It was a coincidence that I had a board meeting in New York City yesterday, on the day that Apple was opening it’s fifth retail store there. The store opening was planned for 10 AM with collector teeshirts to be given to the first 4,000 visitors. I arrived at Grand Central Station from Connecticut at 8 AM and there was already a line of 2,500 people. When I returned to the train station at 2PM, the shirts had been gone for two hours. I was one of the many thousands who visited the store, which will have 315 employees. Some day my grandchildren’s grandchilren will tell friends that their Pop Pop was there on opening day. The Wall Street Journal reported that more people visit an Apple store each quarter than visit Disney’s four biggest theme parks in a year. It was quite a site to be there yesterday. I took some pictures but the one’s in the WSJ are much better. There is a short video done by Engadget that is worth looking at (see Apple just arrived at Grand Central Terminal, we hop aboard video).
After visiting the new Apple store, I could not help but think about Steve Jobs. He will be revered for many generations as a great innovator and business leader. After you read his biography by Walter Isaacson, you will also respect this great biographer. I met Walter in 1996 just before he became editor of Time Magazine and I was greatly impressed with his embrace of the Internet. He came to IBM with some colleagues and we brainstormed about how the publisher might take advantage of the Web. None of us really knew the right strategy at the time, and unfortunately, the publishing industry still has not figured it out. Industry by industry, it was Steve Jobs who showed the way.
Steve Jobs – by Walter Isaacson is already the biggest selling biography of all times. Jobs not only authorized the biography but gave Isaacson access to his home, his family, and his innermost thoughts over a two-year period leading up to just before his death. Great biographers write about great people. Isaacson’s books about Benjamin Franklin and Einstein were great but much harder for me to read. The Jobs biography read more smoothly in part because I could identify directly with the technology issues so aptly described in the book. I know or have met many of the characters in the book. Although not a technologist, Isaacson did a gret job in desscribing the technolgy issues in layman terms. He offered an insight that will help many readers better understand the impact and potential of technology.
The basic premise of the Steve Jobs philosophy was to create a simplified and integrated experience for the consumer. Critics say that the integration of iMacs, iPods, iPads, etc. with iTunes and Mac OSX represents a monopolistic strategy. After reading the biography, I suspect most people will be convinced that it was an intense desire to make things easier has been the driver. Jobs would say that products and profits are both important, but elegant and simplified products are most important. It was the intense drive and focus of Steve Jobs that made such products available to the mass market and catapulted Apple to become the most valuable company in the world.
I continue to believe that the Amazon Kindle is the best platform for reading books, but I read the Steve Jobs biography on the iPad.