The Apple of our eye

As this column is being typed on a Mac, the reminders are all around of the tremendous impact Steve Jobs had on our world.

As this column is being typed on a Mac, the reminders are all around of the tremendous impact Steve Jobs had on our world. And whether you are reading this on an Apple product or not, you are undertaking an activity upon which Jobs had unmatched influence. He either created the product you're using or he set the standard so high that any competing company's device you might be using had to up its game.
 
Jobs' genius in terms of innovation is universally lauded and there are thousands of columns that have already been written about it. Here, however, where we focus on our world of communications, his legacy is nearly as powerful.
 
His keynote speeches have become the stuff of legend. Few could unveil a product with the verve and aplomb of Jobs. As noted in our 2010 Power List, when we placed him and his company's communications head Katie Cotton in the top spot, “Apple's products attract credibility, mystique, and reputation beyond any PR strategy. [It] can tap into the public zeitgeist at will.”  
 
A key reason for that was Jobs' passion for what he produced, which was hardly relegated to Apple products alone. Remember Toy Story? Jobs. You surely recall the “I'm a Mac/I'm a PC” campaign. Jobs. Ever heard of the Beatles? Well, thanks to Jobs, an entirely new MP3-driven, iTunes-obsessed generation will have heard of them and can now hear them, too.
 
Perhaps one of Jobs' most admirable traits was his ability to maintain the comms momentum he initiated while his health condition was far graver than we might have realized. He never stopped being the ultimate communicator, and he left his company and his successor in tremendous shape to keep his vision moving forward.
 
Tim Cook replaced Jobs as Apple CEO on August 24. This past Tuesday, the new leader assumed the spotlight during his initial keynote as CEO, helping the company unveil the latest version of its ultra-popular iPhone, the 4S.
 
The different styles were immediately apparent. Jobs was a dynamic orator who could pull out headline-worthy phrases at the drop of a hat. Cook, a 50-year-old native of Robertsdale, AL, has that charming Southern accent accompanied by a reserved, conversational tone. He hit all his points flawlessly. He effectively expressed his pride in working for Apple and seemed to focus more on macro issues, such as store openings in China.

Before Jobs' passing, much attention was given to Cook's performance. In fact, this column was originally intended to focus on that alone. Lines had already been written noting that it was important to remember that Steve Jobs didn't become “Steve Jobs” overnight. He crafted, refined, and re-refined his presentation skills over the years. The point was made that it would be inappropriate to judge Cook on one performance.

As we all ponder Jobs' contributions to our society, it is also important to remember – allow us to borrow one of his famous phrases – “one more thing”: Jobs, a man whose brilliance at communicating is matched by his appreciation of the importance of the right message, chose Cook to take his place. He obviously had confidence that Cook could match style with substance to keep Apple at the forefront.
 
No doubt Jobs would want the focus to stay on the company he loved so much. In that regard, Cook's performance on Tuesday could signal a shift in how Apple communicates going forward. Perhaps the volume will be lowered from here on out? Maybe this is the start of a more team-oriented outreach approach? We'll have to see a few keynotes and presentations from Cook to efficaciously judge.
 
One thing is for certain, though: whether it's his ability to innovate or his acumen at telling the world about it, Jobs' sneakers will be impossible to fill.

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