Cult of Mac to live on as fanatical Jobs steps back
Published 26/08/2011 | 05:00
One Sunday morning in 2008, Vic Gundotra, a senior executive at Google, received a message from Steve Jobs, asking him to call him at home immediately. "So, Vic," said Jobs, "we have an urgent issue, one that I need addressed right away. I've already assigned someone from my team to help you, and I hope you can fix this tomorrow." What was this critical problem, so important that it was disrupting the weekend of two of the most important men in Silicon Valley? "I've been looking at the Google logo on the iPhone," said Jobs, "and I'm not happy with the icon. The second 'O' in Google doesn't have the right yellow gradient. It's just wrong and I'm going to have Greg fix it tomorrow. Is that okay with you?"
It might seem beneath the dignity of a chief executive -- let alone the multi-billionaire co-founder of one of America's most successful companies -- to let such a trifling matter intrude into his leisure time. But it is an anecdote that reveals what makes Steve Jobs such a unique, and uniquely lionised, figure. It is that attention to detail, that fanatical preoccupation with aesthetics, that has enabled the head of Apple to carve out a unique role: the CEO as auteur, the creative and technological titan who has made his products the coolest, most lucrative and most necessary devices on the planet. But as he prepares to step back from day-to-day control of the company, can his creation survive without its guiding spirit?
Certainly, Apple and Jobs are fundamentally interlinked. It is not just that he founded it with his friend Steve Wozniak, or has guided it (ever since his return after a decade-long exile) to the point where it vies with Exxon Mobil for the status of most valuable firm in the world. It is that both Apple's products and Apple as a company are constructed in the image of their creator, and of his ideals.