporations. Issacson closes his book with an amazing summary of the major contributions by Jobs and Apple:

  • Apple II: Over 20 years ago, I was fortunate enough to tell Steve Wozniak in person how the Apple II fundamentally changed my life. It inspired me and many others to follow a career in high tech. We didn’t know it at the time, but his vision of the future of the PC and computing included every man, woman, and child – not just scientists and geeks. It was an important catalyst of IDC’s 2nd and 3rd Platform and transformed generations as a pervasive and transformational technology.
  • LISA and the Macintosh: While Xerox PARC pioneered the graphical user interface and the mouse for user access, Jobs and Apple drove the home computer revolution. LISA and Macintosh enabled the rise of the PC as a consumer appliance for information access and the enablement of nearly infinite creativity. This killer innovation brought computer use to the masses, and its impact cannot be understated.
  • iPad: As an extension of the PC, Jobs added consumption and networked computing experiences that paved the way for the information appliance. The rise of the iPad enabled ubiquitous access to information and entertainment and inspired entirely new content creation industries. The iPad to me is the ultimate fruition of the “information appliance” we talked about close to 30 years ago.
  • iPod: Not only has the device changed how we consume music, but also how we purchased it legally. The iPod proved to be a creative solution to years of music piracy through the likes of Napster. Ironic enough, Jobs always viewed himself and his colleagues as pirates, even once flying a pirate flag over Apple offices! The app store is an extension and example of consumption-based software and how small chunks and apps can transform the software business.
  • Apple Store: For many, the digital storefront is a favorite place to experience the buzz around Apple products that users truly love. In fact, when Jobs passed away, it inspired millions of people to mourn someone they had never met, but whom they felt his impact. In some ways, the Apple Store is like the computer hobbyist meetings and events Jobs and Wozniak visited years back. But it’s on a massive scale with appeal across the entire population.
  • Apple iCloud: Inspired and brought to fruition by Jobs and Apple, Apple iCloud is an evolutionary technology, an amazing proof-point of what cloud computing is and will be. The ability to decentralize information and content management from single devices (like the hierarchical PC computing model of old) to synchronizing data across devices and within a central, secure place for content, music, pictures, and videos was a revolution in itself.
  • Pixar: If these technological breakthroughs weren’t enough, Jobs created Pixar by acquiring Lucas Films’ Industrial Light and Magic and creating a new cultural phenomenon beginning with Toy Story and continuing to this day with Finding Dory. Beyond the creative side, Pixar created a digital revolution that we are only now starting to see the ultimate impact.

I was blown away by this list and each product’s influence. Just one of these innovations would have enabled Jobs to go down in history as a pioneer and real genius. But looking at these holistically, he helped create a new digital economy and a brave new world enabled by digital transformation.

“Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine” showcased that the legacy of Jobs is not only preserved in the “things” and products he enabled, but also in the essence of the man himself. At Jobs’ memorial service, a version of a “Think Different” commercial was played – but instead of Richard Dreyfuss, Jobs voiced the 60-second spot himself.

In his book, Isaacson writes that Jobs himself penned the line “they push the human race forward.” Talk about a mesmerizing legacy and a fitting tribute to the “Man in the Machine.” His genius has indeed helped to change the world.


Here’s to the crazy ones.
The misfits.
The rebels.
The troublemakers.
The round pegs in the square holes.
The ones who see things differently.
They’re not fond of rules.
And they have no respect for the status quo.
You can quote them, disagree with them,
glorify, or vilify them.
About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them.
Because they change things.
They push the human race forward.
While some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius.
Because the people who are crazy enough to think
they can change the world are the ones who do.

Isaacson writes that Jobs himself penned the line “they push the human race forward” and his genius has indeed helped to change the world.

Fred is the senior director and head of Thought Leadership for Digital Business Services Marketing at SAP.