September 09, 2009

Apple's Biggest Product Announcement Today: Steve Jobs

Apple is in a unique position whereby they can cobble together an array of product features, introduce them in flashy way, and call the result a media event. Today, the company made relatively minor upgrades to one of its product lines, while also introducing a simple firmware upgrade and application version release to one of its software programs. This being Apple, their product line was the iPod, the firmware upgrade was for the iPhone OS, and the version release was for iTunes. The company also got to beat the drum and demonstrate once again that they have significant market momentum. But really, truly, the only thing that mattered about today was the person delivering the message: Apple CEO Steve Jobs.

As much as the words coming from his mouth, or the Keynote slides being projected behind him, Jobs' demeanor and pure physicality were on display today, after months of near invisibility as he recovered from a life-threatening battle which included a much-publicized liver transplant in Tennessee, following his battle with a rare, curable form of pancreatic cancer just a few years ago.

My obsession with all things Mac and the rumors which sway the Cupertino-worshiping community to and fro has waxed and waned over the last decade or so. Right now, I know what smartphone I prefer and which OS I prefer, but I don't drool over software version numbers, gigabyte counts, or whether or not some band my parents used to listen to will ever make it online. But I do care about Steve Jobs - because of who he is, what he represents to Silicon Valley, and his ability to execute consistently in an amazingly challenging industry.

In December, when it was first announced Jobs would not be participating in Macworld San Francisco, I told you that I would teach my children about Steve. A month later, I told you I thought he should be immortal. And as silly as it may sound, I am already teaching my one year-olds about Steve Jobs.

Every night, when I read to my twins as they settle to bed, I am not picking up Dr. Seuss or Goodnight Moon. I have been reading to Matthew and Sarah from the insightful book, Inside Steve's Brain. As I tell these illiterate toddlers about Steve's successes and failures, even my wife listens in as she gets to know this Silicon Valley icon's history just a little bit better. And I am not just excited that Steve Jobs looks to be back in charge at Apple, but relieved.

Even as we kept hearing his state was improving, the rumor mill has not been kind to Steve. Outside the blog, friends of mine who know his family and acquaintances have told me of him putting his affairs in order, or reducing his traveling to keep his health up. They have speculated he won't stay CEO of Apple long, and have been concerned that he might not fully recover from his illnesses. But today's event put an end to much of that. I don't need to see Steve Jobs perform a physical, or have his medical records posted on for all to see. It's his brain that needs to work, and even if he is skinny, his mind is ever so sharp. He rightfully has ascended to his position atop Apple. Even if you were underwhelmed by Apple's actual announcements today - if you wanted to do more than rearrange your iPhone apps from iTunes, or you were waiting for the unreleased tablet, you have to be happy that one of the industry's real thought leaders, a man for whom much of us owe a great deal, is back with us.

Welcome back, Steve.