By Chris Bundy

Steve Jobs was always a man who thought differently. No matter what subject you discussed with him, he always seemed to have a different perspective. The idea of “Think Different” was always a central driving force for Jobs. His ability to think differently allowed him to see warm, glowing potential in technology that was cold and dull.

He also had fondness for a Pablo Picasso quote, as seen in the PBS documentary Triumph of the Nerds: “Good artists copy; great artists steal.” He goes on to claim Apple and himself have always been “shameless about stealing great ideas.” This quote helps to explain a lot of what of Steve Jobs did to change our world.

The first idea he “stole” was from a friend of his, Steve Wozniak. The idea was for a homemade computer that could sit on a desk. This idea was revolutionary; before Wozniak’s personal computer, computers were housed in giant rooms and manned by engineers. The concept was brand new, and Wozniak saw it as something everyone should have. Jobs saw something more. He saw an idea that could be worth millions. Jobs saw a device that could make everyday people do everyday things in a simpler and more efficient way.

The second big idea Steve Jobs would take came from Xerox. On a business trip to Xerox, Jobs was shown something that Xerox engineers had been working on, but Xerox didn’t see a future in. What Jobs was shown would lay foundation for the first Macintosh. Xerox showed Jobs a rudimentary version of the mouse, a color display and a graphical user interface. These were the missing pieces of Jobs’ vision of a computer for everyone. These improvements would open up computers to be used by everyone.

This is an example of the magic of Steve Jobs, who never actually truly invented anything. He envisioned a future and was able to drive his highly talented employees to create something great. Jobs would go on to continue doing these things with the iMac, iPod, iPhone, iPad and Macbook Air. A similar story goes along for each of these revolutionary devices as well. Each time Jobs would introduce one of these products, there would be the nay-sayers; but at the end of the day, the industry would time and time again follow the lead of Jobs and Apple.

This is the Steve Jobs effect. So what does this mean for the technological industry, and more specifically Apple, now that Jobs is gone?

There are three front runners currently in the business to be the visionary leader in which others follow. These men are Larry Page, Reed Hastings and Mark Zuckerberg. All three share similar traits, but have flaws that could keep them from becoming the next Steve Jobs. Each of these potential heirs to the throne has shown they can “think different” and know what people need even before they knew what they wanted.

Page, along with the help of Sergey Brin, devised a system that would scan the World Wide Web in search of information that people were looking for: Google. Search engines existed before Page and Brin’s Google, but none had the accuracy of Google. Page and Brin have for many years been out the spotlight since they hired seasoned business executive Eric Schmidt to run the company. But this past April, Page came back to spearhead his vision for the company, much like Steve Jobs did back in 1998. Page, however, is coming back under much better circumstances. Jobs came back to a company that was on the verge of total collapse and had far too many products to commit his best talent to. Page has come back to a company with $600 stock per share price and valued at 190 Billion dollars. Pages’ job is more or less is to not screw up one of the most successful companies in the industry. Google has the ability to commit massive sums of money to developing products that are in industries they have yet to take part in. There is a difference though, when Apple ventures into a new product area; they have made sure all their partnerships are in place and that the product is ready to be unveiled to the market. Google has made some mistakes recently in these areas. Particularly with Google TV, Google had high expectations to spear head the movement from Cable-based TV to Internet-based TV. Google launched the product last year and it flopped because Google had failed to acquire the necessary partnerships for the product to be successful and useful. This type of move is not one in which a Steve Jobs Apple would have made. Yes, Apple had launched its own Apple TV but it was based around different principles.  Despite these criticisms, I believe that as the next chapter in technology is written, Larry Page will be the man we will be reading about.

Reed Hastings is a man that has yet to breach the household name barrier but is one of the most innovative CEO’s in the Tech world. His company has changed the movie rental industry not just once but twice. First Hastings changed the industry with Netflix’s DVD-by-mail service and its no late fees. In 2007, announcing the streaming service that would accompany the DVD-by-mail service at no extra fee. Hastings has used this streaming service to put the Netflix brand on every major entertainment system. Hastings in this past year has made some decisions based on his vision that have caused the company to lose 800,000 subscribers in the past quarter. Those decisions that cost Netflix include a price hike close to 60% for some subscribers and announcing that he was splitting the company into two. The latter announcement was based on Hastings’ vision of the future, which is a great sign that he is like Jobs, but unlike Jobs, he announced the decision before the market was ready. Furthermore, he renounced the decision to split the company due to investor/consumer backlash. Steve Jobs would never let money or people influence his vision. Hastings is also a potential CEO in waiting for Microsoft.

Mark Zuckerberg the least mature of the bunch has shown great promise in giving people what they need before the even knew they wanted it. Facebook has time and time again changed the way it presents itself and the features it provides to its users. Zuckerberg has also come under flack for privacy concerns over the past few years. Going from profiles with default private accounts to default public accounts to aid in discovery of people you are searching to connect with. Though his decision was unpopular Zuckerberg stuck to his guns because he knew profiles needed to be public instead of private for the future of social networking. Zuckerberg is the youngest and the least experienced of this group but many would argue that his innovation may end up being of the most importance when it comes to influencing the entirety of the human race. The fact that Facebook may be the first company to have its product used by the majority of the human race and interconnecting all of its users, could be a massive achievement in the history of mankind.

These men are the men suited for the job of succeeding Jobs as the king of innovation and the driving force of the industry, but that doesn’t mean they will be. Jobs entered into a system controlled by big business lead by big money. Steve Jobs was against the norm coming from a working cl
ass family and a college drop out. Maybe the tech industry as a whole needs another person to come from nowhere and do the thinking differently.

As for Apple, they have a few years before they have worry about which direction they are heading in. Steve was rumored to have been working on a four year company plan before he died. Little is known about any details but even if this were not true, Jobs has attempted to build a company with his DNA in its structure and culture.  Jobs also recruited the best talent for the tasks he needed completed. As long as the management can continue the vision and culture laid down by Jobs, they shouldn’t have any difficulties until it comes time to innovate again. current CEO Tim Cook, Senior Vice President of Industrial Design Jonathan Ive and Senior Vice President of Product Marketing Phil Schiller are all current possible heirs that symbolize the best of Steve Jobs traits to carry on the vision. Business prowess, industrial design, and marketing were Job’s best traits but are not currently imbued in one man at Apple. It may be that Steve Jobs cannot be replaced by one man at Apple but a team of highly talented and passionate individuals.