Steve Jobs

By Steven Levy
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Former CEO of Apple
Cupertino, California

The tech giant redefined innovation by thinking further ahead than he needed to, long before he had to.

For all the things that set Steve Jobs apart as a visionary, his tendency to scrap his own best ideas was nothing if not brave. When you’re running a multibillion-dollar corporation, cancelling profitable products or eliminating beloved features is obviously risky. And yet, no one was more willing to sacrifice the present to win a future advantage than Steve Jobs, the Apple co-founder and CEO, who died on October 5.

Companies like Microsoft often limit new offerings in order to keep the milk flowing from their cash cows. Jobs always believed it was his role to make Apple’s products obsolete before anyone else did. As he developed the Macintosh, he crowed about its superiority to Apple’s expensive Lisa computer. And when iPods were riding high, he thought nothing of discontinuing popular models for a new version that put lagging competitors even further behind. More recently, he armed the iPad with capabilities that would tempt Apple-oids to choose the tablet computer over buying a new Apple laptop. If he didn’t make the best tablet, someone else might, though history has shown that few could do so with the panache of Steve Jobs.

Brave Thinkers 2011

While Jobs was often among the first to implement new technologies like Wi-Fi, he was even more daring in forcing users to do without familiar components like disk drives and physical keyboards on smart phones.

Sometimes he overstepped. When the original Macintosh appeared, its keyboard had no cursor keys. After unconvincingly insisting that people would get used to moving the cursor with the newfangled mouse, Apple restored the directional keys on a later upgrade.

Steve Jobs was famous for the amazing products he has introduced. But part of his courage lay in producing new innovations when the previous ones were still charming us.


Image: Jeff Chiu/AP

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/11/steve-jobs/308677/