The man in the black mock turtleneck who gave us all those life-changing gadgets, ushered in the digital lifestyle, and, for sure, “got us” better than any business giant of our time, has stepped away from the drawing board.  Steve Jobs’ departure is a gargantuan story for some pretty obvious reasons.   No wonder it has given rise to a new industry of opinion on the fate of Apple in his absence.

I’ve seen the crystal ball gazers predict the best and the worst.  Which is right? Time will tell.  But I am betting on the fact that Steve, even as he leaves the active playing field, has already ensured the answer to the best of his genius ability.  He’s given us a  bunch of great tools.   My assumption is that he has done the same with his colleagues.

His legacy is bigger and more enduring than his hardware.  Jobs’ greatest invention was and is his process in which he kept the consumer / audience in mind at every stage.  As Bob DeSena notes in a recent MediaPost article, Jobs shipped us all of that stuff because he bothered to know what, how, when, and why we wanted it. Pretty simple stuff, like knowing your end user, can be incredibly powerful when embraced by the hands of genius.

It’s odd how many companies fail to embrace that Business 101 concept.  I’d argue that the evolution of all things digital would be exponentially further down the road if the words “serve the audience” were painted on every company wall. Hot companies come and go because they often forget who they are trying to reach soon after their initial success.  Take online content. The portals are still baffled by the slow embrace of online content when all they have to do is think audience, audience, audience to crack the code.

Jobs got this.  His audience was the impetus for each product, for each version tweak, and for the beaucoup de “shipping” that was generated by Jobs’ genius and understanding of human demand.  And THAT is why we are talking about him in the same breath as his pioneer compatriots who did the same 100 years ago.

Will it fall apart now? My guess is that the same guy who kept his eye on the prize and executed so successfully, just might have surrounded himself with like-minded folks who paid attention to the master.

panel photo by Adam Betts