I’m sadder than I should be, with Steve gone. I don’t know why – he was nobody to me personally and in fact he represented the damnable, irresistible fruit; the zenith both of gorgeous gadgets and emotionally manipulative marketing. I love Apple despite myself. I know its shortcomings and I’m totally, painfully aware of the trendiness of it all – but I’m a sucker for it, because what can I say? They got me, the cheeky buggers, I’m helpless to their ephemeral charms. There’s no ill will, either; I grin and hand over another obedient stack of cash, and I get my fix.
Steve changed the world though, you know? The man became a titan of industry, a gazillionaire who first made himself, and then invented whole new markets for shit we didn’t know we needed. Not just once, either, oh no, not iSteve. Remember the first iPod ads, the ones with the dancing silhouettes and Jet singing Are You Gonna Be My Girl? That was ten years ago, almost to the day, and since then we’ve seen iTunes just decimate everyone in the online music space, and revolutionise the way data is monetised along the way. We’ve seen unknown programmers rake in small fortunes off the back of the iOS SDK, and something called Angry Birds become a household name. I now know that I need a tablet for some reason. And of course, there’s the piece de resistance, the iPhone. That otherworldly touchscreen. The OS that could force Google’s hand, outmanoeuvre Microsoft and push Nokia – remember them? – towards its implosion. The public frenzy, block-long queues on the day a new model was launched, the fervid speculation on what will be next, and when.
Computers are futuristic again, and we love it. All the crazy gesture control from Minority Report is coming true, already, and it’s just way too magnificent for us. We don’t even stop to chew, we just open our throats and Steve just keeps letting us have it.
And three fertile years later, others will finally arrive to squabble over the remains, claim some tepid point of innovative exclusivity, and give the haters the chance to catch up to us addicts without losing face.
But I’m hear to talk about Steve and the music industry, so: remember CDs? Remember Soulseek? When MP3 became viable we voted with our feet, happily abandoning the record stores in favour of sharing rarities from the comfort of our dens. The music industry went mental, the terror of faltering revenues too high and the insight into how to tackle a perfectly duplicable, intangible medium nowhere to be seen.
And this guy beat the pirates at their own game. When the time was right, he gave us iTunes and suddenly, somehow, getting new tunes was even more convenient, and much more nicely packaged, than using Limewire. We had a legitimate portal into the vast oceans of music out there and it was easy to find what you wanted, and there was no risk of malware and bugs crawling up into your system, and the artist gets paid again and $1.09 is really pretty reasonable for a song you get to keep forever sure, okay.
The licensing negotiations took forever and were fiery and loud, but in the end they got it, Sony/BMG and Universal and the rest, and later, when the iTunes alternatives came, the labels were ready to take them on. Without Steve, we wouldn’t have Beatport, or SoundCloud or Grooveshark.
I think his greatest skill was in making his breathtaking toys simple enough for your gran to use, something the imitators still haven’t quite got. He dumbed computers down, for better or worse, and somehow engendered a dazzling new rate of technological progress and fever-pitched expectation at the same time. He was our Willy Wonka – a charismatic genius who utterly exploited our love of shiny things, and in doing so, revolutionised the way we live our lives.
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