Steve Jobs’ decision to return from medical leave long enough to unveil a barrage of new iPad 2 features wasn’t just savvy strategic marketing. It was a genuine display of entrepreneurial passion that, sadly, is all too scarce in corporate America’s upper echelons.
The cynics say Jobs’ unexpected appearance for the March 2 introduction of iPad 2 temporarily calmed the fears of investors who believe that, as the ailing CEO goes, so goes his $320 billion empire.
While Jobs is the visionary face of and brains behind Apple’s unparalleled success, the iPad 2 and other dazzling devices in its ecosystem are products of a team of thousands he emotionally saluted in his remarks. Creating and preserving an innovator’s culture has made touch-screens and apps mainstream marvels. It has created the people’s technology.
To that point, I visited my neighbourhood Apple store in Oak brook, Illinois, an hour before closing time one recent snowy Friday night. While the posh outdoor mall it anchors was near empty, the Apple store was packed and bustling with consumers of every age. They were hunched over translucent display tables, intensely working the sample iPads, Macs, iPhones and iPads or in lively conversation with the blue shirt- sporting help numbering just about one to every two customers. These Apple faithful were happily engaged in products and services that “get” who they are and what they want.
That is Jobs’ passion personified, entrenching deeper into social and corporate structures with the sale of 15 million iPads in 2010 and as many as 40 million more in 2011. In the year since its inception, the iPad has become a staple in schools and hospitals, contributing to $9.5 billion in iPad revenues and $2 billion in related apps in 2010. Somewhere between the 200 million credit cards cached and the $2 billion paid to developers, there are new services waiting to be hatched the iPad continues to power the digital transformation.
This is not about getting schmaltzy over Jobs and Apple, as inextricably linked as Walt Disney to his namesake company that is a thriving entertainment colossus a century later. But there is an underestimated element to the Apple phenomenon that is lost in the shuffle of praise for the big “little dent in the universe” Jobs claims to have made , criticism of Apple’s greedy gatekeeper control of content, the breathless anticipation of the next new device and shareholder angst over a full-proof succession plan.
That is the emotional relationship between tech-empowered consumers and the intuitive connected devices and services Apple designs to fuel their interactive existence. Like every next generation of device, the iPad 2 is lighter, thinner, faster than before with a protective screen to prevent annoying finger smudges. The Ooos and Aaahs inside the Ye rba Bu ena theatre where Jobs unveiled his latest masterpiece — or inside the neighbourhood Apple store — are as much the impassioned innovator as for his latest creation.
The scores of companies in all industries needing to reinvent and rebuild themselves for the digital age would do well to comprehend the power of this emotional quotient, and take a close look at Jobs’ genuine passion and leadership legacy. It’s all about innovating, enabling and celebrating—all of which can continue everywhere indefinitely because Jobs has taught us how. “We’ve been working on this product for a while,” Jobs explained his iPad 2 appearance following a standing ovation, “…and I just didn’t want to miss this.”