Apple’s Jobsian philosophy without the ego

The Stripe Team
Published : 13 Sept 2015, 11:33 AM
Updated : 13 Sept 2015, 11:33 AM

Apple's late CEO Steve Jobs could only be described politely as shrewd in business and ruthless in aesthetic sensibility. As the subject of countless biographies and recent portrayals by the likes of Ashton Kutcher and Michael Fassbender, there aren't many avenues left where words have not been expended in describing Jobs' 'genius'.

I wouldn't profess to be a tech pundit cross-analysing the design-geekery and global market and business environment that Apple widely impacts. Nor am I an Apple-sheep, being the owner of only an iPad mini with Retina Display and an iPod Classic.

Perhaps as the casual technology user who has seen both sides, I can tell the difference between refinement and revolution, innovation and evolution.

Jobs' philosophy was not innovation for innovation's sake, but the careful refinement of an idea whose time is engineered to come.

In 2001, a better online music marketplace and mp3-player was at hand for anyone who would brave those high stakes. The advent of file-sharing over the internet was at its peak.

In 2006, a more usable internet phone was on the cards. 'Dumbphones' and portable gaming devices at the time just weren't keeping up with the internet where it mattered most: the streets.

Jobs' philosophy definitely wasn't flawed, but his personality was: he was fettered by his ego.

[blockquote cite="Steve Jobs (Source: BusinessWeek, 1998)"]A lot of times, people don't know what they want until you show it to them.[/blockquote]

Jobs definitely thought he knew best.

What caught my attention most during the recent Apple September Event Keynote this week, was not the iPhone 6S nor the iPad Pro.

It was the Apple Pencil, and it caught my attention for a funny little reason.

You can't revolutionise the pencil. Apple just means to say they made a better stylus. I'm sure the audience and everyone were in on the joke, since Jobs historically hated the stylus.

[blockquote cite="Steve Jobs (Source: Walter Isaacson, 2011)"]God gave us 10 styluses. Let's not invent another.[/blockquote]

[blockquote cite="Steve Jobs introducing the iPhone (Source: Macworld Convention, 2007)"]Who wants a stylus? You have to get 'em, put 'em away, you lose 'em. Yuck! Nobody wants a stylus. So let's not use a stylus.[/blockquote]

It's pretty safe to say at this point, that Steve Jobs wouldn't be happy. The whole rationale for a more accessible and elegant touchscreen tablet computer was the use of fingers.

From when Jobs shut down the Apple Newton (with stylus), to approving the development of iOS as multitouch, the thought that Apple went ahead with a new Pencil is now most likely making Jobs roll in his grave.

Though Samsung did use the stylus at the forefront in marketing their Note line of phablets, you cannot deny that it would have been best used for much larger screens. With anything less than a tablet, a stylus is just another less thought-out gimmick.

The design principles of the Apple Pencil are excellent. It is sensor-based, less mechanical, with a long and thin form-factor comparable to that of an ordinary pencil. Tilt it, slant it, press down with it – all the artistry of a normal stylus is simulated to complement the iPad Pro with necessary precision.

The Jobsian philosophy of refinement remains. The Apple Pencil is a tool made only for the iPad Pro. The iPad Pro is something a specialist would demand at a premium, whether their jobs are as architects, designers, or artists. Sort of the same way the iMac is a greater preserve for film-editing. Specialised tools are demanded most by specialists.

The Pencil isn't a sign of the end times for Apple, and it's downright necessary for the larger 12.9-inch iPad. It works and will probably work well because of the thought put into it for strict use in Apple's gated garden. There have been stylii before, but now we have just another choice on the market.

It's the same Apple, with the same pretensions ($99 for a revolutionary pencil you say?), but what is missing now in their philosophy, is that ego.