Different industrial titans have risen to their throne for different reasons. Henry Ford and IBM figured how to make something that previously had to be built by hand in an efficient, industrial manner. Thomas Edison came up with a completely new invention. Bill Gates created an ecosystem by enabling both customers and partners (hardware and software) to get the most out of an innovation. Steve Jobs was a little different. Jobs made his money and built his company by helping customers conquer their fears of technology.ann
This thought came to me as I was reading through Steve Job’s biography. I came across a section where they were describing the design of the original iMac (pictured above). The original design included a handle on the top. This is a desktop computer, it wasn’t Apple’s intention to have people moving it on a regular basis. The handle was there to make people feel like they had control over the device. This is back in the day when many people didn’t own, and some were downright scare of, computers. But how intimidating can something be if you can pick it up by the handle and toss it around the room? The result was that more than 30% of the people who bought an iMac had never owned a computer before.
I was one of few people who had an MP3 player before the iPod was introduced. At the time (I was 16), I couldn’t understand why people didn’t adopt this glorious technology. In something about the size of a portable CD player, I could fit all of my music. There were a number of reasons none of those early MP3 players took off, but I think the primary one was that the interfaces were bulky and unintuitive. If you didn’t fundamentally understand what a “.mp3 file” was and how a portable hard drive with only the smallest amount of software could play them as music, the thought of a portable music player scared you. You understood how tapes and CDs worked, the MP3 player was dark magic that le feel that they had control over the device. The iMac came out in 1998 when not only did many people not have computers, many people were still scared and intimidated by them (you probably still no a person or two like this today). Over 30% of people who bought the iMac in its first year of existence had never owned a computer before. The brilliance of Steve Jobs on every device that he created for Apple from the Apple II to the iPad was that it made people who would have been afraid to buy the technology, unafraid.
you figured you probably couldn’t get to work anyway. Through both great design and ridiculous amounts of marketing, Apple managed to convince people, “Hey, you don’t have to know how it works, trust us we can put 1000 songs in your pocket.” They removed the fear and secured 70+% of the market.
The iPhone is another example, sometimes it surprises me how many people think that Apple invented the smartphone. IBM produced the first smartphone a full 15 years before the iPhone. Blackberry had a successful business building them for enterprises and Palm and Microsoft both had smartphones by 2002 (5 years before the iPhone). What the iPhone did was convince people that were scared of smartphones that, “hey, if you can use both a phone and an iPod, then you can use this.”
I spent some time on this and couldn’t think of a single other person who made their fortune in this manner. Anyone have any ideas?