Steve Jobs, his life and his innovations have been dissected over and over. More so after his death and after the release of his biography. Some have questioned if Steve Jobs was really innovative. Some have questioned if he was a visionary.
Malcolm Gladwell has questioned Steve Jobs innovations and has termed them as not true innovations but tweaks to existing innovations. After reading the essay, I was convinced. Here’s what I tweeted in response :
Steve Jobs is a tweaker, who hated other tweakers.
In a way that statement is true.
Though the meaning of the word tweak dilutes Steve Jobs contributions. So much so that it need a 4000 word rebuttal from Allen Frederick to convince me that Steve Jobs is not a tweaker but a true visionary and a true innovator. The word tweak doesn’t really do justice to what Steve Jobs has achieved.
Steve Jobs took the existing portable audio players, took out the sucky part out of them and made iPod. Steve Jobs over heard about Microsoft’s tablet over a dinner conversation, was pissed that the tablet has a stylus and was determined to show how to make a tablet. The result : iPad.
By Gladwell’s definition, most of the greatest inventions would be tweaks. The Wright brothers hardly gave birth to the idea of an airplane. Dozens of inventors were trying to build kite-like structures with broad wings and engines to power them; the Wrights methodically gathered all they could learn from those others and figured out how to use a lighter internal-combustion engine and warp the wings for control to succeed far better than anyone else.
True. None of the innovations we have in the 21st century are true innovations if we go by Gladwell’s definition. It’s like Microwave oven wasn’t really an innovation because it works on electricity.
What Jobs and Apple did was not tweaking, it was seeing implications and possibilities everyone else was blind to, and pursuing them and making them real even when they seemed impossible. That is real invention.
Coming to Adobe
Adobe has announced that it will stop working on Mobile Flash and will concentrate on HTML 5. This was almost coming as Adobe has earlier embraced HTML 5 with its dev toolkit. Is this epiphany? Far from it. Adobe just didn’t want to admit that it was wrong about Flash on Mobiles.
Steve Jobs has been a proponent of HTML 5 for quite some time now. In a letter dated April, 2010, Steve Jobs has listed what was wrong with Flash. HTML 5 is preferred over Flash for the latter’s security, performance and battery problems along with HTML 5’s open standards. As per Jobs, Flash is designed for PC’s which use mouse. It is redundant in the age of Touch.
And boy was he right on all five counts. Read the letter here.
Adobe which was gung ho on Flash and in spite of having 75% video on the web in Flash, chose to ditch Flash on mobile.
Steve Jobs predicted that HTML 5 is the future, much before everyone else and didn’t let Flash run on any of the iOS devices. If that’s not vision, I’m not sure what is.
Image via Flickr User cogloglab